So, you’ve finished painting, then applied your varnish and waitaminute… it’s dried all cloudy! What can you do? If you are wondering how to fix varnish on acrylic painting, then today is going to be a good day. If you want to fix varnish on your acrylic painting, you can remove it completely and reapply it, sand it, or if you are dealing with dripmarks, then you can razor them right off. While it’s a little time consuming for all but the last option, you can definitely fix your varnish with a little patience and the right steps.
Today I’ll talk a little about these options so that the next time you apply varnish and it misbehaves, then you’ll be good and ready with the solution. Let’s take a look at fixing varnish on your acrylic paintings!
How do you fix runs in varnish?
We’ll start off with drip mark that sometimes solidify on your varnish. These are called ‘runs’ and they can be rather annoying, but the good news is that they are fairly easy to remedy, provided that your varnish has dried-up solid enough to work with it.
So, the first thing that we want to do is to test if the varnish is hard enough to work with. You can do this by simply pressing a fingernail (the thumb is the easiest) into the run to gauge if it is solidified or if it is still soft. If it feels soft to the touch, then you will want to wait before you do anything to it.
Once it’s confirmed to be dried solid, then you want to take a single razorblade, the type you would put in the older variety of shaving razors, and use it to scrape across the surface like you would with a cabinet scraper. This should let you remove most of the run and you can sand any remaining rough bits to complete the job.
Can you sand acrylic varnish?
Yes! Sanding varnish carefully with a fine-grit sandpaper is a great way to smooth it down if your coat has come out a little uneven. You’ll want to dab a little bit of water on the surface first, so that you can minimize any varnish microparticles that will be flying up in response to the abrasive sanding, and it’s a good idea to wear eye protection and a facemask – you don’t want to breathe this stuff or get it in your eyes!
Incidentally, sandpaper doesn’t have to be limited to fixing the varnish, you can also apply it directly to unvarnished acrylic paint. This transforms the normally glossy, reflective acrylic paint so that you get more of a satin finish, but if you try this then you will want to be very careful and go very slowly. If you sand just a little too much, then it can be quite hard to repair, so it’s best to practice on some work that you’ve painted specifically for the purpose of learning this technique.
How do you remove varnish from paint without damaging it?
Removing varnish from a painting without damaging the paint takes a little practice, but this is definitely something that you can learn. It basically boils down to patience and technique, and to learn this technique for yourself you’ll want to invest in some turpentine and some lint free cloths.
Once you’ve got these, removing the varnish is a matter of putting aside a small bowl of turpentine and dipping the cloth in the turpentine, then gently rubbing at the painting. Start in a corner and be very light about the rubbing – if you see any color, then move to a different area because you’ve obviously hit the paint.
Work through the whole of the painting as if it were divided into squares and if you do this slowly, you should be able to effectively remove the varnish completely so that you can make changes to your painting if you like or so that you may simply re-varnish is again.
It’s not that hard, just a bit time-consuming, and once you get a feel for how much turpentine you need on the cloth and how much rubbing, then you’ll have this technique well-mastered and ready to use as-needed.
Some final words
In this article I’ve talked a little about removing drips or completely removing varnish for when your coat hasn’t gone on quite the way that you expected. Removing runs or completely removing varnish is not that difficult, it just takes a little time and practice. Runs can be removed with the scrape of a razor and sanding down your acrylic to get it perfect and smooth is also an option. Finally, you can remove it completely with a lint-free cloth and turpentine if you simply want to start over.
Before I go, if you’d like to learn a little more about applying varnish and common issues, then you can read some great information at this 3rd party link. It has some good info on applying varnish and some common issues which you may encounter. Don’t worry, varnishing gets easier with experience and before you know, it you’ll be doing it perfectly every time.
It just takes a little practice!