Acrylic Paintings Care Guidelines

Here are some guidelines on the proper handling, cleaning and even transporting of acrylic paintings.

How long until it’s dry?
Acrylic paint is widely used because of it’s quick drying time (minutes) as compared to oils (months to years). Acrylic paints dry “to the touch” in minutes, however it can take days to months before the water has completely moved out of the paint layers. The thicker the paint the longer it will take. The emulsion in acrylic paint remains soft and flexible at room temperature. As the painting grows colder, the paint gets stiffer and can crack if it freezes. As the painting grows warmer, the paint becomes softer. The softer the paint surface is the more prone it becomes to nicks, abrasions and dust.

Temperatures of 60 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit (15.5 to 24 degrees Celsius) are best.

Keep this in mind when displaying in your home, never put it in direct sunlight,and take into consideration heat or cooling vents.

Direct sunlight, even with UV protection will over time fade your painting.

Protecting my painting, should I varnish or place under glass?
The Smithsonian Museum Conservation Institute says, preventative care is the best means of preservation of acrylic paintings. As a medium it is less durable than oil paint. Unlike oils, it can be difficult to use traditional varnish on an acrylic canvas because the coating could dissolve the paint, so varnish used on oil paintings is not recommended. There are several polymer and resin varnishes specifically formulated for acrylic.

Acrylic polymer varnishes and acrylic resins provide a needed protective layer, the painting is more resistant to dirt and dust. The Varnish will also protect your painting from fading, yellowing, scratches, moisture, humidity, heat and UV light. 

Placing under glass is also an option. The glass can help protect it from dust, dirt and moisture. 

How do I clean my acrylic painting?
Acrylic paintings that are not varnished and/or with very thin layers of paint can easily be damaged. Dust can be a real problem with acrylic paintings. The acrylic emulsion expands and contracts with temperature. Dust on the surface will be slowly absorbed into the painting. This can affect the clarity and brilliance of the image down the road.
An average well-cared-for home is not going to present a problem to an acrylic painting. Some situations can create dust problems and should be avoided: smoke of any kind (tobacco, incense, fireplaces, cooking, automobile exhaust) will be absorbed by the painting. If you notice a dust buildup on the surface, you can brush it lightly with a clean dry feather duster (paper or cloth will leave fibres behind and wear away the surface.) If the painting is varnished with a Polymer varnish you can gently wipe the surface with a damp cloth.

I’m moving, how do I transport my painting?
For paintings not behind glass. Handle the painting carefully, take off rings or bracelets so you don’t risk damaging the surface. Carry the painting it’s edges only. Cover the painting with an archival plastic sheet. The oils and dirt on your hands can deteriorate and breakdown the paint. Always, wash your hands before handling the painting, and wear cotton gloves when you have to touch it.