Can You Paint Over A Varnished Acrylic Painting?

Can You Paint Over A Varnished Acrylic PaintingSo, you’ve just varnished your painting, and noticed some small spots that are bothering you… can you paint over a varnished acrylic painting? The answer is a definite yes, provided that you are only making minor changes. Little touch-ups after a varnish are fine as long as it’s a water-based varnish. With a gloss, you’ll probably have to do a little sanding first, though.

In today’s article I’ll talk a little more about painting after a varnish, removing varnish, and whether or not you can simply paint right over an acrylic painting if you like for starting over.

Let’s explore varnished paintings and your options!

How do you paint over varnished canvas?How do you paint over varnished canvas

If you are looking to paint over varnished canvas and you are just making some minor adjustments here and there, then you can certainly do so. If the varnish is already dry, then go ahead and make your touch-ups and then you are ready for the next step.

Another coat of varnish.

While you could conceivably just re-varnish the areas that you’ve just painted, this isn’t really practical and it can come back to bite you. This is because the varnish will dry and more often than not, you are going to notice that it’s dried unevenly. This may or may not be a dealbreaker for you, but an uneven dry in varnish on my work bothers me to no end. While it might be unnoticeable to someone else, we tend to be very sensitive about our own work – so save yourself a little grief and just completely re-varnish the painting after you’ve made your changes.

Now, if you have a large area that you need to paint, this is going to take a little more work. Check the labelling on your varnish to ensure that it’s removable and then you’ll want to go ahead and remove it. Minor sanding might be an option, as this will give the acrylic something to stick better to, but the product that you are using will likely have instructions on their label or website to help you thin it up enough to get back to work.

Can you remove varnish from acrylic painting?

Can you remove varnish from acrylic paintingIn most cases, yes. High-end varnish is made with the intention that the artist might want to remove it from time to time to freshen up their work. Dust can build up or a bit of yellowing may occur and, in those cases, it’s better just to remove the varnish and start over.

If you want to remove varnish from a painting then your first step is going to be to determine what varnish was used to seal the painting in this first place. This will allow you to research that varnish in order to determine the best means to remove it.

The actual removal process is generally going to be simple, if a bit time-consuming. Usually, you’ll just soak some clean rags in your varnish remover, applying a thin coat on your painting, which you can gently wipe up with some dry, clean rags as the varnish breaks down and liquifies.

Can you paint over an acrylic painting?Can you paint over an acrylic painting

So, you want to reuse your canvas or maybe you’ve found an ugly painting in cool frame that you’d like to repurpose. Well, you can certainly paint over an acrylic painting, you’ll just need to do a little prep. The simplest way to do this is to give the surface a light sanding and then hit it with a coat of primer.

Make sure your mediums are the same (don’t paint over an oil with acrylic or vice versa… you’ll get cracks and other problems) and as long as they are the same, then you are ready to go. Don’t forget to make sure that the primer that you use is going to be compatible with your paints and if you want it to really look great, Gesso it first so that you have a blank, white surface to start with.

One final note on this method, consider the texture because you are going to have to be working with it. If the texture is a bit uneven, resist the urge to just prime it and go. Give it a little more sanding so that you’ve got a smoother surface to work with and then you should be good and ready.

Some closing comments

So, can you paint over a varnished acrylic painting? Yes, you can. Small touch-ups are fine, just consider that you’ll need to re-varnish the whole painting when you are done, and if you are doing a LOT of repainting then you’ll want to completely remove the varnish first.

This is okay, because varnish is designed with the mindset that the artist may want to occasionally remove it, so everything is going to be just fine.

Now, if you are looking to paint over an oil painting, I’ve included a 3rd party link that you can visit here that can give you a step-by-step on how it is done. Just keep to the steps and you’ll be able to ‘recycle’ your canvas just fine!