I recently discovered that India ink/China ink dries up in the bottle after many years, leaving an almost clear liquid on top (most likely shellac). This liquid works a wonder as glazing liquid.

I searched for glazing liquids for paintings, but all I found are gloss mediums to use with the paint to increase flow and give a glossy finish.
But I'm looking for a simple thing which will allow a subtle to medium glaze after being applied on top of the finished painting, like a polishing liquid. Not varnish.

What should I look for precisely? Are there such things?

3 Answers 3


According to Mayer, that is water, shellac and borax.

Although @walrus answered your question perfectly, I would like to address the other issue: where to find a painting medium that isn’t a varnish.

If you are really interested in painting, then I must recommend that you treat yourself to a recent edition of The Artist’s Handbook by Ralph Mayer. You can find used ones on amazon or even at pretty much any used bookstore.

I assume you are using acrylic paints, because you would probably have problems mixing the weepage of India ink with oil-based emulsions. Technically speaking you can mix water-based varnishes with acrylic paints, however my favorite glazing medium is for oil-based painting called stand oil.

According to Mayer, it is a cooked linseed oil that has the consistency of honey and when mixed with turpentine is paler than pure (cold-pressed) linseed oil. When diluted it is “one of the most useful ingredients of glazing or painting mediums”. I know from experience that he is right. Check it out.

If you really want to mix that weepage with oil paint, you can use egg-yolk (or soy lecithin) as an emulsifier.

  • This is a great point, but I'm hesitant to upvote it because it seems better suited to being a comment on the question rather than an answer as it doesn't actually answer the question. Perhaps someone with more experience can advise?
    – walrus
    Commented Nov 28, 2017 at 23:59
  • 1
    I edited it to answer the question and provided an answer to use the product with oil paint. Commented Nov 29, 2017 at 0:55

India ink has only three ingredients: lampblack, water and gelatin or shellac as a binder(in fact, traditional India ink doesn't even contain this), with shellac being much more common. As you've guessed, this means that the clear liquid on top is probably a mixture of shellac and water.

Shellac can be found easily online (if you can't find it in person) either as flakes or a liquid.


There are also a full range of acrylic mediums and varnishes that have different levels of gloss. The advantage to these would be compatibility with your paints and convenience in terms of availability and use.

A light body gloss medium is fine to use as for glazing over acrylics.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .