Pastel Painting FAQ: What Varnish Should Be Used On Oil Pastels?

Vibrant gouache color set in double use
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Question: Pastel Painting FAQ: What Varnish Should Be Used On Oil Pastels?

"I have just finished a painting where I used acrylic paint as the bottom layers and then I drew over the acrylics with oil pastels. Now I'm aware that you are supposed to add a fixative to the oil pastels to stop them from smudging - my question is how will that affect the acrylic paints? Also, I wanted to varnish it to give the painting a high gloss. Any recommendations on what type of varnish to use that won't mess up the pastels or acrylics?" -- Msalcido


You can pretty much treat oil pastels like oil paints, which mean you can varnish over it. I would use a spray varnish, and not try and brush it, as that may smear some of it. But other than that, you should not have any real trouble with it. -- Starrpoint.

If you want to varnish your paintings with a glossy shine, you could use the spray varnish to stabilize the oil pastel and when this coat is dry, you could use a liquid glossy varnish. I always use Liquitex glossy varnish and it works very well. Just follow the directions on the bottle, use a soft synthetic brush. You could use a mix of glossy and matt varnish, but don't mix this just before using or mix them very very gently. -- Johanne Duchaine.

Sennelier produces an oil pastel fixative which creates a clear, glossy protective film on an oil pastel painting. The Oil Pastel Society has a short oil pastel primer on varnishing an oil pastel painting.