How To Make Oil Painting Look Glossy!

Oil painting is becoming more and more popular with each month that passes by due to people realising that it can be an excellent way to pass the time and express yourself. Although oil painting is generally easy to learn the basics of, it really can take a lifetime to master leading to a number of questions being asked from beginners to oil painting.

Due to many oil paints having a slightly dull look to them when compared to their acrylic paint counterparts, we have noticed more and more people reaching out to ask how to make oil painting look glossy to try and add a little sheen to their oil paints. Thankfully, it is actually very simple to make your oil paint look glossy provided you know the simple process to do it but we constantly see beginners making mistakes that could easily be avoided.

On top of this, it is very quick and cheap to make your oil paint look glossy too so there should be no issues with budgets for our readers allowing you to add slightly different gloss finishes to your oil paints as desired without too many problems. Please keep in mind that the quality of your oil paints will come into play for this though and cheap, low quality paints can work with the methods we will be sharing below, some of them do have issues so an intermediate set of oil paints is usually better.

How To Make Oil Painting Look Glossy!

The easiest way to make your oil paint look glossy is to apply it to your canvas or paper, leave it to dry, and then apply a suitable varnish over the paint. Not only will the varnish add a layer of protection to your oil paints helping to protect them in the future but it will also give your oil paint a glossy look to them.

The main problem that we see so many beginners make time and time again when trying to make their oil paints look gloss is that they will use a varnish that has been designed for use with acrylic paint rather than oil paint. Thankfully, a high quality oil paint varnish is usually around the same price as the acrylic alternative but will offer considerably better performance when used with oil paint. We have a more detailed article going over if you can use acrylic varnish on oil paintings if you are interested.

As the saying goes, water and oil do not mix so you should try to ensure that you are always using a suitable varnish product that works well with your oil paints. Not only will a varnish designed for use with acrylic paints struggle with adding that gloss look over oil paints but it can also cause other problems with your oil paints such as color fade too.

Should You Use Varnish To Make Your Oil Paint Look Glossy?

A varnish specifically designed for use with oil paints is probably the quickest, easiest, and cheapest way to make your oil paint look glossy. It is our default recommendation to our readers due to these varnish products offering excellent performance when it comes to protection as well as the glossy look that they can offer.

Keep in mind though, there are some varnish products on the market right now that have a matte finish and will not add that glossy look to your oil paints. Always check the label prior to purchasing any high quality oil paint varnish to make sure that it is a gloss finish rather than a matte finish.

Although the matte varnish products will still offer a similar level of sealant protection to your oil paints, they will not have the same effect as as gloss finish varnish when it comes to the visual aspect once dry. Some of the varnish products on the market right now that you are able to use with your oil paints do not clearly list the finish of the varnish when dry unfortunately. Although some will have it in smaller text somewhere on the label, some simply do not offer that information at all so we would recommend that you look for a different product that does clearly say it has a gloss finish.

Will Gesso make Your Oil Paint Look Glossy?

Gesso is usually a waste of time when used on top of oil paint to try and add that glossy look to it. Gesso tends to be water based and usually just causes problems for most people who use it over oil paint although you can use your gesso as a primer for your canvas with oil paint fine.

We have a more detailed article going over if you can use gesso over oil paint or not and how it will usually lead to problems if you use it over the top of your oil paint. It is very unlikely that any gloss look will be given to your oil paint if you try to gesso over them too and in our opinion, it will just ruin your artwork.

Please keep in mind though, using gesso on a canvas to prep it for use and then add your oil paint over the gesso tends to be fine provided the gesso has dried fully. This is due to the water in the gesso that would cause the issues with your oil paint having dried our and left the canvas when used in this way where as it is still in the gesso when you apply it over your oil paint.

Does Your Medium Effect If Your Paint Will Look Glossy?

There are a wide range of oil mediums on the market that you are able to use to tweak the performance of your oil paints. Some of them are able to add a slight gloss effect to your oil paint once dry as the oil medium can naturally reflect the light in the room to give the gloss effect when mixed with your oil paint.

There really are a ton of different oil mediums on the market that you are able to use so we will just link you to our ultimate guide to oil painting mediums instead. We go over the various pros and cons of each of the more popular oil mediums on the market to try and help our readers understand what they should be going with. That said, although we do usually recommend that you do use an oil medium, there is no need to always add a medium as most modern oil paints have some linseed oil in their formula anyway.

We also have an article going over eleven alternative oil paint mediums that you could try with your oil paints but if you are specifically looking for the gloss effect, simply applying a varnish over your dry oil paint will offer a much better effect than a medium. There are some hybrid mediums on the market for oil paint that are advertised as being able to increase the gloss look too but they tend to be a waste of time and offer no real improvement in performance.


That brings our article going over how to make an oil painting look glossy to an end. Although there are a number of different techniques that you are able to use to add a gloss effect over your oil painting, the best route to take is usually to just let your oil paint dry and then add a varnish over the top of it. A suitable varnish that works well with oil paints will add a quick and easy gloss effect to your painting and not detract from the overall painting.

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