How to Varnish Acrylic Painting: Simple & Easy to Do!

After working your fingers to the bones, you finally managed to make a mind-blowing piece of acrylic painting.

And you want your painting to hang on a wall several millennials from now in a museum where people will praise your artwork. But that’s only possible if you apply varnish to your painting.

Wait! What’s that? And how am I going to do that? These are the questions you might be thinking, right?

No worries, we’re going to teach you how to varnish acrylic painting along with some other important aspects.

What is Varnish?

The varnish is a combination of a solvent and a resin that is applied to a completely dry painting. Well, acrylic painting generally dries out within 24 hours.

It’s basically a thin layer that protects the finished painting from the unsolicited effects of the atmosphere.

Varnish should be removable yet colorless, transparent, and must make a good adhesion to the surface of the paint.

Types of Varnish

types of acrylic varnish

There are mainly three types of varnish finishes.

  • Gloss Finish

This type of varnish magnifies the color of the painting. It invigorates the dull color along with making the surface glossy and sheeny.

  • Matte Finish

It makes the color milder and provides a non-reflective finish. Not only that, but it also lightens the darker colors.

  • Satin Finish

This is a finish you’ll find between the matte and glossy. You can achieve such a semi-gloss finish by mixing up the matte and gloss varnish.

Why Varnish Acrylic Painting?

Acrylic Painting Varnish

Now, you may wonder why you should varnish that wonderful piece of acrylic painting.

Well, that’s because when acrylics dry, they become more flexible and leave a softer exterior. As a result, dust and dirt easily adhere to the surface of the painting.

Apart from that, some find it complex to remove the varnish from this mild exterior. That is the reason you’ll hear some tutors suggesting to keep the acrylics behind glass rather than varnish.

However, if you follow the proper procedure of varnishing, which we’re going to describe below, then you’ll get the best of both worlds.

What Does Isolation Coat Mean?

Look, there may come a time when the varnish will turn yellow, or you’ll need to clean up the painting from dust and dirt.

At that time, you’ll have to remove the varnish without spoiling the painting and place a new fresh coat on it. Well, there comes the part of an isolation coat.

It’s a thin transparent layer that acts as an obstacle between the paint and the varnish.

Generally, a solvent is used to liquefy the varnish, and this isolation layer will prevent the solvent from reaching the paint layers.

Applying the Isolation Coat

So, before you apply the varnish, you need to give an isolation coat to your acrylic painting. And you can do that by following the steps given below.

  • Creating Isolation Coat

Get 2 tablespoons of soft gel (30 mL) and 1 tablespoon of water (15 mL) to make a 2:1 ratio. You can get the soft gel at your local craft shop.

Now, gently mix the water and gel in a small bowl with a spoon. Don’t mix it too vigorously as bubbles may appear, which will affect the finish of the coat.

  • Cleaning up the Painting

Before you apply the isolation coat, get a dry and wide paintbrush, and run across the externals of the painting.

By doing so, it’ll remove dust, dirt, hairs so that they don’t get caught in the isolation coat.

And you should also ensure that the brush you’re using is clean itself. It’s better if you use a brand-new brush.

  • Applying the Coat

Get the soft gel mixture and immerse the tip of a wide paintbrush in it. Start to spread the coat from the middle of the painting to the edges to cover the total surface area.

Then use long brush strokes from one end to another to level out the coating.

  • Let It Dry

Generally, the painting will dry within 30 minutes, but it’s better if you give it an entire day.

So, lay it flat in a place that is safe from children and pets. Because they can wreak havoc on your painting. It’s recommended to leave the painting for 24 hours before varnishing.

Should You Use Brush or Spray for Varnishing?

You can either use a brush or spray for varnishing. You’ll have to evaluate the texture and surface of a painting to figure out which is more applicable.

However, it’s suggested to use a brush to varnish works that are non-moveable and smooth such as acrylics, oils.

On the other hand, if you possess highly textual works or delicate multimedia pieces, you should use spray varnish.

How to Varnish Acrylic Painting by Using the Brush?

Varnish Acrylic Painting using brush

Now, since we’re talking about acrylic painting, we’re going to elaborate on the step by step methods of varnishing by brush.

  • Positioning the Painting

First and foremost, you should place the paint on a flat surface. Because if it’s hanging on a wall or placed on an easel, the varnish will flow down the canvas.

And always lay a piece of newspaper or MDF to catch any drips. Besides, if your painting is too big, you can put it on the floor during varnishing. Just make sure that it’s out of the way so that nobody steps on it.

  • Preparing the Varnish

You’ll need to add water or a solvent to dilute the varnish. Yet, there are varnishes that don’t require to be mixed.

You, therefore, should check the manufacturer’s instructions given on the back of the container or bottle.

And yes, pour out the varnish in a shallow container. Thus, you’ll find it easier to dip the paintbrush and control the amount of varnish with ease.

  • Testing the Varnish

Before you apply the varnish all over the painting, apply to a small part at first and wait for 10 minutes to dry it out.

Now, if you’re using gloss varnish, then it’ll amplify the colors, and if you’re using a matte finish, it’ll mute them mildly. It’s always better to check whether the varnish alters the colors in your desired way or not.

  • Use a Clean, Wide Brush

Get a flat 2-inch nylon brush and dip 1/3 of it in the varnish. You can also use a “varnish” brush but don’t go for a decorator brush since it leaves brush marks.

Now, start brushing from the central point of the painting. Use long and even strokes to spread the varnish from one side to another.

  • Level Out the Brushstrokes

Apply long, even strokes quickly but gently to cover the surface from one end to the other while moving top to bottom. You need to make sure that the layer of the varnish is as level as possible before it dries out.

You can sometimes tilt the painting to check if you missed any spot to varnish or over-saturated by applying the varnish.

  • Don’t Go over Missed Areas

If you find out that you missed any areas, don’t go back as it’ll drag partly dry resin into wet.

As a result, the varnish will dry cloudy where the colors are dark. Rather, you should let the coat totally dry and re-varnish it again. You know it’s better to apply 3 thin coats than 1 thick.

  • Applying Second Coat

Generally, varnish dries out pretty quickly but if you want the best result, let it dry for 3-6 hours before applying the second coat.

Most of the acrylic paintings require 2 coats. However, if you see that the varnish looks uneven, you can apply the third coat.

  • Cure the Painting

You may feel that the varnish is dry as soon as you touch it after the application. Yet, it takes 1-2 weeks to dry the varnish completely and cling to the paint.

Therefore, you must keep the painting in a safe place away from disturbance at the time of the curing process.

Significance of Applying Varnish

The benefits of applying varnish on acrylic painting are quite a few. Some of them are mentioned below.

  • Ease of Cleaning

If you can apply an isolation coat as well as a varnish properly, then you’ll be able to clean the painting pretty easily.

  • Ensures the Longevity

Do you want to hang your masterpiece acrylic painting on your wall for a long time? And want it to give an outstanding and professional look?

Then by applying the varnish, you can extend the longevity of your painting by protecting it from dust, dirt, and other atmospheric effects.

  • Protects from UV Radiation

Some modern varnishes contain ultraviolet light stabilizers that disperse UV radiation before hitting the surface of the painting.

Now, those are very useful if the materials you’re using don’t have great lightfastness.

Final Verdict

Since you’ve made the painting, undoubtedly you want to keep it safe more than us.

We’ve done our part by providing you with the techniques of varnishing an acrylic painting. So, follow our instructions and keep your piece of work safe for ages.

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