How to apply varnish to canvas prints

Written by heidi a. reeves
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How to apply varnish to canvas prints
Use a paintbrush to apply varnish to a print. (Getty Creative)

Prints reproduced on canvas are usually referred to as giclee prints. This print production method allows artists to use digital printing technology on a traditional canvas background. Although you can mount giclee prints as soon as you print them out and allow the ink to dry, most artists add a protective varnish coating to the prints' surface. This protects the print from dirt and keeps the ink from running when it comes into contact with even a small amount of water.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Shallow dish
  • Wide varnishing brush
  • Plastic sheet or newsprint

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  1. 1

    Place the canvas print to be varnished on a clean, flat surface.

  2. 2

    Pour some varnish into a wide, shallow container. Choose a matt vanish if you want your finished print to have a matt finish, and if you want a glossy finish, choose glossy varnish.

  3. 3

    Dip your brush in the varnish to coat its bristles and begin applying it to the canvas in long, even strokes. Begin each stroke at the top of the canvas and gently pull it to the bottom of the canvas in one continuous motion.

  4. 4

    Eliminate air bubbles as you work. As soon as you see one, smooth it out and continue brushing on varnish.

  5. 5

    Avoid going back over areas where you've already applied varnish. Instead, allow the first coat of varnish to dry and then apply a second coat to cover any missed areas.

  6. 6

    Place a plastic sheet or piece of newsprint over the canvas while the varnish dries. This will protect the surface of the print from accumulating dust particles. Elevate the protective plastic or paper above the canvas' surface.

  7. 7

    Apply between one and three thin coats of varnish rather than one thick coat; a thick coat of varnish takes longer to dry, which increases the chances that it will attract dust, it may dry cloudy over dark colours and brush strokes are more likely to be visible when it dries.

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