Varnish Your Acrylic Painting Professionally

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If you’re painting in acrylics, you may have noticed that your painting has varying degrees of shiny and dull areas.

This can depend on the color you’re using, the amount of medium or water you add to the paint and the amount of over-painting you do.

To give your painting an even finish, you need to give it a final coat or two of varnish to even out the quality of the surface appearance.

You can choose from several different finishes that include matte, satin and gloss. It’s also possible to mix your own level of sheen by combining two or more of these products for a custom finish.

What Kind Of Varnish Should I Use?

Most art supply manufacturers produce their own acrylic varnish and you can use a different brand varnish over any acrylic painted surface. There are permanent, archival varnishes as well as removable varnish.

For this discussion we’ll focus on a single brand and type of varnish, but the information can be used with any type or brand of acrylic finishing product. As you become more experienced with different brands of varnish and try out the various sheens, you’ll most likely feel most comfortable with one brand over another and prefer a particular sheen for the majority of your work.

For the most part, the brand and degree of shine you use is a personal preference. There’s no best brand and one sheen isn’t more desirable than another. So, spend some time trying out the various brands and finishes to find the one that’s best for you and your work.

Liquitex Professional Gloss Varnish

Liquitex Professional Gloss Varnish, 8-oz by Reeves ASIN: B001US2NY2

Liquitex has produced acrylic products for many years. This company has long been considered a staple on the palettes of many art students and professionals. Their pricing is moderate and the quality of their products is consistently good.

Liquitex Professional Varnish is available in several sheens and sizes. The gloss varnish is probably the most popular, but both the matte and satin finishes work equally well.

Varnishing medium protects a painting from dirt and other air-borne pollutants. It also protects the pigment from damaging UV rays. It also unifies the surface sheen of the work and can make the painting shinier or tone it down to a matte finish.

Liquitex Permanent Varnish is a durable, water-based product that is low-odor, applies translucent when wet and dries to a clear, resilient finish when dry. It also is non-yellowing and will not fog up in humidity, heat or UV light. The surface is hard and flexible and dries to a non-tacky, water resistant surface. Liquitex Permanent Varnish can be used in both interior and exterior applications.

How Do I Apply An Acrylic Varnish?

Your painting must be thoroughly dry before coating it with any permanent finish. Not only does the paint need to dry, it also needs time to cure. Generally, an acrylic painting is ready for varnish after 48 to 72 hours. This will vary, of course, on the thickness of your paint.

You should protect your painting while it’s drying against dust, pet hair or other air-borne particulates. If you have the space, stand it against a wall with the painted side facing inward. You can also lightly drape the painting with a clean cloth when the paint is no longer tacky. The main thing is to keep the painting clean.

When you’re ready to varnish your painting, gently wipe it with a clean, dry lint-free cloth or a dust it with a clean dry brush to remove any errant dirt or grit.
You can brush or spray Liquitex Professional Varnish. For the thinnest, smoothest coating, use an airbrush. If that’s not possible, use a brush and apply sparingly and carefully. It’s not a good idea to use a paint roller or a sponge to apply your varnish. The ambient temperature should be above 60 degrees, as acrylic mediums become brittle in cold conditions.

Keep Your Varnish Supplies Separate

No matter how well you clean your painting supplies, there always seems to be a stubborn bit of paint that just won’t go away. It’s a good idea to keep a separate set of brushes and water containers that are used only for applying your finish varnish.

You’ve taken special pains to keep your painting dust free. Why run the risk of winding up with a big old flake of dried paint that pops free from the ferrule of an old paintbrush you’re using to apply your varnish?

Keep a set of brushes and a water container stashed away with your varnish supplies and only take them out for their intended use. Be sure to rinse out both the brush and container before using them to remove any dust that may have settled on them between uses.

How To Apply Finishing Varnish

It’s best to lay the painting flat on a work table so you don’t have any danger of running globs of varnish. However, you then need to be careful to apply the varnish sparingly to avoid varnish puddles.

Place the painting on a flat surface, but prop the support on a few low blocks to prevent it from making contact with the table. This prevents any drips from sticking the painting back to the table cover.

Use a large brush and start in one corner of the painting. Use parallel strokes and apply a uniform coating of the film to the surface of the painting. If you’re working on stretched canvas and the sides will be exposed, make sure to varnish them as well.

When you’ve completed the first coat, examine the surface at an angle to see if there are any areas you’ve missed or aren’t as shiny as the rest of the surface. You should also keep an eye out for any bits of debris. Pick theses out carefully with a toothpick, dental pick or other fine-pointed too.

The first coat should be dry in three to four hours. If you’re not happy with the uniformity of the finish, apply another coat. Paint this second coat perpendicular to the first layer of varnish to keep the surface even.

Give your painting a chance to dry well to avoid marring the surface of the varnish. If you do have a problem, you can easily touch up spots that aren’t perfect. Now your painting should have an all-over glow that unifies the layers of paint. This final step goes a long way to giving your work a professional look and also ensures your painting is safe from the daily risks of dirt, UV rays and greasy fingertips.

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