Are you trying to find the best paint for styrofoam? Styrofoam is a tricky, delicate material. But it’s common in crafts because it’s also affordable, lightweight, and easy to mold into varying shapes for many types of DIY projects. However, painting styrofoam requires specific treatment and a layer of trial and error.
The best paint for styrofoam is water-based. Acrylic paints are particularly ideal, such as Apple Barrel. While there are many acrylic brands available, high-quality options provide a top paint job. However, you could use poster paints for projects with younger kids.
In this article, we’ll show you the best paints you can use on styrofoam and explain the qualities that make the paints so great. Use this guide to find reviews on the best paint and learn how to paint styrofoam so that it lasts for years.
What Kind of Paint Can You Use on Styrofoam?
Water-based paints are the best option for painting styrofoam. Although acrylic craft paints are the top choice, you can use tempera or poster paint for projects with young children. There are also some types of latex or spray paints you can use on styrofoam.
Below is a quick list of the top paints for styrofoam:
That said, you can use any water-based paint. The foam polystyrene in styrofoam doesn’t handle solvents well, so it’s best to avoid any paint or varnish that are not water-based. You could also use the type of latex paint you use for interior walls or spray paints that’s made for use on styrofoam.
However, artistic paint kits are highly recommended because most projects involving styrofoam are craft-based. You also get many colors, which is perfect for crafts.
Acrylic paints are water-based and common for arts and crafts. They’re the likely choice for painting styrofoam. You can apply them directly to the surface, and they’re easy to use.
However, they’re not the most ideal option for young children. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission explains that the skin absorbs paint chemicals, and even small exposure could cause harm over time.
Kids can use water-based acrylic paint safely if it has non-toxic on the label. Look for craft paints with the Art and Creative Materials Institute’s Approved Product (AP) stamp to let you know the paint meets the safety standards and is ideal for kids.
Painting styrofoam with acrylics will also require multiple coats. You may need several layers to achieve your desired color, especially on a porous surface like styrofoam.
If you’re painting with younger children, consider using tempera or poster paints. Children are highly susceptible to toxins in their environment, and they typically have sensitive skin. For these reasons, tempera paint is the safe go-to for kids.
Tempera paints are water-based and full of pigment, which means they pack in bright colors and adhere well to porous or foamy surfaces. You can find tempera paints readily available at any craft store. They’re very affordable and versatile.
However, tempera paint is highly susceptible to water. It’s not ideal for painting styrofoam that may come in contact with liquids or the elements. With tempera, you’re also limited to primary colors. The paints do not blend well either.
Latex paint is another water-based option that works for styrofoam. You can use the type of latex paint that’s made for interior walls. However, this option is much more common for painting home improvement projects, such as foam insulation.
If you use spray paint on styrofoam, proceed with caution. Some types contain a solvent that will melt the material. In fact, most spray paints will deteriorate the material faster than your other paint options.
The spray paints you can use on styrofoam are rare. You may be able to find water-based spray paint made for use on styrofoam, such as Rust-Oleum or Krylon. These paints are fast-drying and typically have a high-gloss finish, making your project much faster. There are also spray paints made for model crafts that contain acrylic or latex paints.
The best spray paints for styrofoam will list the material on the bottle and have an acid-free formula. However, these specialty spray paints may cost more than traditional brands.
The Best Paint For Styrofoam: Our Top 5 Options
Here are the best paint kits for styrofoam.
1. Apple Barrel Essential Paint Set
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Apple Barrel is a well-known paint brand. They’re widely known for their versatility. The paints are excellent for various projects, from foam and canvas to ceramics and terra cotta. The Apple Barrel Essential Paint Set contains 12 unique shades of acrylic paints.
A unique aspect of Apple Barrel paints is that the formula is dishwasher safe after it cures fully. For example, you can wash your painted dishes on the top shelf without worrying about damage.
The paints are also excellent for children. They’re easy to clean while they’re wet. All you need is soapy water.
However, the best part about Apple Barrel’s acrylics is the colors. With shades like Candy Apple, Lemon, or Atlantis, you can brighten up any project. The classic look is super affordable to achieve. Unlike other acrylic paint sets, Apple Barrel dries to a satin finish that looks great with various arts and crafts.
The only downside to this Apple Barrel paint set is that the small, 2-oz bottles may not last long. Regular hobbyists may go through the paint quickly. You are also limited in how you use this brand of acrylic paint. Many acrylics can be thinned for a sprayable application, but Apple Barrel paints are not ideal for that process.
2. Magicfly Acrylic Paint SetCheck Price on Amazon
The Magicfly Acrylic Paint Set is perfect for painting styrofoam and any other surface. The kit comes with 14 various colors in large, 280 ml bottles. Compared to other paint kits on the market, this Magicfly kit offers many paint shades for an affordable price. Regardless of how many coats of paint your styrofoam project requires, these paints will cover your needs.
