How to Protect Your Masterpiece with the Right Varnish

Transforming a skateboard into a work of art not only celebrates the sport’s cultural significance but also allows individual expression to thrive on a unique canvas. Skateboard artwork, merging vibrant creativity with the dynamic world of skate culture, has evolved into a pivotal aspect of both the art and skateboarding communities. Artists and skaters alike seek not just to create or own these functional masterpieces but also to preserve the integrity and brilliance of the artwork against the wear and tear of skate life.

Choosing the right varnish to protect skateboard artwork is crucial in ensuring that these pieces of art retain their visual appeal and withstand the elements. This article will guide artists and skateboard enthusiasts through the best practices for varnishing skateboards, from selecting the ideal varnish to applying it effectively and maintaining the finished product. Readers will gain insights into balancing aesthetic considerations with durability concerns, ensuring their skateboard artwork remains a vibrant part of the skate and art communities for years to come.

Understanding Skateboard Varnish and Resin

Differences Between Varnish and Resin

Varnish and resin, though often used interchangeably, serve distinct purposes and have different compositions. Varnish is a protective coating made from a combination of a resin, a solvent, and various additives such as drying agents and UV inhibitors. It is primarily used to enhance the natural beauty of wood surfaces while offering protection against moisture, abrasion, and discoloration. Resin, on the other hand, can be either natural or synthetic and is known for its robust resistance to heat, chemicals, and weather conditions. It is commonly used in applications requiring a durable, glossy finish and is particularly noted for its use in creating a hard, protective layer over surfaces.

Benefits of Using Varnish

One of the main advantages of using varnish on skateboards is its ability to preserve the aesthetic qualities of the board while providing a durable barrier against environmental elements. Varnish enhances the grain and color of the wood, giving the skateboard a rich, appealing look. Additionally, the protective layer formed by varnish helps shield the skateboard from scratches, chips, and UV damage, thereby extending the life of the board and maintaining its appearance over time.

When to Use Resin

Resin is best utilized when a skateboard requires a thicker, more protective coating, particularly for boards that are used as cruiser skateboards or decorative wall art. The application of resin results in a glossy, glass-like finish that is extremely durable and resistant to impacts and abrasions. However, it is important to note that resin can reduce the flexibility of the skateboard, which could be a significant consideration for boards used for performing tricks. In such cases, a lighter varnish might be more appropriate to ensure the board retains enough flexibility for safe and effective use.

In summary, understanding the specific needs of your skateboard and the conditions it will be exposed to is crucial in deciding whether to use varnish or resin. Both materials offer valuable benefits, but their effectiveness largely depends on their appropriate application based on the intended use of the skateboard.

Preparation Steps for Varnishing a Skateboard

best Skateboard Varnish
best Skateboard Varnish

Cleaning the Skateboard

Before applying any varnish, it’s essential to ensure the skateboard is thoroughly cleaned. Start by removing any dirt, debris, or old adhesive residues. A vacuum with a brush attachment works well to remove sawdust and fine particles. For tougher grime, a damp cloth combined with a mild cleaning solution can be used to wipe down the surface. Ensure the board is completely dry before proceeding to the next step.

Sanding the Surface

Sanding is crucial for creating a smooth base that enhances paint adhesion and ensures a flawless varnish application. Begin by removing the trucks and wheels to prevent damage and to make the sanding process easier. Use a medium-grit sandpaper, around 150-220 grit, to sand the entire deck. If aiming for an exceptionally smooth finish, follow up with a finer grit, such as 300. Sand in the direction of the wood grain to avoid scratches that could impair the visual aesthetics of the skateboard. Once sanding is complete, remove all residual dust with a vacuum, then wipe the surface with a damp rag to catch any lingering particles.

