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Polyurethane Paint for Seashell Crafts

Updated on June 8, 2015

Protecting your seashell crafts from the elements is easy if you cover them with coat of clear paint. For my shell crafts the protectorant of choice is polyurethane paint.

Types of Polyurethane Paint for Seashell Crafts

Polyurethane paint comes in a variety of colors, stains/varnish, and clear coats. The clears coats come in gloss, semi-gloss, high-gloss, and satin. For crafts the most useful of the clear coats are the semi-gloss and gloss paints.

The high gloss can also be used although I find that style of gloss to be much too shiny for my taste. The satin is at the other end of the scale and seems to take away from the shell crafts.

The gloss and semi-gloss polyurethane paints work the best for me. They make the seashells and the sand shine, not an over powering and distracting shine but just enough to make the seashell craft softly glow. The paint can also bring out some of the subdued colors in both the seashells and the sand to which they are applied.

These paints can be found in liquid form in cans from small ½ pint size cans to 1 gallon cans (perhaps bigger). If you are making shell crafts at home as a hobby use the smaller can size. It is the better of the sizes for both ease of use and less waste. You can always adjust how much you buy if your need for the paint increases. These paints also come in spray cans if you prefer although the spray isn’t very tight and the paint ends up everywhere.

Polyurethane Paint - Oil based or Water Based

There are two basic types of clear polyurethane paints: oil based and water based. Both provide the needed gloss and protection for shell crafts once they have dried. In fact, once the paints have dried it is almost impossible to remove them without damaging the shell crafts to which they are applied.

The advantage of the water based polyurethane paint is the ease of clean up. Just wash your brushes in water while the paint is still fresh and it will come right off. Spills can be picked up with a damp cloth or use dry paper towels first and then a damp cloth or sponge.

The oil based paints require the use of paint thinners, chemical brush cleaners or mineral spirits to clean up. It is best to clean up spills as soon as possible after the incident and clean paint brushes as soon as you are done using them.

Polyurethane is a plastic based, dissolved in solvent, resin. It can be applied to a variety of materials other than seashells, wood, and coral such as fiberglass, fabrics, metals and other plastics (resin figurines come to mind).

The dried coatings have excellent resistance against water, vegetable and mineral oils, greases and many chemicals. The hard coating that forms also makes it easier to dust off the shell crafts that the paints are applied to.


Use adequate ventilation when working with polyurethane paints - the solvent fumes are quite strong, especially with the oil based paints. (Note: If you only open the can for a brief period while you actually use it on your shell craft the exposure should be minimal – I have not had a problem).

Never use these paints near exposed flame because they are extremely flammable. (Candles are exposed flames folks).

Wear proper eye protection (goggles comes to mind), and avoid prolonged skin contact (see the can for cautions and instructions).

What do you use Clear Coat paints for? Was this article helpful?

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    • Marian Designs profile image

      Marian Cates 

      5 years ago from Columbia River Gorge, WA

      Very helpful article. A jewelry-maker is making me a seashell bracelet, and I want it to have polyurethane on it, to make the shells shine and to protect the shells. I sent her the url to this article.


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