Restoring paintings with impasto

If you are familiar with the style and techniques of contemporary artworks, you will probably also have seen paintings with impasto. Impasto is a technique where the paint is applied to an area of the surface in very thick layers. When dry, impasto provides texture and dimensionality; in some cases, the impasto has the desired effect of the artwork appearing to be coming out of the canvas, like in the below photograph.

With impasto, the painting needs to be treated very delicately. Clients have asked us before whether anything can actually be done for such paintings, considering how possible it is for the paint to snap off or be cracked. Impasto is an interesting feature of many paintings and it’s absolutely possible and doable to restore paintings that have it. With the right treatment and care, we have successfully restored many impasto paintings.

Have a read below of common issues affecting these artworks and restoring paintings with impasto.


Flaking and cracked paint

Due to paintings with impasto having a raised paint layer, it is, therefore, more fragile and at risk of snapping or breaking off. We are often required to consolidate flaking paint on areas of impasto, or fill and retouch areas where the paint has snapped off. Consolidating a paint layer with impasto is carried out in the same way as it is for any painting needing this treatment. The paint layer can be re-adhered onto the canvas and fully stabilised so that no paint is at risk of future lifting.

Paint losses

Where there are losses on a painting, these areas can be filled and retouched accordingly. To achieve the raised paint where there are losses, we always imitate the impasto by applying and shaping the filler to look like the original paint layer. Subsequent retouching will be very careful and considered, to ensure the new paint layer is integrated with the impasto. Like with any easel painting, we pigment match against the existing paint to ensure the finish is completely uniform.


Paintings with impasto can be cleaned just as successfully as any other oil or watercolour painting, and we follow the same procedures for doing so. We carry out the usual solvent tests to see which will most effectively lift the dirt and surface contaminants from the artwork. Cleaning artworks with impasto requires a careful clean of each raised area of paint, gently lifting the dirt away. When cleaning the back of a painting, it will be completed on an easel so that it is not laid flat and the action does not damage the raised paint layer.

Tear repair

For paintings on canvas with a tear, the repair can be just as successfully treated as paintings that have no impasto. The paint around the tear can first be consolidated, and then we begin the repairs by bringing the individual fibres of the tear back together and completing a thread-by-thread repair. When we complete tear repairs for any painting, we do so from the back for the majority of artworks. This is the same for paintings with impasto to get the best results. Before beginning the tear repair, we need to put some measures into place for ensuring that while the painting is face-down, no damage is done to the paint layer. To do this, we place the painting over cushioning foam so it is not pressed against a hard surface.

Caring for impasto paintings

Extra care will need to be taken with paintings that have impasto. They should never be stacked or have anything leaning against the surface. In some cases, we also advise that glazing is added to a painting to prevent dust accumulation around the intricate paintwork.

For further advice into restoring paintings with impasto, contact us for our obligation-free help.