How To Varnish My Spray Paint? Mastering the Art of Varnishing

The Ultimate Guide to Varnishing Spray-Painted Surfaces. Dive into the world of varnishing and discover how to transform your spray-painted projects into durable, eye-catching masterpieces.

Whether you’re a seasoned artist or a home DIY aficionado, our expert guide offers step-by-step instructions and pro tips to elevate the durability and appeal of your creations.

Join us on this journey to uncover the art of perfect varnishing, ensuring your work stands the test of time with a touch of elegance.

Follow these 8 steps to make the work easy.

  • Use Colored or Tinted Varnishes: Add a unique hue to alter the spray paint color subtly.
  • Experiment with Textured Varnishes: Try crackle or high-gloss finishes for artistic effects.
  • Layer Different Types of Varnishes: Create depth and character by layering various varnishes.
  • Incorporate Stencils in Varnishing: Apply varnish through stencils for patterned effects.
  • Mix Varnish with Glitter or Pigments: Add sparkle or iridescence to the varnish for a shimmering effect.
  • Varnish with Embedded Objects: Embed small objects like leaves or thin metal pieces into the varnish for a 3D effect.
  • Use a Matte Finish on Glossy Paint (or Vice Versa): Contrast the varnish finish with the paint finish for visual interest.
  • Create a Distressed Look: Selectively sand areas after varnishing for a vintage or distressed appearance.

Types of Varnishes and Their Properties

Type of VarnishFinishDurabilityIdeal Use CasesDrying TimeAdditional Notes
PolyurethaneGlossy, Semi-Gloss, SatinVery HighFurniture, Floors, Outdoor Projects6-24 hoursResistant to water, chemicals, and heat.
AcrylicMatte, GlossyMediumArtwork, Crafts, Indoor Furniture1-2 hoursWater-based, low odor, easy cleanup.
Spar VarnishGlossy, SatinHighExterior Doors, Boats, Outdoor Furniture24-48 hoursFast-drying can be polished for a high shine.
LacquerUltra-GlossyHighMusical Instruments, Cabinets15-30 minutesFast-drying, can be polished for a high shine.
ShellacGlossy, SatinMediumAntique Furniture, Fine Woodwork1-2 hoursNatural product, easy to repair, non-toxic.
AlkydGlossy, Semi-GlossHighGeneral Woodworking, Doors, Trim6-8 hoursOil-based, more durable than natural varnishes.
Water-BasedVariousMediumKid’s Furniture, Eco-Friendly Projects2-6 hoursLow-VOC, non-yellowing, quick drying.

Preparation for Varnishing: A Comprehensive Guide

How to varnish my spray paint
Image Credit: Family Handy Man

1. Choosing the Right Varnish

  • Types of Varnishes and Their Properties:
    • Matte: Offers a non-reflective finish, ideal for furniture and surfaces subjected to frequent touch.
    • Satin: Provides a medium sheen, versatile for various applications.
    • Glossy: High reflective quality, perfect for art pieces and decorative items.
  • Selection Criteria: Based on aesthetics and functionality.

2. Preparing the Painted Surface

  • Drying Time Assessment: Ensuring complete dryness, which varies by paint type (typically ranging from a few hours to a day).
  • Surface Sanding: Light sanding with fine-grit sandpaper to improve varnish adhesion.

3. Necessary Tools and Materials

  • Fine-grit Sandpaper
  • Lint-free Cloth
  • High-Quality Brush or Varnish Spray
  • Selected Varnish

Step-by-Step Varnishing Process

  • Surface Cleaning: Critical to remove dust, grease, and debris.
  • Application of the First Coat: Thin and even application, following the grain.
  • Drying and Reapplication: Adhering to recommended drying times, followed by light sanding between coats.
  • Final Coat Application: Ensuring an even and smooth finish.

5. Tips for a Perfect Finish

  • Environmental Considerations: Managing temperature and humidity for optimal drying.
  • Common Mistakes: Avoid overly thick coats and insufficient drying time.
  • Achieving Smoothness: Sanding between coats and using quality application tools.

Advanced Techniques and Considerations

  1. Customizing Varnish for Special Effects:
    • Tint Mixing: Add tints to varnish for subtle color enhancements.
    • Distressing Techniques: Apply post-varnishing for an antique or aged appearance.
    • Layering: Experiment with different varnish types for unique textures.
    • Gloss and Matte Combination: Mix finishes for contrasting effects.
  2. Safety Precautions in Varnishing:
    • Ventilation: Ensure a well-ventilated area to mitigate fume inhalation.
    • Protective Gear: Use gloves and masks to protect against dust and chemical exposure.
    • Safe Disposal: Follow proper disposal methods for varnish and cleaning materials.
    • Awareness of Flammability: Be cautious of varnish’s flammable nature, especially near open flames or heat sources.
Coating TypesMatte, Satin, GlossyMatte reduces glare, Satin offers a medium sheen, and Glossy enhances the depth
Application MethodBrush, Spray, ClothBrush for control, Spray for evenness, Cloth for thin layers
PreparationSurface Cleaning, SandingEssential for adhesion and smooth finish
Drying TimeVaries by Varnish TypeCritical for durability and final appearance
MaintenanceRegular Cleaning, Damage RepairUse gentle methods, address imperfections promptly
Safety MeasuresVentilation, Protective WearNecessary to mitigate health risks
TroubleshootingHandling Bubbles, StreaksTechniques to ensure a smooth finish

