Acrylic Paint on Wood: Does Acrylic Paint Work on Wood?

Are you wondering how to apply acrylic paint on wood? The process is easier than you may think. You can repurpose a piece of old wood and transform it into a stunning work of art with a little paint. Acrylics are crafts paints that are ideal for a wide range of creative projects.

Acrylic is an excellent paint type for wood. However, you must take a few extra steps for the paint to adhere well and create a long-lasting finish. You will need to prepare the surface and seal the paint for the best results.

In this guide, we’ll show you how to use acrylic paint on wood. Use the step-by-step instructions for everything you need to know.

Acrylic Paint on Wood

Can You Use Acrylic Paint on Wood?

Wood is naturally smooth with little texture, making it great for a range of painting projects. It’s adaptable enough for oil-based or water-based paint. Acrylic paint is perfect for the surface. Because acrylics are inexpensive, the paint may also be the most affordable option.

However, the process isn’t as simple as throwing some paint on the wood. It would be best if you handle acrylic paints with caution and take steps to prep the wood. There is also a myriad of paint and primer types, with varying finish options. The materials you choose may depend on your project. But the best acrylic paint for wood is made for the surface.

Types of Wood Surfaces You Can Paint

There are many reasons to paint wood. The material is relatively inexpensive, and you could repurpose old pieces of wood rather than throwing them out.

Craft projects with wood are fun for children. Some people also enjoy making wood art or repainting wood furniture to spruce it up and give it a new appearance. Repainting furniture with acrylic paint is common, but you must seal it afterward.

When painting wood, it’s best to avoid hardwoods. They can sometimes be harder for acrylic paint to adhere well.

But most of all, avoid using oak plywood. No matter how much primer or sealer you use, the paint fills the oak pores, and the result is not appealing. For a smooth finish, choose woods like soft maple or poplar. They’re less expensive, hold paint well, and are more resistant to shrinking or warping.

Can You Use Acrylic Paint on Stained Wood?

How to paint on wood with acrylic

You can use acrylic paint on stained wood, which makes it ideal for painting an upcycled piece of wood or old furniture. There are many methods you could follow to paint stained wood. The option you choose depends on the type of stain on the surface and the wood’s overall state.

To paint the stained wood, follow the same steps below to prepare and clean the wood.

Many stained kinds of wood have a waterproof element with a glossy, smooth finish. You’ll want to sand the wood to remove this and allow the new paint to adhere. Sand the surface using at least 150-grit sandpaper. The wood’s state will determine how much sanding you need to do. If you don’t have a glossy stain, sanding may not take long.

Next, cover the wood with primer. Priming the wood is a crucial step if your previously stained wood was a dark color. Otherwise, the final color could turn out different than you imagined. Hardware stores offer a stain-killer primer worth trying.

Is Using Acrylic Paint Safe on Wood?

Water-based acrylic paints are typically non-toxic and considered safe. Working with the paints on wood is advisable.

Due to the water base, acrylics do not produce the same strong odors or harmful chemicals as oil-based paints. However, even non-toxic paint becomes unsafe if you swallow it. A U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission guide says some water-based acrylics have ammonia and formaldehyde, which irritates if you ingest them.

For safety or children’s crafts, go with craft paints with the Art and Creative Materials Institute’s Approved Product (AP) seal of approval. They certify non-toxic products, so acrylic paint that meets their safety standards is non-toxic and ideal for kids.

Do You Need to Prime the Wood?

Before you start painting, prepare by priming the wood. Most woodcraft pieces you buy in craft stores come unfinished. You’ll need to prepare the wood by sanding down and covering it with primer before painting with acrylics.

The right primer for your project should match the paint and surface type you’re using. Pick a primer that matches your materials. For example, because most acrylic paints are water-based, you’ll probably want a water-based stain and primer.

There are also stain-blocking primers for wood if you’re painting unfinished or previously painted wood. They keep the paint on top instead of draining it into the wood’s pores. The barrier holds paint in place.

Once the primer dries, you can start painting on wood.

How to Paint on Wood with Acrylics

Can you use acrylic paint on wood

To paint a wooden surface with acrylics, you’ll need a few things. Collect:

  • Fine grit sandpaper
  • Wood primer
  • Acrylic paint
  • Paintbrush
  • Sponge brush (optional)
  • Bowl of water
  • Towel

You may also want to use an easel to place the wood on as you paint. Once you have the materials, you’re ready to start.

