Acrylic paint is a fast-drying and non-toxic paint that is super popular among artists and students alike. Thanks to its water-based formula, it is so easy to use and simple to clean up. You know that acrylic paint is an amazing product to use on canvas and fabric, but does it work on everything?
Can you use acrylic paint on wood? The short answer is yes, you can use acrylic paint on wood. However, you will need to pay attention to the properties of the paint and take the proper steps to get the best result.
Using acrylic paint on wood can be a great way to breathe new life into a piece of previously painted furniture or to completely cover up an old, worn-out piece. With a little patience and some know-how, you can use acrylic paint on wood without destroying the integrity of either the paint or the wood.
In this article, we will help you answer some common questions about using acrylic paint on wood.
What To Know About Using Acrylic Paint On Wood
Acrylic paint is made up of two components: pigments and an acrylic polymer emulsion. The former makes the paint more durable while adding vibrant colors to the paint, and the latter makes it easier to apply.
Acrylic paint is water-based paint, meaning it can be thinned with water. When the water evaporates, acrylic paint dries to become slightly water-resistant. However, when the paint is still wet, it can be easily washed away with water and soap.
This makes acrylic paint a very beginner-friendly type of paint since it doesn’t require any fancy thinners or tools to get started. If you make mistakes, you can simply use a damp cloth to wipe the paint away and start again.
Understanding these characteristics of acrylic paint will help you understand how to use it on a material like wood. You can certainly use acrylic paint on wood, and many artists certainly do so because acrylic paint is such an affordable and readily available paint compared to other types of paint that are commonly used with wood.
However, if you are using acrylic paint on wood, you will need to prepare the wood thoroughly before painting. Sanding and priming the wood before painting will help the paint adhere to the wood better, and sealing the wood after painting will help the color last longer.
Can You Use Acrylic Paint On Wood Furniture?
It is possible to use acrylic paint on wooden furniture, but the pieces need to be thoroughly cleaned, sanded, and primed before they are painted.
Cleaning and sanding the piece is especially important because most pieces of furniture are protected with a topcoat layer of paint, varnish, or resin. This layer will need to be removed before the paint can adhere to the surface.
This layer can simply be removed by sanding the piece with fine-grit sandpaper. When you sand the piece, make sure that you use an even hand to smooth out the wood’s surface so that the paint can be applied evenly later on. In this step, you will need to completely remove the protective coating so that the paint can adhere correctly to the wood.
When the sanding is completed, you can use a damp cloth to remove the dust that was created by the sanding. When you clean the wood, make sure that the cloth is not dripping wet. Since wood is porous and can absorb water, using a wet cloth can result in water being trapped in the wood, which can cause the wood to twist and warp later on.
After sanding and wiping, you should let the wood dry completely for a few days to make sure that there’s no moisture left inside. Then, the next step in preparing the wood would be applying a primer.
A primer adds a layer of protective coating on the wood and will help your paint adhere better to the surface when you are ready to paint it. You can use a commercial primer or Gesso to do this.
With a paintbrush, apply a thin layer of primer on your wood furniture, making sure to cover every surface of the wood and that the primer is spread evenly. Then, you can let one layer completely dry before applying the next layer.
It is common practice to use at least 2-3 layers of primer when painting so that your paint will go on smoothly and the colors will turn out as you wish.
Then, you can use acrylic paint to paint your wooden furniture. If you are using an airbrush, you can thin out the paint with an acrylic paint thinner, or you can use acrylic paint with a brush to get a precise and even application.
Then, let the paint layer dry completely. You can leave the paint as-is, but the best practice is to apply a layer of sealant that’s either varnish or resin to protect the wood and the paint.
A sealant will help protect your wooden furniture and your paint against the elements since things like humidity, sun exposure, and fungi can destroy your wooden furniture in the long run. If you leave the paint as-is, the colors can fade, become discolored, or peel away after some use.
This last step is especially important if your furniture is to be used outdoors. Let’s talk about whether acrylic paint is suitable for outdoor furniture.
Can You Use Acrylic Paint On Wood Outside?
Acrylic paint can certainly be used on outdoor furniture, but there are a few caveats when it comes to the application, mainly because of the nature of this type of paint.
As we have mentioned above, acrylic paint is water-based. Although it dries to become semi-waterproof, if the paint is still wet, it can be washed away with water.
That means when your paint is still wet, you should not leave your furniture outdoors because rain, snow, or even moisture can cause the paint to crack or be washed away completely. If you are painting outdoor furniture with acrylic paint, you should let it dry completely before exposing it to the elements.
If you are using acrylic paint on outdoor furniture, then the sealant is definitely not an optional step. This step is so important, in fact, that we have a whole article on how to seal acrylic paint on wood. Since acrylic paint is only slightly waterproof, it is definitely not strong enough to protect the wood underneath. Both the paint and the wood can be distorted and discolored when exposed to moisture, rain, and sunshine for a long period of time.
Since wood can absorb water and even moisture from the air, when the moisture content of the wood reaches a certain threshold, it can expand, causing the paint to crack or chip. When the wood dries and shrinks down to its original size, it can twist and warp, making your outdoor furniture look distorted.
