How To Varnish An Acrylic Painting Like a Pro In 6 Simple Steps? Seal Painting 

Have you ever completed an acrylic painting and asked how to give it that extra glossy finish? If yes here comes the role of varnishing. 

It not only adds a protective layer but also enhances the colors and makes the painting look more vibrant. 

Many renowned artists swear by the benefits of varnishing, including David Hockney, who has been known to varnish his paintings up to six times! 

In this blog post, we will go over how to varnish an acrylic painting, step-by-step.

So, if you want to take your painting to a professional level, read the post and have a clear concept and understanding of this topic.

Is It Necessary To Varnish An Acrylic Painting?

While it is not strictly necessary to varnish an acrylic painting, it is often recommended. Here are a few reasons why:

  • Protection

The application of varnish safeguards the painting against the harmful effects of dust, dirt, and UV radiation, thereby preserving the colors’ vibrancy and preventing the painting from losing its luster or developing discoloration in the long run. Moreover, it also enhances the water and heat resistance of acrylic paint.

  • Evenness: 

Acrylic paint can have a slightly uneven surface, with areas of gloss and matte. Varnishing can help to even out the surface and create a more consistent finish.

  • Aesthetics: 

Applying varnish to a painting can enrich its colors and create a sense of depth, enhancing its overall visual appeal. Additionally, it can lend the painting a polished and refined look, conveying a sense of professionalism.

How To Apply A Varnish To An Acrylic Painting? 6 Easy Steps For Beginners

Although applying varnish is quite easy and straightforward but still needs great focus and ignoring some minor details can lead to spoiling your work. So what is the best way to varnish an acrylic painting? Here it is:

Step 1: Prepare The Painted Surface

Make sure your painting is completely dry. Acrylic paint dries relatively quickly, but it’s always best to wait at least 24 hours before applying a varnish to ensure that the paint is fully cured. Here is how to prepare an acrylic painting for varnish.

Use a soft, lint-free cloth or a clean, soft brush to remove any dust or debris from the surface of the painting. Make sure to clean the corners and edges of the painting as well.

Check for any areas of the painting that may need touch-ups. If you notice any areas where the paint is uneven or there are visible brushstrokes, you can use a small brush and some additional paint to touch up those areas. 

Allow any touch-ups to dry completely before proceeding.

Step 2: Choose a Suitable Varnish

Choose the right varnish for your painting. Consider the overall look you want to achieve with your painting and choose a varnish that will complement it. 

However, if you’re asking what should I use to varnish an acrylic painting, here is a brief introduction to some common types of varnishes. 

  1. Gloss varnish: 

This type of varnish provides a shiny and reflective finish, making the colors in your painting appear more energetic and saturated. 

Gloss varnish is also very durable and provides excellent protection for your artwork.

  1. Matte varnish: 

Matte varnishes make acrylic paint matte by providing a flat or non-reflective finish that can be desirable for some paintings. 

It gives a more natural, subdued look to your painting and can be ideal for pieces with softer or muted colors.

It also provides protection for your painting but doesn’t offer as much durability as gloss varnish.

  1. Satin varnish: 

This type of varnish provides a finish that is somewhere between gloss and matte. It offers some level of shine, but not as much as gloss varnish. 

Satin varnish can be a good option if you want some level of protection for your painting while still retaining some of the natural texture and finish of the paint.

  1. UV-resistant varnish: 

UV-resistant varnish is designed to protect your painting from damage caused by UV light exposure, which can cause colors to fade over time. 

This type of varnish is especially important if your painting will be displayed in an area with a lot of sunlight.

  1. Archival varnish: 

Archival varnish is a high-quality varnish that is developed to provide long-lasting protection for your painting.

It is often used by professional artists and museums to protect valuable artworks from damage caused by aging, humidity, or other environmental factors.

Step 3: Select Ventilated Workspace

Set up your workspace in a well-ventilated area. Varnish can be quite smelly, so it’s important to work in a space with good air circulation. 

Lay down a drop cloth or some newspapers to protect your workspace.

Step 4: Apply The Varnish Accurately

Use a clean, soft-bristled brush to apply the varnish. Start at one corner of the painting and work your way across, making sure to apply an even coat. 

Be careful not to overwork the varnish, as this can cause streaks and bubbles.

Step 5: Let The Varnish Dry

Allow the varnish to dry completely. This can take anywhere from a few hours to overnight, depending on the type of varnish you used and the temperature and humidity in your workspace.

Step 6: Sand The Varnished Surface

If necessary, lightly sand the surface of the varnish with fine-grit sandpaper to remove any bumps or imperfections.

Apply a second coat of varnish, following the same process as before. This will help ensure that your painting is fully protected.

How To Spray Varnish An Acrylic Painting?

Spraying varnish on an acrylic painting is a great alternative to brush-on varnish and can save time.  

You’ll need a spray can of varnish specifically designed for use with acrylic paint and a well-ventilated area to work in. 

It’s important to shake the can thoroughly before use and to hold it at a proper distance from the painted surface to avoid drips or pooling. 

A light coat should be applied first and then left to dry before applying subsequent coats. 

I advise you to be patient and let the varnish dry fully before handling the painting.

How To Varnish An Acrylic Pour Painting? 

For varnishing an acrylic pour painting, ensure that the artwork is fully dry and clear of dust or any impurities. 

Choose a high-quality varnish, like a gloss or satin finish, and use a brush or roller to apply it uniformly. 

Adhere to the guidelines of the manufacturer and put on thin coats of varnish, allowing each layer to dry entirely before applying the next one. 

Your acrylic pour painting will have a splendid glossy appearance and will be safeguarded once the final layer has dried.

How To Varnish An Acrylic Painting On Glass? 

