What Is Painting a Seal Coat?

Written by robin devereaux
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What Is Painting a Seal Coat?
Artwork like this mural must be sealed as a means to preserve it (painting graffiti image by Michele goglio from Fotolia.com)

Seal coating a piece of artwork is a means of protecting the piece after completion. Regardless of the medium in which an artist works, seal coating is an important final step to finishing a piece. The type of seal coal that is applied is dependent upon the art medium.

Seal Coating a Watercolor Painting

According to watercolourist David Castle, Krylon Gloss UV-Resistant Acrylic Coating is the best product on the market for sealing watercolours. Sealing a watercolour painting allows the artist to frame a piece without the traditional glass coating. Castle recommends three light coats of the sealer, leaving 30 minutes air dry time in between. After completing three coats of Krylon, allow the painting to dry flat over night, after which it will be suitable for framing.

Seal Coating an Acrylic Painting

Seal coating protects acrylic paintings as well as giving them a nice sheen that is not inherent in this type of paint. Giving an acrylic painting a seal coat also protects it from dust and dirt and allows cleaning of the work without disturbing the painting underneath. Artists recommend a couple of different types of seal coating for acrylics: glossy spray fixative is a good choice, and there are many brands on the market available at art supply stores. Galkyd medium is another good choice for sealing a painting. It is brush-painted onto the work then allowed to dry.

Seal Coating an Oil Painting

Oil paint takes a long time to dry, and artists recommend letting a painting dry for three months before seal coating it with varnish. Varnish protects the painting and brightens the paint as well, giving the painting a beautiful glow. There are many professional oil painting varnishes on the market readily available at art supply stores. Be sure the painting is clean before varnishing or you will seal dust and dirt in the varnish. Lay the painting flat and apply varnish in an even coat with a soft house-painting brush. Allow the painting to dry flat for 24 hours. An additional coat can be applied to add gloss to the painting.

Seal Coating a Pastel Drawing

There are two schools of thought concerning seal coating chalk pastels; one concerns scrapbooking/card making, and the other concerns serious pastel art. Many scrap-bookers have discovered the beauty and versatility of using chalk pastels; however, rub-off is an issue. When making greeting cards, inexpensive hairspray with high varnish content can be used to seal pastels,. Hairspray can discolour over time and should not be used for works that are archival or permanent. Serious pastel artists and scrap-bookers use Krylon Workable Fixative to seal coat their work. A light coat goes a long way. Allow 10 to 20 minutes dry time after spraying to insure a smudge-free surface.

Seal Coating a Colored Pencil, Graphite or Charcoal Drawing

Krylon Workable Fixative is a great product to use while rendering a coloured pencil, graphite or charcoal drawing. This product allows the artist to continue to work on the drawing while avoiding smudging and rub-off that can ruin the work. Krylon also manufactures a permanent fixative that can be used to seal coat the piece. Lay the drawing flat and spray a light coat of permanent fixative on the drawing. Allow to dry for 30 minutes and repeat, after which the drawing should lie flat to dry for 24 hours before framing.

Seal Coating Painted Art Furniture

Painted art furniture or one-of-a-kind painted furniture has become very popular in antique shops, bazaars and craft fairs. Seal coating a piece of art furniture is most important to protect the piece from wear and damage. There are many types of clear acrylic spray coat available in department, hardware and home building retail establishments at varying prices. Generally these products are inexpensive, costing less than £3 per can. It is important to apply several light layers of clear coat to avoid run-off. Allow each coat to dry for an hour or more before applying the next coat. Three light coats of acrylic are generally sufficient. A 24-hour dry period after applying three coats is recommended.


When using any fixative, seal coat or varnish be sure to work in a well-ventilated area to avoid breathing in fumes that can be harmful to your health.

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