Varnishing Tips for Oil Paintings – Retouch vs Permanent Varnish

Many artists are mystified by the varnishing process, and there is much debate over the subject.

But most agree, varnish should be used to protect paintings from pollution in the atmosphere, UV rays and scratches. Another factor is as oil paintings dry, the dark colors have a tendency to ‘sink’. Varnish brings out the rich colors and the brilliance they had when you first applied them.

Here’s the problem, it can take 6 months to a year or longer for an oil painting to completely dry. So, what does the artist do for those dry-to-the-touch paintings that are commissioned art, done in a hurry, or ready for a gallery opening and in need of some ‘varnish’?

I use the temporary varnish, otherwise known as Retouch Varnish, because it dries quicker and is a great medium to use for those ‘uncured paintings’ that need a finished look before they are completely dry.

Temporary/Retouch Varnish – why & how:

  • Retouch varnish can be applied to paint which is “hand-dry”.
  • The thin retouch varnish layer allows the paint to continue its deep drying thus avoiding cracking.
  • Temporary varnish can be easily taken off of a painting before the final permanent varnish.
  • I have always temporary because I usually sell my paintings before they sit around in my studio for 6 months!
  • Retouch varnish is also excellent at reviving dull spots when you come back to a dry painting and want to blend dry and new wet oil colors together.
  • Ideally, you want a clean, dry room with a large surface to lay your painting down to varnish it.
  • Spraying can make it easy for an even coverage.
  • Retouch Varnish is effective as a spray because there is less of a chance of smearing any semi-dry paint. If a color is not completely dry the turpentine in the retouch varnish can loosen the paint if applied with a brush.
  • That said, I don’t like spray fumes and prefer to ‘brush’ the varnish on using a foam-sponge brush for easy clean-up.
  • Brushing makes a thicker coat but may take more time to dry.
  • Retouching varnish doesn’t have the quality that a finishing varnish has. A finishing varnish makes your painting look better.
  • If the painting sells before the finished painting has cured for 6 months (4 – 5 months if thinly painted), use a temporary/retouch varnish.
  • The new owner/collector of the painting can take it to a art curator for a final varnish after the painting has cured.

Permanent varnish:

  • This is a much more complicated subject.
  • The final varnish is best applied with a brush because it provides a more even protection for the painting.
  • There are many varnishes from high-gloss to dull, from yellowish to clear, ones that have longer lifespans, others that can be easily removed and others that can’t.
  • You can buy pre-made varnishes or make them yourself.
  • Two coats should be used for the final varnish.
  • Allow each layer of varnish to dry overnight.
  • Apply the varnish with a soft brush on a horizontal painting.
  • Use even strokes in a single direction for each layer.
  • The new owner/collector of the painting can take it to a art curator for a final varnish after the painting has cured.
  • Check out, “The Artist’s Book of Materials and Techniques” by Ralph Mayer with 28 pages full of varnish facts.

Tips for both Temporary/Retouch or Permanent Varnish:

  • Use a lint-free rag to gently wipe all dust and hairs from your dry-to-the-touch painting.
  • Work in a dust-free area.
  • Keep your pet friends out of the area during varnishing time!
  • Varnish your painting in one sitting – If not, the painting will have a line where the wet varnish meets the dry varnish.
  • Make even parallel strokes using equal amounts of varnish on all parts of the painting.
  • The varnish should be dry in a day or two.
  • As the varnish dries, a chemical process takes place in which the resin releases a vapour which is harmful to your health, so provide good ventilation to your workplace!
  • A thinly applied varnish will look better and more professional.

Personally, I use retouch varnish on my paintings. As I explained before, my paintings generally leave my studio and go to their new homes around the country before the end of the 6 month curing period.

