DIY Art Conservation: Expert Tips for Your Collection
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 6 min read


Pick the Right Tools

Evaluate Art Condition

Clean Artwork Safely

Repair Damaged Artwork

Preserve Artwork for the Future

Art is an expression of human creativity and imagination that holds immense value, both emotionally and financially. Taking care of your art collection is a significant undertaking that requires knowledge, care, and the right tools. This blog post provides practical DIY art conservation tips for cleaning, repairing, and preserving your art collection that can help protect your treasured pieces for future generations to cherish.

Pick the Right Tools

Just like a chef needs the right tools to create a culinary masterpiece, you too need specific tools to care for your art collection. Let's explore some of these tools and why they're important in the world of DIY art conservation.

Select Appropriate Brushes

Brushes are your primary tools when it comes to art conservation. But not just any brush will do. For cleaning delicate artwork surfaces, you'll need soft brushes — think make-up brushes or even soft paintbrushes. For dust removal, a hog-bristle brush is your best bet as it's stiff yet flexible, perfect for getting into nooks and crannies without causing damage. And remember, always use a separate brush for cleaning and applying conservation materials.

Choose Quality Cleaning Solutions

When it comes to cleaning your artwork, the solution you use can make a big difference. Avoid household cleaners as they can be too harsh. Instead, opt for conservation-grade cleaning solutions, which are specifically designed for artwork. These solutions are usually pH-neutral and free from potentially damaging substances like bleach. If you're unsure about what to use, get advice from a professional art conservator or do some research on trusted art conservation resources online.

Invest in Proper Lighting

Good lighting is not just for showcasing your art; it's also important for the conservation process. Proper lighting enables you to see the details of the artwork and identify any areas that need attention. LED lights are a good choice as they emit minimal heat and UV light, both of which can damage artwork over time. Plus, they offer a clear, bright light that can help you spot even the smallest imperfections. Remember, the goal of DIY art conservation is to keep your prized art collection in the best possible condition for the longest possible time.

Evaluate Art Condition

Before you dive into cleaning or repairing your artwork, it's important to evaluate its current condition. The age, material, and type of damage are all factors that can guide your conservation approach. Let's break down these aspects.

Identify Damage Types

Art can suffer from various types of damage. Some common issues include fading colors, tears, water damage, or mold. To properly conserve your artwork, you need to correctly identify the type of damage it has sustained. Once you know what you're dealing with, you can plan an effective restoration strategy. Remember, the goal of DIY art conservation is not to make your artwork look new, but to stabilize the existing condition and prevent further damage.

Assess Artwork Age

The age of the artwork significantly impacts the type of care it needs. Older pieces often require more delicate handling and specialized cleaning methods—think less scrubbing and more gentle brushing. Also, the materials used in older artwork may react differently to cleaning solutions than those in more contemporary pieces. So, always keep the age of the artwork in mind when planning your conservation strategy.

Examine Artwork Material

Materials used in artwork can vary greatly—from oil paints and acrylics to charcoal and pastels, from canvas and paper to wood and metal. Each material has its unique characteristics and requires specific conservation methods. For instance, oil paintings need a different cleaning solution than watercolors. Understanding the materials used in your artwork can guide you to select the right tools and methods for conservation.

By evaluating the condition of your artwork, you're better prepared to undertake the task of DIY art conservation. The goal is to ensure the longevity of your art collection, preserving its beauty and value for future generations to enjoy.

Clean Artwork Safely

Now that you've assessed the condition of your art, it's time to roll up your sleeves and start the cleaning process. But remember, safety first! You're not cleaning a pair of dirty sneakers here—this is artwork, and it requires a gentle touch.

Remove Dirt and Dust

Over time, your artwork can accumulate a layer of dust and dirt. This isn't just unattractive—it can also cause damage over time. Use a soft brush to gently remove surface dust. For oil or acrylic paintings on canvas, a clean, soft makeup brush works wonders. Remember, be gentle and patient. This isn't a race—your artwork deserves your time and attention.

Deal with Mold or Mildew

Mold or mildew on artwork is a serious issue. If you find any, don't panic. First, isolate the affected artwork to prevent the mold from spreading to other pieces. Then, carefully remove the mold using a soft brush. If the mold is stubborn, you may need to consult a professional. But for minor mold issues, diligent DIY art conservation can do the trick.

Restore Faded Colors

Color fading is a common issue, especially for older artwork. Restoring faded colors can be a challenge, but with the right tools and techniques, you can bring your artwork back to life. Use a high-quality art cleaning solution suitable for your artwork material. Apply it gently with a soft brush, and watch as the vibrant colors start to reappear. Remember, less is more—don't overdo it!

By cleaning your artwork safely, you're not just improving its appearance—you're also preserving it for future generations. After all, diy art conservation is all about keeping your art collection looking its best, while also preserving its historical and sentimental value.

Repair Damaged Artwork

Alright, now that your artwork is clean, let's move onto the next step of diy art conservation. That's right, it's repair time! Whether it's a small tear or chipped paint, it's important to tackle these issues head-on to prevent further damage.

Fix Tears and Rips

Found a tear in your favorite canvas painting? Don't worry, it's not the end of the world. You can repair it with a patch of canvas and some adhesive. The key here is to match the patch material as closely as possible to the original canvas. Apply the adhesive smoothly and allow it to dry fully—patience is key!

Address Water Damage

Water damage is a common issue in art conservation. If your artwork has been exposed to water, it's crucial to address this quickly. Gently blot the artwork with a soft, dry cloth. Avoid rubbing as this can cause further damage. If the artwork is severely damaged, you might need to seek professional help. But for minor water damage, a careful and patient approach can go a long way.

Repair Chipped Paint

Chipped paint can really take away from the beauty of a painting. But guess what? You can fix it! It's all about finding the right paint that matches the original color and texture. Once you have that, apply the paint gently with a fine brush. And voila! Your painting is back to its former glory.

The key to successful diy art conservation is a careful and patient approach. Whether you're cleaning, repairing, or preserving your art collection, remember that each piece of art is unique and deserves your full attention. With these tips, you're well on your way to becoming a pro at art conservation!

Preserve Artwork for the Future

Great job on repairing your artwork! Now, let's move to the exciting part of diy art conservation. It's about ensuring that your treasured pieces last for future generations to appreciate. Let's see how you can do that.

Control Environmental Conditions

What's the big deal about temperature and humidity, you might ask? Well, they can actually have a significant impact on the longevity of your art! High humidity can lead to mold growth, while extreme temperature changes can cause materials to expand and contract. So, keep your artwork in a controlled environment — not too hot, not too cold, and definitely not damp!

Use Protective Frames and Cases

Frames and cases don't just make your artwork look snazzy; they also offer a layer of protection. But remember, not all frames are created equal. Look for ones that have UV-protective glass or acrylic. This will shield your artwork from harmful sunlight that can fade colors over time.

Schedule Regular Maintenance

Just like a car needs regular tune-ups, your art collection needs regular maintenance. This doesn't mean you have to get out your cleaning supplies every week. But a gentle dusting and a quick once-over to check for any signs of damage can go a long way in preserving your art collection.

Remember, the goal of diy art conservation is to clean, repair, and preserve your art collection for the enjoyment of future generations. With these tips in hand, you're well on your way to becoming an art conservation pro!

If you're interested in further developing your art skills and collection, check out the workshop 'Improve Your Acrylic Painting Skills' by Rachel Christopoulos. This workshop will provide you with expert techniques and tips to enhance your acrylic painting abilities, ultimately elevating the quality of your collection.