Varnish Products — VE, 2018-04-06

Damar is no longer the best varnish available, though it remains popular with painters who aren’t up to date on new materials. The drawbacks of damar varnish are that it grows more yellow with age, eventually turning brown, and becomes increasingly brittle, thus crack-prone, so it changes the appearance of the painting after 30-40 years, and has to be removed and replaced with new varnish. There are now varnishes on the market that have the same desirable optical qualities as damar but do not yellow or embrittle, and these remain easily removable with milder solvents than are required to remove aged damar. These varnishes, developed by Rene De La Rie, conservation scientist at the National Gallery in Washington, are based on a synthetic resin called regalrez. There are at least three companies who offer regalrez varnishes: Natural Pigments (Conservar,) Gamblin (Gamvar,) and Conservators Products Company (UVS Finishing Varnish.)

I sometimes use my Paasche VL-5 airbrush to apply varnish, but most of the time I just brush it on with the painting lying flat. I once used a Preval spray kit to spray on my varnish of choice when I had to fly to Washington DC to varnish a portrait there, lacking my airbrush and compressor. The PreVal kit consists of a can of propellant and a jar in which to place whatever liquid you want to spray.

Varnishing Produce Suggestions:

1. I’ve used UVS Finishing Varnish on many of my paintings, with good results every time.
2. Soluvar is an acrylic resin varnish that some museum conservators like, but it’s not my favorite because it will need to be removed and replaced in 40 years or so when the defects of acrylic resins begin to show up.
3. My experiences with Gamvar have all been positive.
I’m equally happy with Rublev Conservar, Gamblin Gamvar, and Conservators Products Company’s UVS Finishing Varnish. I have had no trouble with any of them.