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How to: Add An Isolation Coat To Your Mixed Media Painting

How To

I’ve realized in my journey with art that there’s a lot of need for basic information like this one on how to apply an isolation coat, so I’m adding a new series of posts that I’ll contribute to as I learn new things.  I’m calling it: How To: A Series of Helpful Hints.  We could all use a little a help, right?  It’s my hope in this series to pass along some good information in a way that is easy for everyone to understand.

For example: I didn’t even know what an isolation coat was until I spoke to someone at Golden products!  I wanted to find a way to seal my art work that included painting + collaging materials and it seemed like there were a lot of opinions out there.   I wanted certain steps I can take to ensure that my art won’t look crappy after a few years–I don’t want to sell something and have people come back to me disappointed in the quality.

How to add an isolation coat to your mixed media painting. Use this technique to protect your artwork!

Enter: the isolation coat.  This kind of top coat is used to create a barrier between your work and the final top coat, which is often varnishing. (I’ll get to that in another post)

And there are different materials you can use for an isolation coat, mine focuses on what to use for acrylic paints and collage.  As a basic rule,  any work should always be kept out of direct sunlight.  It only speeds up the natural decomposition of things.

Just a word of caution:  If you scan or take pictures of your pieces for reproduction, it’s best to do that first before adding the isolation coat to avoid the shiny glare in pictures.

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So here’s my process:

I took a completely dry and finished painting + cleaned it off with a damp cloth to make sure there’s no dust or other goop lurking on the surface, especially on the collage elements.

How to add and isolation coat

I got my supplies ready:

  • Golden soft gel gloss (any other finish will dull the colors)
  • Distilled water
  • Soft, large brush
  • Palette knife used to stir

How to add and isolation coat

In a glass cup, I combined 2 parts soft gel gloss to 1 part distilled water and then mixed with the knife.  Depending on how many pieces you are coating, you can gauge the amount you need.  The tech guy at Golden said to go by how it feels–not too runny, not too thick–it will all be a personal preference type of consistency.

Once I mixed that together, I started applying the mixture evenly and quickly with the soft brush to the entire piece.  An important thing to remember is finish a section and keep moving; do not go back over it, as tempted as you may be!  It will cause the finish to have an uneven “pulled-look”.

Here is a view of what it looks like while applying, it appears a little cloudy, but don’t panic–as long as you use the gloss finish, it will dry clear:

How to add and isolation coat

You can see the strokes, right?  To a certain extent, that will disappear.  If you have a really soft brush, you won’t see many strokes, if at all.  I learned through this process, and seeing some strokes on the finished piece, that I need a new softer brush!

When it dried, this is what it looked like.  The colors are so bright, right?

How to add and isolation coat

And here’s the side view in the sun to show you what I mean about visible brush strokes:

How to add and isolation coat

This was a great learning process for me!  Even though I feel like the brush I used was a little bit of a fail, it still gave me a beautiful finished product– it’s glossy and it really makes the colors pop off the canvas, not to mention it gives the piece a new layer of protection.  And any unused part of the coat mixture can be used again, if you keep it in a sealed container.

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How to: Add An Isolation Coat To Your Mixed Media Painting2018-04-08T20:39:17-04:00

Art In Progress: Circus

Art In Progress: See how I create Inspirational art for kids + the kid in you. To learn about art technique + my motivation for creating this piece, click through for a peek. See how paintings evolve from start to finish! Original artwork by Stephanie Martel.

This one kind of went fast–I apologize for not starting my documentation sooner along the way, the first layer happened in such a flash!  This piece felt very playful from the beginning; I’m not sure if it was the colors or the fun patterns of the collage, but it had a very light feel to it all the way through.  I think that’s what inspired the frilly loops in the middle.

circus 1

I added some darker areas around the edges and defined the objects a little more.  I like how the contrast between the dark and the light added some depth to the whole thing–it can feel risky to lay down really dark colors over really light, but it’s important to take risks and try things out.  Just like life, yes?

circus 2

Then to give it a little bit of a different perspective, I flipped the canvas.  It really helps me to do this as I go through the stages because it offers a different view–sometimes I like it, sometimes I don’t! Ha.  But it’s good to keep things moving and not to get too attached throughout the process.  Otherwise it doesn’t evolve how it should (naturally, without resistance).

circus 3

Although it’s temporarily finished, I may use this as a background for something else.  There’s always an opportunity to show it in a different light…


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Art In Progress: Circus2018-03-29T20:23:16-04:00

Art in Progress: You Were Born With Wings

Art In Progress: See how I create Inspirational art for kids + the kid in you. To learn about art technique + my motivation for creating this piece, click through for a peek. See how paintings evolve from start to finish! Original artwork by Stephanie Martel.

