You’ve been working for days on end, and now, you’ve finally completed your most recent masterpiece. Yet, once the paint dried, you started noticing some areas turning patchy and dull. What to do? Any artist will tell you there’s only one way to balance out the colors of your artwork: varnish. This protective layer levels out the texture of the canvas. It also makes the colors appear more vibrant. Keep reading to find out more about the best varnish for acrylic paintings.
The Top 6 Varnishes for Acrylic Paintings
Here are our top 6 choices for best varnish for acrylic paintings.
Krylon is a reliable name in the world of art, and this gloss spray varnish is no exception. It’s UV-resistant for optimal protection against yellowing and fading.
It delivers a quick-drying, permanent protective layer to your artwork. Your painting will be in good hands with this smudge-proof, moisture-resistant gloss varnish spray.
This gloss varnish works great on all types of surfaces, such as plaster, paper, ceramics, and more. It comes in an 11-ounce aerosol spray can.
- Minimal odor
- May cause blisters on wooden frames
- Some users complained of paint running after use
This 16-ounce liquid acrylic varnish offers a safe, non-toxic finish for your artwork. It’s also acid-free and AP-certified.
You can use it on your painting once it has dried. It can also be mixed with acrylic paint for an even smoother finish.
If you wish to dilute it, you can easily mix it with water. Then, when you’re done, you can easily wash it off your brush using soap and water.
Once it dries, the Sargent Art gloss varnish provides a permanent protective layer. It’s waterproof and smudge-proof. So your paintwork would be safe no matter what comes their way.
- Can be diluted with water
- Great value for the price
- May become opaque, rather than clear, once it dries
- Its runny consistency may be difficult to handle
If you’re looking to give your acrylic paintings a protective layer you can rely on, this varnish spray should be your top pick. It’s completely lead and CFC-free, so you can use it anywhere without worrying about toxic fumes.
The Montana Cans matte varnish provides a beautiful professional finish to your artwork. Since it’s drip-free, it won’t cause any unwanted drips on your artwork as you’re spraying.
This 10-ounce spray is made weatherproof to protect your painting against moisture and yellowing. It’s an easy way to give your art a matte professional finish to last for years to come.
- Works on many surfaces
- Minimal odor
- May appear semi-glossy rather than matte
Using a matte varnish can be tricky, but not with the Liquitex BASICS. You can mix it with some gloss varnish for an even more layered sheen finish.
One of its best features is its clear, non-yellowing finish. This permanent varnish works to add the perfect amount of texture and depth to your artwork.
This matte liquid varnish is ACMI-certified to ensure a high level of safety standard. This 8-ounce bottle offers great protection against dust build-up and UV-damage.
- Clear finish
- Protects against fading
- No odor
- Stops dirt build-up
- Not waterproof
- Some users complained of a runny consistency
The Golden Archival varnish is one of the best removable varnishes on the market. It’s a good option to have if you wish to do any retouches to your painting in the future.
Made with 100% solvent-based resin, this varnish is fast-drying. When it dries, it offers an even film that protects your artwork from dust, scratches, and fading. It’s great at resisting moisture and UV rays.
A great feature of this 10-ounce satin varnish is that it has a fan spray tip. You can easily adjust it to precisely spray where you want it. This feature also reduces the risks of overspray.
- Comes with a fan spray tip
- Must use in a well-ventilated area because of its strong smell
- Can become ultra-shiny if you apply too much
The Winsor & Newton satin varnish gives the perfect final touch to your artwork. This is one of the best varnish for acrylic paintings we could find.
It can work by itself for a smooth finish. But you can also mix it with other types of varnishes to give your painting a layered texture. If you usually dilute your paint with water, why not try the same with Winsor & Newton varnish? This will result in a more flowing consistency without altering the colors.
This 4-ounce liquid varnish adds a durable, protective layer to protect your painting from dust, fading, and UV damage.
