Is Acrylic Paint Waterproof?

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Acrylic paint is not waterproof but it is water resistant. So acrylic paint can resist some direct contact with water but not prolonged contact with water. A primer can enhance the water resistance of acrylic paint and a layer of varnish can also protect the paint from water.

In the following, I will show you how to make acrylic paint more water resistant and I will show you the results of some tests I did to see how much water acrylic paint resists.

How to Make Acrylic Paint More Water Resistant

There are many things that can be done to make Acrylic paint more resistant to water. I will go over the most effective methods in the following.

Apply a Primer Before Painting

A primer is a type of paint that is applied to a surface before painting it. It ensures better paint adhesion and makes subsequent layers of paint more durable and more water resistant.

It is generally always a good idea to apply a primer before painting a surface with acrylic paint. I personally always prime all surfaces before painting them except maybe when I paint wood or MDF as acrylic paint generally adheres very well to these surfaces.

How to Apply a Primer

  1. First, apply a thin coat of the primer. I prefer spray primer because it can easily applied very evenly without leaving any brush marks behind. But regular primer will also do and brush marks can be avoided by applying the primer with a paint roller or by sanding the primer after it has dried to remove any brush marks.
  2. Let the primer dry for at least an hour.
  3. If you are applying primer to wood then you might have to sand the surface after applying the first layer. This is because some of the wood fibers can rise after applying the first layer of primer. This isn´t bad but if you want a smooth surface then you should sand the fibres back down with some fine-grit sandpaper.
  4. Apply a second layer of primer if needed. It is always better to apply multiple thin coats of primer than one thick uneven coat.
  5. Finally, apply the acrylic paint. You will find that the acrylic paint will cover much better when applied to a primed surface and the paint will look a lot more evenly as well.

Apply Varnish to Protect the Paint

Another way to protect acrylic paint from water is by applying some varnish on top of the acrylic paint coat.

Varnish is usually for sealing wood and protecting it from water and dirt.

Varnish is available in matt, glossy, and high gloss. I personally prefer matt as it doesn´t change the appearance of the acrylic paint coat underneath all that much. But glossy or high gloss varnish can yield a nice effect as well.

I prefer using spray varnish because it is easy to apply and it ensures an even application.

How to Apply Varnish

  1. Clean the surface of dust and debris. You can use some water and a piece of cloth for this. Just make sure that you don´t use too much water and let the surface dry fully before applying the varnish.
  2. Stir the varnish from the bottom to the top. If you are using spray on varnish then shake the can well for at least a minute.
  3. Apply the varnish with a brush or spray it on. Make sure to apply the varnish as evenly as possible. Use light brush strokes and move the brush back and forth multiple times to avoid brush marks. It´s best to wear gloves when working with varnish.
  4. Let the varnish dry for at least 12 hours before exposing it to water.

Apply Epoxy Resin to Protect the Paint

Resin is a very versatile material that can be used to create fake water, jewelry, or to protect your acrylic paint from water.

Resin is not easy to use but it will protect acrylic paint from water. I don´t recommend using resin for outdoor projects because it tends to yellow and eventually becomes brittle when it is exposed to direct sunlight for longer periods of time.

But epoxy resin will protect acrylic paint from water, scratches, and dirt.

How to Apply Epoxy Resin to Acrylic Paint

  1. Clean the surface.
  2. Create walls to contain the resin. You can either build some walls out of acrylic or MDF to keep the resin on the workpiece or you can place your workpiece on a metal grilling tray to ensure that it does not adhere to your workplace. You can put a silicone mat underneath the tray to collect the resin residue.
  3. Mix the resin according to the instructions. It´s best to use a scale to measure the amount of both components. Then mix them in a disposable cup for at least a minute.
  4. Apply the resin to the surface. Make sure to spread the resin as evenly as possible.
  5. Use a torch to remove bubbles. Some bubbles might appear on the surface of the resin. You can use a torch to carefully pop them.
  6. Let the resin cure and remove the walls carefully.
  7. Sand the resin if necessary. If the resin surface is not even or has some ugly-looking areas then you can sand the resin to fix these issues. After sanding a glossy or matt acrylic sealer can be applied to make the resin transparent again.

The Surface Matters

Acrylic paint does not stick well to every surface. Acrylic paint does adhere especially badly to non-absorbent materials such as plastic, glass, stone, or varnished wood. If you want to paint any of these or similar materials then it is highly recommended to apply a primer first to ensure that the acrylic paint will adhere properly.

Acrylic paint can, however, be applied directly to absorbent materials such as wood or MDF. Just make sure that the surface is free of dust, debris, oil, or varnish.

The only downside to applying acrylic paint directly to wooden surfaces is that you might need more paint before it covers.

Acrylic paint applied directly to wood or MDF will adhere quite well and resist direct contact with water well.

What if Acrylic Paint Gets Wet?

If acrylic paint has been applied with a primer, a protective topcoat, or on a surface that it adheres well to, like wood, it can tolerate exposure to water without problems. However, prolonged direct contact with water is not something acrylic paint can withstand.

This is a piece of furniture that we sanded, primed, and then painted with acrylic paint.

There is a sink above it, so it gets wet frequently. But, as you can see, it still looks just like the day we painted it. We painted it about a year ago and the acrylic paint holds up really well and it will for many more years.

Can Acrylic Paint Be Used Outdoors?

It is generally not recommended to use acrylic paint outside as it fades under prolonged exposure to sunlight and it can peel off when exposed to the elements for longer periods of time. Acrylic paint can, however, be used outside if the paint is protected by a protective top coat like varnish.

I painted this bird house with acrylic paint about a year ago and back then I only used a primer and didn´t seal the paint with varnish or something similar. It still held up really well because the paint is protected from the sun and from water by the roof.

It even survived the snowy winter outside without any issues.

So, as you can see, it is absolutely possible to use acrylic paint outdoors if you either protect the paint with a topcoat or if the painted area is protected from the elements by a roof, for example.

Will Acrylic Paint Survive Rain?

While acrylic paint can withstand brief exposure to rain, prolonged contact can lead to peeling, fading, or discoloration of the paint. Therefore, it is advisable to avoid exposing acrylic paint to rain without adequate protection, such as varnish or resin for example.

If you protect the paint from direct contact with the rain and protect the acrylic paint with some varnish, for example, then it will hold up really well outdoors.

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.

13 thoughts on “Is Acrylic Paint Waterproof?”

  1. Thanks for another excellent article. Where else may just anyone get that kind of information in such a perfect manner of writing? I’ve a presentation next week, and I’m on the look for such info.|

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    • Hi Sean,
      no, you can´t. Acrylic paint will not stick to the surface properly and it will wash off after only a few minutes. I am afraid you have to replace the sink.

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  4. Hi! Thank you for your article, several of us found it very helpful today! I still have a question and I’m hoping you’ll be able to answer it for me. ;o) I’m using Palmer Paints (water-reducible, water-based, acrylic) and having issues with layering the colors. I painted a red base, waited a week, then painted some white dots on top of the red. Even though it had been drying for a week, the colors still mixed together and I ended up with pink. I tried it on a different surface, same results. Do you know how I can layer these colors without them mixing together, or is it just not possible – maybe this paint is too cheap? I’ve never had this happen before when using acrylics. Thank you so much!!

    • Hi Diane,
      I never used this brand of paints so I can´t really give you a clear answer. But you should be able to paint on to of dried acrylic paint without any issues. Maybe try to use very little water and only go over the painted surface once and not multiple times?


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