Acrylics are famous for losing their flair and going opaque after a period of drying out. They often do not retain the original shiny or matte attributes, and often contain uneven patches of either. On top of that, the use of retarders and different mediums add more to the already open wound.
The solution? Varnish, varnish, and more varnish. Even out the colors and protect your acrylic painting with the proper varnish that perfectly suits your intentions.
Welcome to our best varnish for acrylic paint guide, where we have talked about some of the premier varnishes out there.
We reviewed the standout varnishes and then proceeded to further filter them down into this compact list. Have a read.
our 8 Best Varnish for Acrylic Paint Review
Not all varnishes are made the same, and as such, not all of them will rank the same. We assigned points based on attributes, such as time to dry, light refraction, and ranked them based on those points.
1. Liquitex Professional Gloss Varnish
Economical? Check. Clearcoat? Check. Does not alter or mess with the temperature of your mix? Double-check.
This professional gloss varnish from Liquitex is truly a do-it-all varnish with an unmatched value proposition that helps it bag the “best varnish for acrylic painting on canvas” title.
Now, let us get one thing straight. There are a number of other substitutes for the Liquitex. Substitutes are a fair lot cheaper.
But why then did we term the Liquitex as being economical? Well, firstly, the Liquitex is a whole lot thicker than the substitutes. You can dilute it out if the need arises.
Secondly, you use a lot less of Liquitex to achieve the same level of glossiness. Thus, the term economical. The example is similar to that of expensive paint.
Expensive paint is, well, more expensive. But you get more pigment per unit volume when compared to cheaper substitutes. Varnishes can be gauged in terms of their purity.
Next comes the post vanish hue. The varnish overall has a nice gloss level - no complaints there. The color enhancement is typical of a clear coat varnish.
And the blue hues are accentuated with these varnishes. That said, a thick coating does provide a slight bluish play with the lights.
- Unmatched value proposition, a true do-it-all clear coat varnish
- The varnish is a whole lot thicker than its counterparts
- Blue hues are accentuated with this varnish, slight bluish play with the lights
- The temperature hues remain unadulterated, so the base colors are true
2. Timeless Archival Print Varnish Water Based UV Protection
Museum and gallery lights can be harsh. These lights are often not certified or rated for gallery use. On top of that, you have the harmful UV rays from the sun.
Protecting your valuable artwork then becomes a necessity rather than a mere afterthought. We are introducing the Archival Print Varnish from Timeless.
Standout feature? It is completely water-based. You can thin out the varnish as much as your heart desires.
The light refraction can be brought down to a minimum, helping you to present all the different colors and hues of your beautiful painting in all their glory, unadulterated and unobstructed.
Unlike a lot of other varnishes available in the market, the Timeless Archival Print Varnish does not have any harmful chemicals as its constituent.
Just have a moderately ventilated room, and you are golden—no need to invest in a professional ventilation setup whatsoever.
Color is important across all mediums and is the driving factor in how a beholder interprets your art. Thus, the slightest shift in hues can result in a completely different interpretation.
This varnish keeps the refraction down to a minimum, so there is no such awkward or unwarranted shift in hues.
- Completely water-based; it can thin out the varnish as much as needed
- Light refraction can be brought down to a minimum
- No harmful chemicals as a constituent
- Very easy to work and apply; supports multiple layering
3. Winsor & Newton Artists' Gloss Varnish
Now, we could not forget the oil painters out there. For you folks, we have handpicked a level performing varnish too, a glossy one at that.
We are introducing the Winsor & Newton Artists' gloss varnish, another no-nonsense varnish that is made to deliver exactly what is advertised. Let us have a look.
So, the varnish coat itself is a clear coat with a moderate to a medium gloss finish.
Not for those looking for that ultra-gloss effect, but for those looking to preserve and perhaps accentuate some of the hues in their painting, this will certainly do the job. Multiple coatings are an option with this varnish.
Best part? The varnish does not go yellow over time. Even though it is meant for oil paintings and if it is subjected to those harsh gallery lights.
Thus, it makes a valuable addition to the arsenal of any self-made oil painter. The finish is clear and transparent and is smooth to the touch.
Another great aspect of this varnish is that it is completely removable. Got some white spirit handy? It is perfect for removing the varnish layer.
Or if you fancy some distilled turpentine for varnish removal, you could opt for that as well. Just keep in mind that this varnish is not suitable for use as a standalone medium.
- Clearcoat with a moderate to medium glossy finish; not ultra glossy
- Preserve and accentuates some of the hues in oil paintings
- Does not yellow over time
- Can take a stand against the harshest of gallery light
4. Liquitex Professional Gloss Fluid Medium
Next up, we have yet another do-it-all product, something you could use as a glazing medium, like an extender, or even go so far as to use as a fixative.
For those looking for all of the above plus a finish that is not so glossy, let us acquaint ourselves with the Professional Gloss Fluid Medium from Liquitex.
