All About Glazing Pet Portraits: A Before & After Comparison of Varnish on Oil Paintings

glazing or varnishing oil paintings

Pet Portrait Surface Treatment: Do Oil Paintings Need a Glaze?

This week’s video answers a question I get asked occasionally about the surface treatment of Oil Paintings.I’ve put together a video and some options above featuring a Custom Pet Portrait and one of my Still Life paintings.

Do they need a glaze? What are the options?

Oil Painting Surfaces

The surface of an oil painting—pet portrait or otherwise—depends a lot on the thickness of the paint and the type of medium used (if any).

Oils dry to a semi-gloss that usually stay looking “wetter” than most of their acrylic counterparts. But with the use of a thinner or medium, you can adjust the glossiness of an oil painting quite a lot.

  • Using Mineral Spirits as a thinner will make the painting more matte.
  • Adding Linseed Oil will make the painting more glossy.

Both will thin the paint so that you can get smoother, longer brushstrokes.

Pet Portrait Painting Surface Matte

Matte and Mixed Pet Portrait Surfaces

Matte portrait surfaces will show the colour and texture of the piece similarly from any angle. My work tends to use thin coats of paint, so the canvas substrate will show through even on the areas of the dog where the paint is thickest, but the thick paint will show up as shinier than thin paint.

In the example below, you can see where I’ve used Linseed Oil as a thinner and the surface is glossy.

pet portrait oil painting with linseed oil

Glazed Pet Portrait Surfaces

Glazing paintings makes the surface more uniform.

You gain a lot of the benefits of linseed oil, where the colours become more punchy and more vibrant, but you lose some texture along the way.

This photo shows the pet portrait from the painting above after it’s dried over night. From this angle, you can see how uniform the shine of the paint has become.

The Bottom Line on Glazing

Glazing is completely a matter of taste.

If you like a uniform surface and maximum colour visibility from non-reflective angles, glaze might be for you.

If you prefer to reduce glare and like the variations that occur in hand-painted work, leave that canvas au-naturel!


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Or if you have a pet of your own that you’d like to immortalize on canvas, shoot me an email at [email protected].

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