*Please comment if you have any other thoughts or suggestions that can help others. Permanent varnishing tips would be extra helpful! Thanks to my Twitter friend and fellow artist Nadine Robbins for sharing some of her varnishing suggestions that were included in this article. ~Lori


  1. nadine March 2, 2010 at 11:08 am

    Hi Lori,
    I like your version better 🙂 Some of can write and some can’t LOL
    Thanks for all the extra info. Very important for painters.

    • Lori McNee March 2, 2010 at 11:28 am

      Nadine…you had some great ideas that just needed to be flushed out a bit – that’s all! Thanks again for sharing and I hope you will again soon.
      Best – Lori

  2. Joanie March 16, 2010 at 4:05 pm

    Hi Lori, Fab artwork and website. Thanks for all the great tips, and keep those videos coming.

    Since I read that you use water soluble oils, do you still wait the traditional 6 mo before you varnish? I thought the timing was much shorter…but i don’t know.


    • Lori McNee March 22, 2010 at 11:50 am

      Thanks for the question Joanie!

      Yes, water soluble oils do dry quicker than traditional oils. I would still wait at least four months to varnish these paintings. Nevertheless, I still use the re-touch on my paintings. As I mentioned in the article, my paintings usually leave my studio before the permanent varnish could be applied.

      I will be posting another video tomorrow…hope you like it.


      • Christy December 28, 2015 at 4:18 am

        Hi, thank you ever so much for this post. I am new to art but amazingly enough have found myself a market and the paintings sell quickly. I treated myself to my first ever oils and they are water mixable as I have a small child. Am I reading this correctly that I can use Retouching Varnish with the water Mixable? Do I need to find a special water mixable type or will any RF for oils work? Once the oils do dry fully, would the buyer then send it back to me for another varnish? I am in Aus and my market is in the US. Thank you for your help and inspiration.

        • Lori A McNee March 31, 2016 at 11:32 pm

          Hi Christy, I’m happy to hear you use water mixable oils too! Once dry, water mixable oils should be treating like any traditional painting. I share your dilemma. You can use retouch, or Royal Talens told me I could do a final varnish immediately once the painting was dry to the touch. However, if you wait too long, you should wait 6 months. You could also tell your collector how to varnish the painting! I hope this helps. And…My apologies for the belated reply!

  3. Large Plastic Storage Boxes March 28, 2010 at 10:27 am

    I found your blog on google and read a few of your other posts. I just added you to my Google News Reader. Keep up the fantastic work Look forward to reading more from you in the future.

  4. Miranda May 30, 2010 at 3:44 am

    Hey Lori, quick question on the re-touch varnish? Does the re-touch need to be removed before applying the final varnish six months later? Or can the final varnish just be applied on top of the re-touch. I have a commission that I’m just finishing up and this article was extremely helpful!

    • Lori McNee May 30, 2010 at 4:56 am

      Hi Miranda – glad you found this article useful. No, you do not have to worry about removing the re-touch varnish before applying the final varnish. Just make sure the painting has had time to fully cure before applying the final varnish (usually 4-6 mos depending on your humidity).
      Good luck with your commission.

      Lori 🙂

  5. Miranda June 4, 2010 at 9:07 am

    Prefect! That’s what I’ll do. Thanks again Lori!

    • Lori McNee June 4, 2010 at 2:12 pm

      Hope that works for you, Miranda 🙂

  6. Diehl Art Gallery July 20, 2010 at 7:46 pm

    Thanks for the info Lori. I’ve been dealing with dull dry spots on my paintings and it’s been driving me crazy! Thanks for the run down on the varnishing!

    • Lori McNee July 20, 2010 at 8:59 pm

      Thanks for letting me know this article helped you. Is this Mariam??? We have met in Jackson before at your beautiful gallery. It is fun to see you stop by my blog for a visit. Hope to see you again soon.
      Best – Lori

  7. Lee Ekland July 22, 2010 at 10:29 pm

    Hi Lori,
    I’m switching from acrylics to oils and appreciate your thoughtful instructions on varnishing.

