Matte Finish Varnish / Spray on Glossy Postcard Surface

[Note: This type of product is highly dangerous, as it is toxic and very flammable. Please use with caution.]

I want to start a thread for people – especially those who create maxicards or hand-made postcards – to discuss different types of varnish and/or similar products available around the world that we can rely on, but I don’t know if this fits into the ‘Postcard chat!’ (to which the maxicard thread belongs) or ‘Mailart’ categories.

I am a visual artist more or less specialised in graphite drawing and photography. I was advised by other professionals to spray a layer of fixative on my graphite artworks to prevent smudging, which I have been doing for a long time. The product I used during my early career is Krylon Workable Fixatif Spray.

As time went on, I realised that this ‘workable’ layer is not so workable (pencil traces would still stick on the paper if I attempt at erasing an area that had been sprayed) and that I hardly ever need to rework on a piece once it’s completed. Plus I became increasingly concerned about the potential damage UV light can do to my artwork as a whole (I know graphite is naturally lightfast, but the paper is not necessarily so), so I switched to using Krylon (Gallery Series) UV Archival Varnish, Matte Finish to add a final seal to my works.

It’s been a wonderful product I would say. Being rated ‘archival’ means that it is non-destructive and removable by mineral spirits (or whatever it’s called in your country). I have never tested this claim but I trust art conservators’ judgement. I also use this product to render the glossy postcard surface more adhesive to glue and postmark ink – a method I learned from @Dorinco – in creating maxicards. It’s been working as it should, I think. I have heard of no complain from whoever I gave these maxicards to.

However, this product is scheduled to be discontinued, so I am in search of a replacement. The first I tried is Krylon Anti-UV Clear Coat Matte, which, sadly, didn’t seem to work.

I am not saying it’s a bad product, but simply that it doesn’t seem to be designed to be used for the type of surface I am handling. After spaying it in the same manner as I used other spray (I think by now I am pretty skilled) on postcard surface which has a glossy coating, there would be a layer of white residue that is, strangely, removable by rubbing. In the end, after I rubbed off all the residue, it feels like the coating has never been applied to the postcard surface. Then I read online that many people had complaint about the same issue when they tried this product on watercolour, wood platter, acrylic painting, etc. Overall, I don’t recommend it to the community for postcard application.

Next, I am going to try to get Winsor & Newton Professional Matt Varnish which I have purchased in Taiwan and used it for the maxicards created as part of my first giveaway. What I heard from the recipient(s) of those maxicards (@Dorinco and maybe others?) seems to indicate this being a suitable alternative.

What is the spray / varnish you recommend using for postcards with a glossy coating? Where did you purchase it? Did anyone try regular fixative that is said to ‘have no finish’ (this is what I was told at my local art store)?

The tricky thing about buying this type of product is that it’s not shippable by air, so ordering a recommended product online is not always possible. We kind of have to stick with whatever our local shops carry. Still, I start this thread in the hope that we can exchange information regarding reliable spray / varnish currently available in the world.


Recommendation from Alastair Watson who had troubles creating Postcrossing account:

In New Zealand I use Maimeri product, “Polycolor film” mat, spray can devoid of chemical content or address of origin. Works well on high gloss postcards to provide robust surface to adhere postage stamps and surface to accept postmarks … shows a faint stiple surface when viewed at angle. Apply lightly and only to stamp area.

This one:

By the way, this type of products typically requires cleaning the valve after each use. To do so, do the following:

Hold the can upside down and spray until only clear gas comes out.

1 Like