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Blog Category: Step-by-steps

Step 6 - Framing the Artwork

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic my framer has been closed and I haven't been able to frame "Good Vibrations" yet. Because of its complexity and size, this artwork needs a very simple floater frame. I'm thinking of ordering one online if I can't contact my framer soon.

Step 1: before varnishing

Step 2: sealing the artwork

Step 3: mounting the artwork on a panel

Step 4: digital capture of the artwork

Step 5: applying the final varnish

Step 6: framing the artwork 

Check this link to see how I frame smaller artworks.


Step 5 - Applying the Final Varnish

As a final varnish I use Golden Polymer Varnish with UVLS ((UltraViolet Light Stabilizers). I prefer the gloss type because it really brings out the colors in a painting. It makes the surface shiny which works great with my subject.

This is a waterborne acrylic polymer varnish that dries to a protective, flexible, dust-resistant surface. I always thin it with water, 3 part varnish to 1 part water. For this artwork I applied nine coats, waiting 3 hours between coats. The varnish cures completely in one week. 


Here you can see my varnishing tools:
- a wide, great quality brush for the top surface
- a smaller one for the sides
- a plastic container for the varnish
- a measuring cup for mixing varnish and water

I work in a dust free room and place the painting on top of boxes to elevate it from the table. I alternate between horizontal strokes in one session and vertical ones in the next.


My varnished artwork (upside down) by a window after been sealed with 12 layers of Golden Archival Spray Varnish and nine coats of Golden Polymer Varnish.

I feel very confident to frame my art without glass. I've verified on my own that the UV protection these varnishes provide is outstanding. I did a rigorous lightfastness test using the Blue Wool Reference cards and following strict ASTM standards. Even the pigments with the lowest lightfastness ratings performed amazingly well when protected by these varnishes.


On my next and final post in this series I will talk about framing.

Step 1before varnishing

Step 2sealing the artwork

Step 3mounting the artwork on a panel

Step 4digital capture of the artwork

Step 5: applying the final varnish

Step 6: framing the artwork


Step 4 - Digital Capture of the Artwork

One of the most important steps in the art reproduction process is the creation of a digital file. A high-resolution, properly lit, color-managed capture is critical to getting the sharpness, detail and color accuracy needed. Even though I have a good quality camera, I let a professional do the work.

The company I use, DaVinci Digitale, not only assists with art scanning, photo capturing and digital color correction, but offers many other services such as giclee printing on different surfaces, art stretching and mounting, custom framing and art packaging and shipping.

I take my artwork to be professionally photographed always before applying the final gloss varnish to minimize the glare of a glossy canvas.

Below is the color corrected image of “Good Vibrations”. The original file is 677MB and measures 18830 x 12562 pixels at 300ppi resolution.


On my next post I will talk about the process of applying the final varnish.


Step 1before varnishing

Step 2sealing the artwork

Step 3: mounting the artwork on a panel

Step 4: digital capture of the artwork

Step 5: applying the final varnish

Step 6: framing the artwork


Step 3 - Mounting the Artwork on a Panel

At the beginning of the mounting process I realized that I didn't have a table big enough for the arwork so I had to be creative and decided to place a mirror closet door on top of the smaller table I had available.


First I carefully trimmed the extra canvas around my piece. The trimmed canvas at this point is a bit larger than the cradled panel to account for possible misalignments during mounting. The wood panel I always use for mounting my art is an Ampersand Claybord


My favorite mounting adhesive is Gudy 831, a very aggressive double-stick adhesive film especially suitable for applications on rough or textured surfaces. It's acid free (pH 7), it passed the photo activity test (PAT), and will not dry out or discolor with age. It's available on rolls with a single release liner. Gudy 831 can be purchased online from Talas in different size rolls. However, if you don't use a large quantity of adhesive as I do or are just experimenting, I suggest you buy Grafix Double Tack Mounting Film which comes in sheets of different sizes. This is also acid free and archival. 


After carefully unrolling the adhesive onto the surface of the Claybord, I burnished it with a brayer and trimmed the excess around the edges. I punctured the air bubbles with an X-Acto knife and burnished the area until the air was gone.


Next I created a fold on the release liner to expose a 1" wide section of the tacky area of the mounting adhesive.


I positioned the canvas over the Claybord and, when perfectly centered, I pressed the canvas on the exposed 1" section of adhesive. 


Then I slowly pulled away the release liner while unrolling the canvas over the adhesive. With a sheet of tracing paper covering the canvas, I gently rubbed the surface with a rag until all the release liner was pulled out. As I forgot to take a picture of this step, I'm using a reference from an older artwork. 