The paints themselves are artist quality. They contain a creamy texture that is easy to apply to most surfaces, including styrofoam. Each shade offers a rich pigment that will not fade over time. Plus, the paint is non-toxic and safe for kids. Every bottle has a tag that’s marked for kids to read, but it also displays information about the transparency and light resistance of the paint.
When using acrylic paints, they glide on a porous surface effortlessly and dry quickly. You can produce vibrant results with fewer layers. Remember to shake the bottle before you open the paint, and you’re ready to get started.
Most people love Magicfly because the large volume bottle lasts for a long time. If you often perform painting projects or arts and crafts, the paint is highly cost-effective. The kit’s packaging is also attractive.
3. Crafts 4 All Acrylic Paint Set
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The Crafts 4 All Acrylic Paint Set consists of 24 shades. If you want to paint smaller foam pieces, like models, this is the paint set for you. It’s versatile enough to cover the styrofoam with ease. You can use it for all your other arts and crafts projects, including mediums like fabric or wood. Crafts 4 All has one mission: to produce the most versatile paints.
These premium, professional-grade paints are artist quality and perfect for any skill level. They’re entirely non-toxic and fast-drying. Expect the paint job to last for years to come. The paints offer stunning color clarity and brilliance. Each vibrant color is easy to mix to create new shades as well.
The significant part about this kit is the colors. You get a wide variety of colors that have a top-ranked consistency. They’re ideal for blending or layering. You can even create watercolor techniques. Crafts 4 All even includes three paint brushes, making the set an excellent gift for any artist. Only you don’t need any cleaning chemicals after using these paints.
The only downside is the size of the paint tubes. The small quantities are not ideal for painting a large surface area or including multiple layers of paint on styrofoam.
4. Sargent Art Acrylic Paint SetCheck Price on Amazon
The Sargent Art Acrylic Paint Set is highly economical. With this set, you get 12 large, 16-oz bottles of acrylic paint. They’re ideal for painting large pieces of styrofoam because they can cover the surface perfectly. But you can use Sargent Art paint for a variety of applications or painting techniques. The set is also highly affordable, making it a go-to for teachers or students.
These artist-quality paints are made in the USA. They’re non-toxic and water-resistant after they dry. You can expect the rich paint job to look great for years to come. The top cap flips open easily to dispense the paint, and kids love the colors. The opaque shades provide permanent coverage on any surface. With 12 high-quality colors, you can tackle large projects with ease.
Compared to other acrylic paints, the water-resistance factor makes this paint much more durable than most options. You get a lot for your money, and the paint produces stellar results on many surfaces.
The only drawback is that the paint set may result in cracks forming as the paint dries. It’s not as bad when painting styrofoam, but you may notice a problem with canvas paintings. The bottles also present a choking hazard for younger children.
5. Colorations Simply Washable Tempera PaintsCheck Price on Amazon
Colorations Simply Washable Tempera Paints come from an American company. They’re more affordable than the popular Crayola paints, and this kit comes with six 8-oz bottles. You can purchase these paints in bulk, making them perhaps the most affordable option on this list. For this reason, they’re popular among teachers and students.
The only tempera paints on our list, these paints are entirely washable. They’re a perfect option for young children because they’re non-toxic and certified for safety. The paint is vibrant, with bold shades that kids love. Tempera paint is also excellent for learning. It allows kids to explore painting techniques, as you can use it with varying paintbrushes, sponges, or foam rollers.
You can use Colorations tempera paints for a variety of crafts or hobbies. They apply smoothly to absorbent surfaces, and dry to form a matte finish. Other brands may offer more colors, but Colorations is excellent for empowering kids to express themselves artistically. The paints are AP Seal approved and avoid common allergic ingredients like gluten, peanuts, soy, and dairy.
Tempera paints are not sprayable either, which means they are not a great option if you’re painting models. By nature, the paint also breaks down quickly when it gets wet. Water allows you to clean up the paint easily, but it could hinder the longevity of your paint job as well.
What to Consider When Buying Paint for Styrofoam
Every paint performs differently on varying surfaces. Use the following information to help your find the best paint for styrofoam.
The most crucial factor when buying paint for styrofoam is to find water-based paint. Before buying paint, always check the paint type. Solvents melt the foam, so look for acrylic or latex paints that are water-based. Acrylic paint is the most ideal paint for most styrofoam projects.
The pigment is the paint’s color. This factor determines how vibrant the shade turns out after it dries and may affect how many layers of paint you need. High-quality paints have more pigments.
If you want your project to last, consider the durability of your paint. Artist or professional-quality acrylic paints are often more durable than tempera paints, for example. The paint’s durability could be the difference between watching your paint job fade away in a few months and remaining strong.
Easy to Clean
Most creative projects require easy-to-clean paint. You may make mistakes or change your mind as you work. A paint you can alter allows you to make the changes you need. If you’re performing arts and crafts with children, you may want to look for a paint with a straightforward cleanup process.