Applying Primer

Primer serves as an intermediary layer that ensures better adhesion of the varnish and enhances its durability. Select a primer suited for the type of wood and the specific varnish you will be using. Apply the primer evenly across the surface, using either a brush or a spray. Allow the primer to dry according to the manufacturer’s instructions. For best results, consider applying a second coat of primer to achieve a more uniform and stable base for the varnish.

By meticulously following these preparation steps, you can ensure that the varnish adheres properly and provides lasting protection for your skateboard artwork, maintaining its aesthetic appeal and structural integrity.

Choosing the Right Varnish for Your Skateboard

Types of Varnish

When selecting the right varnish for your skateboard, it’s essential to understand the different types available and their specific properties. Varnishes can be broadly categorized into oil-based, water-based, and polyurethane-based formulas. Each type offers distinct benefits depending on the usage and desired aesthetic.

  1. Oil-Based Varnish: Known for its robust finish, oil-based varnishes enhance the natural color and grain of the wood, providing a rich, glossy look. However, they tend to yellow over time, which might affect the artwork’s original color palette.
  2. Water-Based Varnish: These varnishes dry faster and emit less odor compared to oil-based types. They remain clear over time, ensuring the skateboard’s artwork does not yellow or fade.
  3. Polyurethane-Based Varnish: Offering a highly durable finish, polyurethane varnishes are ideal for skateboards that are used frequently. They provide excellent resistance to scratches and general wear and tear.

Factors to Consider

Choosing the right varnish involves more than just picking a type. Several factors need to be considered to ensure that the varnish not only protects but also enhances the skateboard’s artwork.

  1. Type of Wood: The skateboard’s wood type can influence the choice of varnish. Some woods absorb oil-based varnishes better, while others might be more suited to water-based varnishes.
  2. Desired Finish: Whether you prefer a glossy, satin, or matte finish will dictate the type of varnish you should use. Glossy finishes are more durable and easier to clean, whereas satin and matte finishes provide a subtler, more understated look.
  3. Level of Protection Needed: Consider the environment in which the skateboard will be used. If the board is likely to be exposed to harsh conditions, a more durable polyurethane-based varnish might be necessary.
  4. Flexibility Requirements: Some varnishes, like certain polyurethanes, do not flex well once dry. If the skateboard is used for performing tricks, a more flexible varnish should be considered to prevent cracking.

Recommended Brands

Several brands stand out in the market for their quality and reliability in providing excellent varnish options for skateboards. Based on the factors mentioned above, here are some recommended brands:

  1. Minwax: Offers a variety of oil-based and water-based varnishes that are easy to apply and provide long-lasting protection.
  2. Varathane: Known for their fast-drying formulas, Varathane provides both oil and water-based options suitable for skateboards.
  3. Rust-Oleum: This brand is well-regarded for its durable polyurethane varnishes that offer excellent resistance to abrasion and chipping.

Selecting the right varnish for your skateboard is crucial for protecting the artwork while ensuring the board remains functional and beautiful. By considering the types of varnish available, the specific factors relevant to your needs, and opting for trusted brands, you can maintain the aesthetic appeal and durability of your skateboard.

Application Techniques for Varnish

Brush vs. Spray Application

When applying varnish to your skateboard artwork, choosing between a brush or spray method is crucial depending on your desired finish and working conditions. Brush application allows for a more controlled and thorough coating, ideal for ensuring all nooks and crannies on a textured surface are covered. It is particularly useful for achieving a thick, saturating layer directly on the paint, which can be beneficial for the longevity and protection of the artwork beneath.

On the other hand, spray application offers a smoother finish with a uniform layer that minimizes drips and brush marks. This method is faster and covers large areas efficiently, making it suitable for those who prefer a quick application. Spray varnishes also tend to dry quicker, reducing the dust-catching period. However, it requires a well-ventilated area to avoid inhalation of fumes, and careful masking of surrounding areas to prevent overspray.

