How to care for your painting

Painting Care, how to look after your acrylic painting.

So, you have bought or commissioned a wonderful airbrushed painting. It is a beautiful addition to your home, adding a touch of distinction to your room. Only, now how do you keep it pristine? Acrylic painting care is easy when you know how!

Airbrushed Portrait Painting
Reuben

All of our fine art, airbrushed paintings are created using excellent quality acrylics from Createx. Acrylic paints tend to need preventative care and cleaning techniques which differ from those of oil paintings. The material properties of acrylics allow for a durable, long lasting, brilliant finish if the correct precautions are employed in their care. The main factors to be aware of are either environmental, such as dust, heat and light or physical, such as scratches and knocks when handling. At the end of this article we have some tips on best practices, plus some do’s and don’ts, to help care for your new painting, keeping it fresh and vibrant.

First, a quick overview of acrylic paints, their properties and the type used in our airbrushed paintings. Acrylic paint is in effect a pigmented plastic, are fast drying, curing to a flexible film on the canvas. Making their debut in the 50’s, acrylics quickly became a solid staple for many Artist’s, such as Lichenstein and Noland in the 60’s. The early acrylics were solvent based, needing white spirit or turpentine for cleaning, much like oils. The more commonly used Acrylics are now water based, such as the Createx paints we use. Artists such as Hockney and Warhol use the emulsion style, water based Acrylics. (see Tate care booklet)

Acrylics are versatile and used on many surfaces, such as canvas, wood, metal and glass. When dried, the acrylic is not water soluble and adheres strongly to the canvas surface. They are fast drying, produce brilliance of colour and dry to a soft, flexible finish, resisting cracking from movement of the canvas. Thicker quantities of acrylic can crack, especially when temperatures drop below 10 Celsius. Being a stable polymer, they are very resistant to fading, yellowing and deterioration from light.  As the surface is soft, it will over time flow, although the period of time will be considerable, much like stained glass in ancient cathedrals!

The material properties of acrylics allow for a durable, long lasting, brilliant finish if the correct precautions are employed in their care. The main actors to be aware of are either environmental, such as dust, heat and light or physical, such as scratches and knocks when handling. As stated in the Axa Art and Tate Gallery guide to Acrylic painting care

In spite of the outstanding mechanical and ageing properties of acrylic paints, once applied to a support, the resulting painting can suffer damage in much the same way that all works of art can, i.e. from factors such as: accidents, vandalism, the accumulation of surface dirt, nicotine and grime, scuff marks, fingerprints, inherent deterioration, as well as inappropriate packing methods and uncontrolled environmental conditions.

Airbrushed landscape painting of Sun Peaks
Stillness Speaks, Sun Peaks

In all of our WiRD art originals, we use high pigment, light-fast acrylics by Createx. They are specially formulated for airbrush use, using water as their main carrier. Their original product line is our most used, and exclusive to all paintings up to 2014. Createx have an excellent reputation in the airbrush community and in 2014 we began introducing their Wicked line of acrylics to our creations. These use an alcohol based carrier, for faster drying time, cure to a harder adhesion and are included in all of our automotive work and many canvas works post 2014. The properties of an airbrush mean that an incredibly fine layer of paint is added to a surface. As such, it can make them more delicate and we do not recommend touching or picking at the surface with bare hands. Please see our cleaning tips and do’s and don’ts at the end of this article for best practice when cleaning.

Factors to consider for acrylic painting care

Environmental

Dirt and Dust. As acrylic paints are flexible, dirt and dust on the surface can become embedded in the paint itself, if left to accumulate. This will lead to a permanent dulling of the surface and vibrancy of the painting. A location that has a fairly stable temperature range is recommended. Dust is inherent to homes and much like and surface, a light dusting is recommended to keep your painting bright and clear. Dusting once or twice a year is often sufficient enough practice. If there appears to be a regular amount or much dust build up, consider the location and if another may be a better choice. At the end of this article, we have some tip for best practice when dusting your painting.

