Varnish Nightmare - damaged my portrait!!!!!



Hi Folks
I put this in my other thread about protecting a portrait in Com-Art paints but wanted to ask if anyone knows if it might be possible to rescue my painting?

The nightmare varnish has happened!!! After trying out all the varnish and stuff I had at home I decided to buy some Acrylic Varnish in a spray can from the art shop. I bought Talens Acrylic Picture Varnish Matt suitable for Oil and Acrylic. I did a test spray which seemed to go ok so I sprayed my portrait about 5 days ago. Today I did another light coat of the same varnish and after 4 hours of drying I've just had a look at it and AAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaagh!! It has put a mottled effect on it which kind of looks like a load of tiny white spots.

The damage is done and although not completely ruined my portrait will never be the same again. A very sad lesson learned unless anyone thinks I could rescue it. It's a solvent based varnish but it doesn't say if it is removable. I've painted onto 250gr Bristol Board which is not that strong a base so that might effect any attempts to save it.

The only thing I can think of is to try a gloss varnish (on top of what I've sprayed with the Matt) which will make it pop more and maybe the mottled effect won't be as noticeable because of it.

Any help appreciated, I'm so peed off,
Cheers Mel
It really sucks Mel, without being able to see it, it's tough nut to crack, but I do have one or questions before I say any more, how long did the painting sit before you cleared it the first time?, where did the painting sit (was there a chance of moisture in the area)?, how much clear did you put on the first time? and what could you see when you cleared it this time.

This my theory based on the above questions, it is possible that in the time that your painting was sitting before clearing that the air around it was moist, this has an effect on drying times generally, but also can infiltrate the water based paints on your painting, next when you cleared the first time, it's possible that if there was indeed moisture around (and bear in mind only tiny amount can have disastrous consequences when applying solvent based products afterwards) that the moisture has been trapped in tiny almost invisible droplets in the varnish, after clearing the second time, the new clear has reconstituted the old at it's weakest point, Yes the droplets, the effect of moisture mixing with the varnish turns it yellowish white, think that is what has happened in this case, although that is just my theory based onmy own experience.

For your existing painting, I'm afraid it will be almost impossible to remove any of the clear without damage to your work, but in the future, I would recommend that precisely before you clear, heat up your painting some which will remove any moisture in the vicinity, then apply your clear immediately after, after the at which your clear states you can re-coat, apply the next coat within 24 hours.

If you do want to try to remove the clear, I would get some cotton buds, and dip the end in some "Thinners" and almost dry it off and try remove only what is around your white dots.

I hope you get it sorted.
Damaged self portrait - 400dpi.jpgDamaged self portrait 2 - 400dpi.jpgDamaged self portrait 3 - 400dpi.jpgDamaged self portrait 4 - 400dpi.jpgSelf Portrait Finished - Orange Forum.jpg The last photo is of the portrait before I varnished it so you can see the difference (click between last and first image shows it best). The damage shows up best on the black collar.

Oh dam Madbrush, I think you are right. I should never have used the rattle can varnish but most of them seem to be solvent based and sold in the art shop to cover anything from pencil, pastels, charcoal, oil and Acrylic so I just assume they are well tested and safe. Nowhere does it say be careful with moisture on a micro level!!

I thought I was doing the right thing by waiting till the first layer was truly dry before applying a 2nd coat. Madbrush do these rules apply if it is a water based varnish? I didn't use mine because I have Satin and Gloss, not Matt hence buying some but I could have used the Satin but was worried the water based varnish might warp the Bristol Board.

I guess I shouldn't spray my water based varnish over the solvent vanish? Do you suggest I buy a can of solvent Gloss varnish to go over it?

To answer your questions my painting was in my livingroom for months leaning against other paintings on my keyboard music holder. I sprayed a thin coat left to right down the painting and then top to bottom on the painting as I'd seen done on YouTube. When the first coat was dry I thought it didn't look an even coat (patchy in places) which surprised me but I'm not used to Matt varnish and didn't know if this was normal or not. People say put on several light coats so I thought this is the reason why you have to build it up until it becomes an even coat.

