One of my favorite varnishes is Darwi Vernis Gloss. Darwi is the general craft and paint brand from The Clay and Paint Factory, the makers of Cernit. And “Vernis” is the Dutch or French word for varnish. I don’t think this varnish is marketed to be used on polymer clay, but since when has that stopped a clayer from using a material? I find that it works really well for very specific things.
I always have to say it. Polymer clay doesn’t need to be sealed the way that wood does. It’s already waterproof and durable. But there are times when you want to create a thick, glossy finish on your polymer clay pieces. I normally recommend Varathane, Brite Tone, or another brand of polyurethane for this. But I use Darwi Vernis Gloss varnish when I want a particularly thick, shiny, glossy appearance on my polymer clay beads.
This varnish comes in two varieties, a gloss and a satin. (Satin is less shiny than gloss, but not completely flat. It has some sheen and an equally lovely finish.) The bottles are identical aside from the gloss or matte name stamped on the side of the label. The bottles are small. These are 30 ml (just over an ounce), but there larger sizes, up to 500ml. Older bottles have a white cap, but the same design. (Note, this is not the same thing as Darwi Glass, Cernit Glass, or the other Darwi or Cernit glosses. They have a lot of products!) Darwi Vernis also comes in a spray version, and I’ll talk about that in a future article.
What’s Different About Darwi Vernis
Darwi Vernis is NOT the same varnish that is sold in similar bottles under the Cernit label. That is much more like typical varnishes or polyurethane. But this varnish is thicker, sort of similar to the consistency of clear nail polish when the bottle is new. Because it’s thicker, you don’t have as many drips (and therefore waste) that you have with other varnishes.
This varnish is spirit-based, which means that you will clean your brushes with alcohol or paint thinner. That also means there is a big warning label on the side, reminding you that you shouldn’t use near an open flame. NOTE: don’t use a lighter to pop bubbles with this varnish, it will catch on fire! And of course, always use good ventilation when you use anything containing organic solvents.
Another thing to be aware of is that Darwi Vernis, both the gloss and the satin versions, make a brittle finish. That means they will crack when used on a flexible surface. Never use Darwi Vernis on cutter earrings or other creations that are thin, will flex, need to bend. That doesn’t bother me, though, because I find it to be one of the best finishes for glossy beads.
Using Darwi Vernis
Although this varnish is spirit-based, it’s still a varnish. You can apply with a soft brush, which will leave strokes just like any varnish. These, however, do tend to self-level. If you apply in a scrubbing motion you will get bubbles. Just as with any varnish, apply in a soft, slow mopping stroke to minimize issues.
Darwi Vernis takes longer to dry than polyurethane. Thinner coats will need about 2-4 hours, but thick coats may take a few days to become really solid. This varnish does seem to tolerate thick coats well, however. I saw no evidence of rippling or wrinkling.
I like Darwi Vernis Gloss because it has a hard, glassy feeling. It doesn’t have the sort of waxy, plasticky feel that polyurethane often has. It’s my number one choice on polymer clay beads.
Darwi Vernis on Polymer Clay Beads
I like to make beads that have a solid, glassy, clinking sound when you handle them. Darwi Vernis is perfect for that kind of finish. You can see what I mean here in this short video.
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Where to Buy Darwi Vernis
Because the Darwi Vernis varnishes have a solvent base, they are flammable and cannot be shipped by air. That limits how they can be shipped around the world. And of course, that limits their availability. I pestered David at Blueberry Beads long enough and he finally brought some Darwi Vernis into his shop here in the US. (Thank you David!!) If you’re in the UK, check The Clay Hub or Clayaround. In Norway check Fargerike Østerlie, Trondheim. In Sweden, go to Hobbyrian. In the EU, check with Polystudio.fr. I know that 2Wards Polymer Clay has had this in stock previously, but seems to be out of it at the moment.
Many thanks to Blueberry Beads for bringing my favorite varnish to the US. I have wanted to write about it for a long time, but knew it was just going to be frustrating if you couldn’t buy it.
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