What is the difference between Paint and Varnish ?
Paint and varnish are two commonly used finishes applied to wood and other materials. Here is a
comparison between them in terms of appearance, application, protective properties, and drying time.
Varnish has little or no colour, is transparent, and has no added pigment, as opposed to paints, which
contain pigment and generally range from opaque to translucent. Varnishes are also applied over wood
stains as a final step to achieve a film for gloss and protection. It is used when one wishes to retain the
natural beauty of wood.
A primer paint coat is usually required before applying top coats of paint. If the surface is not primed,
the paint will not adhere to the surface and it will peel off very easily. Paint can be applied with a brush, a
roller, or a spray gun. Varnish can be applied directly to bare or stained wood that is free of dust. The
traditional way of applying varnish is with a brush but it can also be sprayed or wiped on.
A brushed on oil-based paint can take up to 8 hours to dry where as a sprayed on paint may dry in less
than 1 hour. One of the biggest challenges with varnish is its long drying time which allows pesky dust
particles to settle on the surface. You can generally figure on 24 hours for varnish to dry although newer
water-based formulations and polyurethane often dry more quickly.
For interior applications, paint and varnish perform both provide decent protection against water and
solvents. For outdoor applications, paint is more protective and longer lasting than varnish. The pigments
in paint provide superior UV resistance compared to varnish and other clear finishes. Varnish will last only
1 to 2 years on wood exposed to full sun compared to 7 to 10 years for paint.