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Blog > Varnish Acrylic Painting: Get Rid of Dust & Lint

June 4, 2014 - by Ruth Collis

Varnish Acrylic Painting: Get Rid of Dust & Lint

Kindle Book: Make Impasto Rosettes with Paint, by Ruth Collis

When you go to varnish an acrylic painting, have you ever ruined your masterpiece with seeing dust and lint RIGHT after painting varnish on, or even right while you're still varnishing?


Learn how to seal acrylic paint without these little dust hairs so you don't have to paint over your whole painting again, by taking a look at this inside peek taken as an excerpt from my book "Make Impasto Rosettes with Paint."

How to Get Rid of the Lint Bandits!


I decided to add this section in for your varnishing benefit. I call these pesky little stray hairs the "Lint Bandits" because they just come and invade your wonderful painting you spent hours on, and seems no matter how you try to get rid of them, they always re-appear to put fuzz where you want your work to show off all it's wonders and glories of brilliant sheen, not lint hairs. There's nothing more upsetting than ruining a just finished painting, to have to go over it again, and again.


However, with much aggravation on my part of studying their habits and ruling out one hypothesis after another, I have come up with an attack plan you can implement. Hopefully you will implement these before any of your paintings get ruined. The fumigation, or repelling method goes as follows:

1. Blow all the Lint out of Your Brush where dirt hides and gathers. Yes, every single time you go to pick up a brush. And do NOT blow in the direction of your painting! Blow several times, thumbing through the brush hairs while blowing. This also gets rid of any dried brush cleaner you might have used to tame your brush hairs smooth. You can try a spray can of air if you want, but those things have to be held vertically to work right. You can store your brushes in a shelving system for easy access or closed case to help keep the lint out. After blowing, you can also try wetting the brush before dipping in varnish. This includes ALL tools you use... get rid of dust and lint off paint rollers, palette knives even, and any other painting tool you might use, before it touches your paint or painting.


2. Blow all Lint off Your Palette. Guess where else those little suckers hide? Basically, if you have anything left out, dust will settle on it. Keep your palette also stored out of the regular air. Don't flip clothes, laundry, rags or blankets near your work area. Dust settles on that and you just flick it all in the air if you have your painting area anywhere near the rest of your living space.


3. Blow all Lint off Your Painting! ABSOLUTELY blow the dirt off your painting to be varnished, even if you just finished it the night before! Dust settles during the night. Wipe it down with a moist lint-FREE cloth, if you don't want flying dirt affecting your allergies. Those dish towels without fuzzy fibers of any kind are good for this.


Now you think this would be enough right? No, even in a sterile environment, you have to think about your habits. What has your linty paintbrush touched or dipped into that has contaminated other things?


4. Do NOT Re-Dip Back Into the Varnish Jar. Get a smaller squeeze bottle with flip-lid and label it, to put varnish in where only substance comes out, and nothing goes in to it. After getting control on all the above things, I wondered what else I can be doing to bring lint hairs to my same painting of not only varnishing over 3 or 4 times, BUT having to now PAINT over all that again just to get rid of the hairs. I finally ordered a clean, brand new fresh batch of pure varnish from Nova Color (since they have the cheapest varnish for the price, give a lot in quantity, and the shine is brilliant), then painfully threw out my present varnish that I still had a lot of, now no good. (If only I knew then that I could pour out that whole jar of acrylic varnish into a Paint Scrap Junkyard, all that dried acrylic bulk could be used for precious thick paint sculptures or texture in a painting. But now you know, so you don't waste even discarded paint.)


So if I was re-dipping a dirty brush back into the pure jar, or from a dirty palette or linty canvas, that means I have now just contaminated the pure jar of varnish. You don't want to have to re-buy that. I thought if that didn't do the trick, then the lint hairs would be coming from the manufacturer, and I don't think that would sell too often, so it must be me... and it was. By using all the above tricks, plus pouring a new pure mix of fresh varnish, on a clean palette, with clean paintbrush, on a totally clean canvas, and freshly dried paint on the canvas, this finally did the trick. No lint. Only beautiful gloss shine appeared on the painting making it look professional. After pouring new varnish, do not wipe the new varnish jar with your paintbrush, just to make sure! Use a finger to wipe the lid edges; or use vinyl gloves to do this if you don't want to peel off acrylic mess continually, until you can get to a sink to wash up.


