When you’re staring at a dull, gray slab, covering it up might seem like an excellent idea. Usually, painting is the quickest potential solution. Plus, it’s reasonably affordable. But if you’re thinking about using acrylic paint on concrete, you might wonder, “Will it work?”
You can use acrylic paint on concrete. However, it’s not always the best choice. While acrylic paint will stick, it isn’t durable enough for high-traffic surfaces, such as concrete patio floors, so you’ll need sealant. Additionally, it won’t hold up if the concrete has a moisture problem.
In most cases, you’ll also need to do some preparation before you paint.
Can You Use Acrylic Paint on Concrete?
Yes, you can use acrylic paint on concrete in many cases. Concrete porches, patios, walls, blocks, lawn ornaments, and similar items are potentially paintable. By preparing the surface properly, the paint usually sticks without much issue. However, there can be exceptions.
If your concrete slab has a moisture issue, applying acrylic paint – or any kind of paint – typically isn’t a good idea. The moisture effectively prevents the paint from drying correctly. Since that’s the case, you’ll need to take another path.
For indoor concrete, you’ll want to address the underlying moisture issue first. Then, you can reevaluate your options. For outdoor concrete, the moisture might be related to weather conditions or other natural factors. If the area dries out, you could consider painting then. However, if moisture is an ongoing issue, an alternative solution is typically best.
How to Paint Concrete with Acrylics
If you want to use acrylic paint on concrete, you need to use the right approach. Otherwise, dirt and grime on the surface may prevent the paint from sticking, or the paint may not last long after application.
Generally, due diligence is required before and after you start using acrylic paint on concrete. That way, you can ensure adhesion and improve durability.
Here is a step-by-step guide for painting concrete with acrylics.
1. Check for Moisture
Since moisture can prevent the paint from drying and sticking correctly, you want to make sure your concrete slab is dry before you begin. There are several ways that you can check, allowing you to choose the approach that works best for you.
Usually, a moisture meter is the fastest option. Simply follow the instructions that came with the device, and you’ll get a readout that lets you know if excess moisture is present.
If you don’t have a moisture meter, then consider the plastic sheeting method. You tape some plastic sheeting onto your concrete, ideally covering a 2-foot by 2-foot section. Wait 16 to 24 hours, and then check under the plastic sheeting to see if there’s condensation. If you see condensation, moisture is an issue.
Regardless of the method you use to check for moisture, if you find that it’s an issue, don’t paint your concrete using acrylics or any other kind of paint. Adhesion is essentially guaranteed to be an issue, so you’ll need to address the moisture before painting or look for an alternative solution.
If you aren’t seeing signs of a moisture problem, then you can proceed to the next step.
2. Clean the Concrete
As with any painting project, a clean surface is usually easier to work with than a dirty or grimy one. You’ll want to clean all of the concrete with a mild detergent. In some cases, a mixture of water and dish soap is all you need. After wiping everything down, give it another go-over with clean water. Then, let everything dry.
If you have oil spots or stains, you’ll need to address those specifically. In some cases, that means using specialty cleansers on those spots. Many concrete and driveway cleaners are designed to deal with oils and stains, making them an excellent place to start. However, you might be able to apply a baking soda paste instead, using it as a scrub to deal with the spots.
If your concrete is particularly dirty, acid etching may be necessary to remove all dirt, debris, and grime. However, acid etching typically involves dangerous chemicals, and it’s possible to damage the concrete by mistake.
There are some safer – and even eco-friendly – alternatives to traditional acid etching products on the market today. If you need to clean to that level, do your research to determine which option will give you the right results while reducing any associated risk.
3. Let Your Concrete Dry Thoroughly
After you finish any cleaning steps, you need to let your concrete dry completely. Any moisture can harm paint adhesion, increasing your odds of cracking and flaking in the future.
Depending on weather conditions and other factors, you may need to wait up to 24 or 48 hours to ensure everything is dry. If you’ve waited that long and aren’t sure it’s done drying, you can always perform another moisture check to be safe.
