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  • Writer's pictureJules

Don't use Winsor & Newton Professional Varnish if you live in Australia

Updated: Apr 25

It started out as a supply issue. I would normally use Golden removable UVLS varnish for sealing my acrylic paintings, mainly because I use Golden acrylic paints and thought that it would be good to keep it all in the same brand for compatibility issues.

However, #becausecovid, Golden have had trouble getting the supplies for their varnishes, and when they do get stock, they prioritise the American market before fulfilling the rest of the world like Australia. I can't count the amount of times I've ordered some Golden varnish from an Australian art website, only for them to say they don't have any stock and refund my money.

After months of this, and as I'm gradually getting closer to finishing my existing supply from Golden, I decided to swap brands and try another more readily available varnish.

In comes Gamvar and Winsor & Newton.

I tried Gamvar varnish (it is locally stocked and recommended), and found that even when using their specific varnish brush (bought at great cost compared to your standard varnish brush), it went on really thick. I use matte varnish, so when it is a thick layer, it dulls the paint a little and makes it slightly hazy. I like that softer look; it makes the acrylic appear less plasticky.

However, when varnishing, you often miss a bit, no matter how hard you try for perfection. And so, two coats of the Gamvar was affecting the surface layer a bit too much for my liking.

So, I tried the Winsor & Newton Matt Professional Varnish, and loved how it went on easily, with less streaks than I would normally get from Golden. There were a few bubbles, but found I could brush them out before the varnish set.

All seemed well, and I proclaimed the Winsor & Newton varnish as my new favourite.

And then.

One of the paintings that I had shipped after having had the W&N varnish, ended up with some bubble wrap marks on it. I now realise that drying time and curing times are different things, and that 48 hours is not long enough to leave the varnish before shipping. Lesson learnt. But how to fix the bubble wrap marks?

The gallery in Wagga wanted to send the painting back, and so I was left with the option of selling it at a reduce rate (the marks are only visible in certain light) or removing the varnish and reapplying it.

I've never removed varnish before, and when I was looking into where I could get varnish remover from for the W&N varnish, nowhere in Australia stocked the professional stuff. I contacted W&N and they couldn't help either.

Eventually, (an art and craft supplier) said they would be able to import some for me from New Zealand (hooray!). I also had someone else suggest that maybe doing a third coat on the top would take away the marks, so perhaps worth a try first.

As of today, I haven't received the painting back from the gallery, so will have to wait and see how this story ends. I'll update here when I can!


So, I received the painting back from the gallery and I received the varnish remover from New Zealand. I applied the remover as per the instructions (with a clean rag and doing circles), but couldn't see any varnish coming back up. I tried this a few times, and eventually felt satisfied I had done what I could to remove the varnish. I then decided to go over the troubled area with more paint, and as of today, everything seems to have worked out ok.

Nowadays, I am using the Liquitex permanent varnish for large paintings and the Winsor and Newton spray for smaller canvases. These seem to be working out ok so far.

Let me know if you have a preference for acrylic paintings?

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