I turned the board upside down on the mirror to trim the extra canvas with an X-Acto knife.


Trimming the extra canvas.


Here's the canvas mounted and trimmed.


I rolled a rubber brayer all over the surface protected by tracing paper.


Then I placed the board under weights overnight. Heavy books will do especially with smaller pieces. 


Finally I painted the sides of the cradled board with acrylic.


On my next post I will talk about the process of getting my artwork professionally photographed.


Step 1: before varnishing

Step 2: sealing the artwork

Step 3: mounting the artwork on a panel

Step 4: digital capture of the artwork

Step 5: applying the final varnish

Step 6: framing the artwork


Step 2 - Sealing the Artwork

After cleaning up the artwork from debris and cat hair, as explained in Step 1, I taped the canvas on a piece of gatorboard. Any rigid surface like cardboard or foamboard can also work for this purpose. Then I took it outside to begin the sealing process.

Sealing the piece creates a separation layer between the painting and the final varnish. Because the final varnish ages and collects dust and grime through the years, it needs to be removable for conservation purposes; if it sticks to the painting it would be impossible to replace. 

However, there's another very important reason for sealing. In my technique, beside colored pencils, I use wax pastels (Neocolor), both the water-soluble and water-resistant ones, and blend them with heat . If I were to apply the final varnish without sealing, the water-soluble pastels would get wet and possibly smeared by the brush during the painting process. I use a final varnish because I frame my art without glass.  

I sealed the artwork with Golden Archival Spray Varnish, gloss. This sealing varnish contains ultraviolet light filters and stabilizers (UVLS) to provide archival protection and inhibit light damage. It's a mineral spirit varnish and therefore I apply it outside while wearing a dust mask on a non-windy day. I lean the artwork on a wall so that big droplets fall onto the pavement and not on the painting. 

Golden Archival Spray Varnish can be used in place of fixative by colored pencil artists who frame their work under glass. It not only protects from UV damage but it also completely suppresses wax bloom formation, a problem that occurs with some wax-based colored pencils. For this purpose, 5 or 6 light layers are sufficient.

Considering that my piece is very large and needs complete sealing, I sprayed a total of 12 light layers, waiting at least 30 minutes in between. After each layer I bring the artwork inside the garage and let it dry away from sun and moving air. I rotate the artwork from a horizontal to a vertical position at each spraying session and always spray from side to side at about 10" distance. When the sealing process is finished I let the artwork rest inside for a few days. 

On my next post I will show you how I mount the canvas on a 40" x 60" x 2" Claybord.

Step 1: before varnishing

Step 2: sealing the artwork

Step 3: mounting the artwork on a panel

Step 4: digital capture of the artwork

Step 5: applying the final varnish

Step 6: framing the artwork


Step 1- Before Varnishing

I've finally finished my 40" x 60" piece and now I'm preparing the surface for varnishing.

Step 1: I begin by going over the highlights that lost their brightness with a white Neocolor. I will then examine every single square inch of canvas (in this case 2,400 sq inches) with my strongest magnifiers. If you work with colored pencils and wax pastels like Neocolors, you know how easily tiny debris of pigment can become embedded in the surface. The goal is to lightly scrape off the debris and the occasional cat hair using a small X-ACTO knife. This takes some patience of course but it's a worthwhile effort; it's very disappointing to notice debris after varnishing because, at that point, there's nothing one can do. 

I will post five more steps to explore and update the intricacies of my method of glassless framing. After more than 10 years of experience with this method I have developed a reliable technique that I'm always happy to share. 

Step 2: sealing the artwork to create a separation layer before the final varnish

Step 3: mounting the artwork on a panel

Step 4: digital capture of the artwork

Step 5: applying the final varnish

Step 6: framing the artwork


How I Frame My Artwork

After mounting my artwork on 3/4" Ampersand Claybord, painting the sides in acrylic, and varnishing it, I place it in the exact middle of a fabric covered, 3/16" thick Gatorboard which functions as a mat. I insert four very thin sewing pins at the corners of the artwork and make sure they come out on the other side of the Gatorboard to mark the position of the four corners on the back.

I use screws with large washers to mount the Claybord onto the Gatorboard. The screws need to be inserted in the exact middle of the Claybord's stretch bars.

After inserting the artwork mounted on the Gatorboard mat into the frame, I secure it with framers points.

Details of framers points, screws and washers.

I mount the backing paper with double stick adhesive and trim the edges.

I screw in the D-rings, insert the plastic coated stainless wire, and twist it at both ends.

I wrap self-fusing silicone tape around the ends of the wire to prevent it from scratching the wall. For the same reason I staple some paper, folded four times, over the d-rings and screws.

