Should I varnish my mixed media art?

There are a few things to consider when thinking about whether to varnish your Powertex art. Powertex Universal Medium is weatherproof and hard-wearing but the materials, pigments and paints you use will also have their own qualities.

It might not be necessary to varnish your finished artwork but here are some reasons you might want to.

What is varnish?

Varnish is a non-porous substance applied to a finished artwork to protect the surface from dust, UV light or other environmental factors. It provides a unifying finish and can be applied in liquid form with a brush or sprayed on.

Using colour pigments such as Powercolor or Bister

These Powertex products are designed to add colour to your Powertex project but they may not be lightfast or permanent. Products for adding colour may fade over time.

Powertex powder pigments are mixed with a binder or adhesive for use and many Powertex tutors will encourage you to use Easy Varnish for this. Mixing this with your powder pigments will protect the colour and provide a weatherproof finish.

Bister pigments are not permanent and will react with water. A spray varnish with UV protection is useful to protect Bister and the surface is not disturbed when it’s applied.

It is helpful to check the materials you have used. Are they lightfast or do you need to protect the colour from UV light?

Note that any metallic or pearl pigments you use could be altered by a coat of varnish.

Red Bister and Rust art, adding details with Bister

Using Acrylic paint

Acrylic paints have a variety of lightfastness but often last well. If you plan to sell or display your art, varnish is usually recommended to protect colour from fading and provide a professional finish.

Is the surface unified or do you want to add a gloss or matt finish?

Mixed media art uses a variety of materials and the finished piece can appear disjointed because of differences in surfaces. Some areas may appear glossy and others matt.

If you don’t like this look, applying a varnish can unify the art and create a professional finish.

Do you want to display or sell your art?

If you plan to display or sell your artwork, protecting it with varnish is a good idea. If your piece is for outside then ensure all your materials are adequately protected. Powertex is weatherproof but your other products might not be.

Testing varnish

As with any new product you use it can be a good idea to test it. Some varnish products will affect the surface of your art, depending on the materials you have used.

Some products may darken colours or leave unwanted marks. Testing your product can prevent damage to your art later.

If I do varnish, what do I use?

Spray varnish is a good option for even coverage on textured art. I use two coats or more depending on the product. It must be used in a well ventilated area and is not suitable for everyone.

Liquid varnish is very effective when applied with a brush but can lead to pooling in fine textures if applied too thickly. A few thin coats is much better than one thick one.

Check the varnish you buy is suitable for your materials, and follow the instructions. A mixed media varnish with UV protection is good. Then choose the finish that you would like from matt, satin or gloss.

How do I varnish outdoor projects?

Powertex Universal Medium is weatherproof (except the Transparent) but you will still need to protect any colour you have used. Easy Varnish from Powertex is weatherproof, effective for outdoor art and is applied with a brush.

Mix your powder pigments with Easy Varnish for easy protection. I recommend that Bister is spray varnished.

I’ve also heard of artists using yacht varnish and similar to protect their work for outside. Specialist spray products are also available. Search for spray varnish for outdoors.

So should you varnish your Powertex art?

This will depend on your materials and what you want to do with the completed art. Varnish can protect your artwork and also enhance colour and unify the surface.

If you want to protect your work for the long term or plan to sell it, then varnish can be a great way to add a professional finish.

Would you like to know more about Powertex?

If you are new to Powertex products start here. There’s lots of information here from free product guides to project tutorials.


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