Can You Paint Over Polycrylic?

Last Updated on September 9, 2023 by Ernest Godia

Polycrylic is a versatile and popular protective finish used on various surfaces, including wood. It’s known for its durability and ability to provide a clear, glossy sheen on wood surfaces.

But can you paint over polycrylic? – If this question has been circling your mind as you gaze at your polished woodwork, you’re in the right place!

In this post, we’ll unravel the art of painting over polycrylic, providing you with expert insights and step-by-step instructions for painting over polyacrylic with chalk paint and other paint types.

Can you paint over polycrylic?

Yes, you can paint over polycrylic, but there are a few things you need to keep in mind. First, the polycrylic finish must be completely dry before you start painting. Second, you can only use compatible water-based paints, and last, follow the right procedure.

What is polycrylic?

Polycrylic is a water-based protective finish. It’s formulated using acrylic resins and water, making it an eco-friendly wood finish. 

It stands out for its quick-drying, non-yellowing finish quality and hassle-free cleanup. Plus, it protects wood from moisture, stains, and general wear. Polycrylic finish comes in matte, satin, and glossy sheens.

This sealant adheres well to paint and remains flexible and long-lasting on the surfaces it’s applied to. Polycrylic is also food-safe, making it the best finish for kitchen surfaces.

Does paint stick to polycrylic?

Yes, paint can adhere to polycrylic. However, that doesn’t mean you can apply paint directly over it. Instead, there are some essential steps to ensure a successful outcome. The key is proper surface preparation, which includes cleaning, sanding, and priming the wood before you’re in the clear to paint.

Can you paint over polycrylic with acrylic paint?

Absolutely! Acrylic paint is a great choice for painting over polycrylic. Why? Acrylic paint is water-based, just like polycrylic, which makes them a perfect match. 

Even though you need to etch the smooth finish a little, acrylic paint blends flawlessly with polycrylic. In addition, Acrylic paint comes in various colors and finishes, making it versatile for your creative projects.

Paintbrush with acrylic paint: can you paint over polycrylic with acrylic paint?

Can you use latex paint over polycrylic?

Yes, latex paint can be applied over polycrylic. Like acrylic paint, latex paint is water-based and, therefore, easily compatible with polycrylic finishes. 

Despite the obvious compatibility, latex paint requires extra attention to detail for decent results. You also get a myriad of colors to choose from when you choose latex paint for your interior surfaces.

Can you chalk paint over polycrylic?

Chalk paint enthusiasts will be pleased to know you can paint over polycrylic sealant with chalk paint. Chalk paint adheres nicely to the sealed surface with minimal prep work. This paint provides the shortest route to creating a distressed or vintage look on your polished wood dressers and vanity.

However, this paint will only work on interior surfaces with polycrylic. If you intend to use it for outdoor wood furniture, be sure to seal the chalked surface with polycrylic or other reliable sealants.

How to paint over polycrylic finish

Now that we’ve established that you can paint over polycrylic let’s walk through the steps of painting over polycrylic successfully.

What you’ll need to paint over polycrylic 

  • Sandpaper (220-grit)
  • Primer
  • Paint (acrylic, latex, or chalk)
  • Paintbrushes or rollers
  • Painter’s tape
  • Drop cloth or newspaper
  • Sanding block
  • Clean, lint-free cloths

Procedure for painting over polycrylic on wood 

It goes without saying, but ensure you’re working in a well-ventilated space. Even though the products involved in this process are less toxic, exercise caution.

Step 1: Clean the surface

Start by cleaning the polycrylic surface thoroughly. Use dish soap with warm water and a sponge to remove dirt, grime, and any surface contaminants. Rinse the area with clean water, wipe up excess water, and let the surface dry completely. 

If you recently applied the polycrylic sealant, just dust it with a dry cloth.

Step 2: Lightly sand the polycrylic finish

Using 220-grit sandpaper or a sanding block, lightly sand the clear finish. The goal is to create a rough texture for the paint to grip onto and guarantee better adhesion. 

Once the sanded surface looks cloudy, tack the dust or use a damp cloth to remove the sanding residue. This step is crucial to achieving a smooth, blemish-free finish.

Step 3: Prime the surface

Opt for a bonding primer compatible with both the polycrylic and the paint you intend to use. 

Apply the primer to the textured sealant using a brush or roller. Spread a thin and even coat of bonding primer wood on the entire surface and wait for it to dry. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for accurate drying times. Ensure it’s completely dry before the next step.

Step 4: Apply the paint

Apply the paint you chose for your project using a convenient applicator, be it a brush, roller, or sprayer. Aim to apply the paint in thin, even coats to avoid streaks and prolonged drying times. 

Allow each layer of paint to dry completely before applying the next one. The drying time varies depending on the paint type and environmental conditions. Refer to the paint manufacturer’s instructions for guidance.

