Can You Varnish Over Paint?

Image of varnish application on wood but Can You Varnish Over Paint?As most professionals concede, paint is constantly subjected to high traffic over time. For this reason, homeowners are striving to enhance their painted surfaces by protecting them and preserving them through various means. That said, there are many options to employ when you intend to enhance your paint’s longevity and durability. But, Can You Varnish Over Paint?

Yes, it’s advisable to varnish over paint considering it’s the best way of enhancing the paint’s lifespan. Applying varnish on your painted surface aids in establishing a protective layer that permits the paint to show through. Not to mention, the varnish is the best clear coat product as it doesn’t yellow over time and elicits almost zero volatile organic compounds. 

For the best outcomes, make certain that the underlying paint is clean and smooth. Let’s now dig deeper into further input regarding varnishing over paint. 

Can You Put Clear Varnish Over Matt Paint?

As earlier stated, you can put varnish over paint to enhance the paint and protect it from wear and tear. However, can you put clear varnish over matt paint?

Yes, it’s wise to seal your matt paint with clear varnish. But I recommend that you go for a polyurethane varnish since it offers better protection against wear and tear. Better still, it’s best to settle for an acrylic-based varnish for all water-based paints. On the contrary, go for oil-based varnish if you are applying it on oil-based paints.

Can I Varnish Over Gloss Paint?

It’s worth mentioning that applying varnish over gloss paint can help display the color to some degree. However, surface preparation is a must for the success of your project. Still, you will want to do multiple coats of varnish for a glass-like finish. 

How Long Does Varnish Take to Dry on Acrylic Painting?

Many people speculate that acrylic paint is impervious and indestructible once dry, but that’s not the fact. Ideally, acrylic paint is thermoplastic. That tells you that if it gets too warm, it loosens up and eventually breaks down. For this reason, you will need to varnish the acrylic paint to form a hard and protective surface. 

But how long will the varnish take to dry on acrylic paint? Professionals assert that varnish takes roughly 3 to 6 hours between coats to dry. 


  • The trickiest thing about mixing and applying varnish is that it exhibits bubbles on the surface easily due to the surfactant that permits the polymer to blend with water. In such instances, you must watch out for the bubbles and use your brush to flatten them. 
  • Always mix your varnish carefully.
  • Varnishing over paint causes your surface to be more reflective. Therefore, ascertain that you photograph your work before applying the varnish.

How Long Before Varnishing an Oil Painting?

Varnishing on oil paints depends on the coat’s thickness and thinness. Therefore, if you opt for multiple thin layers, the paint dries sooner than working with thick coats. So it’s best to wait for the paint to dry to the touch before varnishing over it. 

What Happens If You Spray Varnish on Wet Paint?

Varnish is meant to excel well on dry paint. However, most people are impatient and tend to apply varnish too soon on the paint before it dries. Doing this can cause the worst, such as the varnish solvents loosening up and mixing with the paint. As a result, this combines with temperature and humidity to bring about cracks, making future varnish removal impossible. 

Usually, the time taken by paint to dry is based on many aspects, including:

  • Ambient temperature. 
  • Substrate absorbency.
  • The paint’s thickness.
  • The quantity of medium in the paint.
  • The type of paint and so many more aspects. 

How to Apply a Spray Varnish

After painting your surfaces, you might be curious to know what to put over your paint to protect it from high traffic. Luckily, there is an ideal solution, and that’s by varnishing over the paint. Keep reading this step by step guide to applying a spray varnish on your surfaces such as painted wood surface.

Step 1 

The first step is surface and workspace preparation. Be sure to work in a ventilated space. You can achieve that by keeping all windows open if painting in an enclosed room. Next, use a lint-free cloth to wipe the surface you plan to varnish.

Step 2

Once you are through with the preps, take your spray can and shake it well for nearly two minutes. This way, you will achieve an even finish. 

After that, start to spray the varnish on your painted surface at least 18″ away from the surface. You will want to use a slow and even motion to coat the entire surface in the process. It’s not advisable to use a swinging motion since the can will get close to the surface.

Just work with a deliberate vertical motion from left to right, overlapping the spray nearly a half-inch on each pass.

Step 3

Once the initial coat dries, apply an additional coat at least 40cm away from your painting. Still, you will want to watch out for the spray nozzle for blockages. If the blockage occurs, use a clean rag to unblock the nozzle, shake your spray can again for some seconds, then proceed with the application. As usual, allow for ample dry time before putting on an extra coat.

Is It Better to Spray or Brush Varnish?

Applying varnish on your painted surface is essential as it keeps the surface free from harsh demands. However, the trickiest part is the delivery method of the varnish on your painted surface. So knowing which method suits your demands can help you achieve your desired outcomes.

