Can You Use Acrylic Paint On Wood?

Last Updated on August 17, 2023 by Ernest Godia

If you’re a DIY enthusiast or an artist looking to experiment with different mediums, you may have wondered, “Can you use acrylic paint on wood?” 

Acrylic paint is known for its versatility and vibrant colors, but is it suitable for painting on wood surfaces? Keep reading to find out.

In this blog post, we’ll explore the properties of acrylic paints, with a special focus on their compatibility with wood. We will also provide a detailed guide on how to use acrylic paint on wood, along with product recommendations.

Let’s get started!

Can you use acrylic paint on wood?

Absolutely! Acrylic paint is versatile, dries quickly, and adheres well to wood surfaces. However, before painting, ensure you sand the surface smoothly, seal the wood, and prime it to help the paint adhere better. Always seal your work after painting to enhance its longevity.

Does acrylic paint work on wood?

Yes, acrylic paint works on wood! It’s a fantastic choice for adding vibrant colors and creating beautiful art projects on wooden surfaces.

Acrylic paint is a versatile, water-based paint that consists of pigment particles suspended in an acrylic polymer emulsion. When it dries, it forms a durable, water-resistant, and flexible layer on the surface. 

Some of the popular wood mediums you can paint with acrylics include; plywood, MDF, and hardboards made of softwoods and hardwoods. 

Each type of wood and wood product has unique grain patterns and characteristics, which add an extra dimension of interest to your artwork.

Which acrylic paint works on wood?

Acrylic paints come in two grades: student acrylics and artist (professional) acrylics. For the best results on wood, artist-quality acrylic paint is the superior option. Here’s why:

1. Professional quality acrylic

Artist-quality acrylic paint is the best type of acrylic paint for wood if you are looking for vibrant colors, smooth texture, easy blending, and layering. 

These paints are heavily pigmented and boldly colored, resulting in a more vibrant, flexible, and durable finish. 

Such premium quality acrylic paints also have a smooth texture, high viscosity, and increased open time, which makes them easier to apply and blend. 

Despite being slightly more expensive than student-grade acrylic paints, it’s worth every dime. Liquitex makes such heavy-body acrylic paints, and you can browse their collection here on Amazon.

2. Student-quality acrylic

These acrylic paints are a fantastic option if you are on a budget or are just starting out. This grade has a lower pigment load than a professional-grade one, which means they may appear more translucent or even streaky. 

Student-quality acrylic paints also have a limited color range and may contain fillers, making them less durable. 

They are easy to find, relatively inexpensive, and can create various effects. Apple Barrel Acrylic Paint offers enough color range and matte finish to kick-start your project.

How to apply acrylic paint on wood

Applying acrylic paint on wood is akin to painting on canvas but with some additional preparation. Here’s a list of what you’ll need for the process.

Supplies needed

  • Acrylic paint for wood
  • Clear coat sealer
  • Fine grit sandpaper
  • Gloss gel medium
  • Lint-free cloth
  • Palette
  • Paper towels
  • Primer
  • Quality paint brushes
  • water

Step-by-step guide to painting wood with acrylics

When you’re ready to begin, follow these steps for the best results.

Step 1: Prepare the wood for painting

General prep work involves cleaning and sanding the wood surface. If you bought pre-made artist-grade surfaces, you can skip steps 1-3 and go straight to painting. 

However, follow these steps if you’re working on raw wood panels that have been kiln-dried and sized to your liking.

Begin the sanding process with 120-grit sandpaper and sand with the grain to remove scratches and bumps. Vacuum the dust and go in with 140-grit sandpaper and sand in a similar fashion. 

Finish sanding with 180-grit; this is the final sandpaper grit before painting the wood.

Vacuum the dust, tack the sanded wood, or wipe the surface with a cloth dampened with water. Let the wood panel air dry before the next step.

Step 2: Seal the wood with gloss medium

Since wood is a porous medium that absorbs anything applied, sealing helps close the pores and promote flawless paintwork. 

To do that, gently stir the sealer, preferably Golden GAC 100. Spread a thin layer of this product and allow it to dry. Sand the surface once the first coat dries and wipe up the residue.

Apply the second coat of the gloss sealer and let it dry fully. This sealing process will take you about an hour under optimal weather conditions.

Step 3: Apply the primer

Now that the sealed surface is dry, lightly sand it to give the primer a surface to bite into. 

Ideally, you can use any universal primer. However, applying Gesso, such as the Liquitex BASICS Gesso, will have the best results. This can also be the base coat since it’s an opaque white medium.

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Simply brush on a thin layer of the Gesso on your wood panel using a synthetic brush. Let the first coat dry completely: it takes about 10 to 20 minutes. 

Lightly sand the surface and wipe the dust with a clean cloth. Apply the second (and third) coat similarly. You can also add some water to thin the subsequent coats.

