Top 5 Best Varnishes For Acrylic Paintings

Ian Mutuli
Updated on
Ian Mutuli

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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When choosing the best varnish for acrylic paintings, you want to choose one that won't affect your beautiful painting. There are several types of varnishes you can choose from. We'll cover these later on in the article so that you can make the best decision for which acrylic varnish you need.

You need to choose if you want a brush-on varnish (liquid varnish) or a spray varnish for starters. Both of these options have their advantages, as we'll see later on. You should also decide if you want an acrylic polymer varnish or an acrylic resin varnish.

The last decision is if you want a glossy, satin, or matte varnish. Don't worry; we'll look at all of these options in more detail later on. But, first, let's look at the best varnishes for your acrylic painting.

Which is the Best Varnish for Acrylic Painting?

1. Liquitex Gloss Varnish

Liquitex High Gloss Varnish-8oz, 8oz, 8 Fl Oz
  • Archival; Permanent; Non-Removable; Gloss finish
  • Lightweight, non-toxic; Dries to a non-tacky, hard, flexible...
  • Includes 8-oz / 237ml bottle of medium
  • Intermixable with Liquitex Professional Acrylic Paint Colors and...
  • Conforms to ASTM D4236; Safe for educational use

Kicking off our list is this best varnish for acrylic paintings that will protect your acrylic painting from environmental factors such as ultraviolet rays and dust. After applying this varnish, your acrylic painting will have a glossy look and will reflect light beautifully. This acrylic varnish is durable, permanent, and has a very low odor.

You'll love that Liquitex High Gloss Varnish dries clear once you are done applying it over your acrylic paints. In addition, this Liquitex Gloss Varnish will be felt with its shiny glow, unlike the satin and matte varnishes. You also don't have to worry about discoloration as this glossy varnish is resistant to discoloration caused by humidity, heat, or ultraviolet light.

Some acrylic paints you can use these glossy varnishes on include spray paint, heavy body paint, and soft body paint. Once it's dry, this glossy varnish is flexible, resistant to dirt retention, non-tacky, and hard.

You can use this Liquitex High Gloss Varnish on a painting surface that is indoors and one that is outdoors.


  • Water-resistant.
  • Non-toxic and safe to use.
  • Lightweight.
  • Hard and flexible.
  • Non-tacky.
  • Easy to apply.


  • May cause some paintings to yellow.
  • Slightly more expensive than the rest.

2. Krylon Gloss Spray Varnish

Krylon K01305 Gallery Series Artist and Clear Coatings...
  • The item is not returnable
  • Protects against harmful UV light rays
  • Non-yellowing, permanent coating
  • Moisture resistant
  • Dries in minutes

This gloss spray varnish will protect your lovely paintbrush strokes. As a spray-on gloss spray, it's very easy to apply to your canvas paintings. If you don't have time to apply a brush-on varnish like the Golden MSA varnish, this glossy varnish will come in handy.

The best part is that you don't have to use a varnishing brush. Krylon is one of the varnish brands producing high-quality varnish that will protect your oil paintings and acrylic ones from UV rays and other environmental elements. You can also use this particular varnish as a protective coating.

Acrylic artists can use this particular varnish on canvas, plastic, metal, and more. Within 10 minutes, this spray varnish will have drained and left a premium coverage protective finish. In addition, the colors on the acrylic paint will jump out vibrantly.


  • Protects your acrylic paint from UV rays.
  • Does not drip or run.
  • Easy to apply.
  • Offers your acrylic painting a protective finish.
  • Does not yellow.
  • Moisture-resistant.


  • Unsuitable for wood surfaces.

3. Aleene’s Spray Matte Finish

Aleene's 26413 Spray Matte Finish 6oz Acrylic Sealer,...
  • Acrylic sealer spray provide a protective, clear finish
  • Give a glossy luster to virtually any indoor or outdoor project
  • A durable protective finish
  • Spray on formula goes on simply and evenly
  • Contains no cfcs-in accordance with federal regulations

We've gotten to the matte varnish that you've been waiting for. Sometimes you don't want your acrylic painting to look too bright. This is where satin and matte varnishes come in. Varnishing Acrylic paintings offer protection and also give your art the finish you want.