This article will help you differentiate the two application methods as l have leveled out their capabilities. Equally important, figuring out their differences will help you determine which option suits you most.

First, most people like to spray varnish, considering that it establishes an even and consistent coat, plus it can be applied quickly. Unfortunately, using this method forfeits the fine control you enjoy with a brush. In addition, it’s not recommended for paintings with high textures.

On the other hand, using a brush to apply varnish is greatly preferred by many painters as it creates room for better control of the thickness of application. Even better, it’s wise to use parallel brushstrokes across your surface to get a consistent finish. However, some people opt to follow the paint’s brush strokes to enable light reflections to emphasize the texture of your painted surface.  


It’s wise to apply varnish in a well-ventilated room, especially if using the spray-on option. 

Can I Paint Straight onto Varnished Wood?

Yes, it’s possible to paint directly onto varnished wood, assuming you employ the correct materials and follow the painting process. Ideally, it’s best to use water-based paint in such a project. However, if you work with oil-based paint, use an oil-based primer and vice versa. 

How Do You Get Paint to Stick to Varnished Wood?

Painting over varnished wood might seem a straightforward task, but much can go wrong in the process. I say this because there is plenty of preparation encircling this task. However, don’t worry, as I’ll help you handle that task like a pro through the guidelines highlighted below. Keep reading to learn how:

Supplies Needed

  • General-purpose household cleaner.
  • Sponge.
  • 180 grit sandpaper.
  • Vacuum.
  • 2″ paintbrush.
  • Newspapers. 
  • Safety goggles.
  • Chemical-resistant clothes.
  • Lint-free cloth.
  • Paint.
  • Deglosser. 
  • Rags.
  • Solvent-resistant drop cloth.

Step 1

Varnished wood is a slick and troublesome surface to paint. Therefore, you will need to overcome the severe adhesion and bonding constraints.

The first step is to give the varnished wood a quick clean. This ensures that any impurities such as dirt, grease, and dust won’t blend with the paint or primer. 

You can achieve a clean surface by saturating a clean lint-free cloth in a household cleaner, then use it to wipe down the varnished wood. Next, dust the surface off and scrub off the sticky grease stains and residual to the point they disappear. If not, use trisodium phosphate to wipe down the stubborn spots. 

After that, remove the cloth soon after cleaning the varnished wood. You do this because the wood isn’t water-proof and might begin to absorb the water in the saturated cloth. Therefore, it’s wise to evade prolonging the interaction time between the damp rag and the varnished wood. 

Before proceeding, let the surface sit for 20 minutes to dry. 

Step 2 

Once you are done cleaning your varnished wood, ask yourself, are there any surface irregularities? If any, don’t disregard them as you’ll be risking a lousy adhesion, blistering or flaking paint. So, to deter unwanted outcomes, fill the surface imperfections using wood filler.

Step 3

The next thing is to peel off the existing varnish. It’s usually tempting to paint straight onto the existing varnish, but doing so results in poor paint adhesion.

So depending on your skills and time,  I recommend two picks for bringing down varnish from your wood: sanding or deglossing. 

Option 1: Sanding

A good sanding job will give finesse to your wood surface. So when you want your top layer to appear perfect, try sanding the varnished wood with 180 grit sandpaper. This way, you will create a tough surface that enhances the paint’s grip and attains a silky finish. 

Firstly, get your workspace prepared by ensuring you have a well-ventilated space. You do this because sanding elicits a lot of dust in the air. Next, wear a face mask and begin sanding throughout the entire surface.

Remember, the trick is to move along the direction of your wood’s grain in a circular motion. However, don’t exert much pressure on the sandpaper to avoid breaking the wood’s grain. 

After removing the entire varnish, wipe down the lingering sanding dust from the wood and surrounding area. 

Option 2: Deglosser

If your wood surface is in good condition, you may want to use a deglosser to substitute sanding. A deglosser will make the existing varnish dull through a chemical reaction, making your wood ready for priming. 

To use this product, pour enough amount of the deglosser into a clean rag to saturate it. After that, run it over the entire varnished wood with circular motion until the existing varnish disappears. After that, give the surface time to dry. 

Step 4 

After peeling off the existing varnish, proceed to apply a coat of wood primer. The essence of the primer is to lessen the number of topcoats and promote better paint adhesion. Not to mention, it helps prevent the wood grain from revealing through the topcoat. 

Firstly, give your wooden surface a thorough clean to remove any dust and grime. Next, reach for your preferred delivery method; brush or roller. Ideally, a roller is a better pick in larger areas, while a brush comes in handy on intricate or hard-to-reach areas. 

Saturate your roller or brush with a good quantity of primer and begin administering the first coat. After that, let the first coat dry as per the instructions printed on the tin.