Applying Multiple Coats

Multiple coats of varnish not only enhance the durability of the protective layer but also improve the aesthetic quality of the finish. The general recommendation is to apply thin coats rather than a single thick one. This technique allows each layer to dry and cure properly, which prevents future cracking or peeling due to uneven drying. For most skateboard varnishing projects, starting with a primer or a base coat followed by two to three top coats can provide optimal protection.

It is advisable to lightly sand between coats with fine-grit sandpaper. This step is crucial as it promotes better adhesion of the next coat and removes any dust nibs or imperfections from the previous layer, ensuring a smooth, professional finish. Always ensure the previous coat is completely dry before applying the next. Typically, a drying time of 2-4 hours is sufficient, but this can vary based on the varnish type and environmental conditions.

Drying Time and Conditions

The drying time for varnish can vary significantly based on the type of varnish used, the thickness of the application, and ambient conditions such as temperature and humidity. Generally, varnish sets to the touch within a few hours, but it can take anywhere from 24 hours to several days to fully cure. For skateboard artworks, it is critical to allow the varnish to dry completely in a controlled environment.

Optimal drying conditions include a well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight and at a stable temperature. High humidity or extreme temperatures can adversely affect the drying process, leading to a tacky finish or prolonging the drying time. If possible, maintaining a moderate temperature and humidity level will facilitate an even curing process, ensuring the varnish hardens with a durable and attractive finish.

By understanding and implementing these application techniques, you can effectively protect and enhance your skateboard artwork, ensuring it withstands the test of time and remains vibrant and intact through regular use.

Maintaining Varnished Surfaces

Regular Cleaning

To maintain the pristine condition of varnished surfaces on your skateboard, regular cleaning is essential. Start by gently dusting the surface with a soft, dry cloth to remove loose dirt and debris. For more thorough cleaning, use a mild soap and water solution, taking care not to use harsh cleaners or abrasives that can damage the varnish. After cleaning, wipe the surface with a damp cloth and follow up by drying it thoroughly with a clean, soft cloth to avoid water spots or damage.

Touch-Up Tips

Over time, varnished surfaces may become scratched or worn. To address these imperfections, you can touch up the affected areas with a small amount of varnish. It’s important to match the sheen and color of the existing varnish to ensure a seamless repair. Apply the varnish in thin, even coats, allowing each coat to dry completely before applying the next. This method helps maintain the overall aesthetics of the skateboard while ensuring the longevity of the varnish.

Long-Term Care

Periodically, it may be necessary to apply a new coat of varnish to your skateboard to preserve its appearance and protective qualities. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the best results when reapplying varnish. This not only helps in protecting the artwork but also extends the life of the skateboard, ensuring it remains a functional piece of art. Regular inspections for any signs of wear or damage can guide the timing of these maintenance efforts, keeping your skateboard in optimal condition.

Resin Coating for Artistic and Cruiser Skateboards

Benefits of Epoxy Resin

Epoxy resin is renowned for its durability and flexibility, making it an excellent choice for both artistic and cruiser skateboards. Its tough composition absorbs impacts effectively, preventing the board from shattering under stress. This resilience makes epoxy resin superior for preserving the integrity of the skateboard over time, as it does not degrade even as the board ages. Notably, some epoxy resins are available in bio-based versions, which contribute to sustainability efforts by reducing reliance on petroleum-based products. For instance, certain manufacturers use a resin that incorporates about 40% bio-based content, enhancing the environmental friendliness of their skateboards.

Step-by-Step Application Guide

  1. Preparation: Ensure the skateboard surface is clean and dry. Remove any debris or old coatings for optimal adhesion.
  2. Mixing Resin and Hardener: Measure equal parts of epoxy resin and hardener. Precision in mixing these components is crucial for the resin to cure correctly.
  3. Application: Pour the mixed resin over the skateboard, starting from the center and moving towards the edges. Use a spreader or a foam brush to distribute the resin evenly across the surface.
  4. Removing Bubbles: After application, bubbles might appear on the surface. These can be removed by gently blowing over the surface or using a torch to heat the resin slightly, which helps the bubbles rise and pop.

