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This post is part of a 3-part series for creating, sealing, and framing custom artwork. Catch part 1 — my painting tutorial — here. Today, I’m sealing my art with epoxy resin to get a clear, gallery-worthy finish that protects!
Hey, friends! Back at this DIY thing today with part 2 of my starry night mountain painting. If you missed part 1 where I showed you how to create easy custom art with acrylic paints (and get that fun starry sky look), jump to that tutorial here. For part 2, I’m sealing the entire piece with art-safe resin and sharing how to get a gorgeous, high quality glossy finish! The whole point of this step is that it protects the art underneath from dust and grime, but I also love this step in the process because it uses FIRE. I wrote this tutorial specifically for beginners, so if you’re new to this process, I’ve got you covered!
This post was sponsored by Bernzomatic.
I don’t want to jump into that without explaining the beginning first, so let’s start with the basics:
Why seal art with resin?
Most people are familiar with protecting art with glass or plexiglass in a frame. But sealing with resin is a great alternative for a number of reasons:
- It provides a clear, glossy, protective finish, similar to what glass and plexiglass do
- I don’t need to worry about it breaking (once hardened, it’s basically plastic) — added durability!
- There is no separation between the painting and protective layer
- It’s going to be way more fun to use to seal my paintings (because FIRE)
If you want to stick with what you know (snore), I suppose that’s fine. But, I like creating a lot of my own art and crafts. I’ve been hearing a lot about epoxy art and resin projects from woodworkers and crafters, so I wanted to give it a try on one of my own pieces.
When I found out that there was one specially formulated to help seal and protect art, I knew this would be a perfect beginner’s project to introduce me to the world of epoxy resin. You know how that goes — find a new thing to play around with, do one, then about 100 more!
I was given this sample of product after attending a woodworking show a couple of weeks ago (thank you to Peter Brown!), but it’s the same kind of thing you’d find at the craft store (just in a smaller sample size). The product is self-leveling, non-yellowing, and non-toxic. It also happened to be one ounce over the amount I’d calculated for my project, so it seemed meant to be!
How to seal art with resin: step by step
Set out all supplies and make sure you have everything you need. Once you start mixing, there’s no going back, so prep, prep, prep!
Mixing resin may generate fumes. Protect your lungs with a respirator and open windows or work in a well-ventilated area. Protect your skin from contact with the resin with gloves (it can cause burns).
- cardboard box (large enough to have a safe distance on all sides when elevated — Charlie’s food delivery boxes were perfect)
- plastic lining (garbage bags will probably work fine if you can’t find plastic around the home, but spin around in your house 3 times and I bet you’ll find plastic you’re not using!)
- paint pyramids (4 lids of all the same height, such as spray paint can tops, would also work, but I highly recommend these — they are inexpensive and I use them ALL the time!)
- painter’s tape or masking tape
- disposable mixing cup (these have markings to measure as you mix)
- jumbo craft sticks (I had small dinky ones but larger is better)
- Bernzomatic ST2200T Butane Micro Torch
- disposable gloves
- clear gloss epoxy resin
- breathing mask
Step 1: Prepare your workspace
Line the cardboard box with plastic liner and place on a level surface (use a level to be sure!). Tape the plastic to the sides so that it won’t move around during your project. Add paint pyramids to the middle to support the art as it cures. It’s good to use a box with lids so that no dust floats into the resin as it cures.
Step 2: Place art on paint pyramids
Check that the art piece is level (the resin is self-leveling, so you don’t want the piece leaning or pooling resin in one spot). Make sure there is adequate space to move around as you pour and that the box can close without coming into contact with the canvas as it cures.
Step 3: Mix the resin using a timer
If you aren’t sure how much resin you’ll need, here’s a handy calculator. Epoxy resin comes in two parts: resin and hardener. These components have to be mixed together, usually in a 1:1 ratio. That means for every ounce of one part, one ounce of the other is needed. Be sure to read manufacturers instructions to know the correct ratio and the correct mixing time. I mixed a total of four ounces for my 10×10 canvas even though I calculated that I would only need 3. I was glad to have extra, since I was worried as I poured that it wouldn’t be enough!
Put on gloves and pour the contents into the same cup. Stir vigorously for 3 minutes. And by 3 minutes, I mean THREE. WHOLE. MINUTES. Undermixing can lead to funky results, so set a timer to make sure you are thorough and ready to pour (I used my cell phone). Don’t be surprised if it starts to feel a little warm (it’s a chemical reaction).
Note: It is possible to add pigment powder, dyes, glitter, etc. into the resin at this point if you want to add depth to the painting below or another visual effect. I was going for a protection layer only, so I didn’t add anything.
Step 4: Pour and spread
Everything mixed? Good! Take a deep breath, and go for it! Pour the entire contents on the surface and begin spreading things around. You want a full layer of resin over the entire surface.
Don’t freak out if it looks kind of blobby or full of air bubbles — you’ll fix that next. Also pay attention to the sides of your piece and spread it along there (you’ll probably see it start to drip in thicker areas). You have about 45 minutes total to mess with your piece before it starts to cure.
Step 5: Pop air bubbles for a high gloss finish
According to the instructions on the resin package, you can “blow” on the surface to get air bubbles out. But when I mixed, I got a LOT of bubbles, which you can see here.