Once the first coat dries, hand-sand the surface, then proceed with a second coat. As usual, let it dry enough, then sand the second coat to achieve a masterly finish.

Step 5

Now that you are through removing the existing varnish and sealed your wood, you can commence painting. But before that, ensure you use water-based paint for the most demanding results. 

To begin, take your paint dish, pour a small amount of paint, then use a wooden stick to stir the paint to achieve an even solution. Next, take your roller and start applying the first coat of paint. For best results, make uniform and solid strokes and try not to overlap. 

Give the first coat enough drying time, then lightly sand the surface to achieve a seamless finish. After that, run your fingers across the surface to examine any imperfections. If any, touch them up and proceed to lay the next coat to cover the entire surface. If necessary,  sand the second coat, then go on with multiple coats for more durability. 

Can I Paint Over Varnished Wood Without Sanding?  

Ideally, it’s wise to repaint varnished wood by first sanding it so that new paint adheres to it as intended. But with larger projects, sanding can be a long and daunting task. For this reason, most people use alternative remedies to sanding, such as deglossing the wood before painting. 

Will Chalk Paint Stick to Varnished Wood?

Chalk paint is a low-maintenance and versatile formula that can bring your forgettable furniture back to life. Recently, it has turned out to be the veneer of choice for most DIYers gazing to replenish their outmoded wooden finishings. Equally important, it’s rated for use on drywall, metal, glass, just as fabric.

But will chalk paint stick to varnished wood? Yes, chalk paint will adhere to varnished wood effortlessly provided condition permits. Be sure to adhere to the necessary steps for the mission success of your project. 

Can You Put Gloss Varnish Over Matt Paint?

Yes, gloss varnish can go over matt paint but only when you do enough surface preparation. For best results, try 2 to 3 coats to achieve your desired sheen.

Can You Put Clear Varnish Over Water-based Paint?

Water-based paints are a common option for most painters because they don’t need toxic blends for cleanup. Water-based paints last a lifetime if protected with a varnish, but that doesn’t mean all varnishes are ideal for water-based paints. 

So can you put clear varnish over water-based paint? Yes, it’s possible, but first, ensure the base coat is dry to the touch before applying your clear varnish.

Can You Put Too Much Varnish?

Many issues can transpire when applying varnish on various surfaces. For example, you might apply too much varnish in an unconducive environment and the rest. All these are common issues with varnishing and can result in major defects.

Needless to say, using too much varnish will bring about chipping, flaking, and cracking on your surface. Therefore, understanding what can materialize with varnishing may assist you in evading the problems and improve your refinishing projects. 

How Do You Fix Too Much Varnish?

Many mishaps occur when varnishing over paint due to less practice, applying the varnish in poor lighting, using the incorrect style of brush, etc. So suppose you find yourself applying too much varnish, don’t worry, add another coat of the same varnish on the surface.

However, if that trajectory doesn’t work as expected, it’s not difficult to peel off two layers of varnish. Ensure you apply the coat evenly to reactivate the previous coats to form one layer. The outcome should look much more consistent, provided you don’t overwork the surface. 

How Do You Get Runs Out of Varnish?

Scraping off a sag, run, or drip in varnish is overly tiresome as it eats up much time, and the evidence of the mistakes will show through after finishing. The best way to fix such issues is by scraping off the drip with a wide chisel.

Start by holding your chisel at a low angle, ensuring you don’t release it all simultaneously. Move it all around the drips slowly not to damage the existing coat of varnish. Once you are done, use 180 grit sandpaper to scuff the problem area, then later recoat lightly. 

Why Is My Varnish Beading up After Painting?

Combining oil paints and other mediums establishes a closed surface, making varnish bead up. Still, applying too much varnish at one go can foster beading up after application. So it’s wise to make some vigorous scrubbing motion when applying varnish to deter it from beading up. 

Tips when varnishing beads up

  • Try to minimize the amount of varnish you lay as your first coat. Smudging extra varnish off your paintbrush onto a paper towel before painting is the best way to achieve that. 
  • Saturate your varnish with 15 to 20% Gamsol.
  • Try brushing the varnish vigorously as it dries to help it adhere. Also, doing that lessens its gloss level. 

Can I Put Different Varnishes On a Painting?

Yes, it’s feasible to put different varnishes on your painted surface. But doing that makes it somewhat difficult to control the surface quality. It’s, therefore, my understanding that you should remove the previous coat of varnish before bedding in a new one. 

Can You Spray Varnish Over Acrylic Paint?

Varnishes act as a finishing layer to shield surfaces from moisture, discoloration, dirt, and UV rays. The version you choose will influence the finished look. For instance, a glossy finish makes colors seem more vibrant, whereas matte minimizes glare and softens colors. 

