Copyright April M Rimpo

Visit April's website
Copyright April M Rimpo All Rights Reserved. You may share my work with attribution and a link to this source site, but all other uses are prohibited.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

How should fluid acrylic paintings be protected?

Some of my customers, gallery owners, and fellow artists have asked about my gallery wrapped acrylic paintings and how I protect them.  Often people think acrylic paintings don't need to be varnished since acrylic paint is in essence a very thin layer of plastic when dry.  Since I do my acrylic paintings on watercolor paper, I started to varnish my artwork to protect the paper from humidity in the environment.  

However as I researched varnishes to ensure I was using the right materials I learned that any acrylic painting should be varnished for a couple reasons.

  • The pigment in the paint needs to be protected from ultraviolet (UV) light to reduce the chance of the color disappearing over time
  • To protect the surface of painting from the elements and be resistant to dirt retention and discoloration
Aerial Bikes II, 13.5" X 22" gallery wrap
If you have read my blog post "Some basics things to know about watercolor" you know already about how important it is that the artist use high quality materials that are light fast.  In other words pigments that won't lose their color quickly.   

Even though I use the best materials I can find to create the painting, I also make sure that either the glazing I use has UV protection or, in the case of gallery wrapped art, the varnish has UV protection.  This practice increases the life expectancy of paint even longer. The need for UV protection is not unique for watercolor and acrylic paintings.  Oil painters have traditionally varnished their work for the same reason.

One of my larger gallery wrapped paintings, Freight Yard, 24" X 45"
I initially used only Liquitex Archival Permanent Varnish which I apply with a small 4" wide foam roller. I found that the smaller gallery wrapped paintings remained very flat when I varnished them. However, some of the larger paintings ended up with ripples in the corners of the art.  I experimented using different staples and staple guns when stretching the paper, but still sometimes ended up with ripples.  

I observed over time that when applying the first coat of varnish that I press fairly hard in the corners to get a solid coat of varnish.  This process appears to stretch the paper and I believe the paper does not shrink back to its original size because of the varnish.  As a result I started to use spray varnish for the first coat or two to avoid stretching.  I have used a variety of spray varnishes including Golden Archival Spray Varnish and Krylon UV Archival Varnish.

Spray varnish is a method to have a nice solid coat of varnish already on the entire surface of the paper before I use the roller to apply the later layers of varnish.  This approach seems to eliminate ripples from forming (most of the time).  Serendipity does sometimes prevail and I might get some ripples. Perhaps the level of humidity in the air is the culprit.  If you are an artist, don't give up; you can re-stretch the piece, as long as you are careful,  generally with good results.


  1. Thank you for this informative post
    I'm going to change my not so great habit of rarely varnishing. I always apply spray when I do varnish.
    I recently saw on television, I think on the Create Channel, "Rough Cut," using a sponge to apply varnish causes bubbles. I decoupage furniture with old maps. I've had to manage bubble and ripple making. I think your method of spray first will help eliminate those bits of ripple on the first glue application.

    1. That is so cool that my varnish approach for painting gave you an idea for your furniture.

  2. I've not been on the blogs for a while, but you brought me back. Facebook seems to be an easier way to respond, and most people post in both places. I read your article is very interesting...thanks for sharing.

    1. Facebook is a great way to get people to read the blog, but I do miss the comments in the blog itself since I can go back and review them more easily when they are here. Thanks for the comment.


I look forward to hearing from you. - April

Most Popular Posts This Month

Most Popular Posts of All Time