How To Make Acrylic Paint Look Glossy: Simple Methods

As a painter, you must know how to make acrylic paint appear more glossy. This is because it is one of the favorite paints artists prefer to work with.

It is true that acrylics naturally do not possess a high-gloss sheen. Hence, as a painter, you need to go the extra mile to make it glossy. This usually requires the use of a varnish but in some cases, the varnish may be excluded.

This guide will expose you to the good and not-too-ideal options that make acrylic paint glossy. You will also learn how to effect a glossy finish with or without varnish. 

Options for a Glossy Finish

Artists who work majorly with acrylic paints have limited ideal options when it comes to giving a painting a glossy appearance. Bad options will eventually discolor and become brittle with time.

Depending on your support and how much of a glossy finish you wish for, these are the available options:


1. Varnish (the favorite)

Most acrylic painters will choose varnish 9 times out of 10 over other glossy options. This is because acrylic paintings are more vulnerable than oil paintings and must be protected by the very best – varnish.

Acrylic varnish is available in gloss, satin, and matte finishes. When choosing any type of varnish, you are also free to decide your finish (which may or may not feature a gloss coating).

Here is an example to make you understand the principle of varnish and its finish:

If your painting has a beautiful lake, it is only ideal to choose a glossy finish for the lake and use another finish like satin or matte. 

This allows for an appropriate blend of contrast and sub-contrast. Please steer clear of varnish that is not artist-grade.

They do not offer enough UV protection and fade rapidly. A quality painting requires a quality varnish to have the right impression and get the recognition it deserves. 

You can get any of:

Golden polymer varnish

Golden polymer varnish is a water-based acrylic varnish designed to offer paintings maximum UV protection. As a topcoat, this formula is also resistant to dust, dirt, and scratches.

Lascaux UV Varnish

Lascaux varnish offers optimum transparency and does not fade off easily. It is appropriate for iconic works that involve acrylic, tempera, oil, and pastel paints. This formula must be repeatedly applied on dry surfaces until you achieve the right result.

Can You Get a Gloss Finish Without Varnish?

Yes, you can. Many artists opt for varnish because it offers maximum protection and allows them to choose a preferred finish (especially, a glossy effect). 

You can achieve this glossy effect with other art-grade tools like resins and acrylic gloss mediums.

1. Art-grade resins

Art-grade resins, like their name, are rich gloss resins designed for paintings or artworks. They last for a very long time, offer UV protection, and can be combined with a top coat of varnish.

ArtResins is a brand known for producing high gloss epoxy resins with low odor and the ability to coat lightly or deeply depending on your preference. It works majorly with wood or other durable surfaces.

As fantastic as resins are, they have a major downside – weight. Resins are somewhat heavy and thick and may not be ideal for every acrylic painting. 

Avoid hardware store epoxy resins

In an attempt to substitute varnish for resins, do not run to a hardware store to buy a cheap epoxy resin. This version of resin is designed for home DIY exercises and not for professional artwork.

Cheap epoxy resin fades away in no time and does not offer strong UV protection for your work. For context, they may last 10 to 15 years before discoloration. 

This would not be ideal for an artwork you want to last for centuries. Hence, for the sake of clarity and not wanting to waste or repeat months of hard work, get art-grade resins like:

ProMarine art-grade resin

This resin is made of non-toxic ingredients and is ideal for professionals and avid DIY enthusiasts. The formula is self-leveling leaving your painting with nothing but a smooth surface and intense shine.

Stone Coat countertop resin

Stone Coat epoxy resin is also not toxic and offers reasonable protection against UV. The sleek resins provide you with everything you need to protect your countertop and enjoy a beautiful (crystal clear) reflection.

2. Acrylic mediums

In cases where resins are deemed too thick for a project, acrylic mediums usually save the day. Like epoxy resins, they feature UV protection and last for a very long time.

They are lighter and can be incorporated into most paintings or used as a top coat. It is safe to say they are ideal for soft surfaces like canvas. There are also times when you may not want to deep-coat with epoxy resins. Use acrylic mediums instead. 

To give a material a selective gloss finish, this medium can be mixed with acrylic paint and applied across such areas. You can also build up the thickness of your painting with mediums.

When taking this route, you must allow each layer to dry completely before adding another. This requires immense patience but the result will make you proud.

The only downside with the use of mediums is that they are susceptible to brush or tool strokes. This occurs mostly when they feature thick layers. 

To reduce this, you must try brushing, troweling, and pouring every layer of your painting after drying. If they survive, you are good to go.

What are the best glossy acrylic mediums?

Like epoxy resins, there are various standards of mediums that can impose a glossy effect on acrylic paint. As a professional in this field, here is a list of mediums I have tested and confirmed great:

1. Winsor & Newton Galeria acrylic gloss medium

This is a very popular brand known for providing some of the best glossy effects on acrylic paintings. A factor that makes the Winsor and Newton Galeria medium spectacular is that it takes the form of a gel and a lotion.

Once it dries fully on a painting it gives off a unique translucent effect. This effect is very similar to what you will get from a varnish. How much of the medium you use will also play a role in the result.

2. Liquitex Professional acrylic gloss medium

This medium never fails to leave an impression similar to that of a varnish. In fact, most acrylic paint users believe it is a hybrid product for adding a glossy effect to paintings.

The Liquitex Professional Acrylic Gloss Medium is very clear and flexible. It offers a quick drying effect and is a good option for educators and scholars carrying out research.

3. Pebeo Studio acrylics pouring medium

If your expertise is poured paintings, this is the right product for you. Poured paintings have become very popular thanks to their appreciation of flow and support only mediums that will not interfere with their flow.

Pouring medium for acrylic paintings does not alter the colors in your paintings and will leave the surface very smooth.

Other mediums may predispose bubbles or eventually become yellow but this should be the least of your worries with the Pebeo Studio Acrylics Pouring Medium.


Can acrylics be glossy?

Acrylic paint is naturally glossy but can be made more glossy depending on what you are working on.

Matte mediums are great for a subtle and non-reflective finish.

How do you make flat paint shiny?

The easiest way to make a glossy acrylic paint flat is to sand it by hand. 

When carrying out this procedure, please be mindful of outer edges and corners. 

What makes paint glossy?

A paint becomes more glossy when there are lower pigment concentrations. 

This gives the paint a shiny or wet look.

What happens if you add water to acrylic paint?

The binding quality of acrylic paint will be thinned if you add water. 

This allows the paint to sink into the surface and produce a matte appearance.

Can you add vinegar to acrylic paint?

Adding vinegar to acrylic paint is a terrible idea

Vinegar is an acid and will react negatively with paints.

Final Words

If you wish to give your acrylic painting a glossy effect or any type of finishing, you must consider the background you are working on and how fast you want your result.

For projects executed on hard surfaces, varnish and special epoxy resins like the ones I recommended are the best. Paintings on soft surfaces are better suited for acrylic mediums.

Please remember that varnish, medium, or resins from hardware stores are not advisable for any professional project. Do not cut costs and end up repeating research or projects because it is not getting the recognition it deserves.

I hope you found this guide helpful. Perhaps you are more interested in digital painting, please see the best whiteboard animation software to start with.

Thanks for reading.