8 Ways To Make Acrylic Paint Shiny & Glossy

Last Updated on March 20, 2024 by Masha Eretnova

Almost all acrylic paints are somehow satin or semi-gloss when they are wet or dry.

But sometimes we need that extra sheen, that glass-like finish that is glossy and smooth. How to make acrylic paint shiny then you may ask? Quite easy I may say:

To make acrylic paint shiny, mix the paint on the palette with gloss acrylic medium, and then paint as normal or cover the finished acrylic painting with high gloss varnish, or epoxy, or use iridescent paints from the start.

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Is acrylic paint shiny or flat?

How To Make Acrylic Paint Shiny

Most acrylics naturally dry to a satin to semi-gloss finish.

Acrylic paint can be either shiny or flat, depending on the type of finish or sheen that is desired.

Acrylic paint is available in a variety of finishes, including:

1. Matte or flat: These finishes have a low sheen and reflect very little light. They are ideal for creating a subtle, understated look. Craft paints are often matte, like Folk Art or Apple Barrel.

2. Satin: This finish has a slight sheen and reflects some light. It is a good choice for creating a smooth surface, a soft, subtle look. Mont Marte Satin paint has a satin finish.

3. Semi-gloss: This finish has a moderate sheen and reflects more light than a satin finish. It is a good choice for creating a more noticeable, eye-catching look. Most acrylics are semi-gloss once dry.

4. Gloss: This gloss finish has a high sheen and reflects a lot of light. It is a good choice for creating a bold, dramatic look.

The finish of acrylic paint can be affected by the surface it is applied to, the thickness of the paint, and the application method.

how to make acrylic paint shiny

Many artists opt for varnishing as it is already an important step to protect a painting, you will do it anyway, so why not add gloss at this final step and not overcomplicate things?

No matter what method you choose, please remember that acrylics like thin layers, and it will help you to avoid grazing (tiny cracks) and cracking.

Note: If you are sensitive to smell, using acrylic mediums would be best for you – they are low odor compared to varnishes or resin.

Use Glossy Acrylic Paint

how to make acrylic paint shiny glossy paint
Liquitex acrylic paints are shiny by default

As I mentioned acrylic paints are usually satin or semi-gloss but there are quite a few brands that actually dry to a flatter finish.

If you need extra gloss you need to avoid such acrylic paint.

The easiest way to find out what finish the paint will dry to is to carefully read the description:

  • paints like Folk Art, Apple Barrel, acrylic gouache, craft Arteza, Golden SoFlat, Pebeo Studio acrylics and Pebeo MatPub, Daler Rowney Simply, most acrylic inks and other paints will be flat and matte once dry. You will see that being said on Amazon in the description.
But for example Daler Rowney Simply acrylics are quite flat

But if you already have some paints, the only way to find out is to do the swatches.

And I will never stop to emphasize the importance of having swatches for each paint set you have. In cases like this, you just grab it and look at it.

Ok, so which acrylic paint will be shinier by default?

  • Liquitex Basics and Professional
  • Amsterdam acrylic paint

At the same time, it is not a high gloss at all. But choosing shinier paints from the beginning will help you make them shiny faster once the painting is done.

Increasing sheen from satin or semi-gloss to gloss is easier than covering a flat velvety finish.

Traditional Method to Paint Shiny Objects

With acrylics, you can paint shiny items like glassware, silver, bronze, copper, and gold without buying special metallic paints.

The trick is the contract between darker and lighter areas on the surface of, say, a copper goblet. Juxtaposing simple Ochre and its shade (with black) you can imitate the shine of metals.

However, this approach will still create a flat surface and flat sheen, and if you want more volume and shimmer, use mediums or shiny paints I share below.

Use Gloss Medium For Acrylic Paint

Adding a gloss medium to acrylic paint can increase its shine and give it a glossy finish.

Gloss or high-gloss medium is a clear acrylic medium with the highest sheen (up to 90%) that is available at art supply stores.

It can be mixed with other acrylic paints to create a glossy finish or be applied over the paint.

Liquitex Professional Fluid Medium, 237ml (8-oz), Gloss
Golden 32oz. - 946ml - Gloss Polymer Jug - Medium

Liquitex Proffesional Gloss Medium or Basic Gloss medium, and Golden Gloss mediums are the best glossy acrylic mediums for extra sheen.

Make sure to buy clear gloss gel or medium, as if it’s not clear you will alter the finish of your painting and it will become milky.

How to use glossy acrylic medium over the dry painting:

1. Let your finished acrylic painting dry for 24 hrs. Make sure the paint is completely dry before applying any other acrylic gloss mediums.

2. Apply a layer of clear gel or gloss medium to the surface of the painting. Use either a regular flat wide brush or a foam brush. Don’t overwork to avoid brushstrokes.

3. Allow first gloss medium coat to dry completely. The drying time will depend on the thickness of the layer and the humidity in the air. I would wait for 24 hrs in between coats.

4. Apply a second layer of clear gloss medium. Repeat the process of applying a thin layer of gloss medium and allowing it to dry completely.

Another option is to mix acrylic gloss medium directly with paint before you start painting.

If you are using professional gloss mediums like Liquitex or Golden, you can add as much of the medium to acrylic paint as you want.