This piece turned out a lot different than it started.  And that’s true with a lot of things in life, yes?  We have a certain idea as to where we want to end up, and the twists and turns of life lead us off into a new direction.  Something I’ve learned from painting is to just go with the flow.  Some of the best ‘mistakes’ I’ve made have led me to a place of true happiness and fulfillment.

So I started this one with just throwing some color on the canvas.  There’s something I love about orange and hot pink together–the vibrancy of the colors get my heart racing.  I used a brayer for the dot-looking things and I used a toothy-comb thing to create the lines.




I wanted to add some contrast, so in went the drips, some teal stamping and little black around the edges.


Birdie 2


At this point I realized a grid was appearing so I softened it up with a little white and light blue.  It’s all about the feeling I get when I look at it–if it seems too harsh, I soften it up. If everything is blending, I try to create some contrast to make it more interesting.  It’s all about finding the right balance.


Birdie 3


I collaged in the bird and some accents.  (I really love collage, it feels like I’m adding a whole other dimension.)


Birdie 4


And then I stamped in the sentiment.  I love the idea that we’re all born with our own special talents that can take us wherever we want to go; it’s all about following your heart and listening to those calls.  We were meant to fly.


You were born with wings FINAL


I’m done with it for now, but may add some doodling adornments in a bit, I want to sit with it for a while.


Art in Progress: You Were Born With Wings2018-03-29T20:23:18-04:00

Art in Progress: Follow Your Heart

 Art In Progress: See how I create Inspirational art for kids + the kid in you. To learn about art technique + my motivation for creating this piece, click through for a peek. See how paintings evolve from start to finish! Original artwork by Stephanie Martel.


I have been on a painting tear lately and that really makes my heart sing. I’m trying to paint, paint, paint to get enough pieces to open my Etsy Store. It’s so important that we do things in life that make us genuinely happy. And it’s inspiring to have a goal to work towards! My creative intensity is ramped up and I’m super excited.

I’m a newbie to the online marketplace so even though there’s a lot of trial and error happening over here, it’s fun to learn new things and fumble about a bit–it reminds me that everything is ‘figureoutable”.

This piece is called “Follow Your Heart”. I don’t have the metamorphosis from the very,very beginning, so I’m starting kind of in the middle (sawwy!) It has some collage elements as you can see below and I just felt like the colors weren’t gelling– the piece was still trying to find its way. My days can feel like that sometimes too: full of potential but I’m not sure where it’s going yet.

Follow your heart 1

I added some more collage elements and a wash of color to bring it together a bit.  I think the reddish glow gave it a happier look and pulled the tones in from the corners.  A thin layer over things can make a big difference.

Follow your heart 3

And then hey there!  A girl appears.  I created her by gesso-ing the canvas and colored her in with oil color sticks.  I’m still getting the hang of them, I’m not sure they’re my thing.  I had to get turpentine and remove the one eye because I screwed it up.  Oops.  Anyway, acrylics seem easier and I can layer better, but the verdict is still out because the oils give a softer hue.

Follow your heart 4

She’s starting to take shape, I love the collage of her dress.  Turns out the oils didn’t work so well on this one so I switched to back acrylics for her face and hair.

Follow your heart 6

Some fun with stamps and the sentiment (as well as some flowers) bring it together:

you are loved finalShe makes me happy because she looks like a little angel.  We should all listen to our angels telling us to follow our heart everyday!  Life would be a lot easier, no?

Hope you enjoyed this peek behind the brush…


Art in progress banner

Art in Progress: Follow Your Heart2018-03-29T20:23:19-04:00
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