View Full Version : Acrylic varnishing?

05-21-2006, 09:34 PM
Hi all,

I've only varnished one of my canvases, so I don't know much about this... hoping you guys can help me with my current one!

I read somewhere that varnish will deepen the look of your colors, make the painting prettier, and so on. If it'll help, I'll do it, ha. :rolleyes:

So, what sort of varnish should I use?

I sprayed my other one with clear gloss varnish, and it came out... patchy, is the best way I can describe it. Thick here, thin there... not even sure I covered the whole canvas, even though I used the whole can. You can only see a difference by looking at it from the side.

So, should I use a paint-on varnish on this one? Will brush strokes show up? If so, any tips for smoothing it out?

Would you recommend matte or gloss varnish? I've been adding some gloss medium for blending while painting, not necessarily for the way it looks. Would this affect which varnish to use to make it look best? The paint surface is a bit bumpy, too... does that matter?

Very lost here! Sage advice, anyone?

Thanks so much!


Lady Carol
05-21-2006, 10:35 PM
I varnish with 2 coats of gloss medium to even out the gloss. I like gloss :D and then I varnish with 2 coats of Golden polymer varnish (gloss). This is diluted about 1:4 and I brush this on. The bumps don't matter but you don't want to generate too many bubbles i.e make it frothy on the canvas. I brush one coat in one direction and then the next coat across that.

I never had much success with the spray. Like you I was unable to get an even coat. I find the brush on variety works better for me.

05-21-2006, 11:46 PM
From what I've read, an acrylic painting should ALWAYS be varnished.
The dry acrylic paint film will have microscopic holes in it that dirt and moisture can get into. Also, even a fully dry paint surface will soften slightly when exposed to heat, and can become somewhat "tacky". I've had paintings that were several years old (not varnished), which were stored alongside some works on paper, and bits of the paper became stuck in the acrylic paint and could not be removed.
So, what I do now is: When a painting is finished, I apply a coat of acrylic gloss medium to the painting. This acts as an "isolation" coat between the actual painting and the varnish coat to follow. Once this is thoroughly dry, I apply 2 thin coats of a solvent-based varnish. I use Golden's mineral spirit archival varnish, which can be had in matte, gloss, or satin finish. I personally prefer the spray variety, as I get a more even application with no chance of introducing bubbles with a brush. This varnish can be removed with mineral spirits at some future date for restoration purposes. Since mineral spirits will also dissolve acrylic paint to some extent, the "isolation" coat I mentioned before is essential. It will act as a buffer of sorts during future removal of the varnish, and help protect the actual paint surface from being damaged.
Hope this helps.

05-22-2006, 01:16 AM
Excellent suggestions from Carol and Steve. :clap:

05-22-2006, 04:56 AM
If you go to the sites for some of the paint manufacturers, you may find articles on varnishing. I know that Golden paints has an excellent article on it and Liquitex also has a good article.


go to the search box and type in varnish. Loads of good articles out there.

05-26-2006, 10:07 AM
I didn't want to open a new thread so I hope I'll get an answer here :)

How does glossy varnish look like? I mean, does it reflect the light more?

05-26-2006, 10:37 AM
I think the best way to describe it is as a jewel like quality to the surface.