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Repairing Varnish

I did a terrible job varnishing a painting a year ago and I want to fix it. How do i safely remove most of it?


  • Mike

    Here is an extract from W&N

    Starting in a corner of the painting, dip a lint free cloth into the turpentine and gently rub the surface of the painting.  The varnish should come off onto the cloth - remember to keep a close eye on the cloth and if you see colour coming off then stop. Working in small squares, make your way across the surface of the painting and try to keep using a fresh piece of cloth, as this will help lift the varnish rather than simply spreading it about.

    Are you sure you need to remove it ? What about more coats ? What's wrong with the surface ?


  • I put it on too thickly and it has a bunch of puddles and not runs, but fat ridges.  I would be fine with smoothing it out.
  • Mike

    In this situation i would want to resurface with a clear two part resin. 

    Removing varnish is a marathon of patience and careful toil. The painting would have to be of some value for me to attempt such a task. I would much prefer to gain skill by painting a copy from primary sources.

  • You may be happy to know that I removed the troublesome varnish using the w&n instructins on a 9x12 painting in about 30 min.  I used Grumbacher turp, which was pretty strong, and it worked like a charm.
  • I have similar instructions for removing GOLDEN varnish from an oil painting, good to know of successful outcomes.
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