Waterborne Varnish



GOLDEN Gloss Waterborne Varnish (#7710) is a water-based, removable, acrylic polymer varnish designed to protect interior acrylic paintings from dust and ultraviolet light.

Ultraviolet Light Stabilizers (UVLS) help slow the rate of color change and fading in artist materials due to ultraviolet light.

Waterborne Varnish is removable for future conservation efforts. Household-strength ammonia or sodium carbonate ("Washing Soda") can be used to remove Waterborne Varnish with minimal concerns of damaging the underlying artwork.

An isolation coat between the acrylic paints and varnish is recommended to reduce interaction during varnish application or removal. GOLDEN Isolation Coat product page

Waterborne Varnish is not intended to be used on oil paintings or any artwork intended for outdoor display.

Waterborne Varnish is not intended for use on functional objects (such as furniture).

Painting with acrylics or oils onto Waterborne Varnish is not recommended.


To increase the chances of a successful application, we strongly suggest practicing with the products and techniques on test paintings, before applying the varnish onto actual artwork.

An Isolation Coat is highly recommended before varnishing to reduce potential interaction with susceptible painting materials. Read this document, and contact GOLDEN Artist Colors if there are any questions.


Mix varnish fresh for each application; do not store mixed products for more than a few days.

Estimate around 100 square feet of coverage for every quart (32oz) of thinned Waterborne Varnish.


Allow acrylics to fully dry for at least 72 hours prior to applying an isolation coat. The use of Retarder or Glazing Liquid may require a longer waiting period. If GOLDEN OPEN Acrylic Paints, Gels or Mediums were used during the painting process, please visit the OPEN Product Information Sheet and follow the recommended timeframe between layers of OPEN Acrylics, Isolation Coats, and Varnish.


You may use a gloss, clear acrylic medium such as Soft Gel Gloss diluted with water (2:1 Gel to water) or the premade product named GOLDEN Isolation Coat. Ideally allow 72 hours drying, then apply the first layer of GOLDEN Waterborne Varnish. Allow 24 hours before assessing the surface and sheen before applying additional coats (if necessary). GOLDEN suggests one or two varnish layers for most interior paintings. If additional layers of varnish are desired, allow 24 hours between each coat. NOTE: Applying product layers faster may be possible, but in turn, the risk of reactivating underlying layers in increased as well.


Pour some varnish into a (ideally clear) container. Leave enough space to allow for water additions. After each use, wipe the cap and container threads to remove any varnish before replacing the lid. This will help prevent dried bits of varnish from falling into the container when you next open the container. Dried bits will need to be strained from the varnish before use.

Thin Waterborne Varnish with water before applying.

Brushing: Start at a 5:1 ratio (Varnish to Water), and adjust as necessary.

Spraying: Start at a 2:1 ratio (Varnish to Water), and adjust as necessary.

Brush-Application Process

  • Acrylics are thermoplastic and therefore can be a tacky surface even after complete drying. Store and ship artwork assuring NOTHING is in contact with the varnish surface.
  • Paint rollers or foam brushes are not recommended for use with Isolation Coat or Waterborne Varnish.
  • To apply the varnish quickly and evenly, use a wide, thin, synthetic wash brush. This type of brush allows for uniform application before the varnish begins to set up.
  • Begin applying the varnish onto the painting surface. It can be applied to a horizontal or vertical surface. 
  • While it is important to not overload the varnish amount onto a painting, it is also important to apply enough varnish for brush strokes and bubbles to dissipate.
  • Apply the varnish carefully but quickly, brushing towards the edge but not past.
  • After the varnish covers the entire painting (except near the edge), brush from the painting edge inward into the wet product.
  • Repeat this process and work around the entire perimeter until you cover the painting completely with varnish.
  • Finally, smooth out the varnish, assuring it covers the entire painting evenly without any missed spots or puddling, runs, or sags.
  • Avoid overworking the varnish and finish applying before the varnish begins to dry. Once the varnish begins to feel tacky, stop brushing to allow it time to relax.
  • Allow 24 hours or more for the varnish to dry, unless studio conditions allow for faster re-application. After 24 hours, assess the varnish surface.
  • If the dried varnish layer is not satisfactory, wait 24 hours and apply another layer to even the varnish surface.
  • Allow 7 days for drying before packing, shipping, or framing the artwork.


Only one layer of GOLDEN Waterborne Varnish over an Isolation Coat is sufficient to create a uniform surface. If more than one varnish layer is required to achieve a uniform surface allow at least 24 hours between coats of varnish to reduce the chance of reactivating the underlying layer.


Removing GOLDEN Waterborne Varnish may be required if the varnish application isn’t satisfactory, or if there is damage that occurs to the varnish surface. A cured acrylic painting, with an Isolation Coat under the varnish, is the optimal candidate for varnish removal as there is much less chance of an issue during removal. Review the Waterborne Varnish Removal Process and test the process before attempting removal on an actual artwork.


