How should I varnish this furniture mural?
August 22, 2018 8:07 AM   Subscribe

I have lots of experience with regular wood finishes, but this is my first time working with paints on furniture. I have painted a mural using acrylic paints onto a bedside table. Now from what I've read, I should seal the mural with some kind of varnish to prevent the acrylic from getting dirty, but what? Should I go with an Artists Acrylic varnish? Am I OK using the matte poly I've used on other furniture?

The table is painted with fusion mineral paint in black as the base colour, which is a very matte finish, but their matching top coat gives a much shinier look plus I can't seem to get it to apply evenly on my practice pieces (they recommend using a damp cloth which... isn't working for me, but using a brush it was super thick and bubbly which isn't great either). I'm a little bit concerned that the matte artists acrylic varnish is often described as having some whitish sheen to it due to the matting agent, which would look bad over black. But then I'm also afraid that there's some reason I don't know about that I can't use a regular polyurethane (and can they also come up whitish?).

I know this is a weirdly specific question but I'm sort of lost which direction to go next and don't want to spend a tonne of time and money buying different varnishes and testing them out. I would be grateful for any and all advice.
posted by stillnocturnal to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Oh I forgot to add, I'm in the UK so any product recommendations that I can get here would be extra specially useful
posted by stillnocturnal at 8:15 AM on August 22, 2018

OR (sorry to keep commenting on my own post) could I just wax the whole thing with clear furniture wax and call it a day?
posted by stillnocturnal at 8:27 AM on August 22, 2018

I've sealed a latex painted floor with polycrylic with great success. It does go on milky, but dries clear. That floor held up for years, so you should be OK with the polyurethane. The clear furniture wax should work as well. Do you have a scrap piece of wood you can paint and test the poly and the wax to see if you prefer one over the other?
posted by sarajane at 8:50 AM on August 22, 2018

I know you explicitly said that you "don't want to spend a tonne of time and money buying different varnishes and testing them out," but you should do _some_ testing to make sure it suits you. You are, after all, going the extra mile because you are proud of your mural.

Not five parallel tests, necessarily, but after settling on spray-on acrylic (or whatever) as your top choice, make a little scrap with paint and do a layer or two of seal coat. It might be glossier than you wanted, or show dust nibs, or be perfect.

Good luck!
posted by Glomar response at 9:37 AM on August 22, 2018

Water-based polyurethane over acrylic should be fine. Just get whatever sheen you want the final product to have - mat, satin or gloss. Test a scrap to be sure.
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:46 AM on August 22, 2018

I am indeed testing everything I use on spare scraps of wood, I just wanted to a) minimise the amount of products I have to do that with and b) get some idea whether there are downsides I hadn't thought of. Thanks for the answers so far, sounds like I may have in fact done too much research and am over-thinking things.
posted by stillnocturnal at 9:59 AM on August 22, 2018

Ok, this is what I'd do. First let the mural completely dry and cure. If you want to put a clear coat of acrylic over it for extra protection, do that and put it aside for about a month in a protected space for it to cure. This assumes it isn't hot and dry, by the way.

Acrylics are porous. All of them. Water based acrylic "varnish" is just a clear coat, and in my experience doesn't actually seal any better or harder than any other acrylic based paint or medium. For my paintings I use Golden mineral spirit acrylic varnish, which dries to a harder, non-sticky state. I use the spray, but they do make a brushable one. It is available in the UK from various art suppliers, for example. That's what I'd use, because I know that it works and I care about my art no matter where I've painted it. The matte of the spray isn't white, by the way, it is just sort of a matte fuzziness. Like the difference between lcd panels that are non-glare vs the glossy ones. But the gloss is nicer looking and feels better. If you want a less intense sheen, I'd suggest splitting the difference and getting the satin. You can always put a coat of gloss over a coat of satin or matte to give it a slightly softer look.

I have a side table next to be that I painted in acrylics and put an acrylic "varnish" on about 17 years ago and it is still slightly sticky. I've been too lazy to varnish it because I use it, but when I set a cup on it, it has a bit of grip to it and if I spill, it doesn't clean as well as I'd like.
posted by monopas at 10:06 AM on August 22, 2018 [3 favorites]

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