Can You Shellac Over Acrylic Paint?

Can you shellac over acrylic paint

So, you’ve just done a little painting and the blues and purples you’ve just produced are simply amazing. Your favorite topcoat is running low and you’ve just spotted something else… shellac!

Can you shellac over acrylic paint? No. Shellac has denatured alcohol in it and this will break up your acrylic paint and ruin your work. While it has potential as an undercoat as long as it has completely dried, it is unsuitable as a topcoat for any painted acrylic work and a more compatible medium should be used.

Let’s start with the big problem lurking there if you try to use shellac over acrylic paint and after that we’ll go over it’s undercoat potential and then more suitable topcoats.

Shellac is not good for an overcoatShellac is not good for an overcoat

In a recent article of ours entitled ‘Can you use acrylic paint on wood’ we talk about some topcoats and seals that you can use and you’ve notice that shellac is suspiciously absent. It’s not that I’m not fond of it. Shellac has a number of uses where it performs well, you just don’t want it around your acrylics.

By the way, if you are curious about some great uses for shellac with art, then check out this 3rd party article for some great and useful information. Now, about the problems of using shellac with your acrylics…

The problem with using shellac as a top coat is that it has denatured alcohol as part of it’s overall makeup. A lot of it, in fact. This means that if you apply it over acrylic, it’s going to break down your paint a bit and then it’s going to run!

This doesn’t mean that shellac can’t anywhere near the acrylic, you can include it in your work, but not as an overcoat.

You can use it as an undercoat, however

Shellac is not good for an overcoatWhile it’s a bad idea to put shellac over your acrylics, the opposite is a different beast altogether. If you like the look of shellac, you can still incorporate it in the surface that you are treating, but instead of painting first and shellacking later, just apply your shellac first.

Let the shellac dry thoroughly, per the instructions on your label, and once it is completely dry and shiny THEN you can start putting acrylic paint on top of your new, shiny layer. Since the shellac is dry, it shouldn’t hurt your acrylics, and you can apply a more appropriate topcoat later or simply use ‘outside acrylics’ that are designed to seal themselves.

My personal preference is to seal it anyways, because that adds longevity to your work and comes with the bonus of not having to repaint that item anytime soon. It’s a win-win situation.

It’s probably best to just skip the shellac and go with a different topcoatIt’s probably best to just skip the shellac and go with a different topcoat

When it comes to topcoats you have a number of acrylic-friendly options out there. A good acrylic polymer varnish will do the trick, but you will get much clearer and tougher protection from an acrylic resin varnish.

You can find a few different varieties out there depending on your preferences, so you can protect your work with a high-gloss finish, a satin finish, or even a matte finish if that’s the look that you are going for. Just stay away from using shellac as anything beyond an undercoat, otherwise you are asking for trouble and shellac is going to give it to you!

The only caveat with using the acrylic resin is that you don’t want to inhale the stuff. Be sure before you ‘get your varnish on’ that you’ve chosen a well-ventilated area where dust isn’t going to get in your varnish and be sure to wear a facemask just to keep things super-safe.

After that, you may varnish that piece to your heart’s content, but 2 coats will typically suffice.

Oh, and you might want to consider an isolation coat just to ensure that the gloss is going to come out as clear as you like. Mix 2 parts of your favorite gloss with 1 part water to do this and apply a single thin coat with a brush.

Let it dry and then you’ve got a thin layer that you can then do the final coats over and you should have a cleared protective coat than you would without the isolation layer.

Some final commentary

Can you use shellac over acrylic? The answer is a resounding ‘no’. Shellac has denatured alcohol and this means it will likely damage or destroy your work. You can use it as an undercoat but as an overcoat for acrylics, Shellac is definitely not going to work and at best you’ll end up preserving damaged acrylics.

With a proper overcoat, your work will be well-preserved and you can get a comparable look to the shellac, just experiment with your topcoats and you love the results!









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