Technical Support is available to answer questions at (800) 959-6543 or by emailing techsupport@goldenpaints.com.

Removing a varnish is a very consequential process that should not be taken lightly, as the appearance of the artwork can be changed or damage could result from improper handling. The task is often best left to a professional conservator, particularly with works of special significance or unknown composition. However, there are times, as when something has gone amiss in the application, that it may be appropriate for the artist to do the work.

Golden Artist Colors Waterborne Varnish films remain soluble in alkaline solutions, the most common being household ammonia. Avoid products that have a scent added and suds-ing varieties, which may contain soap. For artists in Canada or in locations where household ammonia is not easily sourced, sodium carbonate (“Washing Soda”) can be used to remove Waterborne Varnish. To make a solvent solution using sodium carbonate, dilute to a 100:1 ratio of water to sodium carbonate. Then test pH, e.g. by using pH test strips, to ensure it is above 11.

Before embarking on a varnish removal mission, carefully consider the materials that are to be used, and how they can be used in a safe, controlled manner. Waterborne Varnish removal requires the use of a highly alkaline solution thus requiring proper personal protective equipment. Such equipment may include nitrile gloves, long sleeved protective clothing, chemical splash goggles or face shield and when working with ammonia, ammonia respirators. Also, work in an area with good ventilation.

First, test the solvent on a small area of the painting, or preferably on a test piece, to determine its effectiveness at dissolving the varnish.

A good procedure for removing the varnish is to start with a soft, low lint cloth (50/50 cotton/polyester T-shirt material works well). Saturate this cloth in ammonia or sodium carbonate solution and lay over an area of the varnished surface. If possible, work with the painting in a horizontal position, on a table or floor.

If the work must be done vertically, as on a wall, a method would have to be devised for keeping the saturated cloth in contact with the varnished surface. In either case, to minimize evaporation, use a plastic sheet to blanket the saturated cloth.

Work in areas no larger than 2 square feet per application. Larger areas tend to become cumbersome and make thorough varnish removal difficult. Allow the saturated cloth to lie on the painting for 2-5 minutes. After removing it, use a clean solvent-dampened cloth to gently pat the surface to remove the varnish. Note: excessive force may damage the paint layers below the varnish. Repeat this process until the entire painting surface has been treated.

After a single treatment over the complete surface of the painting, some residual varnish may remain. Repeat the procedure, and continue doing so until the varnish has been sufficiently removed. Additional ammonia exposure may result in some swelling of the underlying paint layer.

NOTE: Before reapplying Waterborne Varnish, it is recommended that the surface of the painting is wiped down with a water damp, lint-free rag to remove any residue that may be remaining from the ammonia or sodium carbonate. Once dry, reapply the varnish as needed.

NOTE: Practice and Test Varnish Removal on unimportant acrylic surfaces.

If you are NOT the artist of a painting that requires conservation procedures, contact a local conservator as varnish removal can permanently damage artwork.

If at any point you have concerns or issues during removal, stop the process immediately and let it dry. Take photos of the issue and contact the Material Specialists at help@goldenpaints.com


GOLDEN Waterborne Varnish is intended to protect an acrylic painting for many decades, until such time as it becomes too soiled that regular cleaning cannot remedy. Please refer to the Just Paint Article “Techniques for Cleaning Acrylic Paintings” for detailed instructions on the safest way to help keep the painting looking its best.


Caution should be used whenever handling varnished artwork.

  • Allow one week after last varnish coat before handling/packing/shipping.
  • Acrylics are thermoplastic and therefore can be a tacky surface even after complete drying.
  • Do not stack artwork and avoid any direct contact with any materials during shipping or storage.
  • Store and ship artwork assuring nothing is in contact with the varnish surface.
  • Visit our Pack and Ship Landing Page for best practices for storage and shipping paintings.



Waterborne Varnish Product Properties

Binder Composition

Acrylic copolymer MMA/BA

MFFT (Minimum Film Formation Temp.)

49° F (9.5°C)

Tg (Film Hardness)

21°C / 70F

pH Range



100 ft.2/qt. (9 m2/L)


Distilled Water


Household, Clear Ammonia, Sodium Carbonate ("Washing Soda")


Warm, soapy water


The above information is based on research and testing done by Golden Artist Colors, Inc., and is provided as a basis for understanding the potential uses of the products mentioned. Due to the numerous variables in methods, materials and conditions of producing art, Golden Artist Colors, Inc. cannot be sure the product will be right for you. Therefore, we urge product users to test each application to ensure all individual project requirements are met. While we believe the above information is accurate, WE MAKE NO EXPRESS OR IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY OR FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE, and we shall in no event be liable for any damages (indirect, consequential, or otherwise) that may occur as a result of a product application