Acrylic paint is probably the most widely used paint for crafts and art projects. And for good reason, it is easy to use, you can get acrylic paint pretty much everywhere, most acrylic paint is non-toxic, and it is quite cheap too. But most newcomers to the world of arts and crafts don´t know how versatile acrylic paint actually is and on how many different materials it can be used. So I decided to write this article to finally answer the question on what kind of materials acrylic paint works can be used on.
Acrylic paint can be used directly on Canvas, Paper, Cardboard, Wood, Polymer Clay, Air-dry Clay, Stone, and Plaster. It can also be used on Materials like Fabric, Metal, Glass, and Plastic but the surfaces of these materials have to be prepared first and the paint has to be sealed afterward.
So as you can see, there are a lot of different materials, that acrylic paint works on. But you cant use acrylic paint on all of these materials without preparing the surface of some of these materials.
There are also some materials, that can have a protective seal on them, that acrylic paint will not stick to. These seals have to be cleaned off before you can paint on the material. But don’t worry, I will quickly go over every material, how to paint it, and what to look out for further down below.
But if you want a quick overview, then you can check this table out. It could help you if you are in a hurry.
|Materials||Can be painted with Acrylic Paints|
|Wood||Yes, but it will help a lot if the wooden surface is prepared before painting.|
|Fabric||No. Acrylic will stick to fabric but not for long. It will also crumble after a while.|
|Metal||Yes, but the surface has to be prepared and the color has to be sealed afterward.|
|Glass||Yes, but the surface has to be prepared and the color has to be sealed afterward.|
|Wall||Yes, but it is not recommended for various reasons.|
|Plastic||Yes, but the surface has to be prepared beforehand|
|Skin||No, it will stick to skin but it will not come off easily.|
Painting on Canvas, Paper, and Cardboard with Acrylic Paints
Obviously painting on canvas, paper, and cardboard with acrylic paint is easily possible.
Depending on the type of canvas or paper you are using it can be helpful to prime the drawing surface with some gesso before you actually paint on it.
Gesso will prepare the surface in such a way, that acrylic paint will stick to it better and the paint will be more vibrant than when you paint on the canvas directly.
But you can also paint it straight away without any problems.
If you are painting on cardboard, however, then you should definitely prepare the surface with some gesso if you don´t want to use a lot of layers of paint or if you want your paint to be vibrant. The cardboard will dampen the vibrancy of your acrylic paints if you don´t prepare the surface beforehand.
You don´t have to seal the paint afterward. The acrylic paint will stick very well to paper.
Painting with Acrylic Paint on Wood
Wood can easily be painted with Acrylic paint.
You can prepare the wooden surface beforehand to make the paint job a little better but you can also paint on wood directly.
The grain and nature pattern of the wood will be slightly visible after the first layer of paint, which can be an amazing effect but if you don´t want that effect, then you can simply paint over the first layer and after the third layer you won’t see anything from the grain underneath anymore.
Alternatively, you can also prepare the wood by lightly sanding the surface or by preparing the surface with some very liquid gesso. Then the first layer will most of the time be more than enough and you don´t have to worry about paint chipping off later on anymore.
If the painted wood is supposed to be outside or in a sunny spot, then I would recommend sealing it with some clear varnish to protect it from the elements. Otherwise, the color will be washed off fairly quickly.
If the painted wood is indoors, however, then you don´t need to seal it after painting it.
I wrote a complete article about painting wood with acrylic paint, you can read it right here if you want to know more about painting wood with acrylic paint.
Painting Fabric with Acrylic Paint
Fabric can be painted with acrylic paint but the paint won´t stick to the fabric for long.
Acrylic paint is fairly flexible but not flexible enough for most fabrics. If you simply want to paint on a piece of fabric, that is fix then you can use acrylic paint without any issues.
But if you want to paint a t-shirt for example, then acrylic paint won´t be a good choice. The paint will crack after a while and you won’t be able to wash your t-shirt without washing away part of the paint. So for painting clothes, I would recommend textile paints.
Painting Metal with Acrylic Paint
It is possible to paint metal with acrylic paint but you have to prepare the surface beforehand and you have to seal the paint afterward.
Most metals will have a protective layer on top of them, that you have to sand away. And a lot of other types of metal will simply be too smooth for acrylic paint to stick to. So you have to rough up the surface a little bit.
And, to make matters worse, you also have to seal the paint afterward to make sure, that it sticks to the metal permanently and doesn´t chip off.
So while it is possible to paint metal with acrylic paints it might be easier to simply use paint, that is made for metal. Like a metal lacquer for example.
Painting with Acrylic Paint on Glass
It is possible but much like with painting on metal you have to prepare the surface and you have to seal the paint afterwards and even then it won´t survive the dishwasher.
So while it is possible there are other alternatives, that are better. You could use Enamel paint for example.
Painting Polymer Clay and Air-Dry Clay with Acrylic Paint
Polymer clay, like Fimo or Sculpey, and air-dry clay can both easily be painted with acrylic paint.
You don´t have to prepare the surface in any way to get a really good result.
You should seal the paint afterward, however, to avoid any paint chipping later on. But a simply clear coat of acrylic sealer will be more than enough to protect your paint job.
I personally almost always use acrylic paint for painting my sculptures and I never had any issues.
Painting Plastic with Acrylic Paint
Plastics are a little bit more complicated. There are so many different types of plastic out there, that I can´t definitively say, that you can paint plastic with acrylic paint.
But most commercially used plastics can be painted with acrylic paint when you prepare the surface with some gesso or some spray-on spatula paste. And if you seal the paint job afterwards with some acrylic sealer, then you are pretty much on the safe side and your paint job should survive for a long time.
That being said, there are some rarely used plastics, that acrylic paint won´t stick to.
Painting with Acrylic Paint on Plaster
Plaster can easily be painted with acrylic paint. In fact, gesso (a medium for preparing surfaces for acrylic paints) consists largely of plaster.
So acrylic paint will stick to plaster nicely and permanently.
If you plan on putting the painted plaster project outside though, then I would recommend sealing it with some acrylic sealer beforehand. Just to protect it from the elements.
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.