Anyway let me know what you think of the pictures.
Thanks a lot for your help Madbrush
cheers Mel
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What kind of paint did you use for the portrait?

Donec, I used Com-Art water based paints on 250gr Bristol Board. In my post above you can see pictures of the damaged areas.
cheers Mel
Looking at the photos Mel, I think you may be getting yourself upset for no reason, what I see in there looks more like a texture caused by overs-pray, if you sprayed it flat or left it flat while it was drying, there is a good chance that over-spray in the air has settled on it before the last clear coat.

It doesn't look that bad to me and I would personally leave it alone now, you run a very high risk making it worse or ruining it altogether, have a good long think before you do any more.

You definitely can't put water based over solvent, it will flake, certainly without some kind of primer before hand, so I would advise against it.

If I may say so, this is a beautiful piece of work, and what you refer to as damage, looks to me more like an achieved effect and as if it should be so.

Have you considered letting a garage clear your stuff, If I was you with this kind of talent, I would take some of my stuff to a body shop and just have a chat, I doubt if it would even cost much if they were already clearing a bonnet and hit your work w with the leftovers, and it cols even get noticed.

I know there are a few little body shops allover Amsterdam, and I wouldn't be surprised if there was one at the end of your street.

let it sit for while Mel, this is too good to take a risk on, even as it is now, and I really don't think it's bad at all, I think you see it more because you see a little difference.
Madbrush I think you've nailed it, now I look again it does look like over spray. It does look a lot more noticeable on the painting than it does in the photo's. The middle photo shows it the clearest because the collar should be a solid dark grey and now it looks like it's got a really bad case of dandruff.

The backboard was at a slight angle when I sprayed instead of being dead upright which probably caused the overspray. I did dry it flat but I put it under a dust tent to protect it from particles while it dried.

So putting another coat of the same varnish won't counteract this effect? Even if I dry the picture out with the hairdryer and put the backboard dead upright when I spray?

Thanks a lot for the compliments. This painting is my pride and joy which is why I was asking all the questions before varnishing. I did say it was damaged rather than ruined. Sadly I sure as hell notice the difference :)

Although I could ask a garage to clear my paintings, I'd rather learn how to do it myself properly. I also think I should have forked out 20 euros and bought the archival varnish instead of this Talens 10 euro stuff.

Well this has been a learning curve, which like you said is not a total disaster, just a horrible shock if your me boo hoo!
Thanks again, Madbrush
If it is over-spray you should be able to flatten it with a very light scotch I would use a well used green one from the kitchen making sure it was dry, then you can hit it again with the same clear, just please be careful.

If you want to practice clearing, I would suggest messing around on less important stuff until you are comfortable with it.

I really hope you get this one to your liking, it really is special.

You don't need to thank me, that's why we are all here, If I had a problem and you knew the answer I know for sure you would be there.
You don't need to thank me, that's why we are all here, If I had a problem and you knew the answer I know for sure you would be there.

You got that right too Madbrush :)

I'm gonna leave this picture for now and do a lot more testing with a few other varnishes. I'll do some more over sprays and see if I can flatten them with the used kitchen scrubber. If it works I'll give this one another try but like you said it's probably better if I leave it as it is, it looks fine from a distance. The annoying thing is that I did varnish a few other practise pictures and I didn't have this problem.

I'll post any results I get as they might help others.
cheers Mel
i wouldn't touch it Mel, it might make it worse and the pics didnt look bad to be honest. The best thing is, you can always paint another :)

Just out of interest I used UPOL 1k laquer on a canvas done with comart and it was ok. Maybe something to look at in the future.