    I enjoy your paintings and your gift for teaching~
    Blessings from California,

    • Lori McNee July 22, 2010 at 10:45 pm

      Hi Lee, I made the switch from acrylics to oils and never looked back. They offer me more flexability with the technique I have developed. I am sure you will enjoy learning how to use oils. Thanks for the visit and the kind remarks.
      My best – Lori

  8. Curtis Verdun August 17, 2010 at 9:55 am

    “I love the smell of damar in the morning!” (but I try not to inhale)
    Appreciate the article, Lori. I too, use only the thinner retouch varnish so that it doesn’t intefere with curing. Because of my thick impasto passages, brushing the varnish on can be awkward, so I’m usually using a spray.
    Even if I kept a painting long enough, I would still rather have a thinner coat of varnish as provided by spraying retouching varnish. A thicker coat can yellow with age and it doesn’t provide much more protection, anyway.

    • Lori McNee August 17, 2010 at 10:19 pm

      Hi Curtis…
      Retouch varnish really works well for me. I usually do not keep my paintings around long enough for the paintings to cure for the final varnish anyway. If the collector wants a final varnish, he/she can take it to a curator who specializes in reparing and caring for paintings.
      Thanks for your comment!
      Lori 🙂

  9. Christopher Clark September 6, 2011 at 11:54 pm

    Hi Lori, I love your work, and as an emerging and struggling artist I admire the success of your career. Thanks for the varnishing information. Having been an acrylic painter for many years, my recent switch to oil paints has me jumping for joy at the quality of this medium, and stumbling around mystified at the chemistry involved to do a painting correctly. My current problem is with retouch varnish. I’ve done several paintings with Windsor/Newton alkyd oils that have been sold already. The paintings are only about 3 weeks dry. I put a coat of retouch varnish on each of them, and 4 days later they’re still sticky to the touch and total dust magnets. Is this normal? Should I just ship them as-is and tell the clients to clean them with a damp cloth or something?

    Thanks for your help Lori!

    • Les September 14, 2011 at 1:05 pm

      I just happened to see your question and just happened to be reading about alkyds last night. You may want to look up the info in “The Oil Painting Book” by Bill Creevy. He states that alkyds dry to a sheen across the color range. So you do not really have to varnish them. See page 152 in the book. Hope this helps in the future.

      • Lori McNee September 23, 2011 at 9:25 am

        Thank you Les, any extra tips are always welcome here. This site is a collaboration of information 🙂


  10. Eileen Horan October 1, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    Hi Lori
    I havve a terrible problem. I used a retouch varnish on a one month old oil on canvas painting. It looks awful, streaky and spotty. I love the painting. I did this a month ago and thought it would dry ok. How can I get that retouch off with out ruining the painting worse? Also, is there a good book on varnishing oil paintings? I can’t seem to get it right. Eileen

    • Lori McNee October 21, 2011 at 2:18 am

      Hi Eileen, sorry for the belated reply…I am just now catching up on comments. Was the painting dry to the touch before you applied the retouch? It needs to be… Yes, retouch can look spotty at times and that can easily be solved by applying another coat. Keep the brush moving until you achieve the desired sheen. I have never tried removing it myself. Most retouch varnish is thought to be made from dammar, which would mean you’ll probably have to use turpentine. If you don’t have any turps then try mineral spirits but it may not be strong enough to properly dissolve it. If your retouch varnish is made from a modern synthetic resin, mineral spirits should work. You can try a small corner first and see what happens. Also, try laying down a solvent soaked cloth on the painting and see if that helps….needless to say, this will not be a fun project!

      Good luck-

  11. Pat October 9, 2012 at 12:26 pm

    Hi Lori,

    I can’t seem to find a definitive answer to my retouch vanrish issue. My initial painting is finished and dry to touch. Now I want to add a layer of retouch varnish. Then I want to add a thin layer of transparent paint on top of that. I don’t want to remove the retouch varnish after. I just want to finish it with regular varnish. I keep reading about removing the retouch but just want to verify that it’s ok to varnish on top of the retouch. Will this be ok and will anything yellow?

