Acrylic paints have found favor among artists for good reason. They are everything that their predecessors (oil paints) are not; effortless to clean up, easy to use, cheaper, and most importantly, non-toxic.
As popular as acrylic paints are, particularly for paintings on canvas, their application on wood is still a new concept for many. You might be part of that lot, confused as to whether acrylic paints can stay on wood or not.
So, how do you seal acrylic paint on wood? The best way to seal acrylic paint onto wood is to sand your wood, wipe it down, prime the surface, paint, and finally, seal it with a clear coat of Liquitex acrylic varnish, Mod Podge, polycrylic finish, Mr. Super Clear protective finish, or Krylon crystal clear acrylic coating.
To learn more, continue reading this post where we provide step-by-step instructions for sealing acrylic paint on wood for outstanding and long-lasting results. You’ll also find lots of other helpful tips.
Let’s dive in.
Why Seal Acrylic Paint on Wood?
A sealer is very critical when painting wood with acrylic paints. It is not required, but if you care about the appearance and longevity of your painted wood, you should seal it, and here’s why.
Sealant not only protects your paint from chipping or scratching off, but also gives the painted surface a new aesthetic dimension. It can transform the finish of the painted surface to glossy, semi-glossy, matte, or even satin, depending on your preference.
However, the primary reason for sealing acrylic paint on wood is to protect it. Sealants shield acrylic paint from elements that can quickly deteriorate the paint layer such as water, chemicals, wear and tear, and UV rays.
A finished acrylic painted surface feels kind of chalky once dry. Being water-based paints, they do not contain solvents. Just pigment in a water base.
So, if you try to touch or wipe it with a wet tissue, it will leave behind a pigmented residue. This only means, unless it is sealed, it is vulnerable to rapid damage.
More solid sealants that form a hard protective coat are preferred for utility items like furniture and cabinets. They minimize wear and tear caused by spills, scratches, and scuffs from everyday use.
The other significance of sealants is to cover the pores of the wood before the actual painting. Wood is a porous material, while acrylic paint is water-based. It goes without saying what a bad combination wood and water is.
When you seal the wood, a barrier is created that locks the substrate from interacting with the medium. This prevents the water-based paint from sinking deep into the wood core.
Without sealing, the painted coat’s surface becomes uneven from permeating the wood, resulting in paint cracking and peeling. The natural chemical oils and fluids of wood can also be sucked up and mixed with the paint, causing yellowish-brown discoloration.
When wood comes into contact with moisture from the water-based paint and absorbs it, it is likely to warp from raised grains, rot, or crack. Therefore, sealing is one of the most critical steps of painting wood with acrylic paints and succeeding.
Nobody would love a masterpiece they worked on so hard to be ruined quickly like this, be it a painting or craft. For this reason, sealing acrylic paint on wood is not debatable among serious artists.
This does not mean that sealing offers permanent protection. Acrylic paint, like any other paint on wood, will wear out eventually. Just not at a faster rate than that which is not sealed.
What Is the Best Sealant for Acrylic Paint on Wood?
The sheer number of sealant in the market can make your decision an overwhelming one. But there is no one best sealant for acrylic paint for wood. It is really a matter of personal preference most of the time.
You can opt for one of the many popular glazes and varnishes such as Liquitex acrylic varnish for your painting. For a high gloss finish that makes the colors pop, choose acrylic resin varnishes. Acrylic polymer varnishes yield a matte, less radiant look.
When you think of a popular craft sealer, Mod Podge is another medium likely to come to mind. Many crafters are familiar with Mod Podge as an excellent and versatile decoupage glue and sealer for just about any craft. So, it is only natural that it is an option one might consider for wood.
You can use Mod Podge to seal acrylic paint on woodcrafts such as jewelry and other ornamental items. Mod Podge works the same way as watered-down PVA glue. It can be used to seal unfinished wood pieces before painting with acrylic paints and afterward to seal the paint to give it a brilliant shine.
It has water-resisting abilities and dries clear. Therefore, it is suitable for sealing acrylic paint on wood crafts to promote permanency. Mod Podge is a suitable sealer for small and medium wood crafts that will sit indoors. However, it does take quite a while to dry.
Whichever sealant you go for, ensure it is crystal-clear, compatible with acrylic paints so they don’t run, and has preserving properties such as UV ray screening.
Before settling on a sealant, you must consider its purpose. You cannot use the same sealant to seal the wood before and after painting with acrylic paints unless you find one that is specifically meant to be used as both a base and topcoat.
The initial sealing is to cover the porous wood while the final sealing you put over an acrylic painting is for protective and archival purposes.
Experts also recommend considering the size of the wood, level of usage, movement and touch, and whether it stays indoors or outdoors.
Using PVA Glue for Sealing Acrylic Paint onto Wood
When using a wood panel as a canvas for an acrylic painting, you’ll need to seal the wood first. Watered-down PVA glue always does the trick and is commonly used by experienced artists.
Follow these steps to seal acrylic paint on wood using PVA glue:
- Mix one part PVA glue to one part water in a beaker.
- Stir the mixture thoroughly until it is a thin milky consistency.
- Apply the suspension on the wood surface using a brush. You can do the edges as well.
- Do two coats breaking between them to allow each one to dry.
- Apply primer, and once dry, your wood canvas is ready to paint with your favorite acrylic paints as usual.
If you don’t want to use PVA glue and don’t mind spending a bit on a commercial sealer, acrylic mediums do the job just as well.
Sealing Acrylic Paint on Wood for Outdoors
Wood that will spend most of, if not its entire life, outdoors, needs a different kind of sealer. Things like patio seats, signposts, birdhouses, and so on.
