Top 3 Best Varnish For Acrylic Painting On Canvas (Get Now)

Affiliate Disclaimer

As an affiliate, we may sometimes earn a commission from qualifying purchases. We get commissions for purchases made through links on this website from Amazon and other third parties at no additional cost to you.

In this blog post, I’ll explore 3 of the best varnishes I have used on my acrylic paints and I will provide some insights on how to choose the best varnishes and why they are so important. I believe the best varnish for acrylic painting on canvas is a brush on varnish, the Liquitex Polymer Varnish and let me explain why below. Coming in a close second and third are Golden Soft Gel Gloss and Winsor & Newton Professional Acrylic Varnish.

I prefer a brush on varnish as opposed to a spray varnish as I have less control over spray on varnishes and for some reason I always get varnish running down the painting even when I control the amount of spray. I also found spray varnishes are applied to thinly and they do not help level the surface.

If you’re an artist who prefers to work using acrylic paint on canvas, you know that the right varnish can make all the difference in your artwork when it comes to giving it a uniform sheen and ensuring it lasts for years. While I believe a varnish is not needed for acrylic paints there are other benefits to using one, from protecting the painting from climate change activists (I joke), protecting the exposed parts of the paint from the elements, to bringing out the vibrancy in colors, the best varnish for acrylic painting on canvas is essential for achieving fantastic results.

Last Updated February 2023

Best Varnish For Acrylic Painting On Canvas

Let’s get straight to the point, you don’t want to read pages of what a varnish is so below I have listed my top pick for the best varnish for acrylic painting on canvas and two more choices in case the best one is out of stock. Really, all 3 varnishes are great and you will not be disappointed in either, the differences are quite small but when I look at my own purchases, the Liquitex is my recurring purchase and it should be yours too.

Top pick

Best Varnish For Acrylic Painting On Canvas

Liquitex Acrylic Polymer Varnish

The Liquitex Acrylic Polymer Varnish is made by the market leader in acrylics. This brush on polymer provides a finish that is much better than resin based varnishes.

It works on almost all types of acrylic paints so you are not locked into using Liquitex acrylics.

Additionally it does not have a strong smell and is easy to clean.

Best Value

golden soft gloss polymer

Golden Soft Gel Gloss

While not labeled as a varnish, if this Golden Soft Gel Gloss is thinned with water at a 2:1 ratio, it can also be applied with a brush to a finished acrylic painting to create an isolation/varnished coat over to seal the painted acrylic surface. Not a resin based varnish so its a great alternative to the Liquitex.

I say it’s the best value because it can be multi-use either as a varnish or medium to add to paint.

Popular Choice

winsor and newton varnish

Winsor & Newton Professional Acrylic Varnish

You can purchase this popular brush on varnish in all sizes and in matte, gloss and satin. There is a size and finish to suit any budget which is why the Winsor & Newton acrylic varnish is so popular.

The Winsor & Newton Professional Acrylic Varnish is not a resin based varnish so its a great alternative to the Liquitex.

Best Varnish for Acrylic Paint

The Best Acrylic Varnish is: Liquitex Acrylic Polymer Varnish

When looking for the best varnish for acrylic painting on canvas you need to have a few MUST-HAVE criteria. These are the top 3 things you want your varnish to have or why are you buying it? Below I have list my top 3 based on years of painting in acrylics and having to deal with the mess of using cheap and nasty varnishes.

Criteria 1: You don’t want your eyes and lungs to burn or your room top stink. You want a varnish for acrylic paint that is non-toxic – too many cheap and nasty varnishes will either fill the room or worse, your lungs with toxic chemicals and smells. Some can even burn your eyes. If you do use a varnish, use one that is friendly to not only the environment, but to you.

Criteria 2: Once your acrylic painting is finished, you want a varnish for acrylic paint that does not bubble up or damage your acrylic paint – making an acrylic paint finish go from matte to gloss or satin is ok if that is what you want. My criteria is more around ensuring the varnish will not break down or slow down the drying process of the acrylic paint which can lead to cracking and premature aging.

Criteria 3: The varnish should make the acrylic painting easy to clean without the risk of damaging it – I once used a varnish that actually took off some of the layer of the acrylic paint as I was applying it. Somehow it was marketed as safe for acrylic polymers but it bubbled up while drying and ate away at some of the paint. So make sure you purchase an acrylic varnish with a long history and track record of working with acrylic paints and endorsed by many artists.

A good acrylic varnish should be water resistant and mold resistant.

I believe the Liquitex Acrylic Polymer Varnish easily meets all 3 criteria (and more) for the best varnish for acrylic painting on canvas with the other 2 brands coming in very close.


  • Available in a variety of sizes so you aren’t stuck with a large jar for years
  • Available almost anywhere online and in art supply stores
  • Liquitex are the leader in everything acrylic so you know it works
  • It’s a Polymer varnish not resin so it acts like acrylic paint and not as a plastic coat. Resin is not a deal breaker but Polymer is best for acrylics
  • Helps level your acrylic paint, smoothing out uneven coats
  • Does not stink out the house and wont burn your eyes
  • A brush on varnish that give you better results and coverage


  • Sells out fast on Amazon
  • Can be slow drying if you apply it too thick or don’t wait for the previous coat to dry completely
  • Varnish a test patch as the results may vary depending on the quality of acrylic paints used. Some cheaper paints have been known to get a white layer when dry
  • Needs a good shake or stir as the contents will settle to the bottom
  • Not suitable for oils, pastels, etc.

Buyer’s Guide

I could easily repeat what I have already covered in my other posts but I don’t want to waste your time if you do not need any further information right now. But if you do want to know more, I have linked to some of my other content related to acrylic varnishes.

Have a look below if you are interested:

What Varnish To Use – Satin Vs Gloss Varnish Acrylic Paints (answered)

Genuine Dilemma: Should I Varnish My Acrylic Painting? Reasons You Need To Know

Golden Fluid Acrylics Vs High Flow Acrylics (Quickly Answered)

Can You Paint Over Varnished Canvas – More Money Saving Tips

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)

Should you varnish acrylic paintings on canvas?

While some artists say that varnishing is a necessity for completed acrylic paintings, not all agree. Polymers present in the paint create an ultrathin plastic protective layer once set and hardened; however, this can be further strengthened by adding a coat of varnish to guard against dust buildup, UV damage and yellowing over time.

How long should you wait to varnish an acrylic painting?

Acrylic paint may appear to be fully dry after a few hours, but it’s important for artists to wait at least one week before varnishing. This period of patience ensures that their artwork is completely cured and ready for the final layer.

How many coats of varnish should you put on an acrylic painting?

For most applications 2-3 coats of acrylic varnish are enough to put on an acrylic painting. This will be enough for an impeccable look but if you’re feeling extra ambitious you do not need more than 5 coats of varnish, just use a pour on varnish instead but remember that this may detract from your acrylic painting.

Best Varnish For Acrylic Painting On Canvas – Wrap up

Liquitex Acrylic Polymer Varnish

Liquitex Pro Gloss Varnish

The best polymer based acrylic varnish money can buy

This acrylic varnish just tops the list over Golden and Winsor & Newton so don’t be afraid to buy those if Liquitex is out of stock

  • I have used this for over 20 years and there has been no discoloration on my paintings
  • It helps level out parts of the painted surface giving it a nice even look
  • It does not stink. Your better half, mom or family will not complain when you use it
  • It is affordable and available in most art supply stores, Amazon, Blicks and other online suppliers

Latest Posts

About the author
Joe Colella - Chief Wasted Talent
Joe Colella – Chief Wasted Talent

Latest posts