What Can I Add to Flat Paint to Make It Glossy?


Last updated: September 1, 2023

Discover things you can add to a flat paint to make it glossy in this comprehensive guide.

What can I add to flat paint to make it glossy

Flat paint is great when it comes to hiding flaws or imperfections on a surface, but it can look very dull because it doesn’t reflect light.

What if you wanted to do away with the dullness in your room? What can you add to flat paint to give it some sheen?

While it’s possible to scrape off the old paint and repaint the surface, sometimes you just want to take the easiest route. This would mean adding something to the existing flat paint.

But what exactly can you add? That is what I will be looking at today. 

What can I add to flat paint to make it glossy?

To make flat paint gloss, mix it with the glossy version of the same paint. Or you can add a high-gloss varnish, polyacrylic varnish, or epoxy resin to the flat paint. 

Different Types of Paint Finishes

There are different paint finishes, from flat to gloss finish, and everything in between (matte, velvet, eggshell, satin, etc.). For the purpose of this article, we will focus on gloss and flat finishes. 

  • What is Gloss Paint

Gloss paint is one that has a glossy or shiny finish. In other words, it’s highly reflective compared to other finishes. The gloss level can be said to be around 70 to 80. 

Generally, paint is made up of three components – pigment, binder, and solvent. Pigment gives the paint its color, while the binder holds the pigment and every other thing together. The solvent evaporates as the paint dries.

Gloss paint is characterized by a lower number of pigments versus binders. This means that if there’s more pigment in the paint, it will be less glossy and vice versa. 

Gloss paint is commonly used to paint trims, cabinets, doors, and other areas where a durable, high-shine finish is required. 

  • What’s in High Gloss Paint?

High gloss paint has the highest sheen and reflects the most light. This makes it an excellent choice when you need to create a bold, dramatic look, especially on surfaces that get more fingerprint touch. 

It provides high resistance to stains and is very easy to clean. The gloss level can be said to be 85+. Like gloss paint, it is perfect for doors and cabinets. 

  • What’s a Matte or Flat Paint

Flat or matte black paints have little or no sheen. Flat paint, specifically, typically doesn’t reflect any light. The gloss level is usually around 0-5. 

This makes it perfect when you want to create a subtle, understated appearance or hide surface bumps and flaws. This is why it’s commonly used to paint walls and ceilings. 

What Makes Paint Glossy or Flat?

The sheen of any paint depends on the pigment vs. binder concentration. To put it more simply – the higher the amount of pigment, the flatter or less glossy it will be. 

Paint is made up of four main ingredients – pigment, binder (resin), solvent, and additives. The two main components that affect the gloss level are the pigment and binder.

What can I add to flat paint to make it glossy

The pigment is the material that gives the paint its color, while the binder holds pigments together and allows the paint to adhere to the surface. 

The concentration of pigment vs. binder determines whether the paint will be glossy or flat. This is because the pigment absorbs light while the binder reflects light. 

A common measure used to determine the gloss level of any finish is the PVC (Pigment Volume Concentration). PVC is the ratio of pigment to other components in the paint, especially the binder. A high PVC value means the paint will be flat, while a low PVC value means the paint will be shiny. 

Mathematically, the formula is written as:

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

Flat or matte paints typically have a PVC of 40 to 80 percent (0.4-0.8), while gloss paints have a PVC of 0 to 15 percent. This means that the amount of pigments in glossy paints is way less than that of flat paints. 

As earlier indicated, between these two extremes, we have other paint finishes with different PVC. These include:

  • Satin paint-35 percent.
  • Semi-gloss paint 25 percent.
  • Eggshell paint-35-45 percent.

Can You Make Flat Paint Glossy?

Yes, you can make flat paint glossy. Two main ways you can achieve this is to paint over the flat paint with glossy paint, or you can use a clear, glossy varnish, such as polyacrylic varnish. The latter is highly recommended as it covers both oil and latex paints and works with most surfaces. Besides adding shine, it will also increase the durability of the paint job. 

On the other hand, if you’re using oil- or water-based paint, you should ensure the paints are compatible. You can’t paint over an oil paint with water-based paint. Depending on the product you use, you may want to prime the surface before painting over it.