4. Apply Primer (Optional)
Technically, you don’t have to apply primer before using acrylic paint on concrete. However, it can be a smart move. Primer will fill in any small holes, creating a smoother surface. Plus, you can use water-based bonding primers to improve overall adhesion, helping your paint last.
Primer can also improve moisture resistance, reducing the odds of mold and mildew. If you’re painting in an area where dampness might be a concern, applying a coat of primer is an even wiser decision.
5. Move onto Paint
Once the concrete is completely dry, you can start painting. How you’ll proceed may depend on the surface you’re tackling. For walls, you typically want to begin by cutting in at the corners with a brush. After that, you could turn to a roller.
If you’re painting flooring, it’s also wise to cut in before you start painting the rest of the surface. However, you do need to make sure that, once you start painting, you work your way through the room correctly. Start with the furthest point from the doorway that you want to use to exit the space. Then, work your way toward that door strategically, ensuring you don’t accidentally surround yourself with wet paint.
6. Let the First Coat Dry
Acrylic paint usually dries reasonably quickly. It can be dry to the touch in as little as 20 minutes, though it may take several hours, depending on the thickness or brand. If your project was handled with a single coat and you weren’t painting a floor or other high-touch surface, you may be finished at this point. However, if you need to apply a second coat or want to enhance durability, you’ll want to continue to the next step.
In most cases, you’ll want to let the first coat dry before taking any other actions, particularly if you’re painting a floor and will have to walk on it to handle any next steps. Check the manufacturer’s instructions to learn more about product drying times or wait 24 hours when in doubt.
7. Apply the Next Coat (Optional)
If you’re adding a second coat, you’ll use the same process as you did with the first application. For walls and floors, cut in before you begin. That way, you can safely use a roller after that, speeding up the process.
As with the first coat, you’ll want to let this one dry completely before moving forward. This is especially true since you’re shifting to a different product. Often, it’s best to wait at least 24 hours, though you may want to give it 48 hours if you’re in a humid region. That way, you can ensure proper adhesion.
8. Seal the Surface
For floors or high-touch surfaces, using a sealant is a necessity. Acrylic paint on concrete isn’t especially durable. As a result, the paint won’t last unless you seal the surface.
Usually, you’ll want a clear binding sealer. As you explore options, you can typically find at least two sheens available: matte and glossy. However, some may come in a range of shine levels, so keep that in mind.
Choose a sheen that meets your needs. Then, follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding application and drying times.
Does Acrylic Paint Stay on Concrete?
Acrylic paint will initially stick to concrete as long as it’s properly prepared. However, there can be issues with durability, particularly for flooring or high-touch surfaces. That’s why many people choose to seal the surface after painting using a peel-fighting bonding sealer.
Is Acrylic Paint Waterproof on Concrete?
Once dry, acrylic paint is typically water-resistant. However, it isn’t fully waterproof. If you’re using acrylic paint on concrete in areas where water is a concern, such as an outdoor patio, then sealing it is crucial.
There is a wide variety of clear, waterproof sealers on the market. In most cases, you’ll want to stick with a water-based sealer. Acrylic paint is water-based, so by going with a water-based sealer, you won’t have to worry about adhesion issues.
Just make sure the sealer is suitable for painted surfaces, too. Not all of them are designed with paint in mind, so it’s best to confirm it will work on your acrylic paint before you begin using it.
Can I Paint Directly onto Concrete?
You can paint directly onto concrete. As long as the surface is properly cleaned before you begin, many kinds of paint – including acrylic – will typically stick to the surface. Without proper cleaning, dirt, grime, and oil may impact adhesion, causing premature flaking and chipping.
It’s important to note that you also have the option of using a primer. With a primer, you’ll have a smoother surface since it’ll fill in small holes. Plus, the color of the surface ends up even, ensuring your acrylics aren’t discolored by what’s underneath.
If you do prime, go with a water-based bonding primer. It’s compatible with acrylics and designed for surfaces where adhesion can be an issue. Bonding primer can also increase the durability of the paint, helping it last a bit longer.
