Can You Use Acrylic Paint on Plastic?

Do you have old patio chairs that could use a fresh coat of paint? Are your plastic flower pots faded from the sun? What about painting plastic models and upcycling plastic bottles? Whatever the case, old plastic doesn’t have to go in the trash. But you may be wondering, “can you use acrylic paint on plastic?”

You can use acrylic paint on most types of plastic. However, you need to select the correct paint for your project. You may also need to properly prepare and seal the paint to the surface, most of the time, by sanding and priming plastic before adding the paint.

In this article, we’ll show you the basics of painting with acrylics on plastic. We even include our top picks for the best paints, primers, and sealers to use for your projects at the end.

Will Acrylic Paint Stick to Plastic?

Acrylic paint basically dries into a plastic, making it difficult for the paint to adhere to a plastic surface. Many other factors can either promote or inhibit how acrylics adhere to solid plastic. However, you can make acrylic paint stick under the right circumstances.

How Can You Use Acrylic Paint on Plastic?

Can You Use Acrylic Paint on Plastic

The steps you take to cover the plastic with acrylic paint and the materials you need vary based on your project. Consider how large your plastic object is in size, how much time you have to complete the project, and how many materials you want to purchase.

The best paint for plastic is one created with the surface in mind. Many craft acrylic paints are not meant to adhere to plastic, making it peel and chip off eventually. Look at the paint label for the words “plastic” or “multi-surface” to know if it will work.

But the paint you choose depends on your project. Acrylic spray paint made for plastic works the best for larger surface areas. Craft paint that comes in bottles and tubes won’t stick as well.

However, it’s easier to use bottled acrylics with a paintbrush if you’re painting smaller objects or adding tiny details onto the plastic. This paint type is also great for recycled plastic bottles and jars or other smaller plastic crafts.

Some acrylic paints may also come with primer or sealer already in the paint. Options like this are prevalent among spray paints for plastic. Others require you to prepare the surface and seal the paint for the best results.

What Type of Plastic Can You Paint?

Many different projects could require you to paint plastic, such as:

  • Furniture
  • Plant containers
  • Light switch covers
  • Mirror frames
  • Decor accents
  • Baskets
  • Toys
  • Bottle and jars
  • Storage containers
  • Closet organizers
  • Trash cans
  • Easter eggs
  • Figurines
  • Models

Some craft acrylic paint that comes in bottles will not stick to every type of plastic, such as polyethylene and polypropylene. You can look for the recycling logo on the bottom to tell the plastic-type. The most difficult types to paint have #2, #4, or #5 printed inside the triangle.

Other types of plastics require priming and sealing the surface. You may also be able to paint difficult surfaces with a methylated-based primer/sealer as well.

How to Make Acrylic Paint Stay on Plastic

Paint for plastic toys

To make acrylic paint stay on plastic, you first must prepare the surface. You’ll begin by cleaning, sanding, and priming. After applying the paint, you also need to seal the surface to add a waterproofing layer and add longevity to your paint.

The biggest reason for acrylic paint peeling away from plastic is contamination. Start by cleaning the plastic with mild dish soap and warm water. If the object is greasy or super dirty, you can use a cleaner or degreaser made to remove them. Many options are available, from products with low volatile organic compounds (VOCs) to pure solvents.

Many plastics are easier to paint if you rough up the surface as well. Sanding the plastic is a great way to help the paint bond thoroughly. Abrasion also helps get rid of any oxides or films that may remain on the surface, increasing your likelihood of adhesion. Make sure to use fine-grain sandpaper and clean the loose particles from the surface before painting.

You can brush or spray primer onto plastic. Look for a primer created for the surface. How long you wait for the primer to dry and how many coats you need depends on the primer type. Most primers are applied in thin coats to lock paint into a slick surface.

How to Paint Plastic With Acrylic Paint

The steps you take to paint plastic with bottled acrylic paint vary from those you’d use for spray paint. Use the following instructions if you want to brush on the paint from a bottle or tube. Keep in mind that the materials you need may vary based on the paint you use too.

Step 1: Collect Your Materials

Before you begin painting, make sure you have protective gear and special clothing you don’t mind messing up with paint. Protect your area using a drop cloth or newspaper.

Head to a well-ventilated area or open a window as well. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission discloses that some ingredients in solvent-based acrylics are toxic to inhale, such as xylene, toluene, methyl ethyl ketone, and turpentine. Include a fan or protective face mask if needed.

Also, collect the following materials:

  • 180-220 Fine-grit sandpaper
  • Painter’s tape
  • Craft paint (made for plastic)
  • Sponge
  • Paintbrush
  • Towel
  • Dish soap
  • Rubbing alcohol

Step 2: Prepping Plastic for Paint

Clean the entire plastic surface thoroughly using mild dish soap and warm water. Use a mold or grease remover if needed. Make sure to remove any grime, debris, or residue. Rinse the plastic with clean water and dry it using a soft towel.

Then, cover the surface with rubbing alcohol and leave it to dry. The rubbing alcohol helps remove any grease, oil, film, dirt, or fingerprints. You could also use sanitizers or mineral spirits to prepare your object for painting.

Grab your fine-grit sandpaper next. Rub all shiny surfaces on your item. Never press too hard, or you may scratch the surface. Because plastic is a nonporous surface, removing the shiny parts should boost the paint adhesion.

After sanding, go over the object with a clean towel again. Remove any dust. You can use soap and water to go over the surface again as well. If you used a cleaner or solvent, go over the item with soap and water thoroughly before painting.

Step 3: Add Primer

Primer helps paint stick. Look for a primer designed for plastic for the best results. Many brands come in a spray primer, but there are also liquid options in cans or bottles for models and other needs.

