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I thought my painting was ruined!


I recently varnished my “Eggs” oil painting and as it dried something strange started to happen. The varnish dried in blotchy patches! I re varnished the painting thinking the new varnish layer would fill in the missing gaps and it only got worse.


As you can see in the video, all is back to normal!  I’m so happy! Thank you to the excellent support at Gamblin for walking me through the procedure on how to remove varnish. If anyone needs this info. here you go:

Gamvar is formulated with Gamsol odorless mineral spirits, therefore it can be safely removed with Gamsol.  As a solvent, Gamsol is not strong enough to dissolve a dry paint film, so varnish removal will not harm the painting.  If the varnished painting is on stretched canvas, place something firm beneath the back of the painting to keep it from flexing when pressure is applied from above.

Gamvar Removal Directions:

  1. Take a clean lint-free cotton cloth and wet it with Gamsol.  This is your dissolving rag.
  2. Using circular strokes, dissolve a small area of the varnish at a time (Gamvar will dissolve within seconds).
  3. Immediately wipe away the dissolved Gamvar with another dry cotton cloth.
  4. Unfold and refold the wiping cloth several times during the process to make sure you are using an absorbent part of the cloth.  Usually, there is enough of a difference in surface sheen to tell where Gamvar has been removed.  If it is difficult to tell, approach the surface systematically in small areas at a time to help keep track of where the varnish has been removed.
  1. A final wipe down with a fresh cloth and Gamsol may help to ensure any residual varnish is completely removed.  Allow Gamsol to evaporate completely before continuing to paint or re-varnishing the painting.

Application of Gamvar Picture Varnish / Satin & Matte

Gamvar Satin and Gamvar Matte may be applied to a painting when it is touch-dry and firm in its thickest areas.  Gamvar is designed to be applied in one thin coat.

  1. Shake the bottle before use to ensure that matting agents are well dispersed.  (Matting agents are expected to settle to the bottom of the bottle when not in use.)
  2. If Gamvar gets very cold, the wax matting agents may drop out of suspension into clumps.  To dissolve the wax, place the varnish container into a pan of hot tap water and allow to warm through.  A combination of the heat and vigorous shaking will dissolve the clumped wax. 
  3. Apply a thin coat of varnish by using a light scrubbing action with the brush. Try to cover as much of the painting with as little varnish as possible.
  4. Finish by feathering out over the surface of the varnish.  Wherever there is excess varnish, remove it by feathering and wiping the brush on paper towels or a clean rag.

The following link will take you to a varnishing demonstration video on our website:

The ideal varnish brush is flat and 1-3” wide, depending on the size of the painting to be varnished.  A brush with stiff, but soft natural bristles works best for applying an appropriately thin layer of Gamvar.  Soft synthetic and soft natural hair brushes tend to soak up and deposit too much varnish at once.

Oiling-Out prior to Varnishing

If a ready-to-varnish oil painting has an uneven surface quality, with dull or sunken-in areas, we recommend oiling-out before varnishing.  An oiling-out mixture will reduce the painting’s absorbency and unify its appearance by soaking into absorbent paint layers.  Gamvar will then lay down more evenly, reducing the patchy or streaky look that results when varnish sinks into absorbent areas of a painting.

Oiling-Out Procedure:

  1. Apply a liberal coating of a 1:1 mixture of Galkyd:Gamsol (or 2:1 Galkyd Lite:Gamsol) to the entire painting.  If the painting includes the use of natural resins like dammar in its mediums, DO NOT USE GALKYD!  Instead, oil-out with a 1:3 mixture of Refined Linseed Oil:Gamsol.
  2. Allow the medium to be absorbed into the painting for 2-3 minutes.  When oiling-out a large surface area, break it down into manageable, overlapping sections.
  3. Wipe off the excess painting medium thoroughly with an absorbent, lint-free cloth.  Utilize a dry brush to wick out medium that pools in more heavily textured areas.
  4. Once dry, if any dull areas remain, oil-out those areas one more time.

Allow the oil-out to dry completely before varnishing. (Galkyd/Gamsol = 2-3 days, Refined Linseed/Gamsol = 1 ½ -2 weeks)”

(Info given to me via email by Mary Weisenburger at Gamblin support.)