For smaller projects, such as when painting canvas, you can add a medium to the paint.

How to Make Flat Paint Glossy

There are different ways to make flat paint glossy. The best option for you would depend on the type of paint you’re using.

1. Using polyacrylic varnish

Polyacrylic varnish works for most surfaces and is available in different finishes – satin, gloss, matte, etc. You can apply it over any type of flat paint to give it a polished look. 

The varnish is water-based, so it’s perfect for water based paints like latex paint. Because it’s water-based, it dries very quickly, so it’s possible to apply several layers in a day. 

Some polyacrylic varnish comes in spray form, making it easy to use. 

Besides polyacrylic varnish, you can also use wallpaper varnish to create glossy effects on flat/matte walls. Whatever product you end up using, ensure you follow the instructions. In most cases, you can apply the varnish after the paint has fully cured.

2. Using gloss medium or glazing compound

Another way to increase the shine of flat paint is to mix it with a gloss medium or glazing compound. This method is particularly recommended when you’re working with acrylic paint. Some gloss mediums have a sheen level of up to 90 percent. 

If you don’t want to mix the medium with the paint, you can wait after the paint dries, then apply a layer of the medium over it.

The steps for mixing varnish or glazing compound are as follows:

  1. Get a container and mix the compound with 10 percent of the flat paint. For gloss medium, don’t use more than 20 percent of water.
  2. Stir the mixture until it becomes cohesive.
  3. Test the modified paint on a small, inconspicuous area to be sure it’s what you want.
  4. You can add a little more varnish or glazing compound if you are not satisfied with the result. Continue to do this until you achieve the desired sheen.

Note: Always test the paint whenever you add more glazing compound, or you may end up overdiluting the paint.  

Mixing the paint with gloss medium is only recommended for small projects. For a large project, it might be difficult to figure out the exact ratio of paint to medium to use.

In this case, it’s just better to allow the paint to dry then you can apply the gloss medium. Apply the medium only when the paint is completely dry. This usually takes at least 24 hours. Then, apply two thin coats of the medium; wait at least 24 hours between coats to allow full curing. 

3. Using glossy paint

If you haven’t applied the flat paint already, you can mix it with a gloss paint of the same brand. If your goal is to achieve a gloss look, then you have to use more gloss paint (ideally, high-gloss), and it must be of the same brand and color.

It should also be the same type of paint. Don’t mix water-based paint with oil-based paint! 

The recommended measure is one quart of flat paint to a gallon of gloss paint. If you’re using a can of flat paint to three cans of gloss paint or more. The idea is to have more gloss paint depending on the level of gloss you want. But in most cases, you won’t be able to achieve 100 percent gloss because you’re mixing gloss with flat paint. 

Instead of gloss paint of the same brand, you can also mix the flat paint with epoxy resin to create a high-gloss, glass-like finish. However, epoxy is quite difficult to handle and can be quite expensive. It is better to wait until the flat paint is fully dry before using epoxy resin; even if this approach is challenging, it will produce the most durable finish.

4. Alternative method 

Finally, if you’re not comfortable using any of the other methods, you can just wait for the flat paint to dry fully, then apply a layer or two of gloss paint. 

Once again, make sure the paints have the same base and are of the same shade and brand. You will likely not get a 100 percent gloss as you would using only gloss paint. 

As earlier indicated, at least two coats of paint are recommended to help solidify the sheen and achieve full coverage. Ensure there is no dirt or dust on the flat surface before adding the gloss paint. Apply the paint according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Can You Mix Flat and Gloss Paint?

Yes, you can, but the result will not be as glossy as you would normally expect, especially if you mix equal amounts of flat paint and gloss paint. This is because when you have equal quantities of gloss paint and flat paint, the binders in the gloss paint will make up for the lack of binders in the flat paint. 

Likewise, since flat paint has more pigments than gloss paint, the pigments in the flat paint will make up for the lack of pigments in the gloss paint. As a result, you will end up with a satin or gloss finish. 

One way to go about this is to cut down the PVC in the flat paint by at least 25 percent. And this can be achieved by adding more gloss paint to the mixture. Specifically, to achieve this, you will need to mix one quart of flat paint with a gallon of gloss paint or one gallon of flat paint with a five-gallon bucket of gloss paint. 

