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All Things Ampersand

Sealing and Varnishing Art Work on Ampersand Panels

Sealing and varnishing finished artwork on Ampersand panels is extremely important especially when framing without glass. Be sure to select a varnish that is appropriate to the type of paint you are using. Provided below are a few basic suggestions for sealing and varnishing several popular mediums using products we have successfully tried and tested on our panels.

Watercolors & Gouache

Seal watercolors or gouache with several light coats of spray varnish (or fixative), being careful to spray outdoors during warmer months or in a well ventilated and heated area during colder times of the year. We recommend the Krylon® UV Archival varnishes.These spray varnishes offer advanced non-yellowing protection against fading, dirt, moisture and discoloration. The Krylon® UV Archival varnishes contain superior levels of UV light absorbers and are removable for conservation purposes. For additional protection against scratches during transport and also ultraviolet light, follow the application of Krylon® spray varnish with Golden® MSA UVLS or Golden® Polymer UVLS varnish. About 4 coats brushed-on, provides a very durable archival finish and is also removable for conservation purposes.


Ampersand panels do not lessen the drying time required for oil paints before varnishing. Allow the oil painting to dry for 3-6 months before applying the varnish. A good choice is Gamblin’s Gamvar that is easily applied using a soft natural hair brush. Unlike varnishes made from natural resins like Damar and mastic, Gamvar does not yellow with age or become more difficult to remove. It contains a UV stabilizer and offers some measure of protection to less lightfast pigments, depending on how heavily it is applied. For tips on application, Gamblin offers this video demonstration.


For Acrylic paintings, a light coat of an acrylic varnish like Golden® MSA UVLS or Golden® Polymer UVLS varnish is advised. Problems such as smoke damage, handling blemishes and dust or dirt accumulation on the surface of the painting can be removed along with either varnish type. Golden® varnishes offer protection from UltraViolet (UV) rays generated from the sun and consolidate the artwork with an even sheen. Gloss varnishes can intensify colors while Matte or Satin Varnishes soften the color and minimize glare. Alternatively, Gamblin’s Gamvar [see varnishing oils] can effectively be used to varnish acrylic paintings.  

This is a Golden video on the Proper Spray Application of MSA varnish

Sealing pastels with spray fixative tends to dull the color of the pigments, so we recommend all pastels be framed under glass. The glass protects the fragile nature of the pastels while also keeping their colors true to life. For tips on matting and framing pastels, consult this article.
Sealing Scratchbord™ (formerly Claybord Black)

Seal finished Scratchbord™ art with a spray fixative like Krylon® UV Resistant Clear Coating  or use the Krylon® UV Archival Spray Varnish. The fixative [or spray varnish] will dissolve fingerprints or smudges and will protect the surface from dirt and moisture. For best results, first remove all loose dust and debris from the surface with a soft brush. Then, spray with 2 – 3 coats [as directed on can] in a warm, well ventilated environment during low humidity.

6 comments on “Sealing and Varnishing Art Work on Ampersand Panels”

  1. Avatar gill says:

    i have just ruined a nice scratch board with a gloss spray , it has little spots all over the work, is there any way to take it off ,or if i sprayed it with a matt spray would this improve it

    1. Avatar Dana Brown says:

      Hello Gill,
      What type of spray did you use and were the little spots visible right when the spray was applied?
      Please email me at bords@ampersandart.com to assist you directly. Thank you! Dana Brown

  2. Avatar Sharon wright says:

    I just used the archival spray varnish on my first piece of scratch art on ampersand Scratchbord. The first coat was ok but the second coat a string of varnish came out all at once. Could I lightly sand the raised area or will additional coats help.

    1. Avatar Dana Brown says:

      Sorry to hear of this mishap! Here are suggestions for you. This information was shared by an artist with us and has worked for her in the past.
      “The board can be lightly sanded with oil free steel wool in the finest grit available (#0000). I use a circular motion over the entire board, paying special attention to splatters. It may look slightly cloudy as [you are] doing it, but after [you have] sanded and smoothed the whole board [you] can take a slightly damp cloth to get the dust off. Once dry [you] should very lightly revarnish from further back and with a light coat. If that particular can is splattering [you] may want to use a new can or a different nozzle. If there is a particular bad splatter or run then [you] can use rubbing alcohol on a q-tip for touch ups too, but for most purposes sanding and revarnishing will do the trick.”

      In general, the more matte a varnish is, it can look cloudy on the Scratchbord surface. The more glossy it is, the tougher it is to get an even application. For this reason, many Scratchbord artists prefer to use the satin sheen. And remember to rotate 90 degrees between each coat of varnish, and apply light coats. Varnishing when the humidity is lower will also help with an even application. Please feel free to email us at bords@ampersandart.com if you have additional questions. Thank you! Dana at Ampersand

  3. Avatar Francine Helzer says:

    I had the same issue of uneven splatter coverage. Shook can a long time. First time use. I will write your recommendations above for future mishaps but I’m not sure I will try it again. String of varnish was good description. I’ve used steal wool all over that string area on my background still has a shinier streak across compared to the more matte. It doesn’t blend into looking the same. . I don’t think I should go any deeper so hoping if I spray Satin Fine Art Varnish again 2-3 times that the background will become brighter to match the brightness of streak and not have the streak also get lighter at the same time. Do you think it will blend?

    Is the krylon “Fine Art “Satin Varnish the same as what you recommended above for Scratchboard because it does not say “Fine Art” in your description and that’s the one I used. Maybe it’s not the best for Scratchboard. I really liked the simpler standard Krylon Satin finish from years back as there was never an issue but now all I find in Satin is the Fine Art Spray. As usual thanks for the superb customer service. Thanks Dana.

  4. Avatar Dana Brown says:

    Hi Francine – Using steel wool will remove the “bad” application of varnish, but the surface won’t even-out until you apply varnish to the surface again.

    Make sure to test your spray on something that isn’t precious (a piece of cardboard, for example) to ensure that the stream from the can is even before moving it over to your artwork

    The Krylon products we recommend for Scratchbord are those mentioned in the article: Krylon UV Resistant Clear or Krylon UV Archival Varnish – in either a satin or semi-gloss finish. Another that works well is Lascaux’s UV Protectant Spray Varnishes.

    Thank you! Dana

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