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How to varnish your alcohol ink artwork?

Updated: Jun 8, 2021

Alcohol inks are dye-based and fade over time if exposed to direct sunlight. It is best to display your art away from direct UV light to avoid any chance of fading. To protect your art on any surface, you need to spray it with varnish and then a UV protection spray. You also need a lot of patience and a right place to do this activity. I’ve learnt the technique through a lot of hit and trial and the advice I’m giving out here is extremely valuable for beginners.

There are no such varnishes in the market that are specially designed for alcohol inks. Internationally, most alcohol ink artists use Krylon Kamar and Krylon UV Resistant sprays. Unfortunately, in India, these are either highly priced or unavailable. In India, I have used Brustro Acrylic Spray Varnish and Winsor & Newton UV Varnish with great success. Both are available on Amazon or big art supply stores.

Here’s how you need to go about sealing your artwork

  • Drying is important: Whichever surface you work on, let your art dry completely for 24-48 hours before spraying. Sometimes, the inks remain gummy and sticky for a long time and if you start spraying, they might move and the art might get spoiled.

  • Find the right place for spraying: Look for a ventilated but enclosed space where you can spray and leave the work for at least 12 hours. A room on the terrace or a separate studio would be perfect for this. The spraying will produce a lot of fumes and vapor that are not good to breathe in and might cause a headache. And since you would need to spray at least 4 times and wait in between each spray, you need a space where you can do this without disturbing your work. You should also be able to keep it safe from flying dirt particles. Doing it in the balcony or garden is not advised.

  • Protect the spraying surface: Lay old newspapers or plastic sheets on the surface where you would be spraying as the spray that lands outside the art area will cause marks. I’ve spoiled my kitchen granite slab with these marks.

  • Protection is a must: If you wear prescription glasses, remove them as they might get foggy and wear plain protective glasses instead. Also wear a mask on your face to avoid inhaling the fumes. If you spend a lot of time spraying, your eyes will start burning and you will inhale a lot of fumes, so protecting yourself is essential.

  • Start spraying: Place the art on a flat surface. Start with the Brustro Varnish/Krylon Kamar Varnish spray, shake the can of varnish vigorously before spraying. Make sure you keep a distance of 10-12 cms between the spray-can and your artwork and go over the art spraying the varnish covering properly. Let this dry for over an hour and then repeat. Do not overspray, just put a light coat. Once the varnish is completely dry, repeat the above process again with Krylon UV Resistant/ Winsor & Newton UV varnish. Do this two times as well. You need to use both the sprays for complete sealing. You cannot use UV varnish directly on the art as it will move the ink.

  • Resin or mod-podge: You can mount your yupo paper on wood and do clear coat resin on top of it for further sealing. But remember to use Krylon UV Resistant Spray before you use resin or the colors might change. For ceramics, you can do two coats of Dishwasher safe mod-podge with a soft brush after the sprays. There are some more options provided in the video below.

Watch the process video on how to varnish your alcohol ink art at my YouTube Channel:

Even after all the sealing and spraying, your artwork might fade a bit, so keeping it away from direct sunlight is absolutely essential.

If the above mentioned varnishes are not available, here's a video about some more varnishes that work. Watch the video to find out which ones don't work.

About the artist:

Anuja Aggarwal is an alcohol ink artist in India. She regularly conducts online alcohol ink art workshops in India. She often posts essential tips and techniques of working with alcohol inks.

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