So, how would we go about recommending this product? We recommend using this particular Liquitex as a final varnish instead of a primary varnish.
Adding on the fact that this product can be diluted with a little water, it easily bags the best acrylic paint varnish award.
The glossing fluid can also be used in a spray format using a spray bottle.
Three parts water and one-part Gloss Fluid Medium, and you have in your hands a brilliant fixative for glossing over (excuse the pun) those fine lines before going about and applying the absolute final coat of varnish.
This varnish can also be applied standalone with a synthetic brush or a foam one. It is very adaptive.
The only problem we could find with this varnish is that it can streak. And if you are not careful enough, you could easily overwork the varnish.
- Could be utilized as a glazing medium, as an extender, or even as a fixative
- A finish with a medium gloss, not ultra glossy
- The varnish can be easily diluted with water
- A brilliant fixative in spray form, for glossing over those fine lines
5. Grumbacher Picture Gloss Varnish for Picture and Oil & Acrylic Painting
Next up, we are going to take a look at a varnish, made in mainland USA, and something in a spray can format. Quick-drying and extremely flexible, you have guessed it, we are taking a peek at the Picture Gloss Varnish from Grumbacher.
The varnish, much like all of the varnishes we have presented thus far, is a non-yellowing one, with the coating being crystal clear when applied.
It does not mess with the important hues and shades of your painting and presents them under an accurate light.
And the varnish is easily removable too. Keep some paint thinners or turpentine handy, and you ought to be set. Just be wary of the time frame of applying the varnishing coat.
Acrylic paintings take about a week to dry, and the period could extend upwards of six months for oil paintings.
Apply in slow strokes with even lines from left to right (or vice versa) and repeat. Turn 90 degrees after the layer dries, and you can proceed to apply another layer.
- A quick and convenient varnish in a spray can format
- The coating is crystal clear and does not yellow with age
- Easily removable; just keep some turpentine or thinners handy
- Easy to apply and equally as easy to get an even layer of coating
6. Sargent Art 22-8812 Gallon Acrylic Gloss and Varnish
For those seeking that AP certification first and foremost in their acrylic varnish, look no further than the products from Sargent Art.
Their 22-8812 presents an immense value proposition, quite like the first product we featured, whilst being fully non-toxic and safe for use in non-ventilated environments.
The coating itself is a clear coat with no visible cloudiness or other artifacts. It does not mess with the hues either.
The product can both be used as a standalone clear coat, or it can even be mixed with acrylic paint.
And the varnish, mixed in with paint, can be used to increase the overall gloss level.
On its own, across thin applications, the varnish has a soft translucent glaze, which many find to be very appealing. And rightly so.
- Immense value proposition; fully non-toxic and is compatible with mixing
- Can be used as a standalone clear coat too
- Soft translucent glaze that is preferred by many on a standalone application
- Gloss level alteration with mixes is a bonus
7. DecoArt DS19-9 American DuraClear Varnishes
Now, to make it a little easier for the newcomers to varnishing, we have a varnish with which you can control the gloss levels simply by messing around with the number of layers—introducing the DS19-9 American DuraClear from DecoArt, our nominee for the best varnish for those just starting to experiment with this medium.
The winning feature of this varnish is that it is quite thin. What does that equate to? Well, for starters, we do not necessarily need to thin it down with other liquids or such.
Two, its thinness means that you have a much wider degree of control over how much glossiness you are expecting the varnish to deliver.
Simply pile on layers upon layers to achieve your desired level of glossiness. No hush, no fuss. Neat right? Do keep in mind that this varnish is more of a glaze than a sealer.
And as such, it is fairly non-toxic. Thus, if you have other projects lying around (like pottery), you can use this varnish on those as well.
- Simple, no-nonsense, beginner level varnish
- Quite thin, no need to water it down
- Thin enough that you get a greater degree of control
- More of a glaze than a sealant, fairly non-toxic
8. Pro-Art Golden Polymer Varnish 8Oz Gloss
Now, for our final product, we have a varnish that combines the best of ease of use, and non-toxic attributes, something that provides adequate dust protection as well.
Yep, we are going to be glancing over the Golden Polymer Varnish from Pro-Art. The varnish itself is water-based, and as such, it can be thinned down quite easily.
And the thinning must be done, given how thick it is from the get-go. Much thicker than its counterparts in the same price bracket. That is a pro in its favor, of course. It helps it to be that much more economical.
So, the purpose of this varnish is that of a sealant over your acrylic paint. It is thinned down, of course.
There are plenty of matting agents, thus thin down is required. To top it all off, the varnish is removable with a little ammonia. Nice.
- Adequate dust protection with non-toxic attributes
- Water-based and so can be thinned down quite easily
- A proper sealant, with multiple layers
- Removable for paint touch-ups, just with a little ammonia
Things to Consider before Buying Varnish for Acrylic Paint
You can’t just go into a store and blindly buy a varnish for your precious paintings, right? Of course not! So come and learn about varnishes in detail here so that you can protect your work in the best way possible.
