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7 Ways How To Make Acrylic Paint Shiny & Glossy

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 finished acrylic painting with high gloss varnish, 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 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, soft, subtle look. Mont Marte Satin paint has 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.

Easy Methods How To Make Acrylic Paint Shiny

To make acrylic paint shine you can:

  1. use gloss acrylic paint instead of matte or satin paint
  2. mix paint with high gloss acrylic medium or varnish
  3. use glossy pouring medium
  4. try gloss glazing medium
  5. apply gloss or high gloss varnish over dried acrylic painting
  6. apply a layer of epoxy resin over your painting OR mixing acrylic colors with epoxy
  7. use iridescent pr metallic colors and pigments.
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 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 the high gloss at all. But choosing shinier paints since the beginning will help you make them shiny faster once the painting is done.

Incresing sheen from satin or semi-gloss to gloss is easier than to cover flat velvety finish.

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 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 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.

Acrylic pour 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 painting is done and dry, apply a layer over it.

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

Apply Gloss and High-Gloss Varnish Over Your Acrylic Painting

Applying 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 stong UV protection and doesn’t let 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 simply, 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? 6 Best Varnishes Included

Use Art-Grade Resins And Stay Away From Hardware Store 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 a glass.

While applying epoxy is probably the most durable methods 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 surface.

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.

Bubble-free resin will make 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 you own by mixing any acrylic color with 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.


What makes paint glossy?

Metallic or iridescent pigments, gloss medium or varnish, and epoxy layer can make any paint glossy. Within paint itself, the ratio of resinous binder will determine its gloos.
For ex., under 10% means the paint will be flat, but 85% means the paint will be glossy.

What can I add to paint to make it shiny?

You can mix iridescent medium, gloss acrylic medium, high-gloss varnish or epoxy resin with any acrylic paint to make the painting shiny and glass-like.

How do you gloss over acrylic paint?

To apply varnish over acrylic paint to gloss it, I recommend using a foam brush to avoid brush marks.
You can gloss over acrylic paint with epoxy, spreading it with your hand (in gloves) or something flat.

How do you make acrylic paint look like glass?

A layer of epoxy is the best way to create a glass-like effect over any painting. Epoxy is self-leveling and dries to a hard high-gloss film that looks like plexiglass or glass from a distance.

How do you make flat paint shiny?

If your paint dried to a flat or matte finish, you can coat it over with glossy varnish or epoxy.

Can acrylics be glossy?

Most acrylics have some sheen in them and dry to satin or semi-gloss finish as they have some polymer binder that dries to a film.
However, not all acrylic paint is glossy – there are craft paints and special paints that are matte.

Final Words

Gloss paint is known to be the most durable and it shines across the whole room. High gloss finish looks chic, professional.

Some people don’t like it, but some prefer to see the light playing and reflecting from the painting smooth finish.

And it is very easy to add some extra pop to your acrylics with special glossy mediums or varnishes or even resin layer.

Even if your paint turned 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.