It’s very much easy to spray varnish over acrylic paint, provided your surface is relatively clean and dry. Please remember that most varnishes are flammable. So proper ventilation is necessary before you commence your project. 

Do You Need to Prime Varnished Wood Before Painting?

Painting varnished wood is a time-intensive task, but you will surely like the outcomes once you get it right. Considering that varnished wood is relatively smooth, it needs to be sanded and primed to enhance better paint adhesion. If not, the paint won’t stick to it. Instead, it will spill down the surface with time.

Other aspects to factor in when painting over varnished wood include proper surface cleaning and workspace preps. Clean your varnished wood thoroughly since even the tiniest speck of dust can hinder paint adhesion. Mind you; there is no need to use harsh solvents to wipe down the surface. Just a regular dawn dish soap will do the trick. 

Note: after painting the varnished wood, you should seal the paint with an appropriate sealer for further protection. 

Can I Put Varnish Over Primer?

When your wood surface is already primed, that tells you it’s ready to be painted and not be varnished. But if your discretion is to varnish the wood, try not to use a primer beforehand since it will prohibit the wood from digesting the varnish. So before varnishing your wood surface, be sure to peel down the existing primer. 

Before you begin, ensure your workspace is properly ventilated, and remember to wear eye goggles and gloves to avoid skin and eye irritation. All you need to bring down the primer is a regular commercial paint stripper and a clean rag.

Once equipped, pour the paint stripper on the entire primed surface, then let it sit for nearly 10 to 15 minutes. After the due time, wipe down the primer with a plastic putty knife. 

Once you scrape off the primer, give the surface a thorough cleaning as the paint stripper might have left behind residue. 

Can You Put Varnish Over Latex Paint?

It’s my understanding that varnish can go over latex paint effortlessly, provided you use the right variety. I say this because using the wrong option might alter the paint’s color and risk future peeling issues. 

If you had used high-quality latex paint, there is no need to varnish it. But suppose you used a low-quality version; varnishing is the answer. 

Can You Varnish Over Paint Outdoor?

Outdoor wood furniture and other painted surfaces are constantly exposed to extreme weather conditions like heavy rain and the scorching sun. The continuous over-exposure to such elements can cause the painted surface to lose its quality. For this reason, varnishing is essential as it comes in handy in protecting outdoor paint from destructive elements. 

There are many varnish varieties to use outdoors to protect the paint’s integrity exactly when maintaining the paint’s color. Nonetheless, you should be careful when deciding on your preferred varnish due to the endless varieties that have flooded the market. 

What Is the Best Clear Coat for Acrylic Paint? 

There exist many types of clear coats rated for acrylic paints, so it’s up to you to determine whether you need a brush-on varnish or a spray varnish. Ideally, I would recommend two brands of clear acrylic coat: golden polymer varnish and Lascaux UV varnish. However, that doesn’t mean that other options are not worthwhile; it all boils down to subjective preferences. 

How Do You Seal Acrylic Paint Without Varnish?

Most people protect their acrylic paintings from intense wear and tear and other traffic by sealing the surface with varnish. However, DIYers are explicit to know, how do you seal acrylic paint without varnish? 

You can use other alternatives to varnish when you want to seal your acrylic paint without sacrificing efficiency. Such options include Shellac and lacquer. Both of these are safe to use, plus they turn out more solidly than most prevalent options. 

Here’s how to seal your acrylic paint without varnish: 

Supplies needed

  • Shellac.
  • Paintbrush.
  • Paint dish.

Step 1 

Pour a little bit of Shellac into a fish. After that, spread it liberally onto the surface in long and smooth strokes. Ensure you use a bristle brush to run straight and even strokes with the width of your brush. 

Note: it’s better to work in a bright room to ensure your workspace is sufficiently illuminated for clear results. 

Step 2 

After painting the Shellac, give it time to dry for nearly 3 hours. After that, go on with a second coat, but this time in the opposite direction. The essence of the second coat is to cover up the irregularities left out in the previous coat. 


You will want to cover your paint dish and brush in the drying process, so the Shellac doesn’t dry on your brush. 

Again, let the second coat dry according to the instructions printed on the tin. If necessary, proceed with multiple thin coats for optimal results. 

Final Thoughts

Varnish protects surfaces and other decorative objects from scratching, UV rays, and other high demands. It adds appeal to both interior and exterior surfaces. But,

Can You Varnish Over Paint?

Yes, it’s advisable to varnish over paint, assuming you do it correctly. Knowing which type of varnish corroborates your paint project can help you achieve your desired outcome. 

Thanks for sifting through this valuable resource. Kindly reach out in the comment section in case you have any concerns.