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Derivan's Acrylic Varnish Collection: Mastering Gloss & Matt Effects

Why do I need an acrylic varnish?

Acrylic varnish is a clear coat applied over the top of artwork. It has two main functions- giving it an even sheen, which will help bring out the full intensity and beauty of pigments and protect it from various areas of attack such as wear and tear or airborne grime or chemicals.

What Acrylic Varnish Should I use?

When selecting a varnish, one of the first questions that arise is the gloss level required. The gloss level is essential because it can determine how shiny or flat the finish will be on top of your painting. Derivan Acrylic Paints and Derivan Student Paints offer a shine that's similar across their ranges, but mixing them with water or other mediums can change this dramatically! In the Derivan range of varnishes, we offer two different sheen levels: glossy and matte. Need to know more about varnishing techniques? check out our Best way to varnish an acrylic painting page 


Derivan Polymer Gloss Varnish - Can be used as a gloss finishing varnish and an acrylic gloss medium. - Mixed with Derivan colours, it increases the gloss and flows characteristics of the paint.

Key Features:

  • Non-Yellowing

  • Water-based Technology

  • archival and acid free 

  • Excellent levelling properties

  • Water-based

  • High Gloss

Perfect For: 

  • Acrylic varnishing techniques 

  • Use with a heavy body and soft body paints

  • Mixed Media

  • Acrylic Glazing techniques

  • Decoupage

  • Used as a gloss varnish, it produces strong, protective, clear film free from tackiness or stickiness.

Available in 250ml, 500ml and 2 Litre sizes.




Use Polymer Matt Varnish as a final varnish over a dried, well-cured acrylic painting when a flat, matt or very low sheen is required.  This acrylic varnish will enhance colour while adding a non-glare, low sheen finish.

Most suitable as a protective coating, particularly over large works exposed to damage in public galleries, commercial paintings required for floodlit photographic reproduction and paintings that would be improved by eliminating unbalanced glossy highlights. 

It is water-based and may appear slightly milky whilst wet. The effect disappears when the film is dry.

Key Features:

  • Non-Yellowing

  • Provides stable support
  • Permanent and durable
  • Excellent levelling properties

  • Non-reflective
  • Clear matt finish

Perfect For: 

  • Use with a heavy body and soft body paints 
  • Mixed media 
  • Works that will be hung under flood lights 
  • For photography that needs low reflection 

Available in 250ml size.




Water-based varnish enhances the vibrancy and depth of acrylic paints with a non-yellowing, high-gloss finish reminiscent of oil paintings. It provides a protective, transparent film that elevates the artwork's appearance and durability, making it a favoured option for artists..

Absolutely. Water-based varnish is versatile and can be mixed with matt varnish to achieve a customised sheen, or with painting mediums to adjust water resistance and flow, allowing artists to achieve their desired effects without compromising the paint's quality.


Your choice between gloss and matte varnish should be guided by the desired visual effect and the environment where the artwork will be displayed. Gloss varnish makes colours pop and adds a reflective quality, best suited for well-lit spaces. Matte varnish is perfect for reducing glare and maintaining colour integrity, suitable for bright or direct lighting conditions.

 The white appearance is an optical effect caused by the light refraction of acrylic particles within the medium, which disappears when dry. The varnish dries completely clear, ensuring that it enhances without altering the original colours of your painting.

 Water-based varnish is specifically designed for acrylic paints and may not be compatible with oil-based paints due to different formulations and drying properties.

Mixing water-based gloss varnish with matt varnish allows for a range of finishes from semi-gloss to satin, providing flexibility in the final appearance. For a consistent satin finish, a dedicated satin varnish can be used directly.

 ​Derivan Polymer Varnishes are water-based, non-toxic, and eco-friendly, making them a safe choice for artists and the environment. They are also non-yellowing and acid-free, ensuring that your artwork remains preserved without discolouration over time.

Varnishing Techniques

For more information on varnishing and application 

Master The Best Way To Varnish Acrylic Painting