Step 1: Protect Your Work Area

Before you start painting, you also need to protect your work area. Head to a well-ventilated area or open a window. Larger projects are better to tackle outdoors or in a garage. Acrylics may have a strong odor that gives you a headache, so opt for a fan or protective face mask if needed.

Lay down a tarp or newspaper to keep the paint from your work area. Cover your clothing with something protective, and wear gloves while handling the paints.

Step 2: Prepare the Wood

Unless you want the finished product to have a textured appearance, you’ll want to prepare the wood. The goal is to create a smooth, even surface.

Begin by sanding the wood with medium or fine-grit (between 140 and 180-grit) sandpaper. Sand with the wood grain or the direction of the natural lines in the wood. Try to cover every corner and crevice you plan to paint.

After sanding, the surface should appear smooth. Clean any dust or debris using a wet towel. Remove any dirt or debris. Avoid using too much water as well. If the towel fibers snag, the wood requires more sanding.

Allow the wood to dry. When the surface is clean of sawdust or residue, move on to priming the wood.

If your wood comes pre-sanded, you can skip this step.

Step 3: Prime the Surface

Primer has benefits that extend to painting any surface type. It’s great for providing a surface for the paint to stick better, helping your project last longer and appear brighter.

Priming wood before painting also helps fill the exterior pores, absorbing moisture and minimizing warping. Some wood primers come in a spray you can apply to the surface. Most options are liquid paints that you apply with a paintbrush.

Apply two coats of primer, allowing the surface to dry before moving on to the next. Make sure to apply it evenly to the entire surface. A roller brush helps create a smooth finish.

You can use a wood primer from your local craft store or go with an all-purpose primer like Gesso. Gesso is a fantastic primer to use with acrylic paint on a variety of surfaces.

If the first few layers don’t cover the whole surface, add another primer layer until the wood is completely covered. Let it dry overnight for the best results.

Step 4: Tape or Stencil Your Design

If you want to paint a specific design on the wood, use a stencil and painting tape to mask off the sections. Use tape to cover any spots you don’t want to paint. Tracing paper helps copy a design or pattern to the wood.

Step 5: Apply the Paint

Squeeze a small amount of paint onto the surface and begin painting the primed wood. Keep a bowl of water and a towel nearby to clean up any spills. You’ll want to wash off your paintbrush to switch or mix colors, dapping the brush in the water.

You can also use a sponge brush to apply the paint to a larger area instead.

Apply the paint using a variety of brushes and brush sizes, depending on your design. Allow it to dry between colors.

Acrylics dry quickly, so use small amounts of paint as you work. Avoid letting the paint dry on your paintbrush. Otherwise, it could ruin your brush. Don’t load the brush up with paint all the way to the tip. Instead, grab tiny amounts of paint when you need more.

Too much paint could cause damage to your brush or cause the wood to warp. Both effects make it more difficult to apply the paint evenly.

Step 6: Allow the Paint to Dry

When you finish painting the design, leave the painted wood to dry somewhere safe. Wait to replace any knobs or drawers after the paint is dry.

Some acrylics take up to 24 hours to dry completely. Smaller projects could dry in as little as two hours. When the paint no longer feels tacky to the touch, it’s ready to seal.

Do You Have to Seal Acrylic Paint on Wood?

Does acrylic paint work on wood

After painting acrylics on wood, you need to seal the paint. Sealer protects the paint from chipping or peeling. It also keeps the wood from discoloring, as wood is prone to contain impurities that make it appear amber yellow or brown unless the surface is properly sealed.

With wood projects, sealing paint is essential because the wood pores will suck up the paint as you apply it. The moisture could cause the wooden surface to warp, or it could cause you to layer more paint coats on the wood.

If the wood type is particularly porous, it could also soak up the primer and still cause warping issues. In this case, you should try to seal the wood, then prime and paint it. However, some brands offer combination primers and sealers for wood to save you time.

You don’t always need to seal acrylic paint, but doing so is highly recommended. The topcoat prevents scratching and peeling. It also protects the paint from dirt or liquid, which could wrap the wood’s surface.

Sealer is best for longevity, especially if the wood is exposed to the elements or regularly sits in a place where it could get wet. But if you’re a beginner who’s experimenting with acrylics on wood, the step may not be necessary.

How to Seal Acrylic Paint on Wood

When you’re happy with your paint job, and the acrylics are fully dry, seal the wood. A clear sealant protects the color and helps the paint last. It protects against water, UV rays, scratches, peeling, color vibrancy, and more.

