So I had picked the paper, the printer, the process, and the presentation. But we had a gap … you can put up unprotected work and expect it to last. Having a little one run around the house results in little surprises. One time I was passing by a framed James Jean print on our wall and discovered that it had been caught in some sort of splatter attack. Having discovered this some time after the event, it was well dry, but the outlines of drops of mystery liquid were certainly present. So litmus test one: survive a splash attack.

Ink jet paper — by it’s very nature — is porous and loves to suck up liquid. Ink jet ink is soluble and love to moush around in water. We needed a barrier to help fix the work and protect it from the typical damaging effects of the outside world. Living in a house with floor to ceiling glass windows, I know the other main damaging effect is exposure to UV rays. In painting media, an artist will typically varnish their work to help seal it in and protect it in this same manner, so it seemed like a logical step for us as well.

I picked up a couple of varnishes that were designed specifically for (or marketed toward) ink jet paper. This included Moab Desert Varnish Spray, Breathing Color Timeless and a couple other varnishes from wood working etc. As they come in specific finishes, I needed something that would match the luster-quality of the product I already was using.

I was biased against spray varnishes as I had heard horrible results from some folks of sputtering — large drops coming out instead of a fine mist which don’t even out. Liquid varnishes I had already used in a few cabinet making projects I undertook while fixing up our house, and was partial to them. But I liked them best when I could spray them on using a gravity fed sprayer — that means I’d need a spray booth to contain the overspray. Liquid varnish also has a longer drying time than the spray varieties.

In the first few tests using the liquid varnishes, I found the paper was unforgiving in strokes. I couldn’t put it on too thick or the inks would immediately start to pick up. Any mistakes or bubbles and I couldn’t brush them away, and they weren’t settling out. My paper choice was fighting this method and I had a zero success rate. The best result I had was using a high-quality brush to lay down a thin, consistent stroke. But I was still seeing some dust settle in and pinholes in the varnish. It seems that the liquids were much better suited to a canvas style paper. On to spray …