How do I determine when to seal my paintings and which sealer to use?

Learn when and how to seal an acrylic painting and the various sealers to choose from.

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a row of high gloss paint on, decoupage, and spray on varnishes

Some of the questions I get asked most frequently are about sealing my paintings. When do they need to be sealed, do I seal my paintings, how do I seal them, and which sealer should you use are just some of the sealer-related questions members of the Painting of the Month Club and Christie’s Inner Tribe ask. 

I understand why these are such popular questions. 

When you work hard on a painting, putting your heart and soul and a lot of time into it, you want to protect it! 

Christie's hand holding a Krylon varnish can hovered over the spread love like wildflowers painting of a girl in a field of flowers

It might surprise you to learn that I don’t seal most of my paintings. Since I display them indoors and they are not subjected to much wear and tear, it’s usually not necessary to seal them. 

You will want to seal your paintings if you’ll be hanging them in a room like a bathroom where they’ll be exposed to water and humidity. And if you paint door hangers or plan to hang any of your paintings outdoors, you’ll definitely want to seal them. 

DIY Painted Fall Door Hanger hung on a teal doorThe Social Easel

We recently redecorated the half bathroom on the first floor of our house. I LOVE how it looks! We went a little fancy with gold accents and I painted a pair of paintings last summer – the Sailboats painting I just taught inside the Painting of the Month Club and the Lighthouse. I love how the colors go with our new bathroom decor! 

Bottles of sealer options for sealing an acrylic paintings lined up in front of a painting_how to seal an acrylic painting

How to apply brush-on sealer to an acrylic paintings. 

First, you’ll need to choose what type of finish you want. Sealer comes in matte, semi gloss, and high gloss finishes. This is all about personal preference. I went with a DuraClear High Gloss finish for these paintings because it makes them look a little fancier to go with my fancy finishes in this bathroom. 

Neon Palm Tree Painting sealed with Dura Clear High Gloss Varnish_how to seal an acrylic painting

Another brush-on sealer option is decoupage!

Decoupage is an adhesive I use in my mixed media paintings to adhere all the colorful papers and things to my painting surface, but it is also a great sealer. All my mixed media projects are finished with a thin layer of decoupage.

Tip: Remember decoupage brushes on with a milky color but will dry completely clear.

You can find many of my mixed media lessons on my blog HERE!

Christie's hand holding a decoupage bottle hovering over a scarecrow painting

If you choose a brush-on sealer, the application is really simple. Just squirt it directly onto your painting in sections and brush it on. I use a large, 2” flat brush and it works great. I am able to quickly cover the entire canvas with a nice, even coat of sealer. 

Allow at least 30-60 minutes for it to dry. 

Spraying sealer on an acrylic painting_Funky Summer Flowers painting_how to seal an acrylic painting

When to use spray-on sealers for acrylic paintings.

Spray options can be a great choice, too. There are many brands and they also come in a variety of finishes. I use Krylon and find it works really well. 

Spray-on sealer is the quickest and easiest way to apply sealer. 

These are the best choice if you’ve used paint pens for any detail work on your painting. I found this out the hard way recently when I went to seal my (thankfully) second copy of Spread Love Everywhere.

I had used Posca paint pens for the lettering as well as some details on the flowers and the brush-on sealer caused some of it to smear. 

smeared paint on the word "spread" on my painting
paint marker bleeding color into my other paints  in the sun rays

If you do choose to use a spray-on sealer, make sure you apply it outside!

Christie's hand spraying varnish on the spread love like wildflowers painting in box outside in the yard_how to seal an acrylic painting

Tip: Make sure your sealant says “non-yellowing” to ensure it will protect your painting and add gloss and shine without any discoloration. 

Tip: If you’re painting a door hanger or plan to hang a painting outside, look for a sealer that says “UV resistant” to protect it from fading in the sunlight. 

Watch the full video of how I seal my acrylic paintings here. 

I hope this helps answer your questions about when you might want to seal an acrylic painting and what type of sealer to use. 

If you would like to be notified before I go Live on The Social Easel Facebook Page with a fun art tutorial, text “Hey Friend” to 417-217-7044.

Stay creative and happy painting!