Step 5: Apply additional coats if necessary

You may need to apply multiple coats of paint to get the desired color and coverage. Generally, 2-3 coats will be enough to transform the wood surface. Be patient and allow each coat to dry thoroughly.

Step 6: Seal the painted wood surface

After the final paint layer dries, for at least 24 hours, you can apply a sealant for extra protection. You can use polycrylic topcoat, lacquer, polyurethane, or other suitable finishes. 

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the application and drying time of whatever topcoat you choose. If that’s polycrylic, ensure you know how to apply polycrylic without streaks or bubbles.

Let your refinished wood project dry and cure fully before subjecting it to heavy use.

How long should polycrylic dry before painting?

Polycrylic must dry for at least 24 hours before you can paint it. Since it is a water-based varnish, it usually takes about 30 minutes after application to dry to the touch.

It takes another 2 hours before you can layer another coat of polycrylic and about 72 hours to completely dry and begin the curing process.

However, temperature and humidity levels in your workspace can significantly affect polycrylic drying times. Warmer, drier conditions generally lead to faster drying, while cold and humid conditions can slow it down. 

Aim for a temperature range between 60°F and 75°F (15°C to 24°C) and moderate humidity for optimal drying.

To ensure the polycrylic is dry enough for paint, perform a “tack test.” Gently touch the surface with your fingertip. If it feels tacky or sticky, it’s not ready for paint. If it feels dry and smooth, it’s likely ready for painting.

Can you apply oil-based paints over polycrylic?

Applying oil-based paints over a polycrylic finish is a terrible idea and not recommended. Polycrylic is a flexible sealant that contracts and expands as temperatures rise and fall. Oil-based paints, on the other hand, aren’t as flexible and will crack and peel as the sealant underneath expands and contracts.

This explains why there’s a huge emphasis on using compatible products, from primer and paint to the topcoat.

Can you mix paints with polycrylic?

You can only mix water-based paints with polycrylic to create a custom finish. Polycrylic is a clear product, so adding paint can give it a unique tint. Secondly, paints are generally heavily pigmented, so adding a little bit of polycrylic can lighten them for a unique look.

Note, however, that these products are best applied to the wood surface separately. You can’t mix them at a ratio of 1:1 and expect the same results you would get from layering them individually.

Can you paint over polycrylic without sanding?

Sanding is essential in ensuring proper paint adhesion, especially with a glossy polycrylic finish. You may get away with painting over matte and satin polycrylic without sanding. However, there’s still a risk of poor paint adhesion, leading to premature peeling when the paint dries. 

If you don’t want to deal with the elbow grease of sanding, check out our article on how to paint over varnish for alternative ways of getting durable results with paints over glossy finishes. 

Are polyurethane and polycrylic the same thing?

No, polyurethane and polycrylic are not the same thing. They are both protective finishes for wood, but they have different properties.

Polyurethane is a synthetic resin available in both water-based and oil-based formulas. It is more durable than polycrylic and can withstand more wear and tear. It is also more resistant to moisture and chemicals. 

However, oil-based polyurethane dries the slowest and is most toxic because of the high levels of Volatile Organic Compounds in its composition

On the other hand, polycrylic is a water-based finish made from acrylic resin. It is less durable than polyurethane but easier to apply and less toxic. Polycrylic dries quickly and remains clear throughout its lifespan.

Painting Over Polycrylic: FAQs

Here are the popular questions people ask about painting over polycrylic on wood surfaces.

What paint will stick to Polycrylic?

Paints like latex, acrylic, chalk, and milk paints will stick to polycrylic. That’s because these paints and the polycrylic finish have the same water-based formulation and are, therefore, compatible. Avoid using oil-based paints, as they will not adhere to the polycrylic finish.

Can I apply Polycrylic over paint?

Yes, you can apply polycrylic over paint as a protective topcoat. However, ensuring the paint is completely dry before applying the polycrylic is important. You may also want to sand the paint lightly before applying the polycrylic to help it adhere better.

Can I add acrylic paint to Polycrylic?

Yes, you can add acrylic paint to polycrylic to create a custom finish. The acrylic paint will add a bit of opacity and color to the polycrylic finish. So, experiment with different proportions and test them on the surface to ensure you get the desired effect.

How long does Polycrylic last?

Polycrylic can last for about three years before needing a touch-up. However, the exact lifespan depends on the conditions in which it is used. In general, polycrylic will last longer indoors than outdoors.

Recap: Can You Paint Over Polycrylic?

Painting over polycrylic is possible and can be a great way to change the look of your project while maintaining its durability and protection. 

All you have to do is follow the proper steps, including cleaning, sanding, priming, and using compatible paint types. Remember to test the paint on an inconspicuous spot to ensure the drying paint color matches the samples.

I hope this article answered your questions about whether or not you can paint over polycrylic. 

If you have any other questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments, and we’ll do our damnedest to respond ASAP!

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