We all know that some types of paint are more water-resistant than others. Due to their thick textured quality, a lot of people assume acrylics must be immune to water.
Still, if you’re wrong about this assumption, and it isn’t waterproof or water-resistant enough, your paintings could pay. So, what’s the truth? Will acrylic paint come off in the medium to heavy water like the rain?
Acrylic paint will come off in the rain if it’s still wet and hasn’t been sealed. While acrylic paint is water-resistant when it’s dried, it’s not completely waterproof. Fortunately, there are several options for getting it sealed for extra protection. Most commonly, this is done with gloss or varnish.
If you’re interested in making your acrylic paintings more water-resistant, you’ve come to just the right place. However, it’s not all bad news.
In the following sections, we will discuss how and why acrylic paint can be washed away with water in some circumstances. We will also break down the various treatments to use to protect your own acrylic works.
Does Water Wash Off Acrylic Paint?
Acrylic paint is water-based paint. This means that the very thing that brings it together can also bring it down. Too much water will cause it to thin out and wash away, leaving behind a stain where a fresh painting once had been.
The key detail here, though, is that the painting still has to be wet for this to happen. Once it’s actually dry, you’ll probably need a solvent to break it down completely.
That doesn’t mean that some of the water can’t be broken down. There’s bound to be a little damage if enough water is present, even if the whole painting isn’t washed away.
If you don’t want to take any chances–or really, even if you want to shine up your piece–you can take steps to protect your acrylic painting further.
When it’s completed, you need to ensure that it is sealed with something like a gloss or a varnish. It will become far more water-resistant.
The glossy coating or the varnish acts as a barrier between the acrylics and elements like oxygen, leading to decay over long periods. So you can be happy knowing your painting is protected from water and air.
Plus, if your painting is sealed, it will be easier to keep it in mint condition if you want to hand it down one day.
Is a Dried Acrylic Painting Water Resistant or Waterproof?
There’s an understandably common misconception that water-resistant and waterproof are synonyms. The truth is, while they are similar terms, they don’t mean the same thing. Before we discuss which category a dried acrylic painting would fall into, lets us first define our terms:
- Water Resistant: The ability of a piece to withstand some degree of exposure to water. Oftentimes if something is water resistant it won’t be completely ruined by a large amount of water, but it can be damaged. If, on the other hand, it got caught in a light rain it might come out just fine. Still there’s an amount of water that can effectively ruin it.
- Waterproof: Pieces that are waterproof are immune to the effects of water. You could dunk them into a bucket of rain water and they’d still be fine. Waterproof items are fully submersible. It’s important to note, waterproof does sometimes have a different meaning in the colloquial sense. Remember, a lot of people use it to mean highly water resistant.
So, which category do Acrylic paintings fall into? Are they impervious to water or just immune to some level of it? Unfortunately, they are just water-resistant.
They probably wouldn’t be destroyed if they got caught in a decent rain shower, but they would still be really rough. This is a big part of why you should still get your painting sealed.
Does Getting an Acrylic Painting Sealed Make it Waterproof?
We know that sealing an acrylic painting will add water protection to an already dried, water-resistant piece.
However, that doesn’t mean that it will completely protect the painting from water to the point of being considered waterproof. It could just increase its tolerance for water a little bit.
Fortunately, that’s not the case. If you properly seal an acrylic painting in a gloss or a varnish, the acrylics should effectively be waterproof.
If you leave it in the rain, the frame you had it in may take damage, but the painting itself should look relatively unchanged if a bit wet.
How Do You Get an Acrylic Painting Sealed
Sealing an acrylic painting might sound like it would be difficult or a pain to have to do when you’ve finally finished an acrylic piece. Fortunately, it’s easier to do than it might appear; it just takes time.
Supplies You Will Need to Get Started
Foundational to your success in sealing your acrylic piece is that you have all the relevant supplies and an adequate workspace. That’s why we’ve put together the following checklist that allows you to double-check you have everything you need, aside from the painting, of course:
- A clear workspace: You want to make sure that you take precautions not to accidentally leak some varnish onto your table or floor. You could inadvertently cause some damage. Make sure you have a space that is clear and prepared to prevent messes. Some people put newspapers or tablecloths over the worktable they use.
- A base coat brush of an appropriate size: A great option for most acrylic paintings on canvas is to use the Liquitex base coat brush. The model we’ve linked comes in four different sizes ranging from one inch to 4 inch. Just go with what seems reasonable to cover the size of your painting.
