Using a Varnish
The varnish is one the longest known method of protecting paintings and printed artworks. Historically, many renowned artists have employed the use of varnishes to protect their paintings. This protective substance creates a clear and transparent film over the surface it is applied to.
This film not only protects paintings from dust, dirt and debris, it also protects against fading due UV exposure and from damage due to exposure to moisture. There are many types of varnish available in the market, and they have specific applications and recommended use for different surfaces. Choosing the right varnish for your painting is critical in order to provide the best possible protection for your painting without risking damage to the artwork.
Varnish for Painting
Varnish is an important protective film or coating that has widespread use in carpentry and furniture creation. However, this is not the type of varnish that you should be using for your oil or acrylic paintings. Instead, the demar varnish is the appropriate type to use for paintings. This varnish is derived from resins of coniferous and hardwood trees from Southeast and East Asia. Its film also provides a glossy appearance to paintings aside from protecting them from outside elements. However, its film is not easily removable and great care must be practiced when removing the film using solvents such as turpentine.
Varnish for Canvas Prints
If we consider art from a modernistic point of view, canvas prints can be viewed as the modern and digital form of painting. These frameless works of art might be considered as just printouts on a grand scale, but they are also reminiscent of paintings as they vividly capture scenes, portraits and images that evoke stories, emotions and memories. Professional art designers and canvas print creators from canvas prints advocate the use of a giclee sealer. Also commonly known as canvas varnish, this varnish is applied to the canvas print once it has completely dried off. This type of varnish provides the canvas print a professional gloss and protects the ink from UV damage, which results in fading or yellowing of the canvas. It also protects the print from dust, smudge, dirt and water, making it an effective protective coating no matter where you place your canvas prints.
Enclose Your Painting in a Frame
Frames add more aesthetic impact and flair for paintings, especially if they have elaborate designs. More than the aesthetic consideration, frames provide a heavy-duty protection when it comes to important pieces of art such as paintings. However, due to the various substances used in the paintings, they have a special requirement when it comes to the materials, composition and construction of frames. They just can’t have the same frames that are used for photographs, which are made of glass.
Dust and sun exposure are two of the elements that can significantly affect the quality and lifespan of any painting.This is why a specialized glass called a UV filtering acrylic plexiglass is recommended for framed paintings. Fading and yellowing are the dreaded effects of UV ray exposure caused by placing the painting under direct sunlight. With this specialized glass for your frame, you can safely place your precious paintings even in your sunroom without having to worry about them fading at any moment.
Install Curtains to Cover Your Paintings
An affordable and less technical way of protecting your paintings from dust to simply install curtains over your paintings on the wall. These ingenious creations not only keep dust and dirt at bay, they also are effective in blocking off sunlight. Transparent cloth and pain weaved cloth such as tulle, muslin or cotton canvas are not recommended as curtains because they can allow light and micro-sized dust particles to pass through. However, care should also be taken in choosing an opaque cloth or fabric, as some fabrics have a rough or abrasive texture that can scrape off painting colors over time.
The recommended fabrics for painting curtains or drapes are satin, charmeuse or habotai, which are not only effective in keeping out sunlight and dust, they have a soft texture that won’t damage or scrape the painting. They are also easy to dust off and wash, making them useful for a long time.
Keep Paintings in a Well-Ventilated Place
A cool, dry and well-ventilated place is the recommended spot where paintings should be kept. Warm temperature can affect the adhesive properties of paintings, especially for oil paintings. Quick-drying paintings such as watercolor and acrylic can also be affected by high temperature as it causes cracking or flaking off of the paint material. Humidity also can significantly affect the quality of a painting. A highly humid environment can promote the accumulation of moisture, which can cause oil paintings to blot or seep through the canvass. These can lead to stains and indelible marks on the paintings. The consistency and form of watercolor and acrylic paintings can also deteriorate under high humidity. Although they are quick-drying mediums, they are also water-based, which makes them susceptible to the accumulation of moisture.
Proper Ventilation keeps the flow of air around the painting constant and dynamic, which also keeps the temperature and humidity at acceptable levels. Proper ventilation also prevents the accumulation of dust and minute particles from accumulating in the room and on the paintings.
These environmental requirements not only apply to displayed paintings and artworks, but also to paintings that are kept in storerooms. These places are notoriously hot and damp and are almost always devoid of proper ventilation. Whether you are curating a museum, an art gallery or keeping a collection of paintings at home. It pays to invest in having an AC unit and ventilation fans installed in the storerooms where you keep paintings.
Wrap Your Paintings Carefully When Storing Them
As mentioned earlier, paintings are delicate works of art and are sensitive to changes in the environment, such as temperature, humidity and exposure to elements. If you are storing your paintings while renovating your home or gallery or if you are moving to a new location, care should be ensured when it comes to storing paintings. If you are using an unframed painting, it is best to keep the painting in the canvas when you store it.