Airbrushed Fine Art landscape Painting
Deep Ease

Light. Although Acrylics are stable and considered light-fast, it is recommended practice to hang your painting in a location that does not receive direct sunlight. Light from a south facing window is considered to be more than 100 times as bright and damaging to a paint surface than is required for best viewing. Spotlights can be a great addition when placed a suitable safe distance, to allow heat to dissipate. The Tate Gallery recommend ceiling mounted, pointing down at a steep angle, as this avoids glare from the painting.

Temperature. As mentioned above, a location that has a fairly stable range is referable. Its best not to place your new painting over a radiator or fireplace, especially with an unglazed acrylic work. A fluctuating temperature range can result in a greater accumulation of dirt, due to air currents. Warmer temperatures will further increase the softening of the acrylic surface, leading to an increase in possibility of dust retention. One final factor is the wall your painting hangs on. If it is poorly insulated or an exterior wall, there is a chance of humidity build up behind the painting. If there is a possibility of mould growth, it is good practice to check behind the painting from time to time.

Physical

Physical factors can be the most detrimental to your new painting. Great care should be taken when transporting or hanging and especially when cleaning. The safest place for your painting is hanging on a wall, with a good solid hanging system. A frame is also a great addition, using a reputable framer. For more information on framing, check out our framing article HERE. When framed, the back of the painting is also safe, with a backing support to cover the canvas.

Never allow a solid object to rest against the canvas surface, as this will cause indentation to the weave of the surface. It is possible to protect the image surface by glass, however, dependent on the glazing, this can sometimes cause a subtle change in the arts appearance and/or vibrancy. When transporting, a soft cover over the surface first, followed by a solid cover will help to limit any damage from knocks.

When cleaning, a very light brush or feather duster is sufficient. Never rub the painting surface or scratch at perceived particles. Airbrushed acrylic is incredibly fine and eve with good adhesion to the surface, the fine layers can be removed if you are not careful. If you are unsure about touching the painting directly, another option would be to use some form of compressed air, to gently blow the dust from the surface.

Best Cleaning Practices

Following our acrylic painting care tips are easy if you follow some simple steps. As recommended by AXA and the Tate modern, the best tool for cleaning your painting is a soft Artist’s brush. A wide, flat, goat’s hair or synthetic brush about 2-3 inches wide with 2-inch-long hairs is a good manageable size. Test the brush on the inside of your wrist before use, as you should not feel any individual hairs and should nether be too floppy or stiff. The only other tool will be a vacuum cleaner with a long hose or nozzle to capture the dust as you gently brush.

As acrylic paint can soften in warmer temperature, dusting on a cool day or cool room is best. Before you begin, remove any jewellery and watches to limit possibility of contact with the paint surface. When you are ready, hold the vacuum 30cm/12 inches from the surface in one hand. In your working hand, hold the brush at the base of the bristles. Start brushing from the top, along the top of the frame or painting edge towards the vacuum nozzle. Once dusted, move to the main painting surface, brushing in short, soft strokes moving down first, then across. This ensure you work each part of the canvas weave. Work in sections until the entire surface is clean.

Do’s and Don’ts

Do be gentle, take your time or use compressed air to clean your painting.

Do remove jewellery before handling your painting.

Do ask for help from your artist or other professional, if you have any doubts or questions over the painting condition, materials, storage or framing issues.

Don’t allow sharp or rigid objects to lean or touch the canvas surface.

Don’t ever use a form of solvent, cleaning liquid, detergent or water to clean your painting.

If you have any questions or comments about your painting and how to care for your new creation, please feel free to contact us. If we cannot answer your question we will help you find the best information required.

Resources and recommended reading

Millward Studios – http://millwardstudios.blogspot.ca/p/how-to-clean-and-care-for-your-acrylic.html

Nico Epstein – http://www.artuner.com/insight/caring-for-fine-art-paintings/

The Smithsonian – http://www.si.edu/mci/english/learn_more/taking_care/acrylic_paintings.html

Axa Art ad the Tate Modern – http://www.tate.org.uk/download/file/fid/4462

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