Using Varnish Brushes – Applying The Finishing Touches

You might think whats the point in spending money on a decent varnishing brush when you can just use an old large brush? I’d argue that considering it’s the final stage of a painting, it’s worth a small investment to ensure it’s done right.

Decent varnish brushes don’t wear down easily, and have a tight groove that prevents reflection where you don’t want it. You can choose from a variety of brushes, either way it needs to be soft with some spring. You need to know the hairs won’t fall out when you’re applying the varnish too, which is another reason for avoiding cheap DIY brushes.

Names of brushes, left to right:
Pure Bristle Varnish brushes: Series 3099, Series 2060, Series 26, Series 24.
Natural Badger hair: Series 444.
Synthetic Mongoose: Series 666.
Golden Synthetic: Series 222.
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Tips for Varnishing:

  1. Varnish the whole painting in one go. If you only do part and this has started to dry before you do the rest, you’ll end up with a line in your work.
  2. Try to have the same amount of varnish on the brush for each stroke making sure you have equal amounts of varnish all over the painting.
  3. Work in a dust-free environment, otherwise dust particles will get stuck in the wet varnish.
  4. Always test the varnish first, perhaps on a discarded piece to establish whether this will darken or lighten your work.

Cleaning your varnish brushes thoroughly is also very important. I’d recommend you soak your brush in mineral spirits, and use a comb to clean out the bristles. Once you are sure the varnish is removed from the brush, clean with dish soap or detergent, rinse extremely well then leave to dry. Remember, varnish will seep up the bristles if you do not clean the brush thoroughly, causing small dried flakes that could loosen up when you are next applying varnish and leave little specs on your work.

Please note, varnishing a painting can vary depending on whether you are working in watercolour, oils, and acrylics. Make sure you read up more on varnishing before you get started.

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