I also half-suspect that if I’d attempted to just blow on the surface, I inevitably would have gotten a stray hair stuck in the goo. I’ve seen others use a heat gun. A micro torch was not only more effective, but more fun!
I lit the mini propane torch and ran it over the entire surface, checking the light at different angles to make sure I could see what was left.
I’m partnering with Bernzomatic on several projects this year, so this seemed like a perfect opportunity to try out one of the items in the Torch Bearer’s kit that they sent. This little micro torch made quick work of getting every last bubble in the resin’s surface, leaving behind a smooth, glass-like finish. It was a lot of fun to witness and really upped the cool factor in this project. If you were hoping for my usual science-y tidbit, then what it’s doing is changing the viscosity of the resin; it frees the trapped air bubbles from their sticky little prisons and creates less resistance, allowing them to rise and pop. Fun, eh?
I didn’t really get perfect photos of the torch part with my camera (understandably, I was much more concerned with perfecting the finished result), so I’ll be posting a video to YouTube soon if you want to see some of that in action! Still, you can see a considerable difference between the photos above and the ones below — the brush strokes of the painting are all that’s left!
Sooooo satisfying… and look how vivid the colors appear after the resin went on!
Step 6: Cover and let cure
Fold the flaps of the cardboard box on top of the art piece. Be careful to avoid anything touching or resting on the interior of the box. Remove gloves and drape more plastic on top if needed (my box had a seam, so I thought it better safe than sorry). The box will protect the resin from dust particles and hair (coughcough dog hair) as the resin cures, which can be about 24 hours. I chose to do this project just as I was leaving town for a few days; plenty of cure time.
Step 7: Unwrap and enjoy!
Once I flew back home, I took out my new art piece and immediately placed it with other art on the picture ledges in the guest bedroom.
I also briefly placed it on a nail in the hallway to see how it might look when it’s hanging up. I think it still needs a frame before it can go on the wall permanently. The resin will protect my art for years to come and doesn’t require glass on top, so the frame is what I’ll be addressing in part 3 of this series. Be on the lookout for that soon!
What do you think of this epoxy resin idea? Have you ever used it yourself? I’ve seen art videos where people actually mix paints and all sorts of other materials into the resin and pour it onto a canvas or pour it into a mold, creating beautiful swirls of color. Perhaps I’ll have to try those ideas too!
Disclosure: This is a sponsored post for Bernzomatic. As a Bernzomatic Torch Bearer, I was provided complimentary torches and was compensated for my time and efforts. I was not told what to write. All opinions are my own. I am very picky about the brands I work with, and loved working on this project!
Yep. I’m going to try that stuff on my daughter’s puppy puzzle that’s been occupying the coffee table for a month. Great idea to use the micro torch!
Haha I recall the message on IG now! I think it would be an excellent application for puzzles. The micro torch made ALL the difference IMO to get all the air bubbles out.
You can definitely see where the coating stops on the side. That’s pretty good to know. I just got some canvas art that I need to stretch and I thought they looked pretty dull.
Question: since it just says to blow on it, do you think using a hair dryer or heat gun work as well? I can’t think of any other project I would need to buy a torch for that would justify the expense.
I haven’t tried either, so I don’t know if it would work.
Love your post; power tools DO rock!!
My question: I have been using enamel paint on plexiglass and plain glass surfaces. If I tried this resin technique will it cause the paint to…mix with the resin? Looking for a way to seal the surfaces without destroying the artwork. Thanks a bunch!!
I’m not 100% sure (because I haven’t tried it myself so I’m giving my best guess!), but from what I know about resin, if you let the paint harden/cure before the sealing pour, it shouldn’t mix. I believe that’s how some artists do multi-level resin pours that look 3D. I also suspect it mainly because I know when people need a nice thick layer of resin and try to do it in multiple pours, they wind up with a “seam” where the two pours meet, and that becomes an issue when people want there to be no distinct difference from one layer to the next and looking from the side (such as if they carve a bowl or pour a tabletop where you can see the edge). My best guess. Thanks for asking!
If you warm your epoxy slightly and then mix you get less bubbles and then you can still play with the torch for viscosity and left over bubbles!
I loved your tutorial though! I paint on glass and couldn’t manage to make it dishwasher safe! Resin works amazingly and the shine is amazing! Thank you for this!
How do you warm epoxy slightly? I’d be worried I’d accidentally catch it on fire or something!
I’ve been getting my sons footprints on paper then gluing it to a painting I did for the last 8 months and this was exactly what I was thinking I would do at the end of his 1st year. Does having paper glued to a canvas with acrylic paint on it effect this process negatively or do you think it will still look as cool as your painting came out?
I haven’t experimented with that exact configuration, but I have seen that it’s possible to use all sorts of different things suspended in resin. You may want to experiment with something you can throw out first if the object is too precious to gamble on so you get the trial and error out of the way. I do know from watching others that you pretty much have to make sure that you have things glued down extremely well so that it doesn’t trap air bubbles. I’d also wonder if any discoloration occurs but hope it works out for the best!
Hi Sarah thank you for this very easy way of explaining to cover canvas paintings. I want to paint place mats on MDF board and cover with resin. I am sure it will work. Thanks.
Glad to help, Marie!
love your writing style and info! ty for the tips!
Glad to help!