After the last coat of Gesso, let the surface dry overnight before you begin painting.

Step 4: Paint the surface with acrylic paint

Now you’re ready to paint. Ensure you have the best quality brushes or sponges for a precise and flawless paint job.

Transfer the amount of acrylic paint needed into a pallet and begin painting. Apply the paint in thin layers, covering every inch of the wood medium. Two layers will suffice, provided they dry fully between coats.

The choice of the paint color, patterns, and textures you want on the wood panel is up to you. If you want recommendations on the best quality acrylic paints, try Winsor & Newton Professional Acrylic.

Step 5: Seal the paintwork

You’ll want to protect your masterpiece after putting so much effort into it. This is where sealing comes in. A protective sealant safeguards your artwork against discoloration, peeling, or cracking. 

Choose a clear coat between shellac, lacquer, polycrylic, varnish, and polyurethane. Then brush or spray on 2-3 coats of the clear coat over a fully dried acrylic paint.

Then leave the finished piece to dry and cure fully before use.

Benefits of using acrylic paint on wood

  • Acrylic paint comes in a broad range of vibrant colors, so you’ll find the perfect shade for your project.
  • Acrylic paint is easy to use, even for beginners. You can apply it with brushes, sponges, or even your fingers.
  • It’s relatively inexpensive, which makes it a cost-effective way to update your furniture or home décor.
  • This paint is durable and can withstand a lot of wear and tear. This profile makes it an ideal choice for projects exposed to the elements or that get a lot of use.
  • Acrylic paint is water-based, which means clean-up is a breeze. This is a major plus for anyone worried about making a mess.

Challenges when using acrylic paint on wood

  • It demands an extensive amount of preparation before painting in order to achieve a smooth finish. This is in comparison to painting on canvas, paper, or plastic.
  • Acrylic paint can crack or peel on wood if it is not applied properly.
  • Without adequate sealing, acrylic paint can fade with exposure to the elements.

Acrylic paint on wood furniture 

If you are painting wood for indoor use, you can use any acrylic paint. However, if you are painting wood for outdoor use, you must use paint specifically designed for the outdoor environment. 

Outdoor paints are usually more durable and resistant to fading. Even so, it doesn’t discount the importance of sealing them for a longer lifespan and maintaining the wood’s integrity.

In any case, ensure to prep the furniture following the steps discussed in the previous section. Clean and sand the surface, seal and prime, then paint and seal again with a protective finish.

What is the drying time of acrylic paint on wood?

Most acrylic paints will dry to the touch within 30 minutes of application. However, acrylic paint’s dry time depends on the thickness of the paint layers and the temperature and humidity of the environment. 

How to use acrylic paint on wood boards

Does the wood absorb acrylic paint?

Yes, wood can absorb acrylic paint because it is a porous material. However, the degree of paint absorption depends on the type of wood type. Some woods, such as pine, are more absorbent than others, like oak.

Whenever you’re painting such porous material, ensure to seal and prime it diligently. This prep work will keep the wood from absorbing the acrylic and help you achieve a flawless finish.

Does acrylic paint work on stained wood?

Yes, acrylic paint can work on stained wood, but there are a few things to remember. First, you must ensure the stain is dry before you start painting. Second, you’ll need to apply a primer to ensure the paint adheres better to the stained surface.


Here are some popular questions about acrylic paint on wood surfaces.

Can you use 100% acrylic paint on wood?

Yes, you can use 100% acrylic paint on wood without adding any acrylic medium or water. However, you still need to prepare the wood surface first. This means cleaning, sanding, sealing, and priming the wood to help the paint adhere better.

How do you make acrylic paint permanent on wood?

To make acrylic paint permanent on wood, follow thorough preparation steps, including sealing and priming with the correct products. Applying multiple coats of high-quality acrylic paint and sealing the painted surface helps acrylic paint stay on wood.

How do you prepare wood for acrylic painting?

To prepare wood for painting with acrylics;

  1. Clean the wood surface to remove dirt, dust, or debris.
  2. Sand it to create a smooth base for the paint to adhere to.
  3. Seal the wood with two coats of gloss medium, sanding between the layers.
  4. Apply two to three coats of Gesso, sanding after each coat.

What paint is best for wood crafts?

The best paint for wood crafts is acrylic paint. It is water-based, non-toxic, and easy to use. Acrylic paint dries quickly and has a durable finish. It is also available in a wide variety of colors, so you can find the perfect shade for your project.

Final thoughts on using acrylic paint on wood

So, can you use acrylic paint on wood? You absolutely can. Acrylic paint is versatile and can create various stunning effects, while wood provides a sturdy surface that can withstand the weight of the paint.

Just be sure to prepare the wood properly first, and then apply the paint in thin coats. With a little practice, you’ll be painting like a pro in no time.

Let your imagination run wild, and share your artistic endeavors in the comments below.

Happy painting!

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