Having recently showcased at my first ever on-ground photography exhibition, I realized that the vendor I had sourced the prints and frames from, had not sprayed sealing varnish on the prints properly. If you hold the frame in front of a light and tilt it, on the surface of the print, you can see that the spray had been done only partially and erratically.
I’ve had a handful of spray cans with satin and matt varnish in them for a few years now. I’d ordered them on Flipkart about 1-2 years ago. The brand is PEBEO and unfortunately, it is no longer available anywhere online in India for me to purchase. The two cans of satin varnish that I’d been storing for use, refused to work and after trying everything except puncturing the cans, I had to throw the full cans away in the garbage.
In my quest to try and make the spray cans work, I trawled the Internet searching for answers. While I wasn’t able to salvage either of these, I now know a little more to make sure this doesn’t ever happen again. I found this great article that lists almost everything that can go wrong with a spray can and what to do to possibly fix it. Some of it is pretty elaborate, which is why I didn’t even bother – but if you’re a nut like I used to be half a decade ago, it has everything you need to attempt your salvage.
Each can I threw away had cost me upwards or Rs. 1,500 per can, so that hurt.
But then I quickly got down to figuring out what else was available to order online in India. On Amazon, I found a couple of listings that looked interesting. One was Winsor & Newton varnish spray cans for Gloss and Matt and the other was MTN’s water-based matt spray varnish.
The Winsor & Newton ones were listed by Himalay Fine Art, who retail out of Bombay and I have ordered other artist supplies from them directly via their website. But their phone customer support can be dicey, especially if they are fielding a LOT of orders and they usually are. Finding them on Amazon was awesome because this meant I could use Amazon’s problem resolution if a problem arose – not that it ever has with Himalaya Fine Art previously. So, I order a can each of Winsor & Newton’s Gloss and Matt varnish sprays.
I also ordered the MTN water-based spray.
These arrived in about a week’s time and I tested them first one absorbent cardboard and then on a glossy carton of Guerlain’s Santal Royal fragrance. The latter because after the #FragranceOfTheMonth feature was done, I’d thrown away the carton and the garbage is where I was testing the spray cans.
You can see there’s a whitish sheen to the water-based MTN spray can’s product, so this is something I do not recommend as it might change the color of your artwork, making it duller than it is supposed to be. This one cost Rs. 800 and is 300ml.
The Winsor & Newton sprays are both great. I used the gloss one on “Critter Center” and the colors seem to pop more than the “Samurai Gateway“, which was sprayed by Pebeo’s Matt Varnish ( the only small sized can from my storage that still worked. ) These cans are 400ml each and cost about Rs. 1,200 each. You can also get these directly from the Himalaya Fine Art website. ( Their website says these sprays are non-removable and that makes it unsuitable for fine art. Wouldn’t that make it perfect to fine art though? The website lists other varnish sprays too – removable ones, if you’re into that sort of thing. I don’t want one of my customers to come to me with, “I tried to clean dirt with a wet cloth and the print came off.” )
Hopefully, I’m looking at finishing two prints per can, so I’m going to need more cans to finish spraying the 10 prints still left. I’m getting better at spraying properly – you’re supposed to keep the print laid down flat and then spray – earlier I was spraying with the print about 45 degrees tilted as it is easier to move my hands then and to keep the range of the aerosol cloud limited. When the print is kept flat on the floor, best to spray it outdoors. I’ve managed to find a way to spray indoors by building a cardboard wall around the print and spraying 4-5 times over the course of a couple of days – so I hold the can a little farther away than advised, to spray a thinner-than-usual layer.
At all times, since I’m spraying indoors, I wear a N99 anti-pollution face mask AND I have an air purifier running at full blast right next to where I’m spraying. If I don’t do this, I can literally feel a layer of varnish settling on my tonsils. Yup. Been there, done that. Not again.
After I’m done with each spray session, I hold the can upside down and spray a burst onto the cardboard walls. This is supposed to clear the nozzle a bit. I also now store my spray cans standing upside down. This ensures that the pressurized gas stays near the nozzle and the paint / varnish, even if it does dry up, does not dry at the nozzle. If you’re going to be using the sprays after a long break, you need to shake them very vigorously before you even hit that spray nozzle. Some people recommend heating the can too – but I’m not to keen on finding out what actually happens when you heat one.
Buy prints of my limited edition #EyesForGurugram collection on the Naina.co store.
See more photos from the exhibition here and blog posts about some of the prints I’ve sold, here.