Curing and Care

Epoxy resin requires a specific curing process to achieve its full strength and durability. Typically, the resin should be left to cure for at least 24 hours in a dust-free environment. Temperature and humidity play critical roles in the curing process; thus, maintaining a controlled environment ensures optimal results. Post-curing, the skateboard should be handled with care, avoiding harsh chemicals or abrasive cleaning methods that could damage the resin surface. For long-term maintenance, periodic checks for any cracks or wear are recommended, with reapplication of resin as needed to maintain the protective coating.

This comprehensive approach to using epoxy resin not only enhances the aesthetic appeal of skateboards but also significantly extends their lifespan, making it a valuable method for skateboard enthusiasts and artists alike.

Safety Tips for Working with Varnish and Resin

Ventilation and Protective Gear

When working with varnish and resin, ensuring proper ventilation is crucial to safeguard your health. Always perform sealing and application tasks in a well-ventilated area, preferably outdoors. If working indoors is necessary, open windows and use fans to circulate air effectively. This helps in minimizing the inhalation of potentially harmful fumes.

Wearing appropriate protective gear is equally important. Always use a vapor mask recommended by a paint or hardware store to protect against inhaling toxic fumes. Eye protection is vital as well; safety goggles can prevent accidental splashes from causing eye injuries. Remember, it’s better to be safe than sorry, so when in doubt, always opt for wearing protective gear.

Handling Chemicals Safely

Handling chemicals, whether varnish, resin, or solvents, requires careful attention to safety protocols. Always refer to the Safety Data Sheets (SDS) for each chemical you use. These sheets provide crucial information about the chemical’s properties, potential hazards, and emergency procedures. They are divided into sections that detail everything from safe handling practices to disposal guidelines.

For instance, the SDS will indicate whether a chemical is flammable, corrosive, or toxic, and will suggest appropriate storage methods. Flammable materials should be stored in dedicated cabinets with proper labeling and ventilation. Similarly, corrosive acids need to be kept in specific containers to prevent leaks and spills.

When mixing chemicals, such as combining resin and hardener, follow the manufacturer’s instructions precisely to avoid dangerous reactions. Use gloves and eye protection during this process to prevent skin and eye contact with these substances. Additionally, never leave contaminated rags or brushes around as they pose a fire hazard.

By adhering to these safety tips and handling chemicals with respect and awareness, you can enjoy the creative process of working with varnish and resin while ensuring your safety and the safety of those around you.

best Skateboard Varnish
best Skateboard Varnish

Creative Finishing Touches

Adding Graphics Under Varnish

Integrating graphics beneath a layer of varnish can transform a skateboard into a personalized piece of art. Start by applying your chosen graphic or image directly onto the skateboard’s surface. Once in place, a clear varnish is applied over the top. This technique not only secures the graphic beneath a protective shield but also gives the board a seamless, glossy finish. The key here is ensuring that the graphic is perfectly aligned and free of air bubbles before sealing it with varnish.

Using Stains with Varnish

Stains and varnishes can be combined to achieve stunning visual effects and enhance the natural beauty of the wood. Apply the stain first to color the wood, allowing it to penetrate deeply and highlight the grain. After the stain has dried, apply a clear varnish over it. This method not only preserves the rich coloration provided by the stain but also adds a durable layer of protection. The result is a rich, multi-dimensional appearance that makes the skateboard stand out.

Customizing with Colors

For those looking to further personalize their skateboards, tinting varnish offers a unique opportunity. By adding pigments or dyes to your varnish, you can create custom colors that reflect your personal style or complement the board’s design. This process involves mixing the tint thoroughly with the varnish before application to ensure consistent color throughout. Applying tinted varnish can add depth and artistic flair to your skateboard, making it truly one-of-a-kind.