    • Lori McNee October 10, 2012 at 4:42 pm

      Hello Pat,

      Retouch varnish is for retouching paintings! Yes, you can paint directly over the retouch varnish with new paint. That is the purpose of retouch. Do not remove it… It should not yellow.

      I hope this helps! Good luck.

  12. julia wescott January 31, 2013 at 12:30 pm

    Dear Lori … Just discovered your wonderful website. Maybe I missed it, but can Retouch Varnish be used on a painting that has both liquid acrylics, and then oils on top of the dried acrylic? i.e.- can it be used for a combo of acrylic & oils. Probably not to be used for watercolor, right? Thanks, Julie

    • Lori McNee February 1, 2013 at 12:06 pm

      Thank you so much Julia! Yes, you can use retouch over an oil painting with an acrylic underpainting. It won’t work on watercolor though…

  13. Kelly March 12, 2013 at 5:58 pm

    Lori, I have a very old, oil landscape painting. I am guessing the painting is about 100 years old, as it is painted on cloth and is very fragile. Over the years some of the paint has flaked away and I have retouched the areas successfully, with my own oils. This is however a recurring problem. The flakes are small and are occurring mostly near the lower edge of the painting. I would like to know if there is a safe method of applying varnish or a type of finish to protect the painting once I retouch it again? Any ideas? Thanks!

    • Lori McNee June 10, 2013 at 5:14 pm

      Hello Kelly, I would suggest taking the old painting to a local museum or art restorator. I would not feel comfortable advising you on such a special painting. I hope this helps…

  14. philippa Jacobs April 6, 2013 at 1:27 am

    I use retouching varnish for the same reasons as you do but there are certain areas that usually make the varnish split and they are always the darker areas where blues and black have been used. To overcome this I lightly paint on a thin film of pure turp and let hat evaporate. It helps but not always. It’s quite a problem and I’m thinking that it is something to do with the medium in the paint. I only use ‘old Holland’ and the medium is stand oil and pure turps.

    • Lori McNee June 10, 2013 at 4:47 pm

      Hello Philippa, I really appreciate your extra varnishing tip. Retouch is not a utopia, and I will try your turp suggestion next time I have a similar problem. Thanks!

  15. Scott Moore April 22, 2013 at 9:58 am

    Very helpful. Thanks. Do you have any comments on using water based varathane over oil paintings? Is the retouch varnish water based or does it require paint thinner to clean the brushes?


    • Lori McNee April 22, 2013 at 2:00 pm

      Hello Scott,

      Mixing water and oil is always tricky. Oil products can be painted on top of some waterbased products, but not the other way around. Water-based products will not adhere properly to oil paintings. I hope this helps.

  16. Kay Eaton May 2, 2013 at 1:44 pm

    Hi Lori, Thank you for the information! I have a question that I hope you can answer. I did a painting that I decided to make a minor change to a few weeks after I thought I had finished it. The revised section has a matte finish to it, as opposed to more sheen in the rest of the painting. I used the same paints from the same tubes, but apparently it set up differently in the revision. Will a spray on retouch varnish resolve this problem, or am I risking ruining the painting further?

    • Lori McNee June 10, 2013 at 4:34 pm

      Hi Kay, This is a common occurrence with painting in sections. I find that the sprays don’t cover evenly. Try brushing it on with a sponge brush. Cover the whole painting with an even coat…good luck!

  17. Michele O'Neil May 11, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    Hello Lori,
    What do you do if your retouch varnish pools in one spot?
    thanks, Michele

    • Lori McNee June 10, 2013 at 3:40 pm

      I would suggest adding another coat over the whole painting. Keep the brush moving so it doesn’t pool up.

  18. Virginia Nechita November 18, 2013 at 3:25 pm

    Hello Lori,
    I hope you can help with my question.
    In 2000 I have painted a few large canvases using a to much Linseed oil.
    The paintings never dry and are sticky. Any idea how to save the paintings?