Rubber bumper pads always come off so I make my own with a hot glue gun; these never come off.

Last step is to secure my signed certificate of authenticity with double stick adhesive on the lower center of the back.

This is how my artwork looks in the frame. I developed this concept myself and I've been framing all my artwork in this manner for years.

A different angle that better shows the 3D effect of my presentation.

I always try to take a good photo for social media with me by my work. This personalizes the art while giving a better view of its actual size.

Other blog posts on framing:


Acrylic and Colored Pencil

My latest artwork, titled "McDonald Creek, No. 3", was inspired by the ripples reflected on the colorful pebbles of the McDonald Creek, Glacier National Park, Montana. This piece has a very abstract slant due to its close-up take and the refraction caused by the running water.  

Size: 12" x 16"
Medium: Luminance and Prismacolor colored pencils, and Golden Matte Acrylics
Surface: Art Spectrum Colourfix Supertooth board
Technique: Icarus Painting Board 


Even with abstract work, value and composition are still of the outmost importance. A value range from 0 to 10 brings form and depth to life. Colors, of course, always evoke a strong emotional response but if the values are incorrect, the colors will not work. 

I normally block in the main colors with artist crayons and wax pastels (Neocolors). This time I wanted to experiment with acrylics. Since colored pencils adhere only mechanically to acrylics, it's crucial to use a surface with a strong tooth, especially when framing without glass. After acrylics dry, the tooth is then still available for colored pencils. 

Regular acrylics are usually glossy and that finish interferes with colored pencil adhesion. However, Golden Matte Acrylics, Fluid or Heavy Body, are less sleek than gloss acrylics and provide a better surface for colored pencils.

So, what are the advantages of using acrylics with colored pencils? I discovered two helpful applications.



Acrylics are perfect for covering large areas of flat color; they can be brushed on quickly and they dry in a jiffy. I chose to paint this pebble with a middle value. With a few brush strokes, using paint thinned with water, I completely obliterated the white of the paper.


I then created the ripples with white paint and a lighter value of the local color. I don't worry about being precise at this point; that's where colored pencils will come in handy. 


After turning on the heat of my Icarus Painting Board (medium setting), I began developing colors, values and details with colored pencils in my usual fashion, blending with a paper stump when necessary. The acrylic under-layer is left uncovered in some areas to allow for optical blending.



I use only lightfast colored pencils and some of the colors in the pink, purple and violet family are a little dull and not as bright as their fugitive counterparts.


If you're a fan of bright colors like I am, you'll be happy to know that there's a way to remedy that dullness. Acrylics are lightfast and can be glazed over colored pencils. On this pebble I painted a very light mixture of Golden Quinacridone Magenta and Golden Acrylic Glazing Liquid. The glaze worked wonderfully but it took me two tries to get it right.

On the first try, the glaze darkened the overall values. So I reworked the pebble on my Icarus Painting Board; the heat allowed me to easily remove the acrylic glaze using colored pencils alone. After lightening the values, I then re-glazed the pebble (no heat). Acrylics can also be used for touch-ups, especially when highlights have lost their luster; a little Titanium white can do wonders.


“River Pebbles, No. 13”

Title: "River Pebbles, No. 13"
Size: 8" x 8"
Medium: Prismacolor colored pencils, Luminance colored pencils, Neocolors artist crayons
Tools: tortillions, paper stumps, and color shapers
Surface: Art Spectrum Colourfix Supertooth board
Icarus Technique

I created a graphite sketch from five different photo references I took during my trip to Montana. I always make sure to have many photos of the same subject, especially when dealing with moving water, so that I can combine the best parts into a drawing.

I then transferred the original sketch using Verithin colored pencils to avoid having to erase the graphite pencil.

After drawing the outline, I proceeded to map the main colors with Neocolor artist crayons on the warm zone of the Icarus board at low temperature. During this step it's not important to include all nuances and details as these can be developed later with colored pencils.

For more on color mapping with artist crayons you can view the following video: Mussel Shell - Blocking in Colors with Artist Crayons

With temperature set at maximum, I melted and blended the artist crayons with a clay shaper (also known as color shaper). 

For more on melting artist crayons you can view the following video: Mussel Shell - Melting Artist Crayons

With the Icarus board set at medium temperature I developed the colors, values and details by layering and blending colored pencils with a variety of tools (tortillions, paper stumps, Caran d'Ache blender). During this step I made quite a few changes from the original outline; I removed a bubble and several small pebbles, aiming to simplify an already complex drawing.

Here are close-ups of the main steps: outline, mapping, melting, and developing.

I hope you enjoyed this step-by-step.