How to Make Paint Glossy

A few years back I was doing some renovations in my house. I was on a budget and was hoping to avoid painting the walls. However, I just really didn’t like the paint that was on the walls – it was a flat matte color. I wanted to know how to make the paint glossy.

To make paint glossy, you’ll need a water-based polyacrylic varnish. Transforming a room from matte to glossy with varnish will require you to thoroughly clean the walls, then apply the varnish as per instructions on the can. This type of varnish will dry crystal clear and provide an added layer of protection, in addition to the glossy sheen.

If you have a can of matte paint, and you want to make it into glossy paint, then you have more options. You can mix the paint with the glossy version of the same type and color, mix with the abovementioned varnish, or a glazing compound.

Whichever method you choose, remember that testing a small amount first is crucial – you don’t want to ruin an entire can of paint. Below we’ll go over how to make paint glossy – both on your walls and in the can.

How to Make Paint Glossy

What’s in High Gloss Paint?

Understanding what’s in high gloss paint requires some understanding of paint ingredients themselves.

Paint consists of, most importantly, pigment and binders. The pigment is what makes your paint a certain color. It is usually a ground-up type of metal that has certain color characteristics, i.e. iron is reddish, etc.

Since pigment itself isn’t liquid and thus won’t stick to a surface, it needs a binder, also known as resin, to hold it all together and distribute it evenly.

The last main ingredient is the liquid – or solvent – that eventually evaporates and lets the paint dry, leaving just the binder, pigment, and other additives on a surface.

So, what’s in high gloss paint? The higher the gloss, the lower the number of pigment particles versus binder. More pigment means less uniform distribution of pigment particles within the binder. This results in a rougher – microscopically – surface that reflects light in all different directions. When light is reflected in an uneven pattern, the paint looks flat, or “matte”.

On the other hand, when you reduce the number of pigment particles and increase binder volume, you have a smoother surface that allows light to reflect evenly off the binder unhindered by too many pigment particles. This creates a uniform reflection and, thus, a high gloss finish.

Benefits of Glossy Paint

Why choose glossy paint over matte? You might think that paint with more pigment is of higher quality or will last longer. However, that is not the case at all. Below are some of the benefits of glossy paint:

  • Durable – increased pigment in matte paints can scratch and scuff easily. Gloss paints, with higher binder content, will mitigate damage further as the pigment content is less and is more protected within the binder.
  • Creates an Accent – gloss paint complements your room and becomes a feature in a room that catches the eye. You’ll use matte paint in areas that you don’t want to be featured, such as a ceiling.
  • Resistance to High Humidity – in the same way that glossy paint is durable, it acts as a shield against humidity. In no way is glossy paint waterproof, or even water-resistant. However, the increased binder content creates a more complete bond that will resist water particles more than matte paint.
  • Bold and Dramatic Colors– it goes without saying that glossy paint will make any color look bolder and more dramatic. Gloss creates a uniform light reflection, which makes the color appear shiny. Glossy paint is a great way to attract attention to trim or walls that you’d like emphasized in your home.
  • Washable – Glossy paint is washable. The sheen of glossy paint allows you to wipe down surfaces without risking damage to the paint. Since matte is more susceptible to water damage, you cannot clean it as well as glossy paint surfaces.
  • Highly Reflective – glossy paint is extremely effective if you are trying to brighten up space in your house. Since the reflective properties of gloss are excellent, you can take a well-lit space and some glossy paint that will create an extremely bright, welcoming space in your home regardless of windows and natural light.
  • Pairs Well With Other Finishes – one of the great advantages of glossy paint is that you can use it with any other type of paint finish with excellent results. For instance, you can paint your trim with high gloss and your walls with semi-gloss, which will accentuate the trim – or vice versa. Use glossy wall paint with matte ceiling paint to draw attention away from your ceiling – the options are endless.

