How to Make Oil Painting Look Glossy

It’s a misconception that once an oil painting is dried and has gone dull, it’s dead. But the fact is there are good glossy finishes available on the market that can not only recreate the fresh look of paint but also protect and increase its life for long.

In this guide, we’ll talk about how to make oil paintings look glossy. You’ll know the basics of different varnishes and how to mix them to create unique varnishes for your choice.

Before talking about the steps you should take to make your oil painting glossy, it’s a good idea to know about the different varnish types you can use with an oil painting.

A list of 5 good varnish options for oil paintings is given below:

Different Gloss Varnishes for Oil Painting

There are many different types of varnishes you can get to gloss your oil painting. Some of them are soft and don’t require a thinner while some are quite strong and should not be applied without a solvent. The major gloss varnish varieties are;

  • UV Resistant Retouching Varnish

This one is not a permanent solution for oil paintings. After a painting is created, the colors take some time to completely set on the layers and will melt and mix with varnish if it’s used on top of it.

Retouching varnish is a temporary protecting solution for fresh paints. It should be used in a thin layer to create a protective film on top of the color so that carrying or moving it should be safe until the colors get mature enough for solid varnishes.

  • Satin Varnish

Satin has always been considered a premium finish to color aficionados. This varnish is strong and cannot be damaged by UV rays. You need to use turpentine or strong solvent materials to lighten the varnish up.

  • Matt Varnish

Although this is not shiny itself, using it with glossy varnishes with a 50% matt and 50% glossy varnish will create a different shine in itself. This will look somewhat but not completely similar to satin.

You can add other varnishes with this, along with a glossy varnish to create beautiful glossy finishes. One of the major reasons behind this varnish’s popularity is the ability to be removed easily without any solvents.

  • Gloss Varnish

Gloss varnish from Winsor Varnishes is the most available varnish on the market. This is not expensive and can give the best glossy finish you can ask for. It’s strong enough to last for years and will need turpentine to be removed.

One thing with this gloss varnish is that the longer you keep it on a painting, the stronger it grows. You’ll need solvents to remove old gloss varnish.

  • Dammar Varnish

This is one of the strongest and the oldest varnish among all in this list. Some people recommend using it mixed with turpentine or another solvent beforehand. But it’s not necessary. The higher gloss you like, the lesser the medium should be.

You can use this varnish on your painting, even without any medium solvents, to create the perfect gloss.

However, since this is strong on the paint and not easily removable, using turpentine is necessary if you need to remove the varnish.

How to Varnish Oil Painting to Look Glossy?

Varnish Oil Painting to Look Glossy

Varnishing an oil painting is quite simple if you know how to do it properly. Here’s a list of steps you can take to get your job done in 4 simple steps.

Detect Painting Type

Varnishing works best with natural oil and acrylic based oil paintings. Some watercolor-based synthetic paintings or drawings from other mediums can look like oil paints because of their art style.

To get rid of the confusion regarding paint methods, you should consult with an expert. Otherwise, if varnishing is done on water-based colors, the whole paint might get distorted, and the real colors are damaged permanently.

Prepare Varnish Materials

As mentioned previously in this guide, there are different varnish types to cater to a specific need of a painting. You should decide which type of finish you want, to gather and mix varnishes accordingly.

Some varnishes are water mixable, whereas others will only mix with solvent oils. Read your varnish’s manual carefully and use thinner accordingly.


As your painting is dried, enough, and colors have become solid to touch. You can proceed to apply glossy varnish to it.

The first thing is to ensure is that the room you’ll be working in is clean and free of visible dust. There should be ample airflow inside as well. Varnishing in a wet room will make the drying process lengthy.

The brush to use on varnishing needs to be soft and wide enough. A small brush will take too long to cover a painting, and a hard brush can damage the paint layers. There are brushes made especially for varnishing; you should choose among them.

Slowly apply the varnish mix in a thin layer from one side. Cover the whole paint at a go rather than repeating on the same spot several times. Overapplication will cause uneven surfaces that will not reflect light evenly and look odd.

Once you’ve done coating the whole paint, repeat it up to 3 times. If you miss any corners, you’ll notice it easily with light reflection.

Let the paint dry and cover the missing places. Don’t recoat on a wet varnish. Let a layer dry first and then repeat.


Once you’re done varnishing the paint, cover it up with polythene or bubble wrap to protect it from dust.

It will take a minimum of 1 day for the varnish to be completely dried. After drying up, you can check for its glossiness. If needed, repeat the steps.

Final Words

Increasing the shelf life of oil painting is not complicated if you know about the right tools and processes.

Getting your pain varnished commercially can be expensive, but now that you know how to do it on your own, there’s no need for a professional now.

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