    • Lori McNee November 18, 2013 at 11:14 pm

      Wow, Virginia. I am not sure about that one. I would suggest calling a museum curator or someone who restores paintings. They will know the best way to save your painting. I hope this helps a little. Good luck!

  19. Laura Tovar Dietrick February 12, 2014 at 12:11 pm

    Helpful information! I also paint with water soluble paints. I am getting ready to ship for a show and it has been only 3 months that my stuff has had to dry. I was unaware that I can use retouch on this type of paint. So, a light layer on top and then how long do I wait? Also, have you ever used safflower oil on top for an even sheen? I mistakenly thought that I was using varnish and it was safflower oil. It dried beautifully and quickly. What do you know about this?
    Laura Tovar Dietrick

    • Lori McNee February 21, 2014 at 11:46 pm

      Hi Laura, thanks for the comment. Safflower oil will help with the sinking colors, but it is not a final varnish. The retouch can be painted upon once it is dried to the touch. I hope this helps!

  20. Bev Gambrel March 20, 2014 at 8:16 am

    I used retouch varnish for the first time and it left the painting more glossy than I expected. What can I do to dull it down?

    • Lori McNee March 23, 2014 at 6:13 pm

      Hello Bev, yes it does add a sheen. As you brush it on, keep brushing it. That will dull it down. Otherwise, you can use a thin coat of cold wax medium on the top. Buff it lightly. I hope this helps!

  21. Kevan Rigby March 31, 2014 at 11:50 pm

    Hi Lori,
    I have been painting with water colour for more years than I like to say but, after my first visit to USA – New York City in 2013, I was inspired to use oils on canvas. My painting is in no way impasto and, living in the sub-tropics, find that things dry quicker. How long would you suggest that I wait before applying varnish?
    I have used some Winsor and Newton liquin and also drying linseed oil in the process of completing the painting. My intention was to use W & N Artists varnish but haven’t decided between gloss , satin or matt.

    • Lori A McNee March 31, 2016 at 11:40 pm

      Hello Kevan, first my apologies for the belated reply! I hope you have been continuing your oil painting. Generally speaking it is best to wait 6 months before applying a final varnish. That said, there is a small window to cheat the system…my friends at Royal Talens said once the painting is newly dry to the touch you can apply the varnish. However, if you wait it is too late! I hope this helps.

  22. celine April 8, 2014 at 6:48 am

    What paint is suitable for all this kinds of varnish?

    • Lori A McNee March 31, 2016 at 11:36 pm

      This article on varnish is specifically for traditional and water mixable oils. Thank you!

  23. Pauline Michelle F. Reyes May 29, 2014 at 6:29 am

    Last week I repainted over some of my previous paintings . . . some were done in the year 2012 and some were done in 2013. Two days ago I bought a bottle of Retouching Varnish. My question is . . . when is the best time to spread the Retouching Varnish on my paintings that was done in 2012 and 2013, considering that I repainted all of them last week . . . = )

    • Lori McNee June 15, 2014 at 10:45 pm

      Pauline, you can use retouch as soon as your oil painting is dry to the touch. You just don’t want the brushing to disturb your painting. Thanks! 🙂

  24. Alexius June 25, 2014 at 12:09 pm

    Hi I’m new to Oil Painting Last painting i did was about 2 months ago and another one i did 4 months ago. I don’t know anything about Varnish :/ and so what should i apply to my paintings to keep the colors vivid and is it too late to apply Retouch varnish or final varnish? My paintings usually sit there at home but sometimes they gather a bit of dust. I honestly don’t know what to do as I’m kinda new to oil painting

    • Lori McNee July 20, 2014 at 3:22 pm

      Hello Alexius, it is best to wait about 6 months for a final varnish. Retouch can be used in between that stage. First use a damp lint free rag to wipe off the dust. However, it is not recommended as a final varnish.