Too much moisture in the wood can also create a prime environment for fungi to grow, which causes your wooden furniture to rot from the inside out. Sunshine can be another damaging factor. When left under direct sun for too long, the wood and paint can become discolored.
All of these issues can be easily solved with a layer of sealant. Sealing your outdoor furniture after painting will add an extra layer of waterproof protection so that the wood and the paint can no longer absorb water and be damaged by the elements.
You will need to have a clear waterproof sealant, such as resin or varnish. After the layer of paint is completely dry, you can apply one or two coats of sealant on top of the paint. While sealing the piece, you should make sure to let each layer dry completely before applying the next. Then, your wooden furniture should be ready to be used outdoors.
Whatever resin you use, you will need to reapply it once every year, especially for outdoor furniture that is subjected to harsh elements. Re-sealing your furniture will ensure that the protection is always intact, and your paint and wooden furniture can stay looking great even after a few years.
Best Acrylic Paint For Wood
Although acrylic paint is always readily available in most craft stores, not many people know how to select the best type of acrylic paint for their particular projects.
There are two main types of acrylic paint: artist (or “professional”) quality and student quality. As you have probably guessed, artist-quality acrylic paint is usually more expensive but definitely better than student-quality paint.
Artist quality paint has more pigment in the paint so that the colors are richer and more vibrant, and there are simply more options of colors to choose from. Artist-quality paints are often smoother, too, which means you will have an easier time with the application.
If you are using a primary color on a small piece of wood, you can use a student-quality acrylic paint, which is less expensive and more readily available in most craft stores.
The reason student quality is less preferred is that it often has less pigment in the paint, and sometimes the colors can contain fillers, which means the colors produced are much less pigmented and are often duller than the color you would expect.
If you are a beginner hoping to experiment with acrylic paint, however, it’s best to start out with a student-quality paint rather than the more expensive types.
There are acrylic paints that are formulated to work well with wood, so if you already have a project in mind, you can look for an acrylic paint that will work with wood as well as canvas.
Acrylic paint also comes with different types of finish: matte, glossy, metallic, etc. When you are buying a set of acrylic paint, you should also pay attention to the finish, which can also drastically affect the look of a piece.
If you still don’t know what type of acrylic paint to buy to paint wood, let’s take a look at some of the best options in the market below.
Best Student-Quality Acrylic Paints For Wood
As we have mentioned, if you are just starting to experiment with acrylic paint on wood, then using student-quality paint is probably a better investment. There are some great options for student-quality acrylic paints that can look great with wood and are very easy to use.
This Apple Barrel Acrylic Craft Paint Set, for example, can give you a wide range of brilliant colors with a matte finish, which will look quite modern and stylish. This acrylic paint is made to work well with a wide range of materials, including wood, and you can easily apply the paint using a brush.
However, this paint is designed for interior use, so if you want something that will last a bit longer outdoors, then you can opt for the Arteza Outdoor Acrylic Paint, which is specially formulated for exterior use.
The paint is very smooth and easy to work with, but what sets this acrylic paint apart from others is the fact that it is specially formulated to be self-sealing and works great on wood; once it is dry, the color will be permanent and scratch-resistant. However, a sealant is still recommended to help the colors last even longer.
Best Artist-Quality Acrylic Paints For Wood
If you are looking for an artist-quality acrylic paint that can produce vibrant colors and an interesting finish, there are also plenty of options that can help you achieve a unique look.
This Magicfly Bulk Acrylic Paint Set offers rich colors thanks to the artist-quality paint that is very thick and creamy, which makes the paint super smooth and easy to blend. This acrylic paint works well with wood and will produce brilliant colors with just a few simple strokes.
If you want a professional-quality acrylic paint that is formulated for outdoor use, then you may consider this Outdoor Acrylic Paint Set, which can work for both interior and exterior use.
The non-toxic paint is rich in pigments. Thanks to the creamy consistency, it is very easy to work with and can cover a large area with a small amount of paint. Once dry, it is very durable and will maintain its looks and colors for a long time.
There are also many options for the finish. This Color Technik acrylic paint, for example, can produce a sleek matte look for your project. This paint goes on very smoothly and dries quickly to a crack-resistant matte finish.
If you want to go for a more polished glossy finish, then this GenCrafts Acrylic Paint Set would be a great option. This set comes with 50 vibrant colors that produce a semi-glossy look when dry, so your artwork will look more put-together with less effort.
This is another artist-quality acrylic set, so you don’t have to worry about the quality of the color. The paint is highly pigmented and super easy to blend, very friendly to both artists and beginners alike.
Acrylic also comes in the form of spray paint if you prefer that type of application. This Krylon Acrylic Spray Paint works really well with wood and will produce a high-gloss finish that is also waterproof. This spray paint dries quickly and can produce great results if you are in a hurry.
A great thing about a spray application is that you can cover a large area in no time without having to be too precise with the corners and angles, which is great if you have a piece of wood with some intricate carvings.
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