- Seal/Varnish/Gloss: Colloquially it is called by many different names, but the varnish is the most important item on the list Liquitex and also makes a great acrylic varnish.
- Small container: You want a small container (tupperware will do) to put some of your varnish in. Without an extra small container you would have to struggle to get your brush down the neck of the varnish bottle. Aside from being a pain, that could also cause you to get too much or too little on the brush.
- Plastic wrap: You’ll want this to keep the excess varnish on your brush and in your container from drying up while you wait for the first coat to dry.
- An old plate/paper plate: This doesn’t actually have to be a plate. Anything you can wrap plastic around to keep a brush with some varnish on it from being exposed to oxygen, while you wait for your first coat to dry, will do just fine.
The bigger your painting, the more of the varnish you will need, but the same basic steps to seal it, still apply.
Important Things to Know Before Sealing Your Work
Before we begin going through each step involved in applying the seal, there are a few important things you’ll want to know to most efficiently get the job done. The following tips will help prevent you from making common mistakes when
- Organize your workspace: You want to make sure you have everything you need ready to go and at hand before you start the process of sealing your acrylic painting in a gloss/varnish. It will make the process go faster and it will decrease the likelihood of mistakes. Double check that you have everything you need before starting.
- Never apply varnish to an acrylic painting that isn’t dry: You have to wait until your acrylic painting has dried before you try adding any kind of treatment or coating. Doing so beforehand can result in irrevocable damage to the piece.
- Ensure the varnish you’re using is compatible with acrylics: It’s best to get a varnish that is explicitly marketed for acrylic paintings like the Liquitex one we recommended. If you pick up a different type of varnish by mistake it probably won’t turn out right.
- Expect the process to take a couple hours: It’s not uncommon for this process to take around two to three hours, depending on how big the painting is and whether you’re doing a double coat (hint: you should). Just turn on some chill music and settle in.
If you keep all of the above tips in mind, you can avoid common mistakes like rushing the process or making a mistake due to a lack of organization.
Step by Step: How to Seal an Acrylic Painting
So, we finally came to it. How do you actually seal an acrylic painting with a varnish? Once you have your painting set out in a flat space where you can easily access the entire surface with your brush.
Follow each of these steps to apply a basic varnish to your acrylic painting:
- Get an even amount of varnish on your brush: You can just lightly dip your brush into the varnish and wipe it down. You don’t want the brush to be dripping but you also don’t want it to be dry.
- Pick a direction for the strokes of your brush: It’s important that all of the strokes you use on each individual coating go in the same direction. It can be horizontal or vertical lines, it’s up to you. Be sure to make the strokes go from one side of the piece to the other. If you go all the way across it reduces the likelihood of using too much in one spot.
- Don’t cover the same spot twice in one coating: Resist the urge to go back over spots you feel you missed, but instead just keep going in rows until the whole surface of the painting has been coated.
- Allow the first coating to dry: It will likely take around three hours for the first coating to dry. At the very least you can check it in three hours to see if it’s there.
- Do some simple clean up:The first few minutes of waiting for your coat to dry should be taken up by some minor cleaning. It’s a good idea to try and wash any excess varnish out of your brush in a sink. Then you want to place it on a plate and wrap plastic around it and your container of varnish to avoid drying.
- Repeat for a second coating with a few changes: The second coating is the same as the first except this time you should reverse the direction of your brushstrokes. Remember to go carefully so that you can have an even layer of varnish. Also remember to still resit the urge to go back over the varnish you’ve already put down.
- Let the second coating dry: Again you want to wait about three hours.
Once the second coat is dry, your painting is ready to go. The whole process is so much simpler than one would suspect it to be.
Still, easy or not, if you accidentally leave your acrylic piece in the rain for a short period of time, it will have a far better chance of surviving once you’ve just done it. Feel free to bookmark this page and return to it for reference when you actually get around to sealing your work.
So Really Will Acrylic Paint Come Off In the Rain?
Whew! That was quite a bit to take in. It’s as easy to mix up which state acrylic paint has to be in to be waterproof as it is to mix up the definitions of waterproof and water-resistant themselves!
So to recap: Acrylic paint can be washed away by rain or any consistent flowing water when wet because it is a water-based paint.
Once it dries, however, it becomes water-resistant, meaning it can take some water but not too much. To really make it waterproof, you need to have it sealed with a varnish/gloss. Then you can rest easy knowing your work is protected!