It will not affect the color or damage the paint but ultimately can make the color a little bit more transparent.

If you are working with mediums do not add more than 20% of water.

It can affect the texture and adhesion of gloss coating to the paint.

Use Gloss Pouring Medium

If you don’t mind fluid paint and especially if you are making acrylic pouring, using a glossy pouring medium would be the best bet.

Golden Artist Colors Color Pouring Medium, Gloss Finish, 8 Ounce Bottle (3501-5)
  • Low crazing extender for pouring acrylic colors
  • Excellent medium for beautiful glossy pours
  • Leveling extender additive
  • 8 ounce bottle
  • Made in the USA

Acrylic poured paints are fluid and the pouring medium adds extra gloss so the finished acrylic poured paintings look like one solid glassy film.

Acrylic pouring (Dirty Cup)

Gloss Glazing Medium Adds Sheen

Glazing medium is another easy way to add a light glossy effect to your acrylic paints.

As with all mediums, you can go about it 2 ways:

  • before painting, mix colors with glazing medium
  • once the painting is done and dry, apply a layer over it.

I would say that Golden Glazing Medium is probably the best for a shiny look.

Golden Acrylic Glazing Liquid Gloss - 8 oz Bottle

Apply Gloss and High-Gloss Varnish Over Your Acrylic Painting

Applying a gloss or high gloss varnishes to a top coat of acrylic paint can also increase its shine.

Glossy acrylic varnish is painters’ favorite and easiest method to make paint shiny.

how to make acrylic paint shiny

Varnish is a clear protective coating that can be applied over dry acrylic paint. It is usually available in gloss, satin, and matte finishes.

So if you want to add extra sheen to your painting you need to pick a glossy option.

In fact, varnishing your painting is very useful as it protects your painting for ages from dust, creates strong UV protection and doesn’t leave your painting yellow.

Here you can see I tested 3 varnishes from Winsor & Newton (matte – satin – gloss) and the gloss one has the most sheen to it:

how to make acrylic paint shiny varnish

There are also spray varnishes that can also be glossy but I personally think that brush-on varnishes are better if you want a lot of sheen.

The reason is very simple, the layer is thicker with brush than with spraying.

winsor newton varnish

Regarding brands, I use Winsor & Newton varnishes (both spray and liquid) and I am very satisfied – they are great value for money and actually very affordable.

Of course, Liquitex varnishes are also high-quality.

Read also: How to Varnish an Acrylic Painting?

Use Art-Grade Epoxy Resins

how to make acrylic paint shiny epoxy
Acrylic paint mixed with epoxy

Using a resin can give acrylic paint a high-gloss, glass-like finish.

Epoxy resin is a two-part liquid substance that is mixed together and poured over the surface of the painting.

It dries to a hard, durable finish that is very very shiny like glass.

While applying epoxy is probably the most durable method and you can get the best glossy look for your painting, it is also the most challenging way.

Many things can go wrong and the result can be pretty disastrous: your painting we be sticky and with uneven surfaces.

Handling epoxy is also not super easy and good epoxy like Art Resin is quite expensive.

To make acrylic paint shiny with epoxy you can use 2 ways:

  1. Mix acrylic paint with epoxy for pouring – the paint itself will be flowy, glassy, and highly shiny. OR
  2. Let the finished acrylic painting dry and then apply a coat of self-leveling epoxy resin.

The secret to glassy surface with epoxy is to get rid of all air bubbles you can spot, as they will be very visible once painting is dry.

A bubble-free resin will make a perfect glossy top coat

Try Iridescent paint

Mixing metallic or iridescent acrylic paint with regular acrylic paint can create a shiny, metallic or pearlescent finish.

how to make acrylic paint shiny iridescent paints
DIY Iridescent paint and metallic paint

You can either get iridescent paints or create your own by mixing any acrylic color with a special Iridescent Medium (I have one from Liquitex) or Mica powder pigments with acrylic medium.

iridescent medium

Iridescent paint shimmers when the light touches it but it may be not as glossy as you wish and it is not a clear gloss, it has some pearlescent effect.

You can also replace the iridescent medium with metallic powders, glass beads or flakes, or pearlescent paints.

Final Words

Even if your painting turns out to be matter than you wanted, you can always fix it – it is the beauty of acrylic paints and the wide range of glossy acrylic mediums to choose from.

The best way to apply a glossy finish to an acrylic painting is to use high-gloss or gloss acrylic varnish over your dry acrylic painting. I use spray and liquid varnishes or epoxy and all of them create a nice even sheen on the painting surface.

Last update on 2024-06-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

2 thoughts on “8 Ways To Make Acrylic Paint Shiny & Glossy”

  1. I wanted to thank you for explaining this to me. I suffer from a Brain Injury and I have been trying to do these paintings for over a year now. I really appreciate everything you explained to me. I am 61 years old and I really Love painting on canvas after watching your videos.
    Thank you Denise Mullikin

    • Oh Denise, thank you for reading and taking time to comment. I appreciate you! I hope your health is improving and I wish you the soonest recovery. I’m so happy you decided to paint and you’re keeping at it! Art is an amazing thing for our brains and mental state. It has been proven that observing art and details is very beneficial in our fight against decreasing mental capacities and sharpness. Your comment has made my day, reach me should you need anything!


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