Can A Cracked Oil Painting Be Repaired?

Can A Cracked Oil Painting Be RepairedOil paintings, especially old ones, can be quite fragile and if you are unlucky, the paint might get cracked. So… Can a cracked oil painting be repaired? A cracked oil painting can be repaired but you are going to want to go with a professional in most cases. It is very time-consuming and careful work, where the paint is first stabilized and then re-adhered properly to the repaired canvas.

In this article I’ll tell you a little bit more about how this is done, as well as what you can do on your own to fix cracked paint, and what it costs if you decide to go with a professional. Let’s take a closer look at oil paintings and what it takes to restore them!

Can you repair oil paintings?Can you repair oil paintings

Yes! Oil painting are restored all of the time, for all sorts of reasons. Fire, water, and insect damage are some common reasons where restoration is done, but you also get a lot of cases where the canvas is torn or the paint has gotten flaky.

The process is kind of complicated, but with older painting it breaks down to an initial inspection of the painting by someone very familiar with the period and style, so that they’ll know what kind of fabric the canvas is made of, common pigments, and other useful information that will help in fixing the painting up. Usually, X-rays will be employed as well to verify finer points of the composition.

Next, infrared imaging is employed in order to see any original drawing portions and to analyze hidden layers to determine if paint loss has occurred beneath the surface. Fixed wavelength cameras allow for further analysis, as different pigments will absorb or reflect light at certain wavelengths and this give even more useful information for the restoration to come.

At this point, the painting is ready for varnish removal, so the original varnish used must be determined in order to make a perfect solvent. When the varnish is removed, a new coat can be put in place to protect the original work but it can still be ‘touched up’ quite safely to restore it as closely as possible to the original look.

It’s pretty amazing but there really is a lot involved… I’ve basically given you the ‘Cliff’s notes’ version but you can read a little more about it at this nifty 3rd party link if you’d like.

How do you prevent paint from cracking?

How do you prevent paint from crackingWhile you can sometime fix cracked paint by simply painting a little into the crack if the work is fairly recent, the best thing to do in regards to cracking is to prevent it in the first place. There are a few things that you can do for this which I’ve listed below:

  • Adding retarder – A little retarder additive to your paint can slow down the drying process, which means you’ll need a bit of patience but that slower drying means you are less likely to get cracks.
  • Make sure you are using enough binder – Make sure that you are using enough binder, such as Floetrol, when you are thinning out your paint with water. This will help to ensure that your paint is still quite stable and less likely to crack.
  • Find a middle ground for mixing – Be very careful that your paint is neither too thin, nor too thick, until you’ve got a lot of experience with your paints. The biggest cause of cracking is the uneven drying of layers. If you like to put your paint on thickly, just be sure to give it 45 minutes to an hour before you layer over it so that the top layer doesn’t dry faster than the one below and crack!

What does it cost for professional restoration?What does it cost for professional restoration

When it comes to art restoration, things can get a little pricing. Professional cleanings, for example, can be a few hundred dollars to get done depending on things like the size and age of the painting. With professional restoration, you start getting into hourly fees, but a ballpark figure for a moderate amount of restoration work on a small painting might be anywhere from $800 to $1000, though if it’s very old then it could be quite a bit more.

Restoration of larger painting is appreciably more, starting around $10,000 to $15,000 but again, this is for restoration on something fairly modern. If you were getting an extremely old oil painting restored then the wavelength analysis, X-rays, Infrared, and such come into play and this makes it impossible for anyone but a restoration expert to give you a proper quote.

A quick recap before I go

In today’s article we’ve taken a quick look at the world of art restoration and as you can see, there’s a whole lot more to it than meets the eye. A cracked oil painting can definitely be repaired, but it requires a detailed analysis to determine the paint pigments, canvas type, and original varnish, and that’s just to prepare for the slow work ahead.  It’s slow work and for older paintings it requires an expert in that particular style, so while you can get a painting restored you should expect it to cost a pretty penny.

So, until next time, make sure to let your layers dry properly before you paint on top of them and always varnish as soon as your paint has cured… because restoration services do not come cheap!