Sealers come in many types and finishes. Gesso is a great all-purpose primer and sealer for many mediums. A varnish is another sealant available from your local hardware store. It’s easy to apply, but some brands are much more toxic. Whichever option you choose, apply at least two coats of sealer.

Step 1: Apply a Thin First Coat

Apply the first coat of sealer in a thin layer. Depending on the type of sealant, you can spray it on, use a paintbrush, or apply the sealant using a sponge brush. If you have a spray sealer, use short sprays to cover the surface.

Step 2: Drying Time

Allow it to dry for 6 to 12 hours. The sealer may feel dry to the touch in around 30 minutes, but allow it to sit until it’s fully dry before adding another layer.

Step 3: Layer on the Sealer

Add a second layer of sealer. If needed, you can apply more than two coats. Make sure the sealer dries between each layer thoroughly.

How Long Does Acrylic Paint Take to Completely Dry on Wood?

Most types of acrylic paint dry in an hour or two. Artist-grade acrylic paints typically dry quickly. Some may dry within a few hours, while other types can take up to 24 hours to fully dry. Thicket layers of paint could take over 48 hours.

For the best results, allow the paint to dry for at least 12 hours. The paint is dry if it has no visible saturated spots and doesn’t feel sticky to the touch.

The Best Acrylic Paint for Wood

The best type of acrylic paint for wood is artist-grade or student-grade. However, many brands work well on wood.

Artist quality paints come in many colors, but student-grade paints are typically cheaper. The professional paints are more vibrant in color and easier to blend or layer. Look at the paint bottle to see the list of recommended surfaces for the best results. Double-check to see if the paint is ideal for wood.

Arteza Outdoor Acrylic Paint Set

ARTEZA Outdoor Acrylic Paint Set, 20 Colors, 2 ounce Bottles, Multi-Surface Paints for Rock, Wood, Fabric, Leather, Paper, Canvas and Wall PaintingThisArteza Outdoor Acrylic Paint Set comes in 20 different vivid colors. The small 59-milliliter bottles are great for small wood projects. You can also use the paint for rock, fabric, paper, leather, canvas, walls, or other crafts.

The paints are richly-pigmented to produce stunning results. You can use these paints for indoor and outdoor items. They’re designed not to fade or scruff over time. Plus, you don’t need to buy a sealer with Arteza. The paints are self-sealing and certified non-toxic, so they work well for kids’ craft projects with wood too.

Majic Paints RePurpose

Majic PAINTS Interior/Exterior Satin Enamel,Acrylic Paint, RePurpose your Furniture, Cabinets, Glass, Metal, Tile, Wood and More, White, 1-Quart ​, 32 Fl Oz (Pack of 1)Majic Paints RePurpose line is excellent for adding acrylic paint to wood furniture, cabinets, doors, and more. You could even use the paint on metal, copper, tile, brick, or glass. It comes in a quart-sized can, and there are many color options. The paint produces a smooth satin finish that looks great with a range of DIY projects.

The water-base in this product produces a durable and long-lasting result. The formula is safe to use, and it outperforms many oil-based paints.

If you’re painting wood furniture or pre-stained wood, this is an excellent paint option. Majic Paints are easy to apply without sanding or priming the surface. There are other finishes available as well, including wood finishing products.

Rust-Oleum Milk Paint Finish

Rust-Oleum 331050 Milk Paint Finish, Quart, Highland Blue 32 Fl Oz (Pack of 1)Rust-Oleum is a well-known paint brand. Their Milk Paint Finish line is great for painting interior wood furniture and decor. The can comes with 32-fluid ounces of paint, and there are six colors to choose from before you paint. Use it to add accent details or create a unique brush effect on your wood’s surface.

This acrylic paint is water-based and low in harmful VOCs. It’s easy to clean using soap and water. Plus, the results are durable. You only have to apply a single coat to cover even vintage antique furniture. The matte finish offers a light texture you can customize with various looks too.

This brand even offers a chalked option instead of Milk Paint for a matte finish. Chalk paints are common with wood. You can paint on the product to cover the entire surface in one coat, and the acrylic paint works with a variety of surfaces. But it’s best for interior use only, while the Milk Paint finish is ideal for both indoors or out.


Acrylic paint is one of the best wood choices, whether you’re doing small craft projects to painting an entire wood dresser. Wood is an affordable and adaptable medium for art. You can even repaint old wood furniture for a modern appearance.

How did your paint project go? Did our step-by-step instructions help you? If you enjoyed learning how to apply acrylic paint on wood, please share this article with your friends and family. We would also love to hear your painting experiences in the comments.