You’ve finally finished an acrylic painting that you’re really proud of. Whether you plan to sell it or hang it in the place of honor in your home, it’s critical that you protect it so that it will look spectacular for many years.
Now is the time when you need to know how to protect acrylic painting on canvas. Experienced artists rely on varnish to accomplish this.
Don’t be intimidated! Varnishing an acrylic painting requires following certain tips, but you can do it.
Read on to learn why varnishing is important and how to do it right.
Why Varnish an Acrylic Painting?
When acrylic paint dries, it takes on a flat, opaque look. You may notice that your painting has uneven areas of matte and shine because you used a variety of different paints and retarders during the creative process.
That’s fine! All you need to do to create a more uniform and pleasing finished product is to apply a coat of varnish.
When you add varnish, it gives your painting a homogeneous look with just one type of sheen. Moreover, varnish makes the colors you used to look more intense.
Varnish does more than make a painting look better. It seals the porous surface of the acrylic paint. This means that dirt can’t collect in the paint, which can cause substantial discoloration.
Once acrylic paint is completely dry, it’s surprisingly water resistant and durable. However, there’s a point time while the painting is drying when water is evaporating from the paint. This process leaves behind miniature holes that can make it possible for dust and dirt to build up in the paint over time.
Even if you routinely dust an unvarnished painting, dirt will still get trapped in the paint, and this will cause discoloration.
However, when you use varnish as a sealant, your painting can repel dust and is also easier to wipe down.
Also, it’s helpful to know that a good coat of varnish protects your painting from the harmful UV rays that cause yellowing.
Some artists also choose to add varnish to their acrylic paintings because it makes them look more like oils. If that’s an effect you’d like to achieve, then definitely give varnish a try.
Tips for Varnishing an Acrylic Painting
Following these tips can make your first varnishing experience far more successful. Remember, varnish protects your painting and gives it a more homogeneous appearance, so it’s important to do it right.
How Long to Wait Before Varnishing an Acrylic Painting
Timing is key when applying varnish over acrylic paint. Usually, acrylic paint will be completely dry after a day or two, so wait for at least this long before starting the varnishing process.
However, if you have used exceptionally thick acrylics, such as impasto, then you may want to wait as long as a week or two after completing the painting before you consider varnishing.
Temperature Is Important Too
Many new artists do not realize how important ambient temperatures and humidity are when they first learn to varnish. Ideal temperatures are between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit, while humidity should range between 50 and 75 percent.
When the air is too humid or the temperature is too cold, moisture can get trapped between the varnish and the paint. This may cause an effect of opacity or whiteness in the finished product.
Take Care During Application
Typically, artists choose to either brush or spray on varnish. Either acrylic paint coating can be extremely effective.
However, it is necessary to be on the lookout for things like uneven coverage and foaming. If you are using a brush to apply the varnish, then make certain that you’re not leaving behind bristles or other particles.
To Spray or to Brush?
Some artists have a definite preference for either spraying on or brush-on varnishing. Applying with a brush is a favorite with most artists, but it may make better sense to use a spray when an acrylic painting has a heavily textured or fragile surface that may be disturbed or destroyed by brush application.
Do You Need an Isolation Coat?
Some artists prefer to add an isolation coat on top of acrylics before they apply the varnish. Before you do so, it’s important to know that isolation coats are non-removable and permanent while some varnishes can be removed.
Isolation coats may be permanent, but they also prevent effects like clouding and frosting. They also create a physical barrier between the paint and the varnish. This is critical if you ever need to remove the varnish because it protects the painting.
How to Prepare for Varnishing with a Brush
Here are step-by-step instructions for applying varnish with a brush.
- Ensure that the paint is thoroughly dry.
- Make certain that there is no lint, dust, or other particles on the painting.
- In a clean jar, mix your chosen varnish with as much as 25 percent water. Mix slowly to prevent bubbles from forming.
- Select a flat, large paintbrush with split-end bristles.
- Lay the painting on a flat surface to prevent runs in the varnish.
- Using even, regular strokes, apply the varnish with the brush, which should be held at an angle. Resist the temptation to overwork the varnish, as this will cause bubbles.
- Inspect the painting from an angle to find spots that look dry and dull. Make sure that these areas get a coat of varnish.
- Allow the varnish to dry for a few hours with the painting lying flat.
- Check to make sure that the painting has an even sheen.
- Consider adding a second coat to make the painting shinier or to ensure more even coverage.
How to Apply a Spray Varnish
If you have been wondering, “What is varnish spray?” now is your chance to find out. Some artists simply find it easier to spray to protect the acrylic painting. Plus, the surface of some paintings is quite delicate, which makes spraying a much better option.
Here are step-by-step instructions for getting the best finish with a spray varnish.
- Choose a well-ventilated area, and consider wearing a mask to protect yourself from fumes during application.
- Set the painting upright for spraying.
- Use smooth, continuous movements of your arm and body as you spray.
- In one coating, move the spray bottle horizontally across the canvas.
- On the next coating, move the spray bottle vertically across the canvas.
- Keep the bottle’s distance from the canvas uniform throughout the application of each coat.
- Two or three light coats generally are more effective and attractive than one heavy coat.
How to Remove Varnish
You love the idea of using a spray to protect the acrylic painting, but the day may arrive when you need to remove the varnish.
If you suspect that you may ever want to remove varnish, such as if the application doesn’t go as well as you hoped, then it’s a good idea to choose a varnish that says on the bottle that it is removable.
It’s possible that the bottle also provides instructions for how to safely remove the varnish without damaging your painting. If this is the case, then follow those instructions to the letter.
If needed, here are step-by-step instructions for removing a coat of varnish.
- Check the varnish to see if a remover medium is suggested. One common remover is household ammonia.
- Work in a well-ventilated room, and wear latex gloves, splash goggles, and a dual-filter respirator throughout the process.
- Test the ammonia or other remover on a small corner of the painting.
- Saturate a soft, lint-free cloth with the remover and place it over the varnishing surface. Cover the cloth with a plastic sheet to prevent excessive evaporation.
- Keep the wet cloth in place for between two and five minutes, then rub it gently over the painting.
- Repeat until the varnish is gone.
- Allow the painting to dry before applying a new coat of varnish.
Making the Decision
Should you varnish your acrylic paintings? It’s frequently a good idea because it protects the painting from dust, dirt, and UV rays. Moreover, varnish gives your paintings a uniform finish.
However, it’s important that you take your time and work deliberately. When you do so, a coat of varnish may be the perfect way to give your paintings a more professional look.