How to Paint Over Acrylic Paint: Avoid Common Mistakes

How to Paint Over Acrylic Paint: Avoid Common Mistakes by Valentin | Last Updated: May 11, 2021
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Acrylic paint is one of the most used paints in arts and crafts and for good reason. Acrylic paint is easy to use, water-dilutable, available in a lot of different colors, and quite cheap compared to other similar paints. Because of its wide use, it happens quite often that you come across an item or maybe even a picture that was painted with acrylic paints. So let´s have a look at how you can paint over an item or an art piece that was painted with acrylic paint.

As a whole, acrylic paint is water-based so any water-based paint and Oil-based paint can be painted over acrylic paint. If the surface was sealed after it was painted with acrylic paints, then either a Primer or some sanding is required to paint over it.

So you can generally paint over acrylic paints but there are a few things to keep in mind. For one, not every type of paint will stick to acrylic paint and acrylic paint will not stick to an already sealed surface.

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Types of Paint That Stick to Acrylic Paint

Let´s first take a look at some paints that will stick well to acrylic paint.

As a general rule, every water-based and oil-based paint will stick to acrylic paint. Acrylic paint is water-based and as such every other water-based paint, as well as oil-based paint, will stick to it. Most spray paints and shellac paints will stick to acrylic paint as well.

The following is a list of paints that can be applied directly on acrylic paint:

  • Acrylic paint
  • House paint
  • Oil-based paint
  • Latex paint
  • Shellac paint
  • Most spray paints

As you can see, there are quite a few paints that can be used directly on acrylic paints. I personally found that acrylic paint will give me the best results when painting directly on other acrylic paint.

But you will also need quite a lot of acrylic paint to cover the underlying paint coat.

So depending on what you want to achieve your paint selection and your approach may vary greatly.

If you want to completely repaint the previous paint job or large parts of it then it is better to use a primer to cover the previous coat of paint first before applying a new one.

This is mainly because you will need a lot of acrylic paint to fully cover the underlying paint. It is simply faster and cheaper to use a primer to cover the whole thing or large parts of it and then paint on top of the newly prepared surface instead.

You can either use Gesso as a primer or you can use a general purpose primer.

I personally prefer Gesso when I am working with acrylic paint because I found it to be cheaper and the acrylic paint will generally be more vibrant when applied to Gesso.

I have written an article about Gesso and possible alternatives. You can read it right here if you are interested: Alternatives for Gesso and how to make your own.

You can get Gesso or a general-purpose primer at your local hardware or crafts store. You can also get Gesso right here on Amazon and a general-purpose primer right here on Amazon as well.

Simply apply the primer directly on the surface in thin even coats and let it dry. Then you can apply the new acrylic paint directly to it. It´s as easy as that.

If you only want to paint small areas of the previous paint job or do some touch-ups, then it´s probably easier to simply paint on top of the previous acrylic paint coat.

It will take a few coats until the paint covers the underlying color completely but if you only want to paint a few small areas then applying a primer is probably not worth it.

Painting Over Sealed Acrylic Paint

You have to be careful when trying to paint over acrylic paint because it might be sealed with a topcoat. And acrylic paint will not stick to a sealed surface. If you apply acrylic paint to a sealed surface then the paint will peel off after only a short period of time.

But don´t worry! There is still a way to paint over sealed acrylic paint.

You have to work with a primer in order to paint a sealed surface permanently. I recommend using a primer that sticks to all surfaces, such as Rust-Oleums 1-2-3 Primer.

You can simply apply the primer directly to the sealed surface. Apply it in thin even coats, I usually like to use a paint roller to apply primer but you can also use a brush if you don´t mind visible brush strokes in your finished project.

It is always better to apply multiple thin layers of primer and let it dry in between coats instead of applying one thick coat.

Make sure that the primer is completely dry before you start painting the surface.

After applying the primer you are free to use any paint you want from oil-based paint to water-based paint. Pretty much any paint will stick properly and permanently to the primed surface.

Don´t use gesso to prime a sealed surface! Gesso will only work on surfaces that don´t repel water. Most topcoats, however, repel water. So Gesso won´t stick to the surface and it will crumble off after a short while.

You have to use a Primer that sticks to difficult to paint surfaces. That´s why I recommend using Rust-Oleum 1-2-3 Primer as it sticks to almost any surface including most topcoats.

Sealing Your Project After Painting it

Finally, you should seal your newly painted project afterward in order to protect it from water, scratches, yellowing, and more. This step is entirely optional as most paint will, most of the time, be just fine without a top coat but I still recommend sealing it just to ensure the longevity of the paint.

For most paints, I would recommend using an acrylic sealer. I usually use a spray-on acrylic paint mainly because it is convenient and fast.

You can get an acrylic spray sealer at your local crafts store.

You can also use a spray on varnish to seal your paint. It tends to a be a little more expencive but it works just as well.

Simply apply the spray-on sealer in multiply thin coats. Just lightly dust the surface. Then let the first coat dry, and apply the next one.

Repeat this until you have three or four coats. It´s always better to apply multiple thin layers of sealer instead of one thick coat.

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 these interactive props. And I share my knowledge and my experience on this blog with you so that you can become a maker yourself.