How to varnish my spray paint on wood

  1. Cure Period: Ascertain the complete drying of the spray paint, considering ambient conditions.
  2. Surface Priming: Decontaminate the surface from particulates and undertake light abrasion for better adhesion.
  3. Varnish Selection: Opt for water-based varnishes for interior applications due to their minimal odor and ease of cleaning. For external use, select durable, weather-resistant varieties like polyurethane.
  4. Tool Assembly: Choose appropriate applicators based on project scale and varnish type.
  5. Varnish Application: Implement a uniformly thin layer, aligning with the wood’s grain. Permit adequate drying as per product guidelines.
  6. Inter-coat Abrasion: Post-initial coat drying, lightly sand to create a receptive base for subsequent layers.
  7. Subsequent Layers: Apply additional thin coats, ensuring uniformity and depth.
  8. Curing Phase: Allow for a complete cure of the final coat, adhering to specified durations.
  9. Health and Safety: Prioritize ventilation and personal protective equipment, especially with solvent-based varnishes.
  10. Post-Curing Care: Maintain the varnished surface with gentle cleaning methods.

best varnish spray for acrylic painting on canvas

the best varnish spray for acrylic paintings on canvas involves considering factors such as the desired finish, durability, and protection level. Here are some commonly recommended varnish sprays ideal for acrylic paintings on canvas:

  1. Krylon UV-Resistant Clear Acrylic Coating: This varnish provides a clear, protective coat that’s resistant to harmful UV rays, making it excellent for preserving color and preventing yellowing. It’s available in gloss, matte, and satin finishes, allowing you to choose based on the desired sheen.
  2. Grumbacher Hyplar Gloss Varnish Spray: Known for its high-gloss finish, this varnish spray is perfect for artwork requiring a shiny, reflective surface. It’s also non-yellowing and offers good protection against dust and moisture.
  3. Winsor & Newton Professional Acrylic Varnish: This is a high-quality varnish spray that offers protection against UV damage and is removable for cleaning and conservation purposes. It comes in different finishes, including gloss, matte, and satin.
  4. Golden Archival Spray Varnish: This varnish provides a protective surface that’s flexible and resistant to fading. It’s available in multiple finishes and contains UV light stabilizers to protect against fading and discoloration.
  5. Liquitex Professional Varnish Spray: Suitable for both oil and acrylic paintings, this varnish offers a durable layer of protection. It’s available in high gloss, satin, and matte finishes and is known for its non-yellowing formula.
  1. How To Spray Paint Without Streaks? Easy & Quick Fix! – For readers looking to perfect their spray painting technique before varnishing.
  2. How To Prevent Drips And Runs In Spray Painting? (4 Tricks) – Useful tips for achieving a smooth base before applying varnish.
  3. How To Clean And Maintain Your Spray Paint Cans? 4 Easy Steps – Guidance on maintaining spray paint cans, which is essential for consistent painting and varnishing.
  4. Best Fast Dry Spray Paint: Unlock Your Next DIY Masterpiece! – For readers interested in quick-drying spray paints that work well under varnish.

When selecting a varnish spray for your acrylic painting on canvas, consider the following tips:

  • Finish: Choose a gloss finish for a shiny look, satin for a medium sheen, or matte if you prefer a non-reflective surface.
  • UV Protection: Look for varnishes that offer UV protection to prevent fading and color shifts over time.
  • Non-Yellowing: Ensure the varnish is non-yellowing to maintain the original colors of your painting.
  • Test First: Always test the varnish on a small area or a separate piece to ensure it gives the desired effect and doesn’t react adversely with the paint.

What is the optimal cure time for spray paint before varnishing?

Cure Time: The drying period varies, typically a few hours to overnight, depending on paint type and environmental factors.

Can the varnish be applied without sanding the painted surface?

Surface Preparation: Light sanding is recommended for enhanced adhesion, although it depends on the paint’s finish and texture.

What type of varnish should be used for outdoor projects?

Varnish Selection for Exteriors: Opt for weather-resistant varnishes like polyurethane for their durability in external conditions.

How many coats of varnish are ideal for maximum protection?

Layering: Usually, 2-3 thin coats provide optimal protection, but this can vary based on the project’s demands and the varnish type.

What are the best practices for maintaining a varnished surface?

Maintenance Protocol: Regular cleaning with a soft, damp cloth is advised, avoiding abrasive materials to preserve the varnish’s integrity.


In conclusion, the process of varnishing over spray paint involves several key steps: ensuring the spray paint is fully cured, preparing the surface through cleaning and light sanding, selecting the right type of varnish based on the project’s environment, applying the varnish in thin, even coats, and allowing adequate drying time between coats.

Safety and ventilation are crucial, especially with solvent-based varnishes. Regular maintenance of the varnished surface is essential for longevity. By following these guidelines, one can achieve a durable and aesthetically pleasing finish on spray-painted projects.

References List:

  1. “How to Varnish Wood” by Bob Vila: This article provides a thorough guide on preparing, applying, and finishing varnish on wood surfaces.
  2. “How to Varnish a Painting like a Pro”: From Will Kemp Art School, this piece offers insights on choosing and applying the right varnish for paintings, including the differences between water-based and solvent-based varnishes.
Author at Easy Spray Paint | Website

Jane Ansems is a highly talented and accomplished spray can artist, known for her intricate, detailed, and thought-provoking works of art. She began her career as a street artist in the early 2010s, quickly gaining recognition for her unique and innovative style.

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