View Full Version : varnish or not

04-09-2007, 05:53 PM
When you finish an acrylic painting do you have to varnish it before framing?


Katie D
04-09-2007, 07:57 PM
No, never do.

04-09-2007, 08:03 PM
this just came up in a class too. There is no "have to" but many people do to protect the painting. And others don't (I think Picasso hated varnish and never used it) since it will affect the way the painting looks. I hardly ever do, and if, only to even out glossy and matte areas on a painting. My teacher also never does, she has custom paints made by golden, and a varnish would destroy their look (silky matte). Varnish is mostly a protective cover which can be removed if it really gets dirty w/o lifting off the paint itself. You can change the look of your painting by going gloss or matte or semi and gloss might make the colors pop more. That's something you just have to try on a sample.

But you do not HAVE to do it, and you can always varnish in the future if you think you want to.

Old paintings definitely benefit if they have varnish, but they used to hang in rooms illuminated by candles and torches with people smoking and what not.

Also, since acrylics is basically plastic, I'd even guess that you can wash dirt off with a very soft rag and some gentle soap? Just a guess though.


04-09-2007, 08:06 PM
Oliver, if one does varnish to even out the glossy and matte areas, what do you recommend using? If I use an in-between satin varnish, would that be best? I don't particularly want glossy, I just don't like it when part of the painting shines and part doesn't. Would a matte finish dull down the glossy parts?

04-09-2007, 09:41 PM
I do varnish and I use a Liquitex brand Matte varnish actually because I prefer the finish. It does help even out the finished work and does help make the colors pop. I paint in thin layers and was told once by my instructor that the final varnish is just like one more layer to add another dimension to the painting. It works for me. :)

Lady Carol
04-09-2007, 10:05 PM
No, never do.
You should be varnishing. It helps to protect the soft acrylic paint from dust which can become embedded in the plastic. And it looks better if varnished too.

04-09-2007, 10:15 PM
I agree with Carol. Acrylic can be rather sticky depending on the humidity. Varnish isn't sticky from my experience and it's easier to dust, and if things get really bad, it can be removed and applied again (although I've never done it myself, and you need to use removable varnish). I like the even finish too. I like my paintings to look as if they are oil paintings. Not that I'm ashamed of acrylics, but there are still a lot of people out there that prefer oils for the way they look.

04-10-2007, 02:34 AM
I always varnish my acrylic paintings. I think it gives them a finished look. I use a satin finish called Final Coat. You wipe it on with a lint-free cloth. It dries almost immediately. You'll never have bubbles with Final Coat.

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04-10-2007, 08:50 AM
I always varnish to protect the painting, and a good quality varnish adds depth.

04-10-2007, 09:44 AM
Hi Howie...I really do not feel that I am exactly qualified to offer advice...I can only speak from my own limited experience. BUT..I like a high gloss varnish for my acrylic paintings. One reason is that I use a variety of acrylic paints (some of which do not have a shiny application) and would end up with varying degrees of shine..and NO shine. This morning I was comparing two paintings exactly the same that I had done by request...one was varnished..the other not..NO comparison! The colours in the varnished one looked so much richer and vibrant. Just my two cents!....Molly

04-12-2007, 07:28 AM
I agree with Carol...you should varnish your paintings. :)

04-12-2007, 07:34 AM
yes another varnisher here. I did not do it for some time then I read that the finished Acrylic has a microporus surface which is where the dust and contaminants can gather, I also like the added depth you get.