Restoring pictorial artworks in a few steps

The state of conservation of the painted works varies greatly from one to another. Here is a complete program that will allow you to undertake any type of restoration. Learn how to restore the beauty and brightness of colors!

Dust off

This step is essential before any other intervention.

Dust the back and the frame with a goose wing feather duster, a pig bristle brush or a goat hair brush.
If the paint layer is in good condition, wipe it off with another brush.

Clean

Degrease: with pure water or diluted ammonium citrate, to remove dirt from the varnish of a painting. This technique is also suitable for unvarnished works, provided you test the reaction of the pigments, starting with dark shades and ending with the very fragile greens and reds.

The right gesture : follow the rules

Grid the work by tracing 10 cm x 10 cm tiles with chalk.
Place a wooden wedge (the thickness of the frame) under the first area.
Scrub with a wooden stick surrounded by moistened cotton, which allows you to work on larger areas than a cotton swab. The latter are for details only.
Dab with absorbent paper before moving on to the next tile.
If your cotton stays clean, use ammonium citrate diluted (2-5%) in water.
Remove impasto with wooden sticks or a toothbrush. Dry your work frequently, even if you want to come back to it later.

Lighten the varnish: remove one or more yellowed layers with a cotton pad soaked in solvent (e.g. isopropanol). A delicate technique, requiring frequent checks with a UV lamp (which reveals the density of the varnish in fluorescent green).

Putty

The missing material is replaced by a smoothing coating. The coating must fill the gap without spilling over onto the rest of the work.

Work it with a flat spatula and remove any excess, without delay, with a dry cotton swab.
After drying (approx. 10 minutes), sand the surface with an obliquely cut wet cork.
Finally, stain your putty with watercolor to approach the final color, then cover it with a special retouching varnish.

Tip: Learn how to… correct your mistakes!

While drying, you can work on the texture of the putty with a pin or a fine brush. If the result does not suit you, sand and start again!

Paint layer

Caution, this operation must remain reversible!

Use watercolor or paints intended for the restoration. Multiply the tests to find the colors of the work.
Apply a first covering layer, mixed with modeling past, and cover it with a special retouching varnish.
Apply a second, more transparent coat, varnish again, and then finalize the details.

How and with whom to entrust your antique artwork’s appraisal?
Reflection on the conservation and restoration of works of art