  25. Peggy Marra July 22, 2014 at 1:41 pm

    Hi Lori,
    I put damar retouch vanish on a 36 x 36 painting that finished. It is really streaky. How can I salvage the painting?
    Thanks for your help

    • Lori A McNee March 31, 2016 at 11:38 pm

      Hello Peggy, personally I am not a huge fan of retouch varnish for this very reason. You can try adding another layer and work to blend the brushstrokes better this time. Spray retouch might be easier for you to use. My apologies for the very belated reply! Thank you for your patience…

  26. Cynthia August 3, 2014 at 12:02 am

    If my client never bothered to have the final varnish put on her oil painting, how long would the retouch varnish be “good”?

    • Lori A McNee March 31, 2016 at 11:43 pm

      Hi Cynthia, honestly retouch varnish shouldn’t be considered a final varnish. Although many artists use it this way. I would varnish the painting after 6 months…

  27. Grace August 20, 2014 at 7:48 am

    Hi Lori,
    I’m a student who’s recently completed three large oil canvases for exam submission, and I finished them off with a combination of matte and damar Windsor and Newton varnishes. I am inexperienced with the varnishing process, and I owe it to my poor research skills that I skimmed over retouch varnish without realising that it would have been a much better option in the long term. As this is an important submission which may not be returned for some months, I was wondering if there’s any way to prevent future cracking due to the continuation of the deep drying process beneath the varnish? I’m hoping once I get my work back I might remove the varnishes and allow for proper drying before re-application, but I’m not sure if that’s a viable option.

    • Lori A McNee March 31, 2016 at 11:50 pm

      Hello Grace, first of all my sincere apologies for the belated reply! I’m sure you have figured out your answers by now. Cracking is caused when the under layers are wet and covered with quicker drying top layers. This will happen if you layer a faster drying paint over a slower drying paint. If the painting wasn’t dry when you originally applied the varnish, removing the varnish will also remove the painting. That is why it takes 6 months to cure a painting before varnishing. I hope this helps!

  28. Jamie martinez October 13, 2014 at 5:09 pm

    i love this article. Would you be interested in sharing this on my artblog with full credit and link to your blog?
    Great tips here.

    • Lori McNee October 22, 2014 at 3:16 pm

      Hi Jamie, I would be happy and honored to write a guest post about varnishing. I will need to make a few changes so we don’t get Google mad for duplicate content. Please email me with your details.

  29. tom vanlaere November 20, 2014 at 2:43 pm

    Hi Jamie, I just varnished my favourite painting with retouching varnish. I never varnished anything before. I don’t like it. It is far too glossy. What is the best way to get if off again? Thank you very much for your answer.

    • tom vanlaere November 20, 2014 at 2:49 pm

      sorry I meant Lori of course 🙂

    • Lori A McNee March 31, 2016 at 11:45 pm

      If you used a removable retouch varnish, a lint free cloth dampened solvent could be used to remove it. However, there is a chance that might remove the paint too. I would suggest adding cold wax medium over the glossy varnish to tone it down. My sincere apologies for the belated reply!

  30. Heather Michelle January 15, 2015 at 2:04 pm

    Lori, thank you so much for your invaluable information! I can not thank you enough!!!

    • Lori McNee February 7, 2015 at 2:48 am

      You are so very welcome Heather! Thank you for letting me know 🙂

  31. Martin deighan January 24, 2015 at 8:44 am

    I have an old oil painting which I would like to improve and am unsure if it has been varnished, how best to continue painting the surface.

    • Lori McNee February 7, 2015 at 2:36 am

      Hello Martin, I would suggest taking it to someone who restores paintings to be sure. A museum curator would also be a help. It is tough for me to say without seeing the painting in person. If it has an even sheen, most likely it has been varnished. I hope this helps! Thank you.

