Vallejo Polyurethane Varnish

Now that I’m getting good results with acrylic paints and gloss coats the last product I need to find a replacement for to get off of lacquer-based products is Dullcote. I never was able to get good results with the spray cans but airbrushing it has been great. While I use a respirator no matter what I’m spraying, the downside is that even with a spray booth vented to the outside, the fumes build up in the workshop. I don’t like to go through the hassle of using Dullcote for just one car, while at the same time too many causes a build-up of vapors, so I try to spray in batches of 4-5 cars at a time. Needless to say, that slows down my finishing process.

So for that reason, along with the desire to get rid of hazardous chemicals for me, my family, and cats I need to find a less hazardous substitute. I had read good reviews of the Vallejo Polyurethane Matte Varnish and since the shop down the street stocks it, I picked up a bottle.

Vallejo 26.651 Polyurethane Matte Varnish

The Test C&NW 84102

For a test project, I selected an Athearn Blue Box 40’er that I have had kicking around waiting for decals forever [Note: more on this car in a bit, and in my defense, I already drafted a post on this before Tony Thompson started blogging about the same thing this week!]. It is a car that I couldn’t care less if I ruined, so I finished up the decals, weathered it up, and headed for the spray booth. Vallejo recommends a 3:1 ratio of varnish to thinner, but online forums suggested 1:1, so I followed that. I sprayed on thin coats at about 18 psi. It dried fairly quickly, but I still sped it up with a hairdryer since I was anxious to see what the result would be. The resulting finish was a uniform matte as advertised.

An upgraded Blue Box Athearn 40’er was my test subject…more on this trip down memory lane later.

The next question was would it have enough tooth to hold Pan Pastels? I don’t use pastels as my main medium, usually just a light coat of dust on top, so I didn’t need it to be super “sticky”. It seemed to work well for what I needed and the pastels helped knock the matte finish down to flat. While the texture was good enough for the powders, it wasn’t quite gritty enough for my colored pencil chalk marks. I got them on, but they didn’t come out nearly as good as they usually do. The next time I spray it, I will go for a 2:1 or 3:1 to see if that results in a flatter, grittier finish. If that doesn’t work I’ll try a different colored pencil.

SOO 137196

A factory painted Soo Line (Wisconsin Central) boxcar was next.

Since the C&NW car went so fast and easy, I grabbed my just completed Soo Line boxcar. This was the car I had butchered the door gussets on, after much trial and error I did a good enough job of matching the body paint. This worked so well you can hardly tell the gussets are there at all. The results were identical to the C&NW car, no surprises.

Proof that the gussets are there, I swear I added rivets too!


I thought this was easy to spray and gave effective results. I see no reason why I won’t use the whole bottle. At the same time, it wasn’t dead flat so I’m not tossing my Dullcote just yet and plan on trying the Winsor & Newton Galeria Matt Varnish, as suggested to me by Bruce Griffin, when I run out (see Bruce’s review). The bottom line is that I don’t have a reason to avoid spraying this stuff and it will help me pick up the pace as I work through a backlog of projects to paint and weather.

1 thought on “Vallejo Polyurethane Varnish”

  1. Good review. I have a small bottle, but haven’t used it so much as it’s so easy to pick up a rattle can. I need to move to an acrylic varnish also.


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