These need sealers that offer robust protection because they are prone to quick deterioration from direct sunlight, rain, snow, chemical pollutants, etc.
Water-based polyurethane and polycrylic are fantastic choices. They form a tough exterior coating that is resistant to damage from UV rays and moisture. However, polyurethane will require buffing. You might also consider resin as a sealant.
Large wood items and furniture that is indoors but undergoes frequent use, movement, touch, and is prone to moisture and mechanical damage will benefit from this type of sealant too.
Step-by-Step Guide for Sealing Acrylic Paint on Wood
In this segment, we’ll guide you on how to seal acrylic paint on wood for the best outcome.
Supplies you’ll need
- 140-180-220 grit sandpapers
- Acrylic paints
- Paint brushes, rollers, or sponges
- Microfiber cloths
1. Smooth Sand
Start by fine-sanding the wood if it was not already pre-sanded. You want to start with a smooth surface. Use the medium grit sandpaper first, making sure to go in the same direction as the grain.
The grains are lateral lines that run across the wood in the same direction. Follow through with a fine grit sandpaper for the smoothest outcome.
2. Wipe Clean
Once satisfied, wipe away the dust and any debris using the microfiber clothing. Dampening the cloth just a bit collects every last bit of the particles. Allow the surface to dry.
Ensure you do not use enough water to soak the wood. Excess moisture means more waiting time for drying. Alternatively, you can invest in a tack cloth. It contains some adhesive that picks up the finest of debris effortlessly and guarantees a clean surface without water.
Any form of dirt compromises the adhesion of the sealant and subsequent layers of paint.
3. Apply Wood Sealant
The next step is to apply the sealant, making sure it covers the surface, edges, and any area you intend to paint.
Start with the first coat and allow it ample time to dry as per the manufacturer’s instructions. Then add a second layer for enhanced protection. Let dry completely normally for 24 hours.
Try and work in small areas at a time, proceeding systematically so that every inch is covered.
4. Prime the Wood
Step three is to prime the wood in readiness for the acrylic paint. We know many first-time artists confuse sealant and primer and wonder whether you need to use just one or both.
Well, you need both. A primer creates a welcoming surface to receive the paint and helps it adhere better. That is different from what a sealer does.
You can opt for a spray or brush-on primer. Apply one or two coats waiting for complete dryness between them. Sometimes the sealer is 2 in 1 sealant and primer, of which you can skip this step.
Acrylic gesso is the best primer for acrylic paint on wood. It is formulated to restore grittiness in the wood. Paint clings best on surfaces with some texture, so you must be keen to cover every inch.
You can choose clear or white acrylic gesso.
5. Paint the Wood
The next step is now painting the wood with your preferred acrylic paints. Winston and Newton Galeria, Folk Art, Apple Barrel, and Golden are some of the best brands of acrylic paint for wood.
Apply two to three coats, leaving drying time between applications. You can lightly scuff one layer after it dries to improve adherence to the subsequent layer. Let the paint cure, and this can take a few hours to a couple of days depending on the weather and other factors.
6. Seal the Acrylic Paint
Once dry, the acrylic paint is now ready to be sealed. Begin by wiping down the surface to eliminate any accumulated dust you don’t want trapping under the sealer.
Use a clear sealant to maintain color vibrancy. You can spray the sealant or apply it with a brush or roller for large flat surfaces such as wood panels.
Sponge application is ideal for har- to-reach, tight corners if doing furniture or crafts with curved designs. Pay particular attention to the quality of your brushes at this stage. Any bristles that come off will get stuck in the sealant, and this is the final finish you want to keep flawless.
You also want to make several coats, but keep them very thin. This promotes quick-drying, avoids an overwhelmingly thick film, and minimizes unsightly brush strokes.
Is This Process the Same for All Types of Wood?
Not quite. As previously mentioned, sealing is not mandatory but is highly recommended to prevent the wood pores from sucking the paint in and causing dimpling and other wood and paint issues we already discussed.
Only unfinished wood needs to be sealed before painting with acrylics. Most craft wood comes unfinished. Wood panels that are finished do not need to be sealed. They are already treated with wax, lacquer, or varnishes and are therefore sealed. In that case, no additional sealing is required on finished wood.
Just wipe down to get rid of dust and grime, prime, and paint. You can seal the acrylic paint on the wood though, after complete drying.
But not all unfinished wood needs to be sealed before painting with acrylics. We know this is surprising since all wood is porous, right? Yes and no.
All wood is porous, but the degree of porosity varies greatly. Softwoods have readily open and larger pores, so they absorb moisture excessively. They cannot do without a sealant as they’ll quickly draw in the acrylic paint. Good examples are teak, rosewood, mahogany, ash, and oak.
Sometimes when the pores are too large and visibly open, you’ll need more than a sealant to get an even and smooth surface. Wood filler may be necessary to pack up the holes first before adding a layer of the sealant.
Extremely dense hardwoods can get away without sealing due to fewer and tiny pores. You can omit sealing for ebony, boxwood, and ironwood without dire consequences.
The decision to seal acrylic paint on wood or not is a personal preference. It is one of those things that are not a must but highly recommended.
Sealing gives the acrylic paint on wood a fresh look, preserves it, and extends its life. You have to seal the wood before painting with watered-down PVA glue or an acrylic medium and also seal the acrylic paint once cured.
Water-based polyurethanes, polycrylics, glazes, and varnishes are sealers that can go over acrylic paint to protect it. Also, you can use Mod Podge to seal wood crafts.
A sealer is not a primer. You must prime the wood after sealing it. The main steps to seal acrylic paint on wood are: sanding the wood, sealing the pores, priming the wood, painting with acrylic, and sealing the paint.
Up Next: The Best Paints For Wood Crafts