Resin Alternative: Best Options for Acrylic Pouring

Are you looking for a resin alternative for your acrylic pour paintings because you love the wet look of resin but are hesitant to use it because you are intimidated by it? Then I have some options for you.

Some people (including me) LOVE resin's awesome clear glass-like finish. I love how it makes the colors pop and become vibrant again. But sometimes I am too lazy to make a batch of resin or scared about ruining my pour if something goes wrong with the mixing or drying process. So I started looking for resin substitutes.

Here is what I found.

Can you use varnish instead of resin?

Some people wonder if you can use varnish instead of resin. Technically you can, but there are a few things you need to know.

#1. The wet look and depth that a varnish can give a painting won't be exactly the same as if using resin. However, you can achieve a very similar look as resin if you add several coats of varnish. 

#2. Heat resistant resin is sometimes used as a top coat for coasters or trays which are going to be used to hold hot items. Since most varnishes are not heat resistant, you will have limited options to choose from. (However, I did find one option that will work as a heat resistant top coat).

Now, let's take a look at the different safe alternatives to epoxy resin.

***The options listed below are NOT listed in any particular order. The first product is not the best and the last is not the worst.***

Realistic Water

Realistic Water from Woodland Scenics is one of my favorite resin or epoxy substitutes. This is also a great safe alternative to epoxy resin. 

It is not as viscous as resin, so you will have a little bit of a harder time achieving a 3-D look on your paintings.

Realistic Water is clear and dries with a high gloss wet look. 

Again, it does not dry as hard as resin so you will not be able to use it on furniture or coasters, but it is amazing for paintings!!!

NOTE: One more limitation when using Realistic Water is that you can't mix it with acrylic paints. It works great with powdered pigments, mica powders, and acrylic inks but not so great with acrylic paints. So keep that in mind.

In my opinion, Realistic Water is a great resin or epoxy substitute as long as you know how to use it properly and know it's limitations.

Take a look at the following pictures from a paint pour seascape painting I did using Realistic Water.

My method for using Realistic Water to give your pour paintings a 3-D look is taught inside my Realistic 3-D Ocean Pours course.

Crystalac Brite Tone

Okay, here is another excellent option!

Crystalac Brite Tone High Solids is a water-based polyurethane that dries super glossy and crystal clear. It is non-toxic and non-yellowing.

This is a very good epoxy alternative for tumblers or to use as a top coat for acrylic pour paintings.

Lot's of artists use Crystalac Brite Tone for their tumblers or as a top coat for their acrylic pours. Take a look at the videos below to see examples of the beautiful results you can expect by using Crystalac and how the results compare to using resin. 

Honestly, the tumbler from Melissa Crafter and the Waterfall Acrylic's pour paintings looks pretty good to me!!!

KBS Clear Diamond High Gloss: Resin Alternative for Coasters

Next, let's talk about KBS Clear Diamond High Gloss since this product is the only product that I have found that is heat resistant. 

KBS has a liquid and a spray varnish which are safe resin alternatives. Even though they are both great options to give your acrylic pours a shinny wet look, the liquid version will be more heat resistant and look more like resin.

The DiamondFinish Clear Spray:

  • It is incredibly tough and hard like no other clear coat on the market.
  • It is a water clear High Gloss clear coat that remains permanently flexible and is able to perform in the toughest environments without yellowing, cracking or peeling. 
  • It is 100% UV stable and provides high chemical resistance.
  • Each can covers at least 35 sq ft.
  • It can withstand 250°F.
  • Takes 6 or 7 coats to look like resin. The liquid will look better.

The DiamondFinish Clear Liquid:

  • Is a water clear High Gloss clear coat remains permanently flexible and can perform in the toughest environments without yellowing, cracking or peeling.
  • Can be applied with a brush (without leaving any brush marks), roller and conventional spray gun.
  • Is great for high temperature automotive applications including the use on cylinder heads, engine blocks, brake components and even inlet manifolds, without yellowing up to 300° Fahrenheit. Therefore, it would work for coasters and trays.

Even though both options will produce a shinny end result and are somewhat heat resistant, the liquid version will require less coats and will withstand more heat. So in my opinion, the liquid Diamond Finish would be the best safe alternative to epoxy for coasters.

If you are not concerned about the heat, then any of the two will work. Just make sure you add a few coats to give some depth to your paintings. 

Warning: Don't add thick layers of varnish or you WILL get bubbles. Do thin coats one at a time with drying in between each coat until you build up to the desired thickness.

The only downfall of this brand's product is that it is more expensive than other varnishes. 

But overall, this is a great alternative to resin for painting, specially for acrylic paints that will receive some heat.

Here's a video that shows the end look of the Diamond Finish Clear Liquid an coasters and on tumblers.

