How to Remove Varnish From Acrylic Painting?

Randy Charles
Randy Charles
Professional Painter

Hi, I’m Randy Charles, the creator and chief editor of this site Paintcentric. I’m a businessman now by profession, but I used to work as...Read more

There are many reasons that you might want to varnish an acrylic painting with the many ones being to protect it from dust and UV rays.  But what if you decided that you wanted to remove it?  Can you do it and if so, how?

How to remove varnish from acrylic painting is a good question.  Will it harm the acrylic painting if you do?  How do you do it?  Why should you remove it?  One thing to note is that when most varnishes are put on acrylic painting, they are done with the intent of having to remove it one day.

By the end of this article, you will know the steps to remove varnish from acrylic painting and why you would do it?  There are many reasons to remove it and one way to do it correctly.  Continue reading to find the steps of removing varnish from acrylic painting.

Is Acrylic Varnish Removable?

Yes, the acrylic varnish is removable.  When it was applied it was done with the intentions of one day having it removed,  Varnish is nothing more than is a layer of protection against dust, and T sunlight.  There are steps that you will need to follow to remove varnish from acrylic painting.

Is Acrylic Varnish Removable

How to Remove Varnish from Acrylic Painting?

Before you take the varnish off an acrylic painting, you need to see whether or not there is an isolation coat on the painting, which is done before you varnish the acrylic painting.  If there is no isolation coat, then it may not be a good idea to take the varnish off.  When you are removing varnish from acrylic painting, you are using chemicals.  With no protection, the painting that is underneath the varnish could be damaged.

How to Remove Varnish From Acrylic Painting

If you want to go ahead and get rid of the varnish anyway, first you should check out a small corner or the back of your acrylic painting with the remover.  You can even do this on the edge of the painting.  What you are looking for is to see if will have any adverse effects on the painting and how much, if any, of the pigment was lifted.

To remove varnish from acrylic painting, follow these steps:

  • Step 1: Make sure that the acrylic painting has dried for at least a month if it is a new painting.  You need to wait for at least this long before you should attempt at removing the varnish.  If you do not, the paint pigment might be wet still and can come off easier.
  • Step 2: Get your space ready, which means it will need to be well ventilated.  You should also wear a mask because the chemicals in the remover can be severe.  You will also need enough cotton rags or towels that are lint-free that can cover the painting twice.  On average that would be five to fifteen cotton rags.  You will also need gloves and a tray or container that you can use to soak the cotton rags in.  It needs to be disposable because of the chemicals in the remover.  You will also need something disposable to put the cotton rags in when you are done with them.  You will also need to have a plastic sheet that is as big as the cotton rags.

NOTE:  If you have never removed varnish from an acrylic painting, you should practice on a piece that will be similar to what you are going to be working on.  Take the varnish from what you are practicing on so you will remember how to do it and you can also see how it will affect the painting.

  • Step 3: If you are not sure if what you have chosen to use is the right one, contact the varnish removal manufacturer to see if it is and if not, which you need to use.  Some to use include white spirit, turpentine, or mineral spirits to remove the varnish. Some are specially made for this purpose.  The right varnish remover to use will depend on what the varnish that was originally on the painting was.
  • Step 4: When you are ready to start, make sure that you have on your mask and gloves and all of your material is laid out.  Use a cotton rag and put it in the disposable bucket or tray.  Saturate it in the remover and gently squeeze the excess out.  Place it on a corner of the acrylic painting.  Start to smooth out the cloth across the top corner of the painting to remove any wrinkles or bubbles.

After you have it smoothed out, you can put the plastic sheet on top of the cotton rag.  This is done to keep the evaporation from going away quickly.  After a couple of minutes, lift a small piece of the plastic sheet and cotton rag in a corner to see if the varnish has become liquid.  If it has not, then wait another two minutes before you take the cotton rag and plastic off.  Lay the plastic sheet aside and put the cotton cloth in the disposable bucket.

  • Step 5: Take a clean cotton rag and repeat the process over the acrylic painting. This time you will not need to use the plastic sheet.  You can remove the cotton cloth immediately after you flatten it out and there are no wrinkles.

NOTE:  You should stop immediately if there is a lot of paint underneath that comes off.

  • Step 6: Take the second cotton cloth and fold it into fourths.  Rub it softly over the area to remove any varnish that is left.
  • Step 7: At this point, you will need to duplicate the first four steps until you have done the entire acrylic painting.

Make sure that you are using a clean cotton rag every time.  This will help you know how much paint you are taking off along with the varnish.  Make sure that you are doing this gently.

Once you have finished make sure to check for any leftover varnish or stickiness.  If you notice any, then you will need to soak that area for two minutes to remove the stickiness or leftover varnish.  Now you need to let the acrylic painting dry.  You can discard the varnish remover or save it.  Let the cotton rags air dry before you get rid of them.  The cotton rags and varnish remover need to be disposed of as hazardous waste.

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Why Should I Remove Varnish from Acrylic Painting?

The main reason that you should remove varnish from acrylic painting is that over time, it can get dust particles in can start to turn yellow.  When you remove the varnish, all the dirt particles come with it so your painting will once again look vibrant.  To keep it that way, just revarnish it.

Why Should I Remove Varnish From Acrylic Painting

Is It Okay to Not Varnish Acrylic Paintings?

Truthfully, it is not necessary to varnish it because professional acrylic paint will hold up against the elements and time.  On the other hand, there are benefits to varnishing your acrylic painting.

Some of these benefits include:

  • It can help to saturate or deepen the colors on the canvas.
  • It can help to prevent UV penetration and dirt buildup.
  • Extends the lifetime of your painting.
  • The entire surface will have an even sheen.

As you can see, it is okay not to varnish your acrylic paintings but there are a lot of benefits if you do.

Final Verdict

How to remove varnish from acrylic painting involves many steps.  You are also working with chemicals, so you have to make sure you are wearing gloves, a mask, and working in a very ventilated area.  It can be a tedious job but can be done.  We also covered why you should remove the varnish and if it is necessary to varnish your acrylic painting.

Randy Charles
Randy CharlesProfessional Painter

Hi, I’m Randy Charles, the creator and chief editor of this site Paintcentric. I’m a businessman now by profession, but I used to work as a painter earlier in my professional career. There is simply nothing about painting that I didn’t do as a painter. From painting a fridge to a multi-storied building, I left nothing. I retired from my painting job in the mid of 2018 due to back arthritis problems.

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