How to Varnish or Seal an Acrylic Painting

How to seal a painting with acrylic varnish. A quick look at what to use when and how to varnish or seal an acrylic painting on canvas.

Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned artist, learning how to properly seal an acrylic painting is an important skill. Thankfully, sealing your painting is a straightforward process that anyone can do.

In this lesson, I will walk you through the steps of protecting your acrylic painting with a coat of acrylic varnish.

When done properly sealing will keep your painting beautiful for years and years.

paint brush with acrylic varnish on gray canvas surface

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There are varnishes and sealers sold in spray cans but I find they gum up easily and can leave droplets on the surface so I prefer the brush-on products.

Choose the Right Sealer

The first step in varnishing or sealing your acrylic painting is to choose the right product for the right surface.

When I am sealing a canvas painting I use a varnish such as the one in this tutorial.

Some of the paints I use have a sealer in them yet I like to seal the entire painting with the Liquitex High Gloss Varnish once the painting is completely dry.

There are many other products by reputable brands so take your choice. I have found that the Liquitex Varnish is easy, has a great finish, and is relatively budget-friendly.

I do want to interject here that there are many methods to seal an acrylic painting. I am just sharing how I do it.

Prepare Your Painting

Make sure your acrylic painting is dry and cured. Depending on the medium you may have used with your acrylic paint as you painted and how thick the layers of paint are, drying time can vary.

Varnishing over paint that may be dry on top yet not cured through could result in cracking, peeling, or other mishaps that you wish to avoid.

Your painting is dry?

Make sure your painting is done. Meaning, is there anything you wish to change or fix before sealing?

Varnishing is permanent, so make your changes before applying a varnish or sealer.

Great, now give it a good wipe with a soft clean cloth to make sure there is no dust or debris on the surface. This helps with better adhesion.

Apply the Varnish or Sealer of Choice

Now it’s time for the fun part: applying the sealer!

If you’re using varnish, pour a small amount onto the clean surface of your painting in the center.

Use a soft brush to spread it outward toward the edges going in one direction. I may start brushing horizontally first.

applying varnish to an acrylic painting, stroking horizontally with soft brush

You can also put the varnish into a clean dish to dip your brush into then apply but I find this method faster and easier. The choice is yours.

Apply to the entire painting.

Go around the outer edges to make sure none dripped over.

brushing around edges of acrylic painting with varnish

Let dry thoroughly according to instructions on the varnish you use. Different types may require different drying times between coats.

Add Second Coat to Seal Acrylic Painting

Some feel fine stopping with one coat but I like to be doubly sure of the protection varnish provides so two coats are my preference.

Two thin coats work better than one thick coat.

As I said before, let the first coat dry, it may take 12 hours or more. Apply the second coat of varnish the same way you did the first but stroke vertically instead of horizontally.

brushing varnish sealer onto an acrylic painting with vertical strokes

If that is confusing please see the step-by-step video below!

acrylic painting with a bottle of varnish and paint brush sitting in front of it on a white background

Want to learn how to Paint the Basket of Flowers?

beginner friendly

Paint a Basket of Flowers

Step-by-step instructions starting with how to paint a Basket. This tutorial is broken up into smaller lessons so you can paint along at your own pace.

Easily switch out the flowers with others already available on this site. Make it uniquely your own!

Important Note:

I like to varnish or seal several paintings at a time. I can let paintings sit once completed for a couple of weeks to dry and cure then take a couple of hours and seal several in a day.

Then I wait for the first coat to dry and plan another day to add the second coat or varnish.

Be aware that drying time for both the paint and the varnish can vary depending on temperature and humidity levels.

Please enjoy and share!

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