How to Varnish for Acrylic Paintings?

Varnish for Acrylic Painting

The application of varnish is a step just as crucial for your paintwork as the painting itself. This final phase should not be neglected if you want to have lasting and quality work. Suppose vanishing can be skipped when working with other paints such as oil paint. In that case, varnishing is necessary with acrylic paint, especially when working with materials such as metal (which is prone to rust) and glass (which is nonporous and wouldn’t stick to the paint). That’s why you need to get a varnish for acrylic paint.

However, it is essential to know the role of the varnish, to know which one to choose according to the technique used, and also to know how to apply it. In this article, we’ll cover everything from the types of acrylic paint sealant, how to choose one, and how to apply it. But first, what is the best varnish for acrylic painting?

Our Picks

 Product   Why is Best for You
Editor’s ChoiceLiquitex Professional Gloss Varnish  Why it’s our editor’s choice, The Liquitex varnish is a gloss varnish for acrylic paint. The seal is developed for private and professional users. The gloss varnish can be inter-mixed with Liquitex acrylic paints and mediums. Also, it is inexpensive, can be used on various types of surfaces, and can be layered up to three times.
Best BudgetMod Podge CS11302Why it’s the best budget product Sold for less than $10, our best budget for acrylic paint sealants is the Mod Podge. It’s not just a budget sealant. It’s one of the most sold paint sealants on the market. This acrylic sealer dries quickly and works on different surfaces, from wood to paper, canvas, terra cotta, and more.

What is Acrylic Paint Varnish?

An acrylic paint varnish is a non-pigmented preparation (that is to say, transparent) consisting of binder (often found in acrylic resin varnish) and solvent (gasoline, alcohol, etc.). It is applied in the final phase, in the very last step before completing a job. Its two main functions are protection and creating a beautiful finish.

Type of Varnish

There are various types of varnishes that work for acrylic paint. Some of these are:

  • Matte varnish

Matte varnish is mainly used when the canvas is exposed to intense light. It helps prevent unwanted light reflections on the canvas. The matte finish, on the other hand, tends to desaturate colors and bleach black paints. Finally, it can be interesting to use it to give a retro style to your work.

  • Gloss varnish

A gloss varnish adds sparkle to your colors. It protects against outdoor weather and makes cleaning easier. When used to make a selective varnish, it allows a chosen element to be in the foreground. On the other hand, when exposed near a window or a light, unwanted reflections will affect the appearance of the canvas.

  • Satin varnish

Satin varnish is a good choice for sealing acrylic because it allows you to maintain the brilliance of your colors while limiting the formation of reflections on the canvas.

It is possible to do tests by mixing different varnish finishes to obtain the ideal finish according to your needs.

  • Spray varnish

Spray varnish is ideal for works made with mixed media. As gluing objects and adding textures can build varnish in the cracks, it is best to use a finishing spray for acrylic painting. In addition, it prevents the formation of brush marks. Spray varnish is available in several finishes.

How to varnish for Acrylic Painting

Applying varnish is an easy task. However, we advise also priming the surface before painting and then varnishing. Here are the steps to applying varnishing to your painting.

Step 1: Apply a protective layer

Regardless of the type of varnish chosen, it is essential to apply a protective layer beforehand. Why? If the varnish turns yellow over time or to remove it, this first application will protect the paint.

  • To do this, dilute two parts of Golden Soft Gel Gloss Medium in one part of water.
  • Apply the medium with a brush.
  • Let dry completely before applying your first coat of varnish.

Step 2: Apply the varnish

Next, you can apply the varnish. However, there are two general types of varnishing: spray varnish and varnish applied with a brush.

How to apply the varnish with a brush?

  • First, pour the varnish directly onto the canvas. 
  • Without wasting time, spread the varnish by making the first pass from top to bottom and then from left to right.
  • To apply the varnish properly, put your brush as horizontal as possible and apply it delicately without putting pressure on the brush. Make sure it’s everywhere!
  • Apply another layer of varnish. Be careful, if the varnish has already started to dry, do not go over it with the brush. For best results, it is recommended to make several thin coats.
  • Leave to dry for about an hour between each coat. To protect your brush, wrap it in a damp cloth between each coat.

How to apply the spray varnish?

  • First of all, clean the canvas well with a cloth to remove dust residues.
  • Shake the spray can well before spraying.
  • At a distance of about 25 to 30 cm from the canvas, spray from left to right starting from the outside and ending towards the center.
  • For best results, it is recommended to apply several layers.
  • Leave to dry for about an hour between each coat.
  • It is important to use spray varnish for acrylic paintings in a well-ventilated area. Read the instructions carefully before starting.

Clear Coat or Varnish?

If you want to buy acrylic paint, then you have two options: clear coat or varnish. Here you can decide which material you want to use.

