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Can You Varnish Over Paint (Painted Wood, Wall, Etc.)?

Varnish is known as a thin layer of finish over the paint. Varnish over paint causes to look the paint more reflecting. Besides, it enhances the color, durability of the surface and protects the paint from dust, harmful UV ray, and extends the lifespan of the paint.

Can you varnish over paint? 

Depending on materials, varnish can be applied over paints. It is a liquid element consisting of mixtures of different raisins. It is mostly used on wood, metals, or paintings. When the varnish is painted to a surface, the surface becomes hard after it dries, giving it a glossy and durable look.

Varnish comes in 6 different shades based on wood color. It is used to avoid rust, paint damage due to sunlight and give durability. It is very likely to extend the lifespan of wood at the same time. 

Applying multiple layers of varnish allows the paint to enhance Its color as well as create a protective layer on top of it. You need a smooth surface to apply varnish on it. 

If you are considering applying varnish on a flat surface, it is recommended to sand the wood surface first. 

For the painted surface, it is recommended to use chalk-based paint and then apply water-based varnish on top of it so that the surface does not turn yellowish even after a long time. Based on surfaces, varnish can be applied to:

Painted Wood:

Painted wood is the best surface for applying varnish. It lets the wood become harder on top and more durable as different raisins are mixed in wood varnish to help it prevent aging and become water-resistant again rain.


Wall is varnished to avoid stains on it. As varnish is a thin layer of glossy and slippery liquid, it prevents any oil or greasy element from sticking to the wall. It also helps to enhance the paint of the wall.

Paint pens:

Varnish is used on paints that are drawn using paint pens to give it a matt finish. Varnish helps protect the painting from dust and yellowing and gives a glossy glare to make it look more attractive.

Outdoor paints:

Outdoor paints are mostly acrylic paints that damage if directly exposed to sunlight. The UV ray increases the temperature inside a building. So, a thin layer of varnish applying is highly recommended.

What happens if you put varnish over paint?

When you put varnish over paint, it creates a reflecting effect and thickens the upper layer of the surface. Acrylic paints and enamel paints are most compatible with varnish. You can apply water-based clear coat varnish on these paints.

You cannot directly apply varnish over wet paint, the paint has to be dry. After a few weeks of painting, you can apply varnish to that. 

Because the paper will absorb the wet elements mixing up with colors and ruin the final product. You should apply water-based varnish rather than oil-based varnish over painting because the oil-based ones become yellowish over time.

Polyurethane clear coating is the most suitable type of varnish. It is likely to be used in furniture, walls, or metallic handrails and can be applied to almost any type of paint. The results for varnishing over paint are followed as:

Glossy effect and durability:

Varnish has higher amounts of solids present when prepared to paint on something. So, it helps the surface become more durable when applied.

Besides, when you apply multiple coats of varnish over paint it will make a glass-like reflection. It also prevents the color from aging and protects from mites. 

Protects paint from UV rays and dust:

Applying varnish on walls or outdoor equipment such as bench, handrails or fences helps protect them from dust, stains.

It also resists materials from UV rays that could damage the paint and let the furniture start aging fast.

Increases lifespan of paint:

As it creates a thin and hard layer over wood or other elements surface, varnish helps prevent scratches on the wooden surface and makes it almost or completely waterproof.

Can you varnish over these paints?

Varnish can be applied to different types of paints. However, any product or material should not be varnished immediately after painting it. Instead, varnishing after a few weeks of drying the paint will make it last longer. 

Results for varnishing over different paints shows as:

Chalk paint:

Painting varnish over chalk-based paint will slightly change the shade of the paint to some extent. The result will be highly noticeable if done to white-colored stuff.

Acrylic paint:

Varnishing over acrylic paint is the best decision to prevent the paint from damaging from dust and becoming yellowish over the days.

Emulsion paint:

Emulsion painted surface when it is dry is the best surface to apply varnish on. Before applying varnish over it, it is important to make sure the surface is clean and sanded properly for a smooth finish. 

Gloss paint:

Gloss paint already has some elements similar to varnish present on them, so it is not mandatory to apply varnish on it. Applying varnish will just create a second layer of gloss on it.

Satinwood paint:

Varnish can be applied to satinwood paint as well. If the surface is not maintained properly, it will become grimy and older soon.

Matt paint:

Applying varnish over matt paint will ruin the matte finish and become glossy. It will also help the paint attract dust and UV rays that could damage the quality of paint.

Water-based paint:

Water-based paint has a good amount of sustainability to hold varnish. So, the acrylic-based varnish will be the best pick for water-based paint. 

White paint:

As white paint is very sensitive paint, varnishing over white paint without proper measurement or drying level could ruin the shade of paint and slightly darken it.

Spray paint:

Water-based varnish is the best type of varnish for spray paint Ideal material to make the color long-lasting. 

Fence paint:

Fence paint usually consists of oil-based elements in it so it will not be able to hold the water-based varnish. So, it is highly recommended to use a primer before applying varnish to it.

How do you apply varnish over painted materials?

Before you apply varnish on painted materials, there are some simple steps to follow. You just cannot simply apply varnish on bare materials such as wooden benches or handrails. 

It will be rinsed off by water very easily. So, there are some proper measurements to create the mixture of varnish. Besides, it is important to prepare the material as well before applying varnish to it. The steps are shown below:

Clean the surface:

Before applying varnish on a material, it is important to prepare it for the best result. For example, if you are considering a wooden bench or fence to varnish, First, you need to make sure it is dry.

Now, you need to rub it off with sandpaper to create a smoother surface, this helps prevent it from accumulating in one place. You can use 200-250 grit sandpaper to get the job done.

Prepare the varnish:

This is a very important part of applying varnish over paint. For water-based varnish, add some water to balance the thickness.

If you are using oil-based varnish for your materials, add an oil-like thinner such as turpentine. 

Apply the varnish:

Once you start applying varnish, you need a certain time to let it dry and then start over again for better results. You can start by putting your first layer and then wait for 24-36 hours to let it dry.

Once it dries, smoothen it up a little bit with sandpaper and apply the second coat to it. Keep continuing for 3-4 layers in the same procedure. Every time you move on to the next coat, make sure to increase your sandpaper grit a little.

What clear coat can I use over paint? What can I use instead of varnish?

Polyurethane is a popular clear coat for applying over paint. But now people nowadays are moving to odorless, natural, eco-friendly, and fast-drying varnish alternative options. For wooden materials, they are choosing lacquers. 

Although, lacquers aren’t long-lasting compared to varnish but will give the materials a thin coat that will help them shine perfectly. But they give a far better finish than the traditional varnish coat.

Also, you can also use candelilla wax. This is a very popular and naturally extracted clear coat varnish. It is easy to melt, best for wooden furniture, acid-free, and will keep your materials looking newer.

This, like other varnishes such as polyurethane, prevents white paint from deteriorating.

Final Thoughts

Varnish can be applied to any type of material. But we have to keep in mind that we are applying the right type of varnish to it. In addition to that, varnish should be applied to dried paints. Finally, it is better to apply at least 4-5 coats of varnish on material in order to get the best results.