This is a tricky one. It’s a personal choice. If you’re working on a piece you want to keep, showcase or preserve, we always recommend varnishing acrylic paint. All artwork – acrylic or otherwise - will benefit from physical protection from knocks and dirt, plus an extra layer of UV-light protection – similar to the final clear topcoat on car bodywork. When you’ve spent hours on a piece, you want it to look its best for as long as possible and that’s what varnishing delivers.

Acrylic varnish also adjusts and unifies the surface sheen, boosts brightness and color saturation. It helps bring out the best in the work and gives it a visual ‘pop’. However, you may decide you want a different visual effect, so you can take that into consideration when determining whether not to varnish a piece.

There’s a type of varnish for how you like to work, and each is easy to use. Permanent or removable. Paint-on or spray on. There’s matte, satin or gloss finishes too. To apply varnish efficiently, we recommend taking the following steps. First, ensure that the painting is fully dry. Wait 72 hours up to 2 weeks depending on the thickness of your paint application:

  • Lay artwork flat
  • A wide soft brush is best
  • Slowly stir varnish
  • Apply top to bottom, working across the piece
  • Use long even strokes
  • Even out any bubbles immediately
  • Avoid going over an area more than once
  • Wait 24 hours to apply a second coat

Discover more information to help you select and apply a varnish in our Varnishing Guide.