Finishing Touches and Varnishing Oil Landscape Paintings

The old way to varnish was to either wait at least 6 months for a painting to be completely dry before varnishing, or varnish while a painting was still wet so that the varnish would become part of the top layer of paint – or mix varnish in with the paint.

I like my varnish to be a separate, removable layer.

Recently some new varnishes have come out that will remain removable, and don’t mess up the painting’s drying process – that can be applied as soon as the painting is dry to the touch. I’ve been using that lately.

It means that if you want to go back later and remove a dog hair that was varnished on, or make some change to the painting, you can. It also means that if the varnish becomes dull or yellows over time, you can remove it and put on clean varnish.

I’m just writing from the perspective of a professional artist. For more information, you can check with the varnish or paint companies.


Oil landscape paintings are a beautiful way to capture the natural beauty of the world around us. To ensure that your oil landscape paintings stand the test of time and retain their vibrancy, it’s important to apply the appropriate finishing touches and varnish. In this article, we’ll explore the key steps and techniques involved in finishing and varnishing oil landscape paintings.

I’ve seen artists make a lot of different choices with varnish. Some always use it, some never use it, and I’m in the middle: I sometimes varnish.

I personally only use a removable varnish, and only after a painting has completely dried. So if a painting sells before 6 months, it ships unvarnished. If a painting stays in my studio (or comes back after a traveling exhibition), and I have access to it after about 6 months, I’ll brush on a light coat of Gamvar. (Not an affiliate.)

Step 1: Drying Time

Before applying any finishing touches or varnish, it’s crucial to allow your oil landscape painting to fully dry. Oil paints have a longer drying time compared to other mediums, so patience is key. Depending on the thickness of the paint layers, it can take anywhere from 6-12 months for the painting to dry completely.

Step 2: Cleaning and Dusting

Once your oil landscape painting is dry, it’s important to clean and dust the surface before applying any finishing touches or varnish. If you’re like me and your dog likes to hang out in the studio, use a clean dry brush to wipe the entire painting surface and make sure there are no pet hairs on there… They become more visible after a coat of varnish.

Use a soft, lint-free cloth or a clean brush to gently remove any dust or debris from the surface of the painting. This will ensure that the final finish is smooth and free from imperfections.

Step 3: Retouching (Optional)

If there are any areas of your oil landscape painting that require retouching or additional work, now is the time to address them. Use small brushes and carefully match the colors and values of the surrounding areas to seamlessly blend any touch-ups into the existing painting. Then give the painting drying time again.

Step 4: Applying a Final Varnish

According to some artists, varnishing is an essential step in protecting your oil landscape painting from dust, dirt, and UV damage. It also enhances the colors and adds a beautiful sheen to the finished artwork. There are two main types of varnish: removable varnish and permanent varnish. As I mentioned, I only use removable varnish. And I’ve been very glad of that, several times.

Removable Varnish

Removable varnish allows for easy cleaning and restoration of the painting in the future. It can be removed without damaging the underlying paint layers. Apply removable varnish using a soft brush or spray, following the manufacturer’s instructions.

Permanent Varnish

Permanent varnish provides long-term protection for your oil landscape painting but cannot be removed without damaging the underlying paint layers. Apply permanent varnish using a soft brush or spray, following the manufacturer’s instructions.


Finishing touches and varnishing are, according to some artists, crucial steps in preserving and enhancing your oil landscape paintings. And according to other artists, a completely optional personal choice.

By allowing your painting to dry fully, cleaning and dusting the surface, retouching if necessary, and applying an appropriate varnish, you can give your painting a very nice luster and vibrancy – and protect it for years to come.

Remember to always follow best practices when handling and storing your oil landscape paintings to further extend their lifespan. Keep them out of direct sunlight (don’t hang them on a wall where the window light directly shines every day), and avoid cleaning them with anything but a clean dry cloth. Never use cleaners or soaps on a painting, and keep them at normal temperatures and humidity.

With proper care, your oil landscapes will continue to inspire and captivate viewers for generations.

I hope this article provides you with valuable insights into finishing touches and varnishing oil landscape paintings. If you have any further questions or need additional guidance, feel free to ask!

: Oil Painting Techniques: How to Varnish an Oil Painting : How to Finish an Oil Painting with Varnish

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