- Dries to a satiny, smooth finish
- Offers better consistency when mixed with paints
- Some users complained from its grainy texture
- Price is relatively high
Types of Acrylic Varnishes
Varnish comes in many types. You have to choose the one that best fits your paintings.
Removable vs. Permanent
If you decide to use removable varnish, make sure you apply an isolation coat beforehand. This way, your painting will be protected from the chemicals that will strip away the varnish.
Resin vs. Polymer
Both resin and polymer can effectively protect your artworks from scratches and weathering effects.
However, their application can be quite different. Here’s a quick comparison:
Acrylic Resin Varnish
Acrylic resin varnishes give a clear, glossy finish to your paintwork. So if a high-gloss finish is what you’re after, this is the one to go with.
To dilute it and clean your brushes, you need mineral spirits. Using water won’t work with this type of varnish.
The only problem with resin varnish is that it can be hazardous to your health if inhaled. So make sure you’re in a spacious, well-ventilated area.
Acrylic Polymer Varnish
Polymer varnish, on the other hand, isn’t toxic. So you can safely use it anywhere. It’s made up of synthetic materials, which make it smoother and easier to apply.
It can be thinned using plain water. Your brushes can also be cleaned off with water and soap.
Glossy, Matte, or Satin?
Both resin and polymer varnishes are available in three categories. You can choose from glossy, matte, or satin depending on what kind of finish you want for your painting.
If you want to take things up a notch, you can mix them together. Some artists layer them to alter their effects and give their painting a different aspect.
Glossy varnish brings out the colors in your painting and makes them pop more. Yet, it makes the painting have a mild shiny reflection.
This will be especially noticeable when you take a photo of the painting, or when the light hits it at certain angles.
Matte varnish gives less glare and reflection. It works to make darker colors appear somewhat lighter. This varnish gives paintings a flat finish compared with the other types.
Satin varnish also reduces the glare of a painting. It gives an effect that’s somewhere in between glossy and matte finishes.
Tips for a Perfect Varnish Finish
Keep reading for some tips on how to get a perfectly varnished painting.
Whether you choose a spray or liquid varnish, keep an eye out for places you might have missed. You may even need a second coat to make sure you’ve covered the artwork completely.
If you’re using spray varnish, shake vigorously to mix the chemicals inside. And remember to clean the nozzle regularly. This prevents foam particles from spewing out and clinging to the surface of your painting.
The best time to apply varnish would be a day or two after you’ve finished painting. This gives time for the paint to dry completely.
This is the time when you can add an optional isolation layer, too. If you do apply this layer, you should wait for another couple of days to allow it to dry before applying varnish.
The best type of brush to apply the varnish would be a relatively wide, flat painting brush. It’s even better if it has split-end bristles since this wouldn’t leave brush strokes over the final piece.
You’ll also need a glass jar or any type of clean container to put the varnish in. It needs to be completely clean, rinsed, and dried before you add any varnish to it.
Summarizing Pros and Cons
Using varnish on your acrylic painting can bring out many of its best qualities. Yet it all comes down to your personal preference as an artist.
Here are several benefits and drawbacks of adding a layer of varnish to your paintwork.
- Intensifies the colors
- Balances out uneven areas
- Makes surface look consistent
- Acts as a sealant to close up the porous paint surfaces
- Prevents dirt and debris from collecting on the surface of the painting
- Protects against the yellowing or fading
- Can be challenging to apply correctly
- May affect the artwork negatively, rather than boosting its integrity
- Takes a great deal of time
A Final Note
Every form of artwork deserves to be well preserved, especially if it’s done in acrylic paint. That’s why finding the best varnish for acrylic paintings is so important.
While the six varnishes we chose are the best on the market, our favorite is the Krylon K01305 Gloss Spray Varnish. It’s a trustworthy brand you can rely on for optimal protection.
Your acrylic painting will look great after adding the Krylon spray varnish. That layer of shiny protection will enhance the colors of your painting and make them look more dynamic.