First and foremost, it’s important to note that varnishing acrylic paintings on glass is not a typical practice, as acrylic paint tends to adhere well to glass without the need for a varnish. 

However, if you still want to add a layer of protection and enhance the colors of your acrylic painting, you can follow the procedure discussed above. Moreover, you can also bake acrylic paint on glass for sealing and protection.

How To Varnish Acrylic Paint On Wood?

If you’re looking for a simple and organic method to protect acrylic paint on wood, furniture wax is a great option. 

Applying a small quantity of the wax onto a cloth and then spreading it over your wooden surface is all that’s required. 

Leave it on for a brief period and then polish it with a soft, lint-free cloth.

How To Varnish Acrylic Painting On Paper?

When varnishing acrylic paintings on watercolor paper or ordinary paper, it is important to keep in mind that paper is a delicate and absorbent surface that can be easily damaged by moisture. 

To ensure the best results, it is recommended to use a high-quality, non-yellowing acrylic varnish that is particularly designed for use on paper. 

You should also avoid over-brushing or overworking the surface, as this can cause the paper to become saturated and buckle.

How To Varnish Large Acrylic Painting?

Spray varnish is a quick and easy way to apply a protective layer to a large painting project. This method is quicker than brush-on varnish, but it may be more expensive.

Pour-on epoxy resin is a popular option for varnishing large acrylic paintings. This method involves pouring a clear liquid resin over the surface of your painting, which hardens to create a glossy, protective layer.

Homemade Varnish For Acrylic Painting

Making your own varnish for acrylic paintings is a cost-effective way to protect your artwork and enhance its visual appeal. 

Here’s a simple recipe for making homemade varnish for acrylic painting:

Ingredients Needed

  • 1 cup of cold water
  • 1/4 cup of ammonia
  • 1/4 cup of clear, non-yellowing acrylic medium

Instructions To Follow

  1. In a clean container, mix the cold water and ammonia together.
  1. Add the clear, non-yellowing acrylic medium to the water and ammonia mixture.
  1. Stir the mixture thoroughly until all the ingredients are well combined.
  1. Apply the varnish to your painting using a soft brush, being careful not to apply too much.
  1. Allow the varnish to dry completely, which should take about 24 hours.

Note: Ensure working in a well-ventilated area when using ammonia, as it can be harmful if inhaled in large amounts.

How To Make Acrylic Paint Gloss Without Varnish?

If you’re not willing to use varnish, there are a few alternative ways to make acrylic paint glossy. Here are three methods:

  • Mixing with Gloss Medium: 

One way to make acrylic paint glossy is to mix it with a gloss medium before painting. 

Gloss medium is a binder that increases the transparency and sheen of acrylic paint, and it can be mixed with paint in any ratio. 

Simply mix the desired amount of gloss medium into your paint before you start painting, and it will dry with a glossy finish.

  • Using a Glossy Gel Medium: 

Another way to make acrylic paint glossy is to use a glossy gel medium instead of a regular gel medium. 

Gel mediums are thick, transparent compounds that can be mixed with acrylic paint to create texture and impasto effects. 

It dries with a lustrous finish, giving your painting a shiny surface.

  • Polishing with a Cloth: 

After your painting has dried, you can use a soft, clean cloth to polish the surface of the paint until it becomes glossy. 

This method works best for small areas or details, and it requires a gentle touch. Simply rub the cloth over the dry paint in a circular motion until you achieve the desired level of gloss.

Please Note
Although these methods can make acrylic paint glossy, they do not provide the same level of protection as a varnish. 

Best Varnish For Acrylic Painting On Canvas

If you’re looking for some of the well-known varnishes for canvas painting or other surfaces, here is a list with their brief features. 

Varnish BrandTypeFinishDrying TimeUV Protection
LiquitexGloss VarnishGlossy24 hoursYes
Winsor & NewtonProfessional Satin VarnishSatin12 hoursYes
GoldenPolymer Varnish with UVLSGlossy or Satin48 hoursYes
KrylonUV-Resistant Clear CoatingGlossy10 minutesYes
GrumbacherGloss Final VarnishGlossy24 hoursYes
Sargent ArtAcrylic Gloss Medium & VarnishGlossy24 hoursYes
M. Graham & Co.Solvent-Free Spray VarnishGlossy or Matte24 hoursYes


Can you varnish an acrylic painting?

Yes, It is possible to use varnish on an acrylic painting in order to protect it against dust, UV light, and other harsh environmental elements.

What is the best way to seal an acrylic painting?

The best way to seal an acrylic painting is to use a varnish or a sealant specifically made for acrylic paints. Apply it evenly using a brush or spray, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for drying time and application.

How long do you have to wait to varnish an acrylic painting?

It is recommended to wait at least 24 hours to varnish an acrylic painting, or until the paint has fully dried and cured. However, some varnishes may have specific requirements, so it’s best to check the instructions written on the package.

What to varnish acrylic painting with?

You may use a varnish that is designed particularly for acrylic paints. Several well-known brands such as Liquitex, Golden, and Winsor & Newton offer such varnishes.

How to finish an acrylic painting?

To finish an acrylic painting, you can add a varnish or sealant, or you can leave it as is. You can also add a frame or other decorative elements to enhance its appearance.

How to varnish an oil and acrylic painting?

To varnish an oil and acrylic painting, you need to follow the specific instructions for each type of paint. Both paints take different times to dry and get cured. Once they are ready, you can apply varnish following the steps above. 

Final Words

Knowing how to varnish an acrylic painting is a must thing and as I mentioned earlier, it is a straightforward process and can be done as soon as the paint is dry. 

By putting up with the necessary steps to varnish your acrylic artwork appropriately, you can guarantee that it will retain its pristine condition for an extended period.

Thank You!

Jose Scott

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