Varnishes are used as a finishing layer to protect artwork from discoloration, moisture, dirt, and UV rays. Which varnish you choose will affect the finished look. A glossy finish will make colors appear more vibrant, matte will reduce glare and soften colors, and a satin varnish will provide a finish somewhere between glossy and matte. Often preferred over brush application, spray varnishes work well for fragile surfaces that could be disrupted by a brush, or for paintings with a rough or impasto texture where brushes could cause foam or bubbles to form. Make sure work is thoroughly dry before applying, and allow time for the varnish to dry completely after each application. Please note that most of these products are extremely flammable and must be used with adequate ventilation. Our picks below will help you find the best spray varnish for your project.
1. Winsor & Newton High Gloss Varnish
Excellent for art and craft projects, the Winsor & Newton’s high-gloss varnish (13.5 ounces) protects work from dust and moisture. Ideal for paper, wood, metal, and modeling materials, it gives a clear, high-gloss finish for superior sheen. The varnish may be removed with mild solvents.
2. Grumbacher Gloss Final Varnish
A resin-based formula, this 11-ounce Grumbacher varnish is a transparent, quick-drying spray that will give an even, glossy surface finish. Suitable for acrylic and oil paintings, it offers permanent protection against dirt, moisture, and scuffing. This non-yellowing varnish may be removed with mild solvents if needed.
3. Krylon Kamar Varnish
Inspired by damar resin, traditionally used to protect oil paintings, Krylon Kamar is a synthetic formula with the same properties as the natural varnish without the impurities and discoloration. Kamar varnish can be used to protect oil, acrylic, and water-based paints and allows paintings to be reworked. Sold in an 11-ounce can, it is suitable for use on canvas, wood, metal, plastic, paper, glass, plaster, ceramic, and more, giving a clear, matte finish. It may also be removed for conservation purposes.
4. Liquitex Professional Varnish
An acrylic polymer varnish that will provide a breathable, protective layer, this 12-ounce Liquitex spray is available in gloss, satin, and matte finishes. Ideal for acrylic media, it also works to seal mixed-media works, collages, murals, and giclée prints, providing a durable surface that resists discoloration and protects from dirt and UV light damage. This spray varnish will permanently adhere to the surface of your work and cannot be removed. Though a bit pricier than some of our picks, it is water-based, low odor, and safe for educational use.
5. Golden Gloss Archival Varnish
Formulated with solvent-based, reversible acrylic copolymer resin, Golden’s Archival varnish spray provides a durable, protective surface that can be removed for conservation purposes. It is suitable for use with acrylics, oils, pastels, watercolors, temperas, and inkjet prints. Giving a glossy surface finish and excellent protection against dirt, dust, and moisture, this archival spray in a 10-ounce can contains ultraviolet light filters and stabilizers to inhibit light damage. Its adjustable fan spray tip enables precise application and reduced overspray.