The popularity of acrylic paints for arts and crafts has spiked recently with more and more people taking up painting as a way to pass their time and relax. With a surge in the people turning to acrylic paints, we have noticed an increasing number of people reaching out to ask questions relating to painting with acrylics to try and ensure they they get the best possible performance out of their gear as possible.
One question that we have seen a number of beginners to acrylic painting asking is if acrylic paint is resistant to UV light or not. As there is no one size fits all answer for this, we have decided to publish this dedicated article going over how article paint can be protected from UV light to prevent it from fading over the years.
Our hope is that we will be able to help our readers protect their artwork in a suitable fashion without having to break the bank but thankfully, there are some very budget-friendly solutions to protect acrylic paint from UV lights. Even if you are a beginner to using acrylic paints, it can still be a good idea to try and protect your artwork from the very start so you have an accurate log of your progress over the years without your older paintings fading.
Does Acrylic Paint Block UV Light?
Regular acrylic paint does not block UV light or offer any native protection against any part of the UV spectrum. We often see people presume that it will have some type of protection built in from UV light due to the glossy finish many acrylic paint formulas have but this is just for regular light and has no effect on the UV spectrum at all.
This is why so many people who are using regular acrylic paints for their artwork will use a sealant that offers UV protection to help ensure that their artwork will not fade over time. These sealants can be a quick, easy, and cheap way that you can protect your artwork for decades to come from the UV spectrum that can cause it to fade.
Although regular acrylic paint does not offer any native UV protection, there are a number of lightfast acrylic paints on the market that have various grades of protection that we will go into in more detail below. These lightfast acrylic paints with native UV protection do tend to be more expensive than regular acrylic paint but they can be worth their weight in gold.
Is Acrylic Paint UV Resistant?
Provided that you go with a lightfast acrylic paint formula rather than a regular acrylic paint formula, the paint will be UV resistant and be able to withstand being displayed under UV lighting without fading. There are five grades of lightfast paint in the ASTM rating system that all offer some level of protection for your acrylic paint against UV light while also having a corresponding increase in their price tag relative to the protection they offer.
Although the ASTM (American Standard Test Measure) rating system for the lightfast rating of a paint was initially intended as a rating system for the USA, it quickly took over the more complicated Blue Wool rating system with ASTM now being used globally. It is made up of five different grades of lightfastness that all offer different levels of protection for acrylic paints offering fade protection for various durations depending on the bracket.
In our opinion, ASTM Lightfast 4 and 5 are a waste of money as they offer minimal protection against UV light while having a noticeable price increase over regular acrylic paint. Acrylic paint rated to ASTM lightfast 4 will offer protection for between two and fifteen years where as ASTM lightfast 5 rated paints will only offer protection for up to two years so most people tend to avoid using them.
The price difference between ASTM lightfast 4 rated paint and ASTM lightfast 3 rated paints is minimal but the protection they offer is very different. This is why we usually recommend that our readers go with an ASTM lightfast 3 rated paint option as it offers a good blend between the UV protection levels and its price tag with it being able to prevent fading due to UV light for between fifteen and fifty years.
Once you move up to the professional level lightfast paint the price tags really do start to increase at a drastic pace making them unsuitable for beginners or anyone on a budget as an ASTM lightfast 3 rated paint usually offers all the protection then need at a much lower price tag. That said though, ASTM lightfast 2 rated acrylic paints are rated at being protected for between fifty and one hundred years from UV light while having a hefty price tag.
If you are a professional artist and you do want to use ASTM lightfast 1 rated paints then you will probably have to order them into your local arts and crafts store specifically as most stores will not carry them as standard due to their prices. That said though, if you do need your acrylic paint work to last for as long as possible then ASTM lightfast 1 rated paint has UV protection for over 100 years with no upper limit but it is likely that a ASTM lightfast 1 rated paint will outlast the paper or canvas you use with it anyway.
Does Acrylic Paint Fade In Sunlight?
Regular acrylic paint will fade rapidly when displayed in direct sunlight with the fade usually being noticeable after only a few days. Please note that summer sunlight tends to have more UV light in it and will often fade your acrylic paints in around a third of the total time that winter sunlight would require so you have to keep this in mind too.
Even if you use a lightfast acrylic paint, grades four and five tend to still fade much quicker than their listed protection time when they are displayed in direct sunlight, especially in summer time due to the higher levels of UV light being present. This is why we consider grade four and five a total waste of time as it tends to perform in a very similar way to regular acrylic paint in many situations.
If possible, we would always recommend that you try to avoid displaying your artwork in direct sunlight for extended periods of time. Please note that glass windows only block around a third of UV light and will still result in your artwork fading rapidly in direct sunlight. We have lost count of the number of people who mistakingly think that windows will protect their acrylic artwork if they are in direct sunlight but a window offers minimal protection.
Does Acrylic Paint Fade In Gallery Light?
There are multiple types of gallery lighting conditions with many of them having some form of protection build in for artwork these days. Due to this, it is difficult of offer an exact answer on if your acrylic paints will fade in gallery condition lighting but a member of staff from the gallery you will be displaying your artwork in should be able to offer an exact answer.
Our usual advise is to always presume that any gallery lighting will have an element of UV light in it that may fade regular acrylic paint and prepare accordingly. As the saying goes, it is better to be safe than sorry so always try to take steps to protect your artwork unless you are certain of the lighting use in the gallery.
Even if the gallery lighting you will be displaying your acrylic paint based artwork in does have UV lighting, it doesn’t tend to be as strong as the summer sun so usually takes longer to start to fade your artwork. That said, different pieces of art may have different lighting configurations that can effect this too so checking with a member of staff from the gallery is always the best option.
What To Put Over Acrylic Paint To Protect It From UV Light?
In our opinion, using a ASTM lightfast 3 rated paint option is usually the best course of action as it has the protection built into the actual paint and offers a nice blend of protection against the price tag of the paint. If possible, we would always recommend that our readers opt to use a lightfast paint rather than get the UV protection for their paints from a sealant.
That said though, if needed there are a number of sealants that offer UV protection and are safe to use on acrylic paints. Although this does tend to be the more common way to protect your artwork in the arts and crafts community, some sealants can have issues so it is always best to research your sealant of choice prior to purchasing it.
On top of that, different sealants offer different levels of UV protection similar to the ASTM rating system with some of them being close to useless while others offer excellent protection. Different brands can have similar formulas in a very similar looking canister too so always check the specifics on the label prior to purchasing.
That brings our article going over if acrylic paint is UV resistant and how you are able to protect your acrylic artwork from UV light to an end. We hope that you have found it helpful and there are some budget friendly options on the market that do offer solid protection with a very low price tag so there is no need to worry about your artwork fading quickly due to UV light.