Whether you have oil paintings or acrylic ones, you want your artwork to look and feel the way you want it. This matte varnish can help you with that. Even a thin layer of this matting agent will give your acrylic painting a protective finish with some glossy luster.

This durable finish will make your acrylic painting come to life and stay that way for a very, very long time. This spray goes on easily and evenly and will be dry within no time. Another great thing about these acrylic varnishes is that they don't contain any chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). So you can use this spray on your oil painting knowing that it is safe to use.

Unless you undertake any varnish removal, you can expect this best varnish for acrylic paintings to protect your art without yellowing. However, if your works of art are constantly exposed to environmental elements, this final varnish is for.


  • Durable.
  • Protects your paintings for years.
  • Leaves a glossy luster.
  • Goes on evenly and simply.
  • Dries in a beautiful matte.
  • Non-yellowing.


  • Dries too fast.

4. Sargent Art Acrylic Gloss and Varnish

Sargent Art 22-8808 16-Ounce Acrylic Gloss and Varnish
  • AP certified; non-toxic and safe
  • Dries to a permanent, waterproof, protective finish
  • Mix with acrylic paint or use as a clear coat
  • Acid free
  • Made in USA

This best varnish for acrylic paintings is safe, AP-certified, and non-toxic. You can use it indoors without much worry for your safety. Your acrylic paint will stay protected from the elements with a few brush strokes or some thick layers of this high gloss finish.

Different varnishing techniques will give you different results. Nonetheless, this varnish will give you a glossy surface and make your colors bright. This protective layer and durable surface are also waterproof. This non-yellowing varnish will enhance the depth of your color and show different dimensions of your art.

When applying varnish, you can mix this gloss varnish with a matte or satin varnish to get a dynamic result. This varnish for your acrylic paint is acid-free and will not damage your work. Just like the Golden Acrylic Polymer Varnish, this varnish will protect your painting.


  • Waterproof.
  • Protects your acrylic painting.
  • Dries fast.
  • Acid-free, which doesn't damage your work.
  • Non-toxic.


  • Not suitable to apply multiple layers.
  • Can freeze in cold water.

5. Liquitex BASICS Matte Varnish

Liquitex BASICS Matte Varnish, 250ml
  • Permanent matte varnish used to protect finished paintings
  • Matte varnish can be mixed with gloss varnish to vary the final...
  • Dries to a clear, non-yellowing finish
  • Best applied with a large soft brush
  • ACMI certified. Conforms to ASTM d4236; safe for educational use

You may like this matte varnish if you don't like those shiny reflections that come with a glossy finish. This Liquitex varnish is easy to apply and dries to a clear finish. You can also mix these Liquitex varnishes with golden varnishes or any other glossy option for a different look.

A good artist varnishes their work to reflect their soul and make each acrylic color stand out. This Liquitex pouring medium is great to use when you want to protect your artwork. Your art will be protected from any ultraviolet light, dust, and other elements.

This final coat of varnish is permanent and will lock in the acrylic color on your painting. The best way to apply this acrylic varnish is with a large soft brush. Your acrylic painting will stay protected from the elements for a long time.


  • Protects your acrylic painting.
  • Easy to apply.
  • Affordable.
  • Can be used with a gloss varnish.


  • Leaves brush marks.

What Are the Types of Varnish for An Acrylic Painting?

1. Acrylic Resin Varnish vs. Acrylic Polymer Varnish

a). Acrylic Resin Varnish

Acrylic resin varnishes are typically glossier, clearer, and stronger than acrylic polymer varnishes. Therefore, if you want your acrylic painting to have a high-gloss finish, use the acrylic resin varnish.

