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I work for an artist who paints acrylic on canvas. He would like to collage an inkjet print to the acylic-primed canvas (using Lascaux 303 to adhere). There may be a minor amount of additional paint application around the edges of the print after it has been applied to the canvas, but otherwise, the surface of the print will remain untouched. I usually finish off his paintings with a coat of Golden Soft Gel Medium and then two coats of Golden Polymer Gloss Varnish. So, my question is... (from a conservation point of view) would it be alright to cover the inkjet print with the soft gel and varnish as well, or is there another product I should be using to protect the print separately?
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It might be a good idea to apply an acrylic-based fixative to the inkjet before top-coating with medium so the ink doesn't re-wet and bleed. Otherwise, this sounds like a good approach, provided the print is executed with lightfast inks on durable paper.
We have sent this question to a few of our other moderators who may want to add something to the conversation.
Because the process you describe involves Golden products the comments I will be making are from a very brand-specific perspective. There might be other effective options using other products, but we cannot speak to things we have not tested ourselves.
In the past we have done extensive testing on the effectiveness of our varnishes to protect inkjet prints, including higher-end ones using pigment-based inks, and have found that our Archival Varnish, which is the aerosol version of our solvent-based MSA Varnish, is far more effective than the Polymer Varnish. While 6 sprayed coats offer maximum protection when used as a topcoat, because you will have Polymer Varnish being applied at the end, applying even 2-4 sprayed coats will add substantial improvement. You can get a sense of that if you look towards the end of the following article detailing our lightfastness testing:
Because of that, we would recommend doing some testing on a similar print, applying light spray applications of our Archival Varnish Gloss to make sure there is no solvent sensitivity and that you get the results you desire. Once that is fully dry, you should also test applying the Soft Gel on top to make sure there are no unexpected issues.
Assuming everything goes well with the testing, we would recommend applying at least 2-4 spray coats of the Archival Varnish Gloss. In our experience this should not result in an overly glossy finish. However, if you notice that the surface does become glossy after 2-3 coats, you can finish with one light layer of our Archival Varnish Satin just to provide a subtle amount of tooth for the Soft Gel. Let dry overnight before applying the Soft Gel and Polymer Varnish as you normally would.
We cannot stress enough that, whenever introducing a new process or product into an artwork, doing adequate testing on trial pieces is absolutely critical to work out any issues before trying this on a permanent work of art. This is especially true when doing things that are not possible to reverse.
If you have any questions let us know. I will also consult with my colleagues tomorrow morning to see if there are any other thoughts or concerns to relay.
Thank you Sarah and Matthew for your detailed responses - very helpful! Although this process (the collaging of an inkjet print to a canvas) isn't something we are making a habit of here (David Hockney Studio), we want to make sure we get it right. I'm glad I stumbled on to this site (Thanks Marie!)... Greg Rose, DH Studio
Hi Greg -
One follow-up to my previous comments. In crafting my response I was assuming that the collaged print was just an element in a bigger piece - that there was a larger painting surrounding it - but in rereading your question it is not totally clear. Could you let us know if that is true or not? If the collaged print takes up the greater part of the piece, then there are other options we might suggest.
Also, I did not address alternatives to the water-based Polymer Varnish as it seemed to be your usual process, and why change something that is working well. But if having better protection is important, we would want to note that the MSA Varnish is more physically durable, and about three times more effective at filtering UV, than the Polymer Varnish, so switching systems could make sense. However, it would require working with solvents, which we realize is not always desirable or possible.
Thanks again Sarah, the collaged print is a smaller element on a larger canvas, but one edge of the print comes right to one of the edges of the canvas. This common edge is where I can imagine some problems occuring in the future. It hasn't been decided yet by the artist if a top coat (other than a UV protective spray) is desired - but I can see the argument for adding a top coat, not only for UV protection or an aestetic "unification" of the surface, but for the protection of the print's edges, which I can imagine over time wanting to peel up. Thanks for the tip on the MSA varnish... I'll look into that!
So, I'd like to close out this conversation with an update... I did various tests using a variety of adhesives to adhere the print to a primed canvas - we chose to go with Lascaux 303 for this part of the project. I also also applied a variety of finishes to the surfaces of the prints and the one David chose to go with had about 3 coats of Golden Archival Gloss Varnish (Aerosol) with a couple of finishing coats of the Archival Satin Varnish. I will most likely do my usual treatment of the canvas (brushed on soft gel plus gloss varnish) prior to applying the print. The print will be surfaced with the spray-on Archival Varnishes prior to adhering to the canvas.
Thanks to the respondents on this forum, and to Debra Norris and the MITRA program for their assistance... David and I very much appreciate the advise we received!