Acrylics, to varnish or not to varnish?
Ask Jacksons: Acrylics, to varnish or not to varnish?
Acrylic forms a water-resistant and reasonably durable film once dry, however, there are many reasons why it is a good idea to varnish your acrylic painting. It provides protection from dust and dirt which can accumulate on the surface, as well as protecting against scratches and other surface damage which is of particular importance if you are exhibiting your work. Without a varnish to harden the surface, acrylic dries slightly soft meaning marks and dirt can be embedded. Many varnishes offer UV protection which can help prevent your paint from fading (although remember if you do not use lightfast pigments, fading over time is inevitable no matter which varnish you use). On top of the practical reasons, it provides a unifying, uniform finish.
Choosing whether to use a gloss, satin or matt varnish is an aesthetic choice, like any other part of the painting process.
Remember to wait until the acrylic painting is completely dry before varnishing. Varnishing too soon can cause moisture to be trapped underneath the varnish layer, causing a cloudy effect. Acrylic paint can be touch dry very quickly, but it can take longer to cure than you might expect. Depending on the thickness of your paint, it can take up to a month for an acrylic painting to be ready for varnishing but we recommend waiting for a minimum of six weeks to be sure.
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