One thing to note is that you should always use an isolation coat over your acrylic painting before putting on the varnish. This protects your beautiful work of art from getting altered. Also, the isolation coat is extremely important when you're applying a satin or matte varnish.

You can make the isolation coat using two parts of your varnish of choice and one part of water. Once the isolation coat is well-dried, you can start applying the varnish. If you don't apply this coating and then apply a satin or matte varnish, you may get a slightly cloudy finish.

A disadvantage of using acrylic resin varnishes is that they are harmful if inhaled. Therefore, always ensure that you are working in a properly ventilated area. Use mineral spirits to clean your brush once you're done to thin the varnish and clean it off.

b). Acrylic Polymer Varnish

The best thing about these varnishes is that they are non-toxic. So you don't have to worry about inhaling toxic fumes as you work. Just as with the resin varnish above, apply the isolation coat if you intend to use a satin or matte varnish.

Another perk of acrylic polymer varnishes is that you can easily wash your brushes using soap and water.

2. Gloss, Satin, or Matte Varnish

a). Gloss Varnish

If you want your finished painting to have a shiny and glossy finish, go with this varnish. This glossy finish brings out the colors in your painting and makes your whole piece brighten up. Also, you'll notice the reflections from light hitting the surface.

b). Satin Varnish

You could say that the satin finish is the middle ground between the glossy finish and the matte finish. When you apply varnish to your acrylic painting, you'll notice that it gains a satiny appearance.

It won't be as glossy as the one above but not flat either. Both the satin varnish and matte varnish soften the colors on your painting. Use satin varnishes for a clean and cool satin finish.

c). Matte Varnish

Matte finishes are flat and the opposite of the gloss varnishes. Your acrylic painting canvas won't have the same shine as the glossy finish, but it won't be dull either. It will just look flat. If you have a bright color painting and you want to give it a softer effect, use this varnish.

If you don't want either of these finishes, in particular, you can always layer them or mix up the varnishes to get the look you want. For example, satin and matte varnishes can go well together.

What Are Advantages of Varnishing An Acrylic Painting?

1. Saturates the Colors

Deepening the colors on the painting is a major reason why varnishing acrylic paintings is important. For example, using a varnish that leaves a glossy surface can make your colors look brighter and your painting pop.

Your painting will have a permanent enrichment of its colors. The truth is that most paintings end up looking dull after the wet surface dries. A good resin-based varnish or another varnish can keep this from happening.

2. Gives an Even Gloss/Satin/Matte Finish

We looked at the various types of varnishes and their effect on your artwork. You can also mix up these different finishes to get one that suits you best. You can also choose to apply different varnishes in various areas.

If you have bright colors and don't want them to pop too much, you can use the matte varnishes. Remember to apply the isolation coat first. This allows you to easily remove and replace your varnish when the time comes without ruining your painting.

Nonetheless, if you have an oil painting, you don't have to apply an isolation coat before your resin or polymer varnish.

3. Protects Your Painting

Last but not least, we have one of the major reasons you should apply a layer of varnish. If you have used acrylic or oil paint, you know that acrylic paint is quite soft. Therefore, if the surface of your painting is not completely dry and you dab it with your finger, you risk disturbing it.

Therefore, protecting this surface with a good water-resistant varnish will add an extra layer of protection. You also get to protect your painting from ultraviolet light, dust, heat, humidity, dirt, and other environmental factors.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What does an isolation coat do?

An isolation coat physically separates your painted surface from the varnish you're applying. It keeps the varnish and paint layers separate. The advantage of applying this coating is that your acrylic painting will remain protected if you wish to remove the varnish down the line.

The isolation coat also protects your acrylic painting from the solvents you'll use to remove the varnish.

2. How long does acrylic varnish last?

Depending on the type and quality of varnish, it lasts about 12 months. Nonetheless, if you feel the need to add another coating for protection, you can always do that. You can apply another coat every 8-12 months, depending on the state of the previous coating. 

Ian Mutuli

About the author

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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