Types of Application
There are two types of varnish applications you can go with. They are brush-on varnish and spray-on varnish.
With a spray-on varnish, you will definitely have less control over where it spreads.
But they are still preferred by many people because they are gentler than varnishes that have to put on using a brush.
Brush varnishes may also cause the foam to form on the surface of the paint, so in that regard, spray-on varnishes are a bit less risky.
However, you will have more control over the brush on varnishes. So, it really depends on your preference here.
Types of Varnish
Again, we have two types here - acrylic resin and acrylic polymer varnish.
- Acrylic Resin
These will give you a glossier finish on the painting. They are much clearer, and they bind very strongly to the paint.
But if you are using the acrylic resin, then you will have to apply an isolation coat on the painting first. This will make sure that the acrylic resin doesn’t make the colors go cloudy.
You will need to make the isolation coat yourself by mixing the acrylic resin varnish directly with water in the ratio 2:1.
Then apply the coat over the painting, let it dry, and finally, put the acrylic resin over it to have that clear finish on the acrylic painting.
Another thing to note is that these acrylic resin varnishes are toxic to your health, so you need to work in an open space and do the whole thing as quickly as you can so that you are not exposed to it for a long time.
- Acrylic Polymers
The number 1 reason people do not use the acrylic polymers is that, unlike the resin, polymers are not toxic at all. With these, you will also need to use an isolation coat.
Make the isolation coat by using water to dilute the polymers in the same way as you did with the acrylic resin, and then use it by following the same instructions.
Types of Finish
You may already know this, but there are three types of finishes. They are glossy, matte, and satin.
- Glossy Finish
These are mainly for paintings that have very vibrant colors. The glossy finish makes the colors pop and gives them a very alluring appearance when light falls on them.
But with these, there will be more glare on the painting when strong light falls on it. So that might be a reason to consider the other finishes.
- Satin and Matte Finishes
These finishes have some major similarities. They will both soften the colors a little bit. And they will also make sure that there is no glare on the painting even when it is viewed under strong light.
The only major difference between them is that the matte finish looks very flat and often lifeless, whereas the satin finish doesn’t look as flat or lifeless.
Satin is actually the middle ground between the glossy finish and the matte one.
How to Apply a Varnish to an Acrylic Painting
Make sure that your painting is absolutely dry before you lay it down for varnishing.
Otherwise, the wet bits of the paint will react with the varnish and completely muddle up your whole painting.
Take a fresh new cup and a clean new brush for the varnish alone.
Rinse the cup with water and then pour the chemical into it. Now rinse the brush with water before putting it into the cup.
Follow the instructions on the varnish bottle exactly to make a mix of the varnish with water. Keep it aside and now put the isolation coat on the painting.
Make a proper isolation coat by using a diluted solution of the acrylic gel medium.
Then brush the isolation coat mixture onto the painting very slowly and carefully so as to add the formation of any air bubbles on the paint.
After you have done this, leave the painting and let it dry completely before you touch it again.
Lay the painting completely flat on an even ground. Choose the place wisely, because you will need to leave the painting in that exact location until the varnish coat over it dries completely.
Once the painting has been positioned, take that brand new brush and dip it ⅓ parts into the varnish solution.
Take it out, tap off the excess, hold the brush at a slight angle, and very carefully start brushing the varnish onto the painting in even coats. Work in parallel lines.
Start from a clean corner and work your way to the very bottom of the painting without stopping before each stroke is finished.
Keep painting the varnish onto the surface. Once you are done, look at it from a low angle and check for any dry parts.
If there is a dry part, paint over it with that steady stroking gesture again.
Leave it to dry for as many hours as is recommended in the instructions on your varnish bottle.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here we have the most commonly asked queries regarding the best varnish for acrylic paints:
1. Do I need to apply multiple coats of varnish on my painting?
Two coats of varnish is a good idea to properly seal in all the colors of the painting.
2. How long do I need to wait between two coats of varnish?
It usually takes about 4 hours for the first single layer of varnish to dry. So that is the recommended waiting time.
3. Should I try out a test patch of varnish before doing the whole painting?
Yes, that is generally a good idea because, in that way, you can check how the varnish will alter the colors before you use it over your finished work.
4. What if external debris falls on the varnish layer?
If you see any dust particle or other debris on the layer, use your nails to lift it up carefully and remove it before it settles further into the varnish layer.
5. Why is it important to varnish paintings?
Varnishes help to protect the colors from the fading effects of UV rays, and it also prevents dust from falling on it and ruining its true luster.
If you have made a painting you like, you must protect it against the ravaging effects of time.
Varnishing is an absolute must, so buy the best varnish for acrylic paint once and for all, so that you can always keep your work in its best state.
With that said, we are signing off. Keep on painting!