Also, this is why paint lids stick and you fight to get them off... it's the jar contents dried between the jar and lid all the way around, that makes it a pain to unseal. Best is to find a way to keep paint from accumulating there. This is another reason I use smaller pouring paint bottles with flip-lids, to prevent having to mess with this yucky jar use more often. Re-filling when low is not that often.


5. Do Not Leave the Varnish Lids Off. I see artists with paint lids open on MULTITUDES of paint jars at once! This not only dries out the paint, makes Paint Slugs start (what I call long stringy films of dried over paint accumulating in the paint bottle), but lint and dirt, and God forbid, other paint colors enter this sacred pure mix. Don't do that. Find another way to create that's easy for you. Pour only the paint you will need out on the palette. That's what it's there for. I don't get tube forms of paint generally, because I can't put a pure mix back into a tube that's unused, like I can with a bottle. The reason why you don't see lint really appear from paint jars is because the paint can conveniently cover up those pesky Lint Bandits, but they are there, and it certainly shows with a clear film of paint, such as varnish.


There is one more thing you can do:


6. Test Only a Small Portion of your Painting with Varnish. I know, why do this, right? Such a pain even mentally, to get all set up to paint, just to wipe one or two strokes and realize you got a problem. In true reality if you think about it, it's much worse hell to have to re-paint and ENTIRE painting, than re-mix colors for just one spot, right? Especially if you have a painting where you have mixed colors that you can't get again straight from the bottle, this is a major reason to get varnishing right to begin with. This is also a reason I buy more paint colors already mixed that shade than mix it myself, to save time mixing, have instant color when I need it, and here… not having to re-mix colors to find that right shade if a varnish does screw something up.


What if you can't see these hairs until you inspect microscopically close? Believe it when you start taking pictures of your work in the light. Imagine this the light of the customer's home or the friend you've just given this as a gift to. You will find a way to closely inspect if you want to offer quality and make yourself artistically grow. Find a magnifying glass or there are those ones with a light too. Do what it takes, then you won't have any more lint troubles.

Hopefully this plan of action can help you avoid much frustration than all the time it took me to arrive at this solution.

Side note:


Make sure to paint in bright light with daylight bulbs for correct color seeing and protection of your eyes. Any time you strain to see, you hurt your eyes, and you don't know you're even straining until a headache forms or you look in the mirror, or just catch yourself squinting, or all too often we dismiss this idea, and reject it altogether, that we are fine. Yes, we may be fine now, but your eyes are your asset especially as an artist. Don't paint in low light. I have invested in several drafting lamps with the energy saving kind of daylight bulbs for my whole setup of painting, photography, studio presentations and demos, and editing use on the computer. They are about $100 each, but got them one at a time or you can use a tax return on some of the bigger ticket items. But better to prevent than try to fix later. I like that saying: "Focus on Prepare, than Repair." There is not much repair for your eyes.

Get Free Course

How to Paint a 3D

Simple Sculptural Rose

Ruth Collis, Sculptural Painting Instructor

Ruth Collis

Sculptural Painting Instructor

The book further tells:


  • What cake tip gets the cool rosette shape

  • How to get the rosettes in extra raised 3D

  • How to eliminate sketching and drafting time

  • Make composition a breeze by easy "placement"

  • How to speed up the drying time by 3 times

  • What substrates to use for the weight of impasto

  • How to varnish a 3D painting

  • What to do with all your practice tests

To learn more click for the Kindle book here:

Make Impasto Rosettes with Paint

Book: Make Impasto Rosettes with Paint, by Ruth Collis
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