  32. Lauren March 3, 2015 at 2:58 pm

    Hi Lori,
    I have a large oil painting on canvas which I’m unhappy how it has turned out.. It is neither pleasing blended colors nor bright enough. Can the painting be painted over if it’s been varnished? It was finished less than 3 months ago.
    Thank you,

    • Lori A McNee March 31, 2016 at 11:51 pm

      Hello Lauren,
      If you used retouch varnish, you can easily paint over the painting. However, it is not a good practice to paint over a final varnish. You should remove the varnish before repainting. Good luck! My apologies for the belated reply.

  33. Jeannie March 7, 2015 at 5:00 am

    A friend wants me to put a tint of color on a painting of her granddaughter I’m not sure if it’s possible can you tell me what I can do she is not happy with the painting and the artist is no longer here please help me to help her

    • Lori A McNee March 31, 2016 at 11:35 pm

      Yes, if the painting is dry you can add a tint or glaze to it. First ‘oil out’ the painting with a thin layer of linseed oil then you can change the tint. My apologies for the belated reply!

  34. elahe March 8, 2015 at 12:55 am

    Hello. I saw at the back of Winsor & Newton’s RETOUCHING varnish is written that it should be used 1 month after your last use of oil color. So how it can be used immediately after the surface is dry?

    • Lori McNee March 11, 2015 at 9:23 pm

      Hello Elahe, each manufacturer has different suggestions. I am surprised to hear this though, I’ve never waited a month and have not had any trouble. I have been using GamVar as a retouch and also as a final varnish and love it. You can varnish as soon as it is dry to the touch. Thanks!

  35. elahe March 20, 2015 at 4:36 am

    Thank you Lori. I have got another question to ask. I’m not sure if it’s ok to ask it hear though 🙂

    I have some painting on canvas and I used a combination of acrylic for background and oil for the main subject (foreground). I used acrylic when the oil was not completely dry. Now When I look at it carefully, in some parts I can see the background acrylic on top if the oil parts!

    I’m concerned about the possibility of any cracks in the further. After how long you might see cracks? After how long it will be safe and you can make sure you won’t see any cracks.
    It’s about 4,5 month I’ve finished working on them. I’ve seen no cracks up until now. Any advice to let the oil dry sooner to see if any cracks appear? Any suggestions?
    I want to know if it is safe to sell them. I do not want the customer meet any difficulties on this in the future.

    Thank you very much!

  36. isabelle April 24, 2015 at 2:10 am

    Hey Lori, I really need help. I’m a beginner when it comes to oil painting. I’m still only in school. I recently painted an oil painting and now its dry, I have a small problem. I’m wondering if I can paint over the dry oil paint? I just want to add a few more details. Please reply as soon as possible, thanks, Isabelle

    • Lori A McNee March 31, 2016 at 11:33 pm

      Well, by now you probably have figured this out. My apologies for the belated reply! I can hardly keep up with comments. Anyway…yes you can paint over dry oil. I would suggest ‘oiling out’ the painting first. That means, putting a layer of linseed over the passages that you wish to repaint. I hope this helps and again my apologies for the belated reply!

  37. Eff May 10, 2015 at 4:36 pm

    Hi! Just wondering about using varathane as a finish…. I have a left over can of Varathane clear finish that I used to top coat a table that I stained. Can I use that to protect and finish an oil painting? Thanks for all you great info!

    • Lori A McNee March 31, 2016 at 11:26 pm

      My apologies for the belated reply! Although some people will argue the point, it is best not to apply a water-based varnish or paint on top of an oil based paint or varnish. I hope this helps!

  38. gloria T. August 28, 2015 at 8:03 am

    Hi, I love your advice, I retouched a painting a year ago. Can I respray another coat of retouch on it now because some areas have sunken. I was a little concerned about the sunken areas because it is accepted into a juried show. Gloria

    • Lori A McNee September 17, 2015 at 4:40 pm

      Yes, you can respray dry sections. I am happy these tips have been helpful!

