Darwi Vernis Spray Varnish on Polymer Clay

Polymer clay can sometimes interact with coatings, even when applied after the clay is baked. This interaction causes the coating to turn sticky or tacky. Spray varnishes, especially glossy ones, are among the most problematic products we attempt to use with polymer clay. They’re so problematic, in fact, that many long-time clayers have been on a “holy grail” search for sprays that don’t turn sticky when applied to polymer clay. I’ve tested dozens of sprays over the years and most were completely unsuitable. Recently I tested Darwi Spray Varnish on polymer clay. Here’s what I found.

Introducing Darwi Vernis Spray

I recently wrote about my love affair with Darwi Vernis in the brush-on form that comes in small bottles. It has a particularly lovely finish. I’m pleased to share that this same excellent varnish is available in a spray form. The makers of Cernit polymer clay, The Clay and Paint Factory, also have a line of more general crafting products called Darwi. These varnishes are part of that line of products.

Two tall cans of Darwi Vernis spray varnish, one in gloss and one in matte finish. The cans are black with white caps.
Darwi Vernis spray varnish in Matte and Gloss finishes. They do not become sticky when used on polymer clay.

About the Sprays

I didn’t have any trouble shaking and spraying the cans. The application was neat and smooth. The test tiles dried within 30 minutes and I applied two coats with no problem. The application was spotty if I tried to be too thin with the coats, and it tolerated applying a solid layer quite well. I applied it on a flat surface, but thinner coats are probably better on a 3-D surface.

I sprayed outside during calm, temperature conditions (mid-70’s). The label says you can use indoors but I wouldn’t do that. It does have a strong smell, just like spray paint.

The spray cans are full-sized 400ml cans and both a gloss and a matte version are available. The gloss is very shiny and the matte is one of the flattest and most matte varnishes I’ve tried. It has no sheen. Both versions produce a very even, smooth, luscious finish. I was unable to scratch off the coating with my fingernail. However, see below for a problem that I did encounter with this spray varnish.

Is Darwi Spray Sticky?

Unlike most other spray varnishes that I’ve tested, the Darwi Vernis sprays showed no stickiness when applied to Cernit, Souffle, Premo, Kato, Fimo Professional, CosClay, and Pardo Professional Art Clay. Once the varnish dried (after being applied to baked clay tiles), it was smooth and not at all sticky. It creates a lovely finish. I saw no evidence of yellowing or cloudiness. However, I have only observed these for the past three months. I don’t know if this spray is considered archival or not.

One HUGE Caveat, However

This spray is not at all flexible. It looked great on my text tiles, but as soon as I flexed the tile, the finish cracked shattered, and flaked off. Do not use on items that will bend, flex, or move in any way. I don’t think, however, this will be a problem for shelf sculptures or other things that will not be subjected to any flexion. I think this varnish gives sculptors excellent options for both gloss and matt spray finishes.

This does explain why the manufacturer chose to sell this otherwise excellent varnish under the Darwi name and not the Cernit name. It cannot handle the flex you’ll see with many polymer clay projects. Do not use Darwi varnishes for polymer clay cutter-and-slab earrings!

If you DO need a flexible, glossy spray varnish, look into U-Pol Automotive Clearcoat. It’s pretty smelly and toxic, though, so I would use a brush-on polyurethane varnish if you really need to use a glossy varnish on flexible projects.

Where to Buy Darwi Vernis?

Since sprays cannot be shipped by air, small sellers can’t usually afford to import this product. Made in France and distributed from the factory in Belgium, this spray will be most readily found where it can be transported within the EU. To be sold outside the EU or overseas, it will have to be exported as a hazardous good and/or be shipped in a container by sea.

I’ve not written about this spray until now because it was not available to me here in the US. But recently Blueberry Beads imported a supply of Darwi varnishes by sea and you can now buy them there. (Stock might be low, but I know they do have more on order.) If you’re in the EU, there is Polystudio.fr in France. I was not able to find other suppliers of this product, but you might be able to get more specific information from the manufacturer.

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