Thursday, 04 September 2014 00:00

Basics of Varnishing

Varnishing . . . Why? What? When? How? What's the difference between water-based varnishes and solvent-based varnishes? Why should I cover my painting with an isolation coat? What's the difference between matte, satin and gloss varnishes?

For answers to these questions and others, please view Chroma's NEW Basics of Varnishing - Part 1 video featuring Chroma's Resident Artist, Jennifer VonStein! Learn how to successfully varnish any acrylic or oil painting.

This is the second video in the Basics of Varnishing series featuring Chroma's Resident Artist, Jennifer VonStein. Watch as she highlights key points of solvent-based varnishes and demonstrates how to seal your acrylic and oil paintings.

Published in Artist Blog

Join PA Marilyn Allis as she uses Interactive Acrylics to interpret a wet day in a Dominican market

The Caribbean Island of Dominica was full of colour, even in the warm rain that poured down on us for half an hour. This market scene was so appealing to paint; I loved the colours and the body language of the two ladies at their stall. I decided to use acrylics to paint this scene which captured the vibrancy and colour of the morning

“Caribbean Cocktail” by Marylin Allis …


Paints out of Interactive Acrylic colours:
• Cobalt Blue
• Arylamide Yellow Light
• Titanium White
• Naples Yellow Reddish
• PermanentAlizarin
• Brilliant Violet
• Cobalt Turquoise
• Prussian Blue
• Atelier water spray,
• Atelier Unlocking Formula
• Atelier Satin Medium & Varnish
• Atelier Impasto Gel
Brushes: • SAA silver 1”flat, • Size 6 long flat
Surface: Canvas , variable size


1. I Covered the canvas with very watered down Arylamide Yellow Light, Brilliant Violet, Cobalt Turquoise, Cobalt Blue and Naples Yellow Reddish. Using the SAA 1” flat brush. I allowed the colours to mix and merge on the canvas

2. Once the washes had dried, I started to place the two main figures. In my photograph I
had cut off their feet (oops), but I felt that this wouldn’t really look good on the finished painting, so I have placed my ladies higher on the canvas and added legs and feet, using dabs of Alizarin Crimson and Prussian Blue.

3. Using thicker paint now I started to place the parasol using Naples Yellow Reddish, blending in some Titanium White on the canvas. I then used the Brilliant Violet, again blending in the white. This is where the Interactive Acrylic comes into its own; if you need to blend and your first layer of paint is starting to dry, you can just spray with water from the Fine Mist Water Sprayer and bring it back to a state you can work with.

If it has dried completely just use the Atelier Unlocking Formula and it will be workable once again. The left side of the photo was more in shadow and needed to be darkened so I added Alizarin Crimson and blended it in to darken the paint.

4. I added some Alizarin Crimson and Arylamide Yellow Light together for the first lady’s jumper and Prussian Blue with Alizarin Crimson for the other. Next using a flat brush I started to add objects that tell the story of my market scene, but not in any detail - just marks of colours. I will add the darker and lighter tones a bit later, when everything is in the correct place and I am happy with my composition.

5. I thought that the two women needed to be highlighted slightly so I blended in some yellow behind their heads. I loved the different textures of the canvas showing through in places, to the thicker, almost neat acrylic paint. Finally I added some thick Impasto Gel -not too much but enough to create interest. I added this to the Prussian Blue and Alizarin Crimson mix of the lady on the right hand side, some to the yellow of the sunshade and a little to the red jumper.

This hot scene was very invigorating to paint and I felt that by using the acrylic paint I had captured the vibrancy of this Caribbean market. I find I can enjoy much more freedom painting in this way, as there is no drawing beforehand, and because I can correct any mistakes I am far less inhibited!

There is a Chroma event Atelier Interactive Workshop with Marilyn coming up on 21st April, 2012. It is listed on the Chroma Events page. In addition, of this and other workshops with Marilyn and more of her paintings can be viewed at

Published in Artist Blog
Thursday, 04 September 2014 00:00

Varnishing 101

Atelier Interactive dries without a “plastic” look, with very low sheen yet high color saturation. But it is important to protect any painting with a finishing varnish and furthermore, you can choose to alter the final sheen of your Interactive painting.

Chroma offers two types of varnishes – water-based and solvent based. The advantage of using water-based varnish is that it is water-based, but it is non-removable. The advantage of using a solvent-based varnish is that it is removable with mineral spirits, but there are fumes involved, which some artists chose to avoid.

