5 simple steps to use a varnish spray for an oil painting

Varnishing is the same as the wrapping of a food product which prevents it from drying and spoiling. Same to wrapping, varnishing is also a coating of a protective layer over the painting and it can be done both in acrylics and oil paintings. The varnish layer plays an important role in saving the painting from dust and dirt. Moreover, it also enhances the visual performance by providing better contrast of colors.

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With the passage of time, techniques for oil painting are getting modern because manufacturing companies are presenting new products with additional features to compete in the market. One of the new products is a varnishing spray.

History: Varnish spray is an invention of the 20th Century that was made with the need to provide the easiest and fastest way to varnish paintings.

In ordinary varnishing techniques, artists coat a layer of retouch or final varnish liquid over the painting by using a fine brush. That method was very slow because artists have to wait for several months or even years to let the painting completely dry before applying varnish. But varnishing with a spray is just a fine spray that can be used after a few weeks or months depending on the thickness of the oil paint.

How to use varnish spray for oil painting

Before moving on to the procedure, you have to make sure that your painting is dry enough to hold the varnish spray.

Time required before using varnish spray:

It usually depends on the thickness of the oil paint layer. If your painting is done on thick impasto style then you must need to give it at least 6 months to dry completely. But if the paint layer is thin, you can use varnish spray just after a month.

  • Thick layer: at least 6 months
  • Moderate layer: 3 months
  • Thin layer: 1 month


  • Prefer a well-ventilated area
  • Keep a 12-inch distance between painting and spray
  • Use a mask to get rid of fumes
  • Avoid any dust particles

Things to need:

  • A good quality varnish spray
  • A clean and soft brush
  • A mask for protection


Make sure that your painting does not hold any previous varnish layer. If so then use a paint thinner to remove any previous varnish layer


Make sure your painting is dry enough to bare the varnishing procedure. Follow these simple steps to avoid any mistakes.

  • STEP 1: Use the brush to wipe any dust out off the surface of the painting
  • STEP 2: Shake the spray bottle before use so that the liquid gets mixed completely
  • STEP 3: Put your hand 12 Inches above the painting surface while holding the spray
  • STEP 4: Spray the painting in a zig-zag motion and don’t let your hand stay on any part while doing this
  • STEP 5: Change the angle of the painting such as from horizontal to vertical then again spray all the surface in a zig-zag motion
  • STEP 6: Leave the painting for 2 hours to let it dry completely

Varnishing sprays vs Varnishing liquids

Varnishing SpraysVarnishing Liquids
Less time consumingTime-consuming
Less used by artistsMost artists prefer
Cannot be useable indoor worksCan be used indoor
Less information available about techniquesMore information is available on many platforms
Take a couple of hours to dryTake more time to dry
Expensive as compared to liquidsCheaper
Can be used as a retouch varnish for oil paintingsCan be used both as a retouch and final varnish
High toxic smellLess toxic smell

Final words

Varnishing with ordinary methods could be time-consuming and hard. These fine sprays make it so much easy to varnish oil painting in a short period of time but these sprays can be toxic due to their strong fumes. Most artists prefer using ordinary varnishing liquids like Demar varnish for their oil paintings and there is less percentage of artists who use sprays as a varnish.

It can be good if you save some extra time but these sprays cannot be useable inside studios. You must have to arrange an outdoor setup to apply them for your paintings.


Is it okay if I use an acrylic spray varnish on an oil painting?

Generally, these sprays come for both acrylics and oil paintings and some of these can be useable for pencils and other works. You can check the product description, if they have clearly mentioned that you can use oil paints also then you can use them too. But if not, then you should avoid using it over oil paintings. For example, Liquitex 3950030 is a spray varnish in which the manufacturer clearly mentioned that you can use it for acrylics. So you should avoid using it over oil paintings.

Is the ‘spray-on’ varnish sufficient protection for oil paintings?

Yes, it is a perfect choice for oil paintings because sprays allow particles to cover more surfaces in a balanced distribution.

I hope all of your confusion related to varnishing sprays must be resolved after reading this blog. If you have any suggestions or questions, you are welcome to ask in the comment section.



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