Changes to the orientation of the physical medium or surface can cause significant distortions to the artwork. For example, rolling up your watercolor or acrylic paintings and storing them in a tube can make them become cracked, flaked off and unevenly dried when stored in this manner. Oil paintings that are also rolled up can become stained, faded or blotched. They may be protected from dust in this manner, but their method of storage can undermine their quality and value.
Storing artworks like paintings should always be done flat, as they are originally oriented. Have a specialized box similar to a pizza box or improvise your cardboard box to closely fit your painting’s dimensions. Before storing the paintings in the box, you should wrap the painting with brown paper then wrap it next with a bubble wrap. This prevents moisture and dust from reaching your painting while it is stored in the box. The bubble wrap also provides a good cushion especially if you are transporting paintings that have frames.
Regularly Dust Off Your Paintings
If it can’t be helped that dust particles settle on your paintings often, do a light and regular dusting of the painting (this is different from cleaning, which we will be discussing later). This can be considered as akin to having your car regularly serviced and maintained. By regularly removing dust from your paintings, you are keeping the vibrant colors and aesthetic impact of your paintings.
Whether your paintings have varnish coatings or not, dusting can help improve the depth and vibrance of the painting by having an unhindered reflection and absorption of light waves. Yes, the secret to the beauty paintings is illumination, but it should not be confused with direct sunlight exposure. Soft and light materials should be used when dusting off paintings, as hard and abrasive dusters can scrape off or damage the paintings. Feather duster, sable brush and microfiber duster are recommended materials when it comes to removing dust from paintings.
Clean Your Paintings
While we have mostly provided preventive measures for keeping out dust from the paintings, we’ll also include maintenance and restorative steps for removing dust and keeping it off from paintings. While some art enthusiasts and connoisseurs do not recommend regular cleaning for painting due to the possibility of damaging the artwork, there are also those who advocate regular scheduled cleaning for paintings.
When done properly and carefully, cleaning can maintain a painting’s artistic beauty. Remember that there are several painting mediums available and they have different cleaning requirements that you need to keep in mind before proceeding with a cleaning session.
Oil painting is a very dense medium, and much denser than acrylic painting due to several reasons. This medium uses oil and other chemicals, and the pigment is much thicker compared to that of acrylic paint. This contributes to a long drying time on the surface and an even longer time for the painting to completely dry up. The texture of oil paints is a bit sticky, which makes it easy for dust particles to stick on.
An effective way of cleaning an oil painting is to use a slightly moist cloth and gently rubbing on the surface. Chamois or microfiber cloth are recommended as they are not abrasive to the oil painting. A non-conventional method where some art enthusiasts claim its effectiveness is using masking tape for removing dust, smudge and dirt particles. By placing small tape lightly over on the painting’s surface and carefully peeling it off, the dust and dirt are transferred to the adhesive surface of the tape.
The masking tape is the only kind of adhesive that should be used, as other types are very strong and can peel the paint easily. A less risky and effective alternative is using white bread to remove dust and dirt from oil paintings. This method has been used by painters and art collectors for centuries and proves to be effective.
Acrylic and Watercolor Paintings
These mediums are easy to clean due to their dry textures. Contrary to using moist cloth, a dry one is recommended for cleaning these types of paintings. Both paintings can dry off totally in a short time and their surfaces are usually smooth, which makes the cleaning task easy. However, care should be taken when cleaning acrylic paintings with uneven surfaces, such as ones that use impasto techniques. For parts that are hard to reach using cloth, a sable brush or a soft bristled paintbrush can be used to remove dust and dirt from these areas. Never use water or chemical cleaning products on these mediums as they are water-based and can have adverse reactions to cleaning products.
Use Gloves When Handling Paintings
It is not recommended to handle paintings bare-handed because of the risk of damaging the artwork. Even if your hands may seem clean, there are minute dust particles and traces of natural oils that come from your hands, which can degrade the quality of the painting. Even if the surface is varnished or protected by an acrylic plexiglass frame, your fingerprints not only adhere to the film or glass, it also contributes a heavier accumulation of dust and dirt.
Use a pair of cotton gloves when handling paintings. Latex or rubber gloves may do the trick, but they are very abrasive to uncovered or unvarnished paintings. Thus cotton gloves are most recommended for most handling tasks, including handling delicate paintings.
There is so much effort poured by artists into the paintings they make, and they convey a sense of awe and fascination to those who view them. As someone who owns or takes care of paintings, it is only appropriate that you know how to protect them from dust and harmful elements and preserve the pristine condition of these artworks for generations to come. After all, keeping other people connected to such fascinating artworks as paintings is a noble duty.Challenge: Protect your paintings. The more you practice the better you'll get.
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