Tempera paints wipe away easily, as do many acrylics. However, some acrylics come off faster than others. Most acrylic paint comes off with soapy water, even after it dries. But that is not always the case.
Painting with toxic substances can cause severe health concerns, such as skin irritation. Avoid unnecessary medical issues by making sure the paint is non-toxic before you buy. Never allow children to use toxic materials unsupervised for their safety. AP-certified acrylic and tempera paints are safe for kids to use.
Some sets come with more colors or large-sized bottles, which cuts down on how much paint you may need. For example, small paint tubes are more ideal for tiny projects or painting models. Go with the large bottles if you need to blend colors or use several layers.
Affordability is another major concern for many people. Before you buy, consider how much use you can get from the paint. Large bottles may last a long time and carry over to your other painting projects, saving you money down the road. Acrylic and tempera paints are among the most affordable paint types.
How to Paint Styrofoam
To paint styrofoam, use the following steps.You need to collect a few materials, such as a foam or synthetic bristle paintbrush. Because acrylic paints are the best option, protect your work area by laying down a newspaper or tarp. Keep a glass of water nearby for mistakes as well.
Step 1: Select the Paint
The first step is to choose the paint. Look at the bottle and styrofoam sizes to figure out how much paint you need to cover the entire surface. Keep in mind that you may need at least two coats. It’s also crucial that you select the right colors based on your objectives.
Select the paint colors you want to use and pour a small amount of each into a container. If you need to mix colors, go ahead and do that now.
Step 2: Prepare the Paint and Surface
Before you start painting, make sure the styrofoam is clean. Remove any dust or debris using a feather duster. You can use soda water to remove any greasy residues or simply wipe the surface clean with a wet towel.
If you have particularly thick paint, you may also want to dilute the paint. Using a thin liquid allows the paint to saturate the uneven surface of the styrofoam more easily. Whether or not you prepare the paint (and the steps you take to do so) depends on the brands and their presentation.
If you use spray paint, you need to prime the can. Shake your spray paint for at least two to three minutes before using it. Refer to the manufacturer’s instructions to prepare spray paint.
Step 3: Apply the Paint
Dip a paintbrush into the first shade lightly, and apply it to the styrofoam. If you’re using spray paint, find something to set the styrofoam object on to elevate it. Doing so makes it easier to spray paint on all sides without touching the paint. However, you may still need to move the styrofoam to cover every angle.
Try to spread the paint evenly. Dap paint into any cracks. When painting porous styrofoam, layering the paint can feel rough and uneven. Using a paintbrush or foam roller can help spread the paint evenly. It may take multiple coats for the surface to retain the paint. Allow each layer of the paint to dry before moving to the next.
Step 4: Dry Time
When the surface is entirely covered, leave the styrofoam to dry. The dry time varies based on your paint. Most acrylic dry in around 20 to 30 minutes, but you might be able to wait about 10 to 20 minutes in between painting layers. Check your paint to make sure you allow enough dry time. Finally, always let styrofoam air dry. Heat may cause damage.
Step 5: Seal the Surface
Sealing the paint helps you boost the longevity of styrofoam. There are a few methods you can learn on how to seal and protect styrofoam. Any craft sealant like Mod Podge works well. You can apply Mod Podge using a foam brush or a traditional paintbrush. If you use spray paint, look for a water-based aerosol to match.
Can You Waterproof Styrofoam?
The downside to painting styrofoam with acrylics is that the paint is not ideal for exterior objects. The paint is not durable in the rain or direct sunlight. It’s also water-soluble, so it could break down in the humidity or rain. However, you can make the painted surface waterproof by sealing the paint.
There are many ways you can waterproof styrofoam. You could use an epoxy sealant or go with a sealer for acrylic paint. You could also look for products designed for sealing foam, which seal the gaps in the material and keep it from soaking up water. Polyurethan wrapping is the only way to achieve complete water protection, though.
However, you can use any water-based sealer. Sealing any paint jobs helps protect the surface against water damage and helps the product look better over time. If you want a genuinely waterproof result, try using latex paint combined with primer and an outdoor gloss or sealant.
How Do You Keep Styrofoam from Crumbling?
Styrofoam is perfect for models and creating things from multiple small foam pieces. You can use toothpicks to hold the shapes together to create something entirely new. However, the material is delicate. So how do you keep it together?
You can keep styrofoam from crumbling with clear packaging tape. Wrap the material to maintain the form, then coat your project with polyurethane for waterproofing. Using a heat gun can help seal the polyurethane and retain the styrofoam’s shape.
The best paint for styrofoam is a water-based acrylic, particularly Apple Barrel’s paint set. The well-known brand is highly versatile and inexpensive. They offer unique colors, and you can use them for many types of projects. Although the bottles are not as large as some of the other options on the market, it’s an excellent paint set for all ages.
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