However, there are a few things that you should pay attention to when using materials in combination with acrylic paint.

Clear coat

Clear varnish is suitable for furniture and the like that have been treated with acrylic that is outdoors. The sealing prevents bumps and scratches.

Make sure, however, that you use a clear coat that does not contain solvents. Since solvent destroys the binding agent of the acrylic paint, you should only use it in combination with a solvent-free clear lacquer.


Varnish is available in different forms. The seal can be glossy, matt, or neutral, for example. Choose the type that you like best, and that goes with your furniture.

Varnish primarily protects your acrylic paint from moisture and heavy soiling. The material makes the surface smooth and also strengthens the color of the acrylic.

3 Best Varnish for Acrylic Painting Reviews

As in any category of varnishing products, there are perfect sealants and very average ones. With the increasing amount of products on the market, we have decided to help you handpick the three best models and review them.

Liquitex Professional Gloss Varnish


  • Permanent
  • Gloss finish
  • Non-removable
  • Non-toxic

Perhaps the best varnish for acrylic paintings on the market is the Liquitex gloss varnish. It is an acrylic seal developed for private and professional users. The gloss varnish can be inter-mixed with Liquitex acrylic paints and Mediums.

This acrylic seal can be layered up to three times. This means that after the first layer has flashed off, you can apply another layer. Thus, the protection and the deep shine are further intensified.

After the last layer, the sealant should be allowed to harden completely in about two hours. Or, if you want to be on the safe side, it is best to leave the painted material or car parked overnight.

Liquitex can be used not only on paint but also on glass, metal, and unpainted plastic. As expected from an acrylic sealer, Liquitex has offered your materials comprehensive protection against all kinds of environmental influences for years.


  • For indoor and outdoor use
  • Non-yellowing
  • Translucent when wet, transparent and permanent when dry
  • Beautiful glossy finish
  • Safe for educational use
  • Lightweight and durable


  • Not recommended for food contact materials such as ceramics
  • Not removable

Mod Podge CS11302


  • Glue and finish
  • Waterbase sealer
  • Matte sealer

Our best budget for acrylic paint sealants is the Mod Podge. It’s one of the most sold paint sealants on the market. This multipurpose sealer is an acrylic sealer that dries quickly. It’s a varnish for acrylic paint on canvas, wood, paper, canvas, terra cotta, and more. It’s easy to clean and was made in the US.

Because it is quick to dry, you can use it for multiple coat buildups. It dries clear and can be cleaned with water and soap. It is a water-based sealer that is certified to be AP nontoxic.

The sealer is dishwasher safe. You can also easily remove it to reapply another sealant after some months or years. This is because you can sand the Mod Podge smoothly. To the layer where you have the paint. It’s ideal for adding dimensional designs to your projects.


  • Good varnish for acrylic paint on wood, metal, and more
  • Dries quickly and allows multiple layers
  • Adheres well and dries clear
  • Nontoxic sealant
  • Easy to use


  • None found

Sonax Polymer Net Shield


  • Hydrophobic formula
  • Lasts up to 6 months
  • Wax-free

This is our choice of the best spray varnish for acrylic paintings. Not only does the Polymer Netshield from Sonax have a service life of 6 months, but it also offers excellent sealing behavior. It is also easy to use and very inexpensive. Not many other paint sealants on the market offer comparable performance for such a low price.

The polymer sealer can be used to protect a vehicle’s paint surface. The bodywork sealant is easy to apply and dries quickly. It gives vehicles ultraviolet protection. The components of the sealing polymer are free from wax. The varnish is durable and can last for close to 6 months regardless of the type of weather.


  • 6 months service life
  • Also suitable as a plastic seal
  • Ideal for beginners
  • Cheap price
  • Easy processing


  • Not slick enough and grippy


Does Acrylic Paint Need Varnish Top Coat?

You should know that the varnish adds intensity, shine to your colors, and allows better protection of the paint. In addition, acrylic paint varnish protects against dirt, dust, temperature changes, and sometimes even UV rays. However, it should be considered that this type of product is quite expensive and some works do not need this finish.

How Long Does It Take for Varnish to Dry on Acrylic Painting?

Varnishes take between three to 6 hours to dry. However, this depends on the layers of coat you put. Two to three layers of varnish coating will be required to seal your paintwork correctly, and you would have to let each coat dry before reapplying.


Varnishing acrylic paint is not very easy. Most varnishes dry very quickly, so you have to act quickly. There are various types of varnishes to choose from. These include matte, gloss, satin, and spray varnishes. The Mod Podge is the bestselling sealant on the market, is cheap, and is therefore recommendable. Whichever one you choose, we hope you will be able to apply it yourself on your paint and have a lasting finish.

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