Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Varnishing Watercolor Paintings

For the sake of being able to offer finished paintings, immediately ready to hang, and to try to avoid the cost of framing, I decided to try varnishing a few watercolor paintings.  These are some of the paintings I decided to varnish. I have propped them up so you can get an idea of the frame.   It is a one and a half inch cradled frame, which I have sanded and stained with Minwax Polyshades, using a light oak or a black stain, depending on the painting. I think the staining and spray- varnishing procedures were the messiest.

Here I have my varnishing supplies all set out.

First I went to the art supply store, and got some help selecting products.  I bought some inexpensive cradled frames, some acrylic gesso, a jar of gel medium, and a can of glossy archival varnish.
I sanded the frames, and dusted off the sawdust. Then I applied a relatively thin coat of the gesso to the surface on which the painting was to be glued, to protect the watercolor paper from the wood. That dried fairly quickly. The next step was to glue the paintings onto the frames. For that I used the gel medium, slathered on rather thickly, careful to get it on everywhere smoothly. Then the painting went on, and was smoothed onto the gel "glue" with a roller.  [I used a rolling pin, with a sheet of wax paper on top of the painting for protection.] I flipped it over. painting on protective paper, and put some heavy books on top for weight. The paintings then stayed that way overnight.
The next day, I trimmed the excess paper around the frame, sanded lightly, and started to spray-varnish. I did about three thinner coats, then one thick coat at the end. I let it dry a day, then stained the wood. I did two coats, sanding lightly with fine steel wool in between. I got a bit slap-happy doing this, and got a bit of wood stain on the painting. I sanded the spot, and varnished again.
It's quite a procedure the first time, but I'm sure the next time will be much easier ... and neater!

As always, your comments are most welcome!