How to varnish an acrylic painting
Varnishing an acrylic painting can help preserve the paint over time. Varnish is a thin protective layer that creates a barrier between the acrylic paint, and all environmental factors, such as dirt, dust, moisture and air.
The varnish you choose to coat your acrylic painting should be transparent and create a solid bond with the surface of the paint. However, it is also important that it can be removed, which we will cover in the isolation coat section.
Why should I varnish an acrylic painting?
When acrylic paint dries, the texture is more soft and malleable than oil based paints. In addition, acrylic paint can change form when exposed to extreme temperature and humidity. In addition, acrylic paint, due to the perforations on the surface after drying, is known to attract dirt. Therefore, when varnish is applied, this allows for an easier way to clean and protect an acrylic painting and limits the amount of dust and dirt that covers the surface.
What are the desired effects of varnishing an acrylic painting?
There are many effects that result from varnishing acrylic paintings. They include:
- Finishing: Opt for either a glossy or more matte finish
- Color saturation: Varnish can enhance the color saturation of a painting, making the shades more vibrant
- Protect and clean: Varnish allows for paintings to be cleaned in an easier way, and protects the surface from dust, dirt, humidity and extreme temperatures
- UV radiation: Varnish protects acrylic paintings from UV radiation
Why do I need to apply an isolation coat?
An isolation coat is typically applied on the painting directly, before applying varnish. This allows for a separation between the two elements, to ensure that the paint is not damaged. In addition, applying an isolation coat allows for an easier removal process of varnish, in case you choose this option.
Should varnish be applied as a spray or with a brush?
It is recommended to varnish acrylic paintings with a brush, as it allows for a smoother finish. However, this also depends on the surface texture. If the piece includes many textures, spray is recommended.
How to prepare to varnish an acrylic painting
- Firstly, apply an isolation coat
- Then ensure the surface is clean and dry, by going over it with a cloth
- You should choose to apply the varnish in a dust free room, as dust and dirt can ruin the surface of the painting. Place the painting in a well lit room, and elevated from the ground.
- Use a clean wide brush and a clean shallow dish, only use them for the varnishing process.
Applying varnish with a brush
- Place the artwork on a clean surface and place either plastic or paper underneath it, to protect the table or floor
- Ensure your brush is wide enough, with soft bristles
- Pour varnish into a shallow dish (make sure the dish has been cleaned before you start the process)
- Dip the brush into the varnish very lightly, and begin applying the coats in long and even strokes
- It is important to work quickly, and ensure that each varnish stroke overlaps with the other, so there are no visible brush marks
- Wait for the painting to completely dry before touching it
Applying a spray varnish
- Place the artwork on a stand, vertically, away from walls or valuable items
- Wipe the surface of the artwork with a clean cloth
- Shake the spray varnish bottle very well, before starting to spray. This allows for the mixture to be applied evenly. Throughout the application process, remember to shake the can as well.
- Start spraying the varnish, leaving a minimum of a 30 cm distance between the can and the painting
- Apply two to three thin layers of spray varnish for a smooth finish
Wait for a few hours for the varnish to dry before moving or touching the acrylic piece.