How to protect Acrylic painting?

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The bottom line is acrylic paintings will collect dust and grim and we need to protect them.  When acrylic dries, porous like miniature holes will form that will collect dust.  The holes are so tiny that you might not be able to see it.

How to protect Acrylic painting?

How can you protect your Acrylic painting?

Once an acrylic painting is dried, it needs to be covered with a harder surface that will protect the paint from any exterior elements.  If you do not protect your paintings, they can be prone to discoloration or fading.  A few options that can protect your art are varnishes, isolation coats, right environments or even a glass frame. 

Hopefully most or all of your acrylic paintings are worthy of being passed down from generation to generation. With that in mind, it would be ideal to ensure you preserve its colors and vibrance thru proper protective techniques.  

How can you protect acrylic painting?

There are some steps we want to follow when protecting our artwork. First we want to clean it, then apply an isolation coat before Varnishing at the end. Also Make sure that you do not position your art facing direct light.

Keep your acrylic surfaces clean

Clean, clean, clean.  I can’t stress it enough.  Before you varnish your painting or even apply your isolation coat, please make sure it’s clean.  To keep it clean follow these 2 simple steps:

  • Using any delicate duster, lightly dust away the surface of the canvas.  By doing this simply task, you are removing any dust from the pores of the acrylic that might have been caught in there
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Pro-Tip: Avoid any type of wet cloth or really rubbing hard on the surface of the painting. This will damage the painting more than help it.
  • Avoid touching the painting with your bare hands.  This just causes for more dirt and grim to build onto the surface of the painting.
  • try not to smoke in the same room as your precious artworks are. More about removing smoke from paintings in my post.

Apply an isolation coat

The name says it all! An isolation coat does exactly that – isolate!  This coat is clear, and you cannot remove it once applied.  The interesting part about this coat, is that it keeps the varnish separate from the acrylic.  

It is applied Once your paint surface is completely dry.  You want to be careful when applying. The insolation layer is meant to seal and create a flat surface on the painting before you paint the varnish on it.  This means that even strokes are important during application.

If applied wrong brush marks can stay visible and ruin your artwork! Take a look at this short video for better understanding.

If you have a texturized painting on, then you will want to stay away from brushing it. You should spray paint the coat on instead.  They are up to you, on whether you think you should or should not use it.

Varnish your painting

Elements such as dirt and grim tend to get into the tiny, microscopic holes of the acrylic paint if you do not protect its surface.  Varnish will help you solve this issue making your artwork dust free. 

If you do not know what varnish is, in simple terms is a hard protective coat or finish on the surface of your painting to protect it from any outside elements.  More about: How to seal acrylic painting?

In addition to extending your paintings life, you will notice, multiple benefits the varnish can have for your painting.  Depending on the type and how well it is applied, you can get a painting that in the end displays more vibrance and glossiness.  

Sometimes varnish can get yellowish over time, which will mean you have to maintain the painting by removing it and reapplying.  So, in order to make that easier for you, think of applying an isolation coat before applying the varnish. 

Choosing the right technique to varnish Acrylic Paintings

Varnishing is the key to protecting your painting.  However, you need to choose the right technique so that you don’t do more harm than good to the art piece.  The two methods you want to debate on are brushing vs. spray painting.  Each method is good in their own ways and will depend on the painting you have.

Spray painting varnish

If you have a lot of nooks and crannies within your painting, you might want to try using a spray varnish instead of a brush.  In general spray works better on these textured surfaces rather than a flat surface.

A good spray that you can look at is Krylon.  This spray will have a clearer matte finish. If you are looking for a glossier finish, then try this one.  Depending on your end look, your varnish should contribute to the gloss or matte finish.

Application of spray varnish

Application of spray varnish

If you decide to spray your varnish on follow these tips:

  • Make sure your surface is clean by cleaning it with a light duster or soft cloth
  • Spray in an environment that is open or wear a protective mask
  • Lay your painting down on a flat surface
  • Shake, shake, shake, your bottle! It’s important to shake as much as you can.
  • Spray at a good distance away
  • When you spray the painting do it in lines horizontally and then vertically.
  • Let it dry for a good 24 hours before touching it

Painting Varnish

If you have a flat smooth surface, a better technique would be to paint on the varnish.  Making a thin coat of varnish on the surface is all you really need when you paint it on.  Keeping your brushstrokes even, you will just need a couple layers of the varnish applied thinly to the surface. 

NOTE: Between your coats you will have to let each layer to dry for a couple of hours in between.  Make sure to follow the directions on the bottle for mixing the varnish up. This will help you apply an even coat.

A great varnish to look at is the Liquitex brand.  This brand will give you a shiny gloss, so pay attention to the application.  

Application of painting your varnish

  • Try to use a different brush from one you use for painting to apply the varnish.  One that is not as wide will be helpful as well, so that you can get a thin application that won’t be uneven.
  • Pour some varnish into a dish and follow the instructions on the bottle on how to dilute the varnish with water if needed.
  • Using long strokes, apply the varnish to the surface as evenly as possible. 
  • Same as you would with the spray, work the brush from left to right, from bottom to top.
  • Let the varnish dry for a few hours before you apply another layer if needed
Pro-Tip: After varnishing, whether it be spray or paint, cover your painting with a large box. This helps from getting any dust, animal hair or other extremities from touching the canvas.

Keep away from direct light

Whether you are storing your painting or displaying it, it’s important to keep it away from direct sunlight.  Acrylics are prone as stated many times to dust but can also fade in spots if the sun is in direct contact.  It is very visible to the naked eye especially if sun only hits portions of the painting, and you see fading in spots.  


Although varnishes will have to be removed from time to time, as they do tend to become yellow, note that following the steps above will help the care of your painting. When acrylics are not protected the discoloration and the faded exterior of the painting will devalue your painting.

When you do not protect the acrylic painting with a isolation and varnish coat, you will have a problem. Although you may not notice it immediately, over time your painting will fade and discolor.  

Clean, protect and preserving your canvas are essentials to your acrylic masterpieces.  Even if the painting isn’t being handed down from generation to generation, the key is to keep it looking new. 

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