Additionally, you’ll still want to clean the concrete before applying the primer. As with paint, oil, dirt, and grime can harm adhesion, even if the primer is designed for challenging surfaces. Since you want your work to last, it’s always best to take the time to clean first.
How Do You Seal Acrylic Paint on Concrete?
If you want to seal acrylic paint on concrete, you’ll want to use a clear water-based binding sealer. That will adhere to the acrylic correctly, increasing the odds that the surface will last.
Generally speaking, the first step to sealing acrylic paint on concrete is ensuring the paint is completely dry. After that, you’ll want to follow the manufacturer’s directions. Typically, the process isn’t unlike painting. You’ll cut in with a brush as needed and then work through the center with a brush or roller.
Exactly how you need to proceed may depend on the sheen. With matte finish clear sealers, you get more leeway, so a class W technique can work. For glossier options, you’ll want to be more methodical. That means doing long, straight stripes, with each one lined up to the one before it. That way, you can reduce the odds of streaks.
How Long Does Acrylic Paint Take to Dry on Concrete?
The amount of time it takes for acrylic paint to dry on concrete can vary. Many acrylic paints are dry to the touch in 20 minutes to a few hours. However, that doesn’t mean the drying process is complete in that amount of time.
Usually, it takes at least 24 hours for the acrylic paint to fully dry. If you’re in an area with high humidity, it may take 48 hours.
When in doubt, it’s best to assume longer instead of shorter, particularly if there’s any contact with the surface once it’s done. That way, you don’t accidentally harm the finish or create opportunities for adhesion issues.
Can You Mix Acrylic Paint with Cement?
Since acrylic paint is water-based, you can mix it with cement or concrete. The paint will effectively tint the concrete, giving it a bit of color.
In most cases, adding a bit of acrylic paint won’t harm the consistency of the concrete. Acrylics are thicker than many other types of paint, so they won’t typically water down the concrete as it’s added.
Begin by mixing the cement or concrete per the manufacturer’s directions. Then, you can start adding the paint to give the material some color.
As with most tinting projects, you’ll want to add the paint slowly. That lets you ensure that you don’t oversaturate it with color or end up with a hue you don’t enjoy.
It’s vital to note that the color of wet and dry cement or concrete isn’t the same. In most cases, wet cement and concrete is relatively dark. As they dry, they typically lighten.
Since that’s the case, you may want to do a trial run if you’re adding acrylic paint to concrete or cement. Essentially, you’ll create a miniature batch, noting the ratio of paint to concrete or cement. That way, you can take a small amount and let it dry, giving you a better idea of the potential final color.
What Is the Best Paint for Concrete?
Which paint is best for concrete largely depends on whether it’s a high-touch surface, making durability a potential issue. For walls, you may be fine with traditional latex paint. For areas where contact isn’t likely, you could consider an eggshell finish. If it’s higher traffic and contact is likely, go with at least a satin, if not a semi-gloss.
Satin, gloss, or semi-gloss are also better for walls if there’s potentially a moisture issue. Those finishes are moisture-resistant, thanks to the higher amount of binder in the paint. Eggshell, matte, and flat sheens are low on binders, so they don’t provide moisture resistance.
If you’re painting a concrete floor, durability is critical. Since that’s the case, you may want to go with epoxy. It’ll stand up better to wear and tear, resisting scratches, dings, and stains.
For concrete porches and patios, look for specialty products designed specifically for that surface. Patio and porch paints are designed specifically for high-traffic areas. Along with acrylic versions, you’ll also find epoxies that work quite well.
If you’re painting a statue, you may want enamel or epoxy paint. Enamel can stand up to the elements, so you can use it for indoor or outdoor statues. Epoxy paint is generally for indoor statues only, as it’s prone to fading in the sun.
However, regardless of the paint you choose, preparation is still a must. At a minimum, you’ll need to clean the surfaces. In some cases, a primer might also be a wise move.
If you were trying to figure out if you can use acrylic paint on concrete, you should now have your answer. Generally, as long as the concrete is properly prepared and you’re open to sealing the surface, acrylic paint is an option. However, there may be better paints for certain situations.
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