Ensure the two paints you’re mixing are of the same color and brand. Likewise, the chemical composition should be similar; you don’t want to mix water-based paint with oil-based paint. In general, it’s not recommended to mix paints unless you really know what you’re doing. 

Benefits Of Glossy Paint

There are many benefits or advantages of using a gloss finish. Let’s go over the most obvious ones:

  • Highly durable: Because gloss paint has a lower amount of pigment, it doesn’t peel quickly. It tends to last longer than flat paint.
  • Easy to wash: Because the gloss finish is smooth, it is very easy to wash the surface. Matte or flat paint, on the other hand, is difficult to clean once it accumulate dirt, and it can be easily damaged by water.
  • Highly reflective: Glossy paint is highly reflective and creates uniform shiny surfaces, making it ideal if you want to brighten up a room in your house.
  • Adds depth and dimension: Because gloss paints are bold, they give your space or whatever item you use it on more depth and dimension. This makes it perfect for highlighting specific areas.
  • Creates an accent: Gloss paint is also useful when you need to create an accent, whether it’s a room or an object. It helps to bring out the finer details. This is why it’s not recommended for areas you don’t want to be featured.
  • Pairs with other finishes: Another good thing about gloss paint is that you can mix it with other colors to get the finish you desire.

Disadvantages Of Gloss Finish

The major downside of using gloss paint is that it highlights imperfections. This means that if there are little marks or dents on the surface, the paint will magnify it.

In addition, you may also find it difficult to paint over a gloss finish when you decide to update the color in the future. Most of the time, the result will be ugly. 

The reason why it’s difficult to repaint gloss finish is that as it ages, it loses its luster with a change in color and appearance. This leaves behind a patchy-looking surface that is almost impossible to repaint. 

Having said that, it’s still possible to maintain the glossy finish. All you need to do is keep it clean at all times and reduce exposure to U.V. light and moisture. This way, you won’t have to do a touch-up in the future. 

FAQs – What Can I Add to Flat Paint to Make It Glossy

Is Flat Paint Glossy?

No, it’s not! As the name suggests, flat paint is “flat,” which means it doesn’t reflect light. As a result, flat paint has no shine. This makes it perfect for hiding flaws in walls or ceilings and in areas with minimal foot traffic. In contrast to flat paint, high gloss paint is all shiny.  

Can You Put a Clear Gloss Over Flat Paint?

Yes, you can. In fact, this is one of the easiest ways to achieve a glossy effect over flat paint without making the paint job look too unnatural. The clear gloss can be varnish or lacquer. It should only be added after the top coat (flat paint) has completely dried. 

Can You Mix Flat and Semi-gloss Paint?

You can mix flat paint and semi-gloss paint as long as they contain the same binder and solvent. This means that the paint must be of the same type and brand. You can expect the sheen to be somewhere between both finishes. 

What Can I Add to the Paint to Make It Shiny?

As earlier indicated, there are various mediums you can add to paint to make it shiny. Some of the more popular ones are gloss acrylic medium, iridescent medium, epoxy resin, high-gloss varnish, and so on. Before using any medium, make sure it’s compatible with the paint. 

Is Gloss Paint Better than Flat?

It depends on what you want. Gloss paint is ideal if you want something shiny and more stain-resistant. It’s perfect for areas that get a lot of traffic and is easier to wipe down than flat paint. Flat paint, on the other hand, is best for hiding imperfections on walls, but it’s less suitable for areas that get a lot of traffic. 

Does Gloss Paint Dull Over Time?

Yes, it does. Like any other paint, gloss paint usually loses its luster over time and will eventually become full, especially when it’s frequently exposed to UV light, dirt, and moisture. This usually happens because of the presence of titanium dioxide in the paint. 

Content Summary – What Can I Add to Flat Paint to Make It Glossy

To conclude, you can make flat paint glossy by mixing it with varnish or a gloss medium. You can also use a clear coat, which is usually a gloss finish of the same paint. In this case, you will need to apply it after the paint has fully dried. 

Whatever method you choose will depend on the size of your project or the type of material you’re working on. For instance, gloss medium and glazing compound are ideal for smaller projects, but for larger projects, it’s recommended to apply a gloss finish of the same paint.

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