  39. Diana Dean November 21, 2015 at 8:52 am

    Can retouch varnish be put over a slightly tacky oil painting? Would this help the drying of the oil?

    • Lori A McNee March 31, 2016 at 11:28 pm

      Hello Diana, it is best to wait at least 6 months for a painting to cure before adding the final varnish. That said, there is a small window where you can varnish. My friends at Royal Talens told me to varnish once the paintings is dry to the touch. I hope this helps!

  40. Gary March 27, 2016 at 6:23 am

    I’ve put retouch varnish on my painting and there is a sheen to it as expected. If I put a matt varnish over it would the final look be a matt look? Thanks

    • Lori A McNee March 31, 2016 at 11:14 pm

      Yes Gary. A matt varnish over the top will fix it. You might want to try rubbing a bit of cold wax medium on top to quiet the glossy sheen. Good luck!

  41. Robert April 3, 2016 at 10:07 pm

    I use alkyd based medium with my oil paints. I spray retouch varnish as soon as it is touch dry. How long should I wait before applying permanent Damar or similar varnish?

    • Lori A McNee April 6, 2016 at 11:42 am

      Hi Robert, the standard rule for oil paint is to wait for 6 months before applying a final varnish.

  42. Cristy Hobbs April 4, 2016 at 10:53 am


    Thank you for all of this information! It has been a great help.

    I haven’t used retouch varnish before. Could you tell me if it has a matt or gloss finish please?

    Many thanks

    • Lori A McNee April 6, 2016 at 11:40 am

      Hello Cristy, I’m happy to hear my site is helpful to you! I haven’t seen a glossy or matt retouch, but I do know that if you keep brushing over the varnish as you are applying it this will make the retouch more matt looking. In other words, for a matt look apply the retouch varnish then continue with dry-brushstrokes until the varnish looks more matt. I hope this makes sense!

  43. Tim April 9, 2016 at 4:38 pm

    Hi, just a quick question about retouch varnish (RTV) over oil painting.
    Once I have applied retouch varnish, to the ‘finished’ painting, and decide in the future that the painting needs touching up with oil paints, can I paint directly over the RTV or do I have to remove it?

    • Lori A McNee May 1, 2016 at 1:41 pm

      Hi Tim, no RTV doesn’t need to be removed, thus the name! I would suggest adding a fresh layer of RTV before painting which will help with the fresh paint adherence. 🙂

  44. Kishori Taylor April 28, 2016 at 11:46 pm


    Thanks for sharing such wonderful and valuable information this website!

    I would like to try a Winsor and Newton retouch varnish spray.

    I’ve heard that retouch varnish gives the painting a porous finish. Is that true? I have worked hard to find the smoothest support (Ampersand Gessobord), and I paint in thin layers to be able to paint photorealism in very fine detail. So my finished painting is currently very very smooth. Will it stay smooth if I use this varnish?

    Also you say there is there a difference in how retouch varnish looks and permanent varnish looks? Would you mind trying to describe the difference?

    And last question (sorry for the over load), have you tried the somewhat recent invention of gamvar picture varnish which claims to be a great new alternative to permanent varnish as it can be applied when touch dry rather than cured? And if so, would you mind describing your experience and whether you think it would be suitable to my needs?

    I look forward to hearing your wise words from experience which I’m sure will help me from making mistakes, and will be very much appreciated, thank you!

    • Lori A McNee May 1, 2016 at 1:28 pm

      Hello Kishori,

      It’s nice to have your positive feedback. I would suggest trying a sample before using it on a special piece of art. To me, it is smooth. However, that might be a bit subjective! Yes, Gamvar by Gamblin is another choice. I would suggest checking out their site before using it too.

      Thanks! ~Lori 🙂

      • Kishori Taylor May 4, 2016 at 8:53 am

        Thanks so much Lori!

        One more question! You say there is there a difference in how retouch varnish looks and how permanent varnish looks, you said it looked better. Would you mind trying to describe the difference exactly? If that’s not too hard, sorry!

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