Disadvantages of Glossy Paint Finish

There are several disadvantages to glossy paint that you should be aware of before coating your entire home in high gloss. Let’s take a look:

Shows Imperfections

Have a room with a terrible drywall job? You know that type of room where you can see the drywall mud bulging because a DIYer used way too much. Or they used too little and you can see tape edges? Glossy paint over those imperfections will magnify them many times over.

Glossy paint will emphasize those imperfections tenfold, so if you have a wall that you just want to paint over and hide the mess beneath, then consider matte paint instead.

Difficult to Paint Over

One of the drawbacks of glossy paint is that once painted, it is nearly impossible to apply touch-ups after the fact. You can, but chances are the colors will not match well, giving you a patchy looking surface that looks ugly.

Glossy paint can change over time from UV light or other conditions in your home. Just as the gloss will embellish any imperfection on your wall, it will also react to sunlight, grease, or cigarette smoke. Touching up spots will only magnify the difference between your initial coat and the touch-up.

Your best bet is to use glossy paint and be mindful of keeping it clean. That will prevent you from having to make touch-ups in the future.

What Makes Paint Shiny

Pigment volume concentration – or PVC- is the literal amount of pigment particles in paint. The more pigment, the higher the PVC concentration. The formula looks something like this:

Pigment Volume/(Pigment Volume + Binder Volume) x 100

Matte finishes are anything over 45%. Gloss finishes are less than 15% – basically, more binder means less pigment and, thus, a lower PVC.

More pigment equals less gloss – pigment particles make light scatter, creating a non-reflective surface. Since there are more pigment particles occupying the volume of the paint, this also means there is less binder.

Binder helps create that smooth, glossy surface. Less of it enables pigment particles to jumble to the surface, reflect light every which way, and look non-glossy. This is also what makes matte paint highly absorbent, as the pigment particles will absorb dirt from fingertips or cooking easily – the binder does not.

Less pigment means more binder, which creates a smoother finish as the binder is smooth and reflects light evenly, which means a nice glossy paint on your wall.

How To Make Paint Glossy?

If you want to make an eggshell or matte paint already on a wall into a gloss, then you have a couple of options.

Minwax 64444444 Polycrylic Protective Wood Finish, Clear Semi-Gloss, 1 QuartFirst, you can simply purchase a polycrylic varnish for the job. These are clear, water-based finishes that will turn your matte wall into a glossy wall. Since these water-based finishes dry quickly, you can typically apply several coats in one day. They also come in aerosols for easy application.

Wallpaper varnish is another option for creating a glossy effect on your matte walls, however, I’d recommend simply using a product similar to the one linked above, as it is found in any home reno store and more likely easier to come by – and cheaper – than wallpaper varnish.

What if you have matte or eggshell paint in a can and you want to make it glossy?

This is possible, and there are a couple of ways you can go about transforming your paint.

The first method is to simply purchase a can – or three – of the same brand and color of paint, but in a high-gloss or semi-gloss finish. Then, you can mix the containers to achieve the level of gloss you’d like.

Using this method will work without sacrificing paint quality or application, however, you cannot achieve a full gloss look. Since you are mixing your matte or eggshell with a gloss, you cannot get 100% gloss.

The other method for making paint in a can glossy is to simply mix it with a polycrylic varnish. There is no official method for mixing the two – it would depend on the type of paint and varnish, the surface application, application type, and other factors.

Using this method is best if you want to transform your existing cans of matte paint into gloss. However, you would want to do extensive testing prior to putting this mixture on your walls.

Conclusion

Making paint glossy used to be a difficult task, reserved for painters who would use glaze and faux finishes to transform your matte walls into a high gloss. But these days, all home reno stores carry varnish that will allow you easily and quickly change your matte paint into a shiny gloss.

Remember that before you do any extensive painting or finishing, to always test on your wall in out of the way, inconspicuous areas first. You don’t want the main wall in your kitchen to be your failed test for when you mixed varnish with matte paint.

As always, thanks for taking the time to read this article. Please drop me a line with any suggestions you might have for turning making a paint glossy. Best of luck with your next painting project!

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