Does Acrylic Paint Work on Wood?

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Acrylic paint is the most popular paint for art projects by far. Mainly because it dries very quickly and because it is easy to use and to come by. It also doesn’t let off any fumes or toxins, so you can use this to paint inside, or in an enclosed area with no issues whatsoever. I personally use acrylic paints for a lot of different projects and on a wide variety of different materials. But in this article, I want to answer in-depth if acrylic paint works on wood, how to prepare the wood for painting, and how to seal the paint afterward.

Acrylic paint does work on wood. In fact, acrylic paint is the easiest way to paint wood and probably also the cheapest way. But the wooden surface has to be prepared before painting it and sealed after painting it correctly in order to ensure the longevity of the paint job.

One might say that acrylic paint was created to be used on wood.

To keep your acrylic design or paint smooth and to prevent it from chipping, you will need to treat the wood correctly before you start painting it.

Or, if you want the grain of the wood to look through then you can also paint directly on the untreated wood and then seal it afterward to protect it.

Generally, you should either prepare the surface of the wood with a primer or you should seal the paint job afterward with a sealer or both but you should never just paint the wood without sealing or preparing the surface or your paint job will not survive for long.

Should you Prepare your Wood Before Painting on it?

You should prepare any wooden surface before you paint on it if your paint job is supposed to last for a long time. It is not necessary to prepare the surface before painting on it but it will ensure the longevity of the paint if the surface is properly prepared with a primer.

You don´t always have to prepare the wooden surface with a primer but it is recommended to always prepare any surface before painting it.

This is especially true if the painted project is going to be either outside in the elements or if it is used or touched a lot.

A primer prepares the surface of the wood in such a way, that paint will stick especially well and permanently to it.

So if your project requires a very robust and resilient paint job then applying a primer before painting the wood is an absolut must.

How to Prepare a Wooden Surface for Painting Properly

In order to properly prepare your wood for painting you first have to clean the surface correctly.

So use a damp cloth to remove any dirt or debris from the surface. Don´t use too much water for cleaning your wood.

The wood has to be dry before you can move on to the next step. So if you use too much water then you will have to wait quite a long time before the wood is dry enough for the priming.

Next, you have to apply the primer evenly to the surface of your wood.

You can use any wood primer, that you like but I personally would suggest either using Gesso as a primer or KILZ Premium Wood Primer.

Gesso is probably the best primer for almost any acrylic paint application. You can either buy it in your local craft store or right here on Amazon. You can even make Gesso yourself if you wanted to. It’s actually really easy to make!

You can also use KILZ Premium Wood Primer, which is my second favorite primer for acrylic paint. It sticks to most surfaces including sealed wood and it is easy to use. You can buy it in the hardware store or on Amazon.

Simply apply a thin layer of the primer of your choice with a brush or a roller to the surface of your wood. I recommend using a roller if you want to have a really even and smooth finish over a paint brush.

If the first layer wasn´t enough to cover the whole surface completely simply apply another thin layer. Continue to apply layer after layer until the primer is covering the wood completely.

Leave the primer to dry overnight.

You can paint your project once the primer has completely dried.

After painting, you can further protect your paint job with a sealer. This is especially important if your project is going to sit outside in the elements.

How to Seal Acrylic Paint on Wood

You don´t always have to seal acrylic paint afterward but it is recommended to do so to ensure the longevity of your paint job. A top coat will prevent the paint from scratching and peeling off and it will protect the paint from liquids and dirt. So if you want your paint job to last then sealing the paint with a sealer or a varnish is recommended.

All paint chips and peels away eventually – but the painted wood, particularly outside where it is exposed to the elements, is especially prone to this.

So to protect your paint job applying a sealant is mandatory.

If your wooden project is supposed to sit outside, where it is exposed to the elements, or if it could get wet, like a table, then sealing it with a clear varnish is the best way to go.

Varnish is a sealant, that can be bought at any hardware store. It is easy to apply, simply brush it on with a paintbrush or with a roller, and it is very robust and resilient.

It will protect your paint job from water, UV-rays, scratches, and more while not altering the vibrancy of the colors in any way.

Varnish should be applied in multiple thin layers and you should let each layer dry fully before adding the next one.

This will ensure, that the varnish can dry well while staying transparent.

To achieve the best results you should always prepare the surface with a primer before painting and seal the paint job afterward.

Painting Furniture with Acrylic Paint

It is possible to paint furniture with acrylic paint but the furniture has to be properly prepared before painting it and it has to be sealed afterward. Most wooden furniture is already sealed with a varnish or something similar so you have to sand the protective topcoat away before you can apply a primer and paint the furniture.

You can generally paint any wooden furniture you want with acrylic paint but it is not advisable to simply paint on the furniture without first preparing the surface.

Wooden furniture is commonly sealed with some sort of varnish, resin, or another type of topcoat that prevents water, or in our case, water-based paint like acrylic paint to stick to it.

So we have to get rid of that protective topcoat. And we can do that by sanding the furniture with a fine-grit sandpaper.

Simply sand the furniture lightly with fine-grit sandpaper until the protective coating is mostly gone. Try to sand every corner of the furniture that you want to paint.

Be very thorough or you might end up with an uneven paint job later on.

Once you are done with sanding your furniture you have to clean it from any dust and debris. Use a damp piece of cloth to clean the wooden surface.

Don´t use too much water or your wood is going to be too wet for the next step and you have to let it dry for a couple of weeks. A damp cloth is more than enough.

Once the wood is cleaned you can start applying the primer to your furniture.

You can either use Gesso or a commercial Primer like KILZ Premium Wood Primer for that. You can refer to the “How to Prepare WOod for Painting” Section above for more information.

Apply the primer evenly and try to cover every inch of your furniture to ensure that the paint will stick to the surface properly later on.

It is always better to apply multiple thin layers of primer instead of one thick layer. Just make sure, that the previous layer has fully dried before applying the next one.

Let the primer dry and then finally apply the acrylic paint to your furniture.

It is recommended to also apply a sealer to protect your paint job. I usually use a clear matt varnish to protect my paint jobs.

Acrylic Paint Drying Time on Wood

Acrylic paint, much like any other paint, has quite different drying times when it is applied to different materials and Acrylic paint is no exception.

Acrylic paint generally dries on wood within an hour. But if you apply a very thick layer of paint, if you are doing acrylic pouring for example, then drying times can be upwards of 48 hours. Generally, if the paint is no longer wet and if the paint has no saturated spots on it anymore then it should be dry.

Hi, I am a passionate maker and professional prop maker for the entertainment industry. I use my woodworking, programming, electronics, and illustration know-how to create interactive props and puzzles for Escape Games and marketing agencies. And I share my knowledge and my experience on this blog with you so that you can become a maker yourself.

4 thoughts on “Does Acrylic Paint Work on Wood?”

  1. i am confused some say apply a sealer than a primer before you paint You say just apply the primer then paint I always spray my painting on wood with a sealer after I complete the painting The surrent wood prject I have is old floor boards from a farm House. My oproblem was the acrylics were not adhering properly and looked sort of greasey couldnt even blend a sky Will the gesso primer properly create a better surface that the paint can be applied and blended for a painting of the farm on it desperate for an answer

    • Hi Linda,
      gesso will have a hard time adhering to a sealed wooden surface which is why you should sand the surface lightly first and then apply a well adhering primer before painting the wood with acrylic paint. And when painting wood with acrylic paint I highly recommend applying a top coat after you are done painting the wood to protect the paint underneath.


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