Saturday, 2 October 2010

My Oil Painting is Too Glossy

Viewing a glossy oil painting could be difficult if the artwork is placed adjacent to a window or other light source. Some artists may prefer a matt finish to an oil painting, for example, if it is abstract as opposed to traditional art. How can the artist get a matt finish to an oil painting?

What Makes Oil Painting Shiny?

Matt or Gloss Varnish?
Rachel Shirley
 Oil paints basically consist of two elements: the pigment and the vehicle. The pigment, often a powder form, is sometimes derived from organic materials, such as plant matter; others, from minerals. But relatively recently, synthetic substitutes have come into play which offers equal tinting strength and permanency to traditional pigments. Of course, the pigment is no good without a medium through which it may travel. In the case of oil paint, the vehicle is oil.

Shiny and Matt Oil Paint

Oil by its nature is shiny. Pale colours, particularly titanium white are often blended with sunflower oil, as it is non-yellowing. Most other colours are blended with linseed oil. The high finish of oil paint gives a lustrous and rich finish to oil paint, particularly suited to detailed work and traditional oil painting. When wet the oil painting is particularly shiny. But the artist may notice some oil pigments dry more matt than others, resulting in a patchy appearance.

Although in some cases, this may be due to the oil paint sinking into an absorbent painting support, this is more often caused by the individual nature of the pigments and how they are blended with the oil. However, once coated with varnish, the oil painting will have equal gloss.

How to Get a Matt Oil Painting

The artist may obtain a matt finish to an oil painting in three ways:
  • Adding an alkyd medium such as Liquin to the oil paint.
  • Using alkyds in place of oils.
  • Using a matt varnish once the painting is dry.
Using an alkyd based medium such as Liquin alters the properties of the oil paint by accelerating the drying time of the paint and giving a matt finish once dry. The alkyd medium should be added to the oil paint by a ratio of about one part to four before applying it to the painting.

Using Alkyds Instead of Oils

The artist may also consider using alkyd paints instead of oil which offer the same properties as traditional oils, but with a quick drying non-lustrous finish. A misnomer, alkyd oils, as they are sometime known, is not really a type of oil paint at all, as the vehicle is a special alkyd resin. It must be borne in mind, that a matt varnish should be applied to an alkyd painting to retain the matt look.

Matt Varnish for Oils

The third option, using a matt varnish for oil painting is the most common option.

Varnishes offering different finishes are now available on the market. A matt varnish provides a tough and protective barrier against dirt and dust, just like the traditional gloss varnish, but without the lustrous finish. Spray matt varnish can be obtained for a finish free of brush marks. A matt finish might be preferred to gloss for contemporary or abstract art.

Satin varnish offer a finish somewhere between gloss and matt. One of my personal favourites, the artist may find matt varnishes too lustreless for taste and yet not desire a glossy finish. Satin varnishes are ideal for contemporary as well as traditional art.

Links on Oil Painting Finishes


Cowtownmermaid said...

HELP. I am entering a painting in an art show. Some areas on the painting are too glossy..? oops. How do I get the gloss toned down to a matte like the rest of the painting?

Rachel said...

Hello there

So sorry to hear about your predicament.

It is not advisable to apply different types of varnish one on top of the other. I doubt that a overlaying the gloss with a matt varnish will have a satisfactory result.

The only way around this is to remove the glossy varnish with special varnish remover for oil paintings with the aid of cotton buds. Be careful that the paint does not come off with the varnish, which might happen if the painting was not completely dry before applying the varnish. (Oils take around 6 months to dry depending upon the thickness of the paint and the environment).

For speed, you can purchase quick drying varnish (also known as retouching varnish) for oil paintings in any finish you require. You can get matt finish and also silk, which lies somewhere between gloss and matt. You can't go far wrong with Winsor & Newton products.

The matt finish will minimize reflections bouncing off the painting. The quick drying varnish is designed for panic situations like yours.

I hope this helps. Good luck with the art show!

Unknown said...

What about wax?

Rachel said...

You can achieve a wax-type finish with satin varnish which falls between gloss and matte. I wouldn't personally use wax itself, as it is not designed for oil paintings. The varnish is designed to protect the surface of the oil painting, where wax does not provide a durable finish.
Thanks for q and good luck!

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