Looks like Mr Mad has got to the root of that one. I too wondered if it had beaded up due to moisture, if you had taken the pic from a warm to cool envirnment or vice versa this could give you moisture issues. Just thought I'd mention it anyway for future ref.
Hi Mel I have not try it cause I still finishing a new artwork, but again why dont you use the varnisch made by comart ? Greetings Patrick
"i wouldn't touch it Mel, it might make it worse and the pics didnt look bad to be honest. The best thing is, you can always paint another"

Lee, yeah I'm thinking I'm gonna leave it. I don't think I could stand looking at myself again for so long to paint another Ha Ha Ha!! :stung:

"I too wondered if it had beaded up due to moisture, if you had taken the pic from a warm to cool environment or vice versa this could give you moisture issues."

Squishy, this is also possible because I sprayed the varnish in my back room and left it in there to dry because of the smell. The back room will be cooler and have more moisture in it than my living room because I hardly use it and it is quite wet in Holland weather wise. Whether it is moisture or overspray I can't change what has happened but at least I've learned some new lessons.

The main ones being "DON'T USE SOLVENT VARNISH IN SPRAY CANS" and "PAINT ON TO A THICKER CARD OR A SUBSTRATE WHICH IS UNLIKELY TO WARP!!". If I had used my Golden Satin water based varnish with my airbrush I'd have sprayed it in my living room painting area because there is no smell and I don't think I would have had these issues. So it serves me right in thinking the spray can varnish would be better. Seriously I could bite myself really hard right now, I could have saved myself 10 euros and saved my painting. Oh well we live and learn eh?! :culpability:

"but again why dont you use the varnisch made by comart ?"

Pat, maybe I'll get some in the future when I make my next online order for paint but for now this was the only painting I'd done in Com-Art and buying it now will not help this picture :) My other paintings were done in Trident paint and that is a lot more hardy than Com-Art and I don't need to varnish those. At the moment I'm using Golden Fluid paints and I have Golden varnish if I need it.

Cheers everyone for the help and encouragement
One more thing. i just to make artwork , portraits etc on paper, bristol. Now i have seen sone of my work hanging for nearly 15 years frammed, and realy the colors etc are still good. I never used any varnish ever...
One more thing. i just to make artwork , portraits etc on paper, bristol. Now i have seen sone of my work hanging for nearly 15 years frammed, and realy the colors etc are still good. I never used any varnish ever...

Hi Pat, I presume your pictures are framed and behind glass? I also thought doing that and live now to regret that I didn't but thanks for the tip.

I thought hanging a painting of myself on my wall was too narcissistic now I just want to hang myself lol!! Only joking :)

Like I said, I had already thought of different ways to protect my painting, sadly I choose the wrong option and I feel like an idiot. I'll get over it and like Lee said, I can always paint another one :) And if I do .... I'm gonna make myself look like Lauren Bacall LMAO!!!

cheers Mel
Fixed - Solution found

Hi Folks,
I've finally found out what the problem was with the varnish damage to my self portrait on 250gram Bristol Board with Com-Art Opaque paints. This applies to Varnish for Acrylic paintings, water or solvent based, applied by airbrush or spray can, onto card, canvas and board. I have no idea about varnish for helmets, automotive etc. or for solvent paint.

It is called "Frosting" and is caused by the Matting agent in Matt and Satin varnish of any kind, solvent or water based.

I don't know the exact reason why it does it but there is a way to avoid it.

1. Put down Isolation layers (read which Isolation product is suitable for your varnish) which are generally permanent on top of which removable varnish layers are sprayed (Matt, Satin or Gloss).


2. Use Gloss varnish (which doesn't have this problem) first to put down a few layers to seal the picture, make sure the surface has an even finish and then put Matt or Satin varnish layers on top.


3. Only use Gloss varnish and put multiple light layers till your desired result is reached.


4. Don't use varnish at all :) Frame behind glass or use paint with a hard film when dried that doesn't need varnishing.

ALWAYS DO TESTS FIRST preferably on the same surface with the same paints. ALWAYS SPRAY LIGHT LAYERS.

I hope this helps folks avoid the disappointment I experienced with Frosting after varnishing my painting with Talens Acrylic Picture Varnish Matt in a spray can.
Cheers Mel
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A real shame about your portrait,
but glad you managed to find out the cause, at least you know it's not going to happen again!!