Both types of varnishes are applied by brush, so use a soft brush reserved just for varnishing. The size of the brush should be appropriate to the piece. Do not overwork a varnish: just lay down one stroke at a time, slightly overlapping, and do not work back into it. It usually takes 2-3 coats of a varnish to achieve an even sheen. You can work one horizontally for the first coat; once dry, the second coat, applied vertically, will cover the holidays (the sections where the varnish didn’t catch.) For some works, applying varnish in the direction of the painting’s brushstrokes will provide a more pleasing result. Practice varnishing on an old or failed piece whenever you try a new varnish or sheen. Varnishing isn’t difficult, but with any new skill, practice makes perfect!

Matte, Satin and Gloss Varnishes

Matte, Satin and Gloss Varnishes are water-based, non-toxic and self-leveling. They can be used either as an over-varnish for acrylic painting, providing a non-tacky protective coating, or as a medium to change the sheen levels of acrylic paints. Matte, Satin and Gloss Medium & Varnish are mid-viscosity products made from hard acrylic emulsion. They are non-removable, however they can be overpainted. They can also be followed with a solvent-based varnish.

  • Matte Varnish will reduce the sheen, and is a good varnish to apply if you are having trouble photographing a naturally glossy painting. After photographing, apply a gloss varnish (water-based or solvent based)
  • Satin Varnish restores the painting to Atelier Interactive’s original satin finish. It is the most popular finish: not too dull, not too shiny.
  • Gloss Varnish will enhance darker colors and provides a more oil-like finish.

The two most important things to remember about using a water-based varnish are:

  • Wait until your Atelier Interactive painting has cured. This is generally about 2 weeks from the last time you worked on it, but the time will vary depending on how thickly you applied the paint, your surface, the humidity and what mediums you used. For example, an impasto painting that used lots of Thick Slow Medium on panel will take longer to cure than one painted with thin layers on canvas.
  • Apply an isolation coat first. This step is often missed when varnishing acrylic paintings, but is critical. Varnishes should be applied on a non-absorbent surface, and an isolation coat seals your painting and protects it. The isolation coat also helps to prevent the cloudiness that can occur with Matte varnishes. Apply 2 coats of Binder Medium or Fast Medium/Fixer to seal the surface of the painting before varnishing. Bear in mind though, that an isolation coat, like a water-based varnish, is a permanent addition to your artwork.

Chroma Solvent Finishing Varnishes – Invisible, Satin and Gloss

Chroma Solvent Finishing Varnishes are designed to protect finished acrylic or oil paintings. Because of their ease of use, we recommend using a solvent over a water-based varnish for artists new to varnishing.

  • Invisible Solvent Finishing Varnish maintains the low sheen look and does not alter the surface quality of a painting. It can also be used on oil paintings as a “retouch” varnish, while waiting out the advisable 3-6 month period for an oil painting to cure before applying a heavier protective varnish.
  • Satin Solvent Finishing Varnish contains a matting agent and the container needs to be shaken before use to make sure it is evenly suspended. For full bottles, remove some varnish so you can shake the contents easily, then return to the full bottle before using. Satin varnishes should never be diluted with turpentine, because the ratio of matting agent to acrylic is critical.
  • Gloss Solvent Finishing Varnish can be used for a more oil paint like look. Apply as is for a full gloss, usually one coat. To reduce gloss, add mineral turpentine to your taste. Try two parts varnish to 1 part turpentine, up to 1:1 for less sheen. NOTE: This varnish contains an anti-mold additive that is diluted when you add turpentine, so to maintain the mould protection for tropical conditions dilute with Invisible Varnish instead.

These three varnishes are non-yellowing, self-leveling and protect against mold. They are strippable, which allow your painting to be cleaned more easily at a later date by swabbing with mineral spirits. Be sure to apply in a well-ventilated area.

Because they are solvent varnishes, you can apply them carefully to your Interactive painting before it has fully cured, but your painting must be touch-dry. The isolation coat is still recommended though, because you can remove your top varnish at a later date and come back to the protected painting. With an Archival Oil Painting, wait at least 3-6 months prior to applying a final varnish.

Clean your brush with mineral spirits when finished.

To watch a video on water-based varnishes, click here.

To watch a video on solvent varnishes, click here.

To download the Varnishing How To Guide click here.

Published in Artist Blog