Even though the rest of the options I will mention afterwards are great options to use as a resin alternative, none of them are as heat resistant as the KBS Diamond Finish mentioned before. Nevertheless, they are great options for acrylic pour paintings.

TriArt Liquid Glass: Resin Alternative for Painting

I like TriArt Liquid Glass because it can be used as a varnish and also as a pouring medium. It is also a little bit more affordable than the Liquitex High Gloss Varnish that I also love.

Even though it is very high gloss, it is not completely like resin. The texture of the painting will still somewhat show through the varnish if you just put 1-2 coats. But if you add several coats, I am sure it will look more like a resin finish.

The only downfall of this product is that it takes a few days to dry completely, so don't ruin your piece by touching it too soon! 

But the high shine makes the waiting definitely worth it. This product is another great alternative to resin for painting.

Take a look at Gina DeLuca's high gloss art pieces after using the TriArt Liquid Glass as a resin alternative.

Royal Coat Decoupage Finish

I used the Royal Coat Decoupage Finish in Clear Satin for one of my acrylic pour painting projects and I loved it. 

Now, even though this is a Satin Finish, the end results look super glossy to me.

Check out the video below and see for yourself. I did add a few coats of this finish to my acrylic pour paintings to get a thick plastic-like finish. 

DecoArt Clear Top Coat

This DecoArt Clear Pouring Top Coat is a finish that I have not personally used, however others have used it and it seems that it can be an art resin alternative.

It looks like it gives acrylic pours a very high shine, but you have to be careful to not make your coats too thick or it will crack. But I feel like this applies to all varnishes. It's better to do several thin coats rather than trying to do a thick coat and risk getting some cracks.

See the video below to see the results of using DecoArt Clear Pouring Top Coat.

DryLok Wetlook

This Drylok Wetlook High Gloss Sealer is actually meant to be used to seal concrete, pavers, bricks, stone, and high traffic areas. So I like the fact that it is durable yet water based. And because it is a Non-Yellowing UV resistant sealer, you can rest assured that the vibrancy of your pour paintings will not fade with time.

Here is a quick video I did to show off the results of this product on one of my paintings. 

However, as you will see in the video below, this varnish can make your paint crack. Now, I am not sure if this had to do with the type of paint I used or the fact that this is a liquid varnish.

I have experienced paint cracking with other liquid varnishes in the past, so I think that the cracking has to do with the fact that it is a liquid rather than a spray and has nothing to do with the quality of the DryLok Wetlook

But the high shine is incredible that I don't want the paint cracking to really stop me from using it in more projects!!! 

So what I am thinking about doing to my future pour paintings is sealing them with a spray varnish first before I apply a coat of DryLok Wetlook High Gloss Sealer.

I advice you do the same!

Liquitex High Gloss

If you are still not convinced by any of the products mentioned previously and still want to know what to use instead of resin, then give Liquitex High Gloss Varnish a try. It is a little bit on the expensive side but it gives an extremely shinny finish to your pour paintings.

I personally LOVE it!

Take a look at how these two painters apply this Liquitex High Gloss to their paintings.

Personally, I like The Painted Dreamer's technique best because you don't waste so much varnish and also because she mixes her varnish with a little bit of water which helps save some money.

But both results are beautiful! Watch for yourselves.

DecoArt Triple Thick

This DecoArt Triple Thick is also somewhat expensive because it comes in a tiny jar. But you could use it as a clear resin substitute for a Special Project!!!

Now, let me make a disclaimer here! I have not yet used this product on a pour painting. However, I have used it for another craft in which I used some acrylic paint and my daughter's picture, and the results were awesome.

So even though I have not tried it on a pour painting, I am sure it will work as long as you do several thin coats (as I did with my craft).

Testing this on an actual pour paintings is in my list of future experiments to try. Once I try it out, I will make a post about it.

Modpodge Super Gloss

Finally, we are down to our last option.

I personally love using a spray varnish whenever possible rather than using a liquid varnish. It just makes things easier and faster in my opinion. 

So when I came across this super gloss spray varnish from Modpodge, I decided to give it a try. 

I tried it on a pour painting and loved the high gloss shine! Unfortunately, the painting I varnished has already sold and I can't find a picture of it to show you the end results.

I also couldn't find a video online that showed the end results of using this spray coating. 

But don't let that stop you! If you also love spray varnishes, then give this a try and let me know what you think!!!

Even though it is thicker than other spray varnishes, you will still have to apply several coats to get a good thickness that will resemble resin. If all you want is a very shinny wet look, then 1-2 coats will do. 

That is it for today. Hopefully you can find a resin alternative that fits your budget and gives you the desired results!

Let me know in the comments below if you've tried any of these products or if you've found another option not listed above.


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