Cost Comparison and Budget Tips

DIY vs. Professional Services

When it comes to protecting your skateboard artwork, deciding between DIY and professional services can significantly impact both cost and quality. DIY methods can be cost-effective and offer a personal sense of accomplishment. For example, purchasing a blank deck without varnish allows for direct application of art and sealant without the need to remove existing finishes, saving both time and money. On the other hand, professional services ensure a high-quality finish with less hassle but at a higher cost. Professionals use advanced materials and techniques such as 2K lacquer or high-quality epoxy that might be more durable but also more expensive.

Saving Money on Materials

To minimize costs on materials while ensuring durability, consider the following tips:

  1. Choose the Right Sealant: Polyurethane is a durable choice but can be expensive. Alternatives like acrylic sealer or epoxy resin offer good protection at a lower cost.
  2. Buy in Bulk: Purchase larger quantities of primer, paint, and varnish to save money, especially if you plan multiple projects.
  3. Recycle and Reuse: Utilize leftover materials from previous projects or explore local exchanges where artists share or sell unused supplies.

Where to Buy Supplies

Finding the right place to buy supplies can also help manage costs effectively:

  1. Local Skate Shops: Often offer sales and discounts. They might also provide valuable advice tailored to skateboard art.
  2. Online Platforms: Websites like Amazon or eBay can offer competitive prices and a wide range of products. Watch for deals and discounts.
  3. Specialty Stores: Stores that specialize in art supplies or skateboarding equipment may offer high-quality materials specific to your needs, sometimes at discounted rates during off-season sales.

By carefully considering these aspects, skateboard artists can manage their budgets more effectively while still achieving a durable and visually appealing finish on their skateboards.


Through the exploration of this article, we’ve delved into the intricacies of selecting, applying, and maintaining the ideal varnish or resin to keep skateboard artworks vibrant and protected. It’s evident that understanding the unique needs of each skateboard, from wood type to usage and desired aesthetics, plays a crucial role in choosing the right protective coating. By emphasizing thorough preparation, careful application, and regular maintenance, we underscored the balance between artistic expression and the practical durability necessary for skateboards to endure the rigors of use.

Reflecting on the broader implications, it becomes clear that preserving skateboard art is not just about maintaining the visual appeal but also about nurturing the cultural fusion between art and skateboarding. This dynamic interplay enriches our communities, fostering creativity and resilience. The guidance provided here encourages both artists and skateboard enthusiasts to approach their projects with knowledge and passion, ensuring that each skateboard masterpiece remains a vibrant testament to individual expression and skate culture’s enduring legacy.


1. How can I protect the artwork on my skateboard? To safeguard the artwork on your skateboard, it’s crucial to apply a suitable sealant or varnish. This will help preserve the design from wear, tear, and environmental factors.

2. What type of varnish is recommended for skateboards? For skateboards, using an acrylic varnish is generally safe and effective. It will provide a durable layer of protection without damaging the underlying artwork.

3. Which sealant is best for a painted skateboard? A polyurethane sealer is highly recommended for painted skateboards. It’s advisable to apply several coats with a brush, allowing ample drying time between each layer. If you prefer spraying, remember to apply thinner coats and increase the number of applications. Optionally, a light sanding with very fine sandpaper between coats can enhance the finish.

4. How do I seal acrylic paint on a skateboard? To seal acrylic paint on a skateboard, use a clear acrylic spray or a paint-on sealant. Make sure to apply the sealant evenly over the artwork and allow it to dry thoroughly before using the skateboard. This method ensures your design remains vibrant and protected.

Norman J. Wells
Norman J. Wells

Hello, my name is Norman J. Wells I am the founder of Get skater which is my blog.

I specialize in skateboarding and offer skateboarding services to businesses of all sizes around the world, ultimately improving their bottom line by teaching creative solutions to their problems. Shoot me a quick email to see how I can help you!

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