Acrylic paint is a versatile and durable paint that can be used for a variety of projects on many materials, including wood, glass, and metal. Acrylic paint is super easy to work with, thanks to its water-based formula that makes it easily washable. When dry, the paint becomes hard and is considered permanent.
But is it possible to sand acrylic paint? Yes, you can sand acrylic paint to create a smoother surface by using fine-grit sandpaper in the 180-320 range. Remember to use a light hand to avoid scraping the paint all the way off.
Sanding is a technique used mostly in woodworking, but it can also be useful for a handful of crafts, including when painting with acrylic paint. However, there are some important things to consider if you want to sand acrylic paint to get the desired effects.
In this article, let’s talk about how you can safely and effectively sand acrylic paint.
Can You Sand Acrylic Paint?
There are many reasons why you might want to sand acrylic paints. Since the paint dries hard, the texture may not be something that you want, especially if you are painting furniture. Sanding acrylic paint is a great way to reduce the texture and smooth out the surface.
Sanding is also a great way to remove errors if you are painting with acrylic. Think of it as an eraser – you can remove mistakes and avoid having to start over on an art project.
While you can certainly sand acrylic paint, you must pay attention to the paint’s quality to choose the right sandpaper and technique.
First of all, the paint must be completely dry before you can sand it. This is just common sense – when the paint is still wet, the sandpaper will stick to it and won’t be able to sand anything at all.
You will want to make sure that the layer is dry and hard, which will take anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours. If you are unsure, you can test it with your hands to see if the paint has hardened yet. If it still feels soft, then it’s not ready to sand. Sanding can only work when the paint is hard. Otherwise, you will risk ruining your entire project.
You will also need to use very fine-grit sandpaper to work with your acrylic paint, which can help you create a smooth result.
What Type Of Sandpaper To Use For Sanding Acrylic Paint
Sandpaper comes in many different types with different “grits,” often indicated by a numeric value. The lower this number, the coarser the grit, meaning the sandpaper is very rough and coarse.
Sanding acrylic paint works best with fine-grit sandpaper, ranging from 180-320, which can help you control the sanding while achieving a very smooth result.
This variety pack from Dura-Gold is a great option since you can play around with the different grits and see what works best for your project.
Keep in mind that using fine-grit sandpaper will definitely take longer than using ones with a low grit, so if you are impatient, you can opt for the 100-150 range, which are medium grit sandpapers that will take less time to sand but won’t produce as smooth a finish.
Which Surfaces Are Appropriate For Sanding?
Acrylic paint can be used on various hard surfaces, including wood, metal, or glass. If you want to achieve a smooth finish with acrylic paint on these materials, sometimes it is recommended to sand the material first before painting, then sand again when the acrylic paint is completely dry.
Let’s take a look at how you can sand acrylic paint on wood and metal.
Acrylic paint is an excellent choice for painting wood. If you want to achieve a smooth, even finish with acrylic paint on wood, you can definitely sand the acrylic paint on the wood surface.
When using acrylic paint with wood, it is important to treat the wood surface first before painting. Wood comes with a rough texture, and the texture of the wood surface can appear quite prominently after painting. If you want to create a smooth surface after painting, sanding the wood surface first to create a smooth working area will be the key.
After sanding the wood, you will need to apply a primer to prep the wood. A primer will help the paint adhere to the wood better when you apply it later. A good primer is formulated to help keep the paint’s surface in place and give it a consistent surface, as well as prevent the paint from flashing once it is finished.
Then, you can let the primer dry completely before painting.
If you want, you can also sand the primer at this stage, as long as the primer is completely dry. To evaluate whether the primer needs sanding, you can run your hands over the surface to see if there are any unwanted bumps or textures. Then, you can sand the primer using fine-grit sandpaper to remove this texture.
Then, wipe away the dust created from sanding with a cloth. You want to make sure that this primer layer is completely dry and dust-free before painting.
Then, you can use acrylic paint to paint the surface. Depending on the type of acrylic paint that you use, the drying time may be very short or very long. If the paint dries quickly, it may cause you to make more mistakes and accidentally add rough textures like brush marks.
If this is the case, it may be helpful to use a paint additive, which can extend the drying time of the paint and give you more time to smooth out the surface before the paint is completely dry. Sometimes, simply working away from a fan or the sunlight can also help extend the drying time of the paint, so you don’t need to use an additive.
Let this coat dry completely and see whether it will need sanding, similar to what we have mentioned above. Then, you can use the steps mentioned above to sand the acrylic paint and apply a second coat if needed.
After painting on wood, it is especially important to seal the wood with a waterproof sealant. Wood is porous and will absorb moisture in the air and soak up spilled water, causing the wood to expand and contract when it is dry.
This process may cause the wood to twist and warp, which will also crack your paint. It is best to seal the paint with another layer of sealant to prevent moisture from entering the wood, which will preserve the overall look of the paint. We have another article on how to seal acrylic paint on wood.
Acrylic paint is also very useful when you need to paint metal as well. There are also some prepping steps required if you want to achieve a smooth surface when painting metal.
The first step – and you have probably guessed it – is sanding the metal surface. This step is especially important if the metal still has old paint on it or has rusted. You will need to take some time with this to completely remove any paint or rust from the surface since it will be crucial to help you achieve a smooth surface.
You can achieve this with low or medium-grit sandpaper since the surface doesn’t have to be silky smooth to be painted over. When the metal has been thoroughly sanded, then you can use a primer to coat the surface to help improve the performance of the paint.
Similarly, you can sand the dry primer layer if you feel that it is needed. Then, clean the primer layer thoroughly and paint your metal surface with acrylic paint.
After the first coat is dry, you can sand the acrylic paint to remove unwanted textures and mistakes. Then, you can apply another coat if needed or use a sealant to seal the paint and protect the metal.
If your metal is prone to rust, sealing it is especially important since the sealant will protect the metal and the paint from the elements and keep the paint layer fresh and smooth for a long time.
How to Sand Acrylic Paint In 4 Easy Steps
Follow the steps below to successfully sand acrylic paint.
Step 1: Make sure the material can be sanded
Before you sand acrylic paint, make sure that the surface you use can actually be sanded. Canvas on its own is actually very difficult to sand, but if the canvas has been primed with gesso or another primer, it’s probably safe to sand. If you have painted a hard surface like wood, metal, or glass, sanding is suitable as well.
Step 2: Wipe the acrylic surface with water
With a brush or cloth, wipe the acrylic surface with some water. Make sure that the surface is not dripping wet; the water is only there to prevent too much acrylic dust from accumulating. The paint dust can be toxic when you inhale it, so make sure to wear a mask when you sand.
Step 3: Lightly start sanding
Then, use your fine-grit sandpaper to smooth out the rough texture and imperfections on your acrylic paint. Make sure to use a light hand in this process; it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Step 4: Cover with a light coat of finish
After sanding, the paint will have a duller, almost rough texture. This is completely normal, and you can cover this with another light coat of paint to smooth out the finish and enhance the final look of the paint. This is not required; of course, you can just wipe the paint dust with a damp cloth to achieve the final look if the paint is already smooth to your liking.
For a visual tutorial on sanding a bumpy acrylic painting, check out this video by Acrylic Pouring on YouTube.
Up Next: Is Acrylic Paint Waterproof?