Apply the primer following the directions on the bottle. Make sure to coat the entire surface in thin, even layers. Allow the primer to dry 100%.

Step 4: Painting Plastic

Before you slap on the paint, mark off the areas you don’t want to paint using painter’s tape. When the surface is clean and dry, place the tape in the desired areas and try to lay the object flat.

Use your paintbrush or sponge to apply the paint. Avoid layering on acrylics too thick, or the layer may not stick well.

Step 5: Leave it to Dry

Finally, leave your item to dry for at least two hours. Some brands of craft paint may require between six and 12 hours to dry fully.

Using Acrylic Spray Paint on Plastic

Paints for plastic surface

If you decide to use an acrylic spray option, painting plastic may be faster and easier. Some spray paints don’t require you to prime and seal the paint. Spray paint also tends to dry faster than liquid craft paint, making the process a breeze.

Step 1: Prep

Before spray painting plastic, you’ll need to clean, sand, and prime the surface the same way you would if you were using a bottle of acrylic paint. Follow the instructions above to prepare the plastic carefully.

Read the label on your paint next. Some spray paints require you to shake the can before you can start painting and again between applications. The label will also let you know if you need to use primer and sealer with the spray paint.

Step 2: Prime

If you use regular spray paint (not one designed with plastic in mind), you need to prime the surface. There are many spray primers made for the plastic you can use. Follow the direction on your bottle for the best results. Allow the primer to dry all the way before painting.

Step 3: Spray Paint

Test the spray paint with a quick shot on a piece of newspaper, cardboard, or your drop cloth. Make sure the paint color and consistency are what you wanted.

Apply the spray paint by positioning the nozzle toward the object and spraying a thin, light paint layer. Hold the spray can about 8 to 12 inches away from the surface. The first coat won’t cover the object all the way. However, if you apply the first layer too quickly, you’ll notice drips. You can remove any dried drips by sanding the surface flat, then adding the next coat.

Let the paint to dry, then add the next layer. You’ll most likely need multiple thin layers of even paint. Lightly mist the plastic from around 12 inches away.

If the surface isn’t fully saturated after drying for two hours, try adding a third (and final) coat of paint.

Step 4: Dry

When you’re done, allow the spray paint to dry completely before use. You should leave the object in a warm and dry environment for at least two hours.

How to Seal Acrylic Paint on Plastic

Plastic items are handled often, so you need to seal the paint to ensure longevity. Another huge benefit to sealer is that it adds a waterproof element to protect water-based acrylic paints from rain or moisture.

Sealers come in liquid or spray form. Many spray sealers offer varying finishes to choose from as well, including glossy or matte. People say spray sealers are easier to use. There are many brands and alternatives. Whichever option you choose, the sealer should work with acrylic paints and provide a clear coat to protect the color.

When the paint is all the way dry, apply the sealer. If you’re using a spray sealer, use the same technique you did with the paint for an even, smooth surface. Liquid sealers that require a brush often take two layers, whereas a single coat of spray sealer is usually enough.

For outdoor items, you may want to add an extra layer. Any items exposed to harsh conditions regularly will need extra protection from the elements.

Tips for Painting Plastic with Acrylic Paint

There are many alternative options for painting plastic with acrylics. With a few extra tips, your item will turn out beautiful every time.

Use Tape for Clean Lines

Using painter’s tape helps you create clean lines or keep paint from areas you don’t want to cover. A high-quality brand may cost more, but the tape also produces the best results. Cheap painter’s tape could leave jagged lines if you’re not careful.

Remove Tape ASAP

You don’t need to wait for the paint to dry before removing the painter’s tape. Otherwise, the tape could peel off your fresh layer of paint. Use caution when removing the tape, so you don’t scuff up your new paint job as well.

Alternatives to Sandpaper

Instead of traditional sandpaper, you could use a liquid sander on plastic. These products are available at hardware stores. They clean and remove the shiny surface of the plastic simultaneously, saving you time on prep work. The best part is that the alternatives are safe for indoor use, and you can paint on some brands in around 10 minutes.

Alternatives to Primer

If you don’t have a primer available, you could add a base coat of oil-based paint or enamels to prepare the plastic for acrylic paint. However, a primer created for plastic is still the best option.

The Best Primer for Acrylic Paint on Plastic

The best primer for your project is one that’s created for use with acrylic paint and plastic. There are spray and liquid options.

Rust-Oleum Plastic Primer Spray

Rust-Oleum makes a plastic primer that’s simple and easy enough for beginners to use. Before using this primer spray, you still need to prepare the surface by cleaning and sanding. The primer comes out in a thin, white shade. It works for a wide range of plastics, and the paint doesn’t scratch off later.

Vallejo Grey Primer Acrylic Polyurethane

Vallejo Surface Primer is a 200-ml bottle of grey primer that you brush on or apply with an airbrush. It’s excellent for model kits or priming small plastic items. The primer is easy to clean with water. However, you cannot mix this primer with solvents or alcohol. Never clean your plastic surface with either ingredient before priming.

The Best Acrylic Paint Sealer for Plastic

The best sealer to lock acrylics to a plastic surface is clear. They also come in spray or liquid forms.

Aleene’s Spray Gloss Acrylic Sealer

primer for plasticAleenes Spray Gloss is an acrylic sealer that provides a protective layer. The clear finish dries into a gloss. Spray the sealer on evenly, and you have long-lasting paint. The sealer dries quickly. It’s great for indoor and outdoor protection. Plus, Aleene’s products are durable enough to protect plastic and an array of other materials.

Sargent Art Acrylic Gloss and Varnish

painting with acrylic paintSargent Art Acrylic Gloss and Varnish is well-known in the art world. The 16-fluid ounce bottle is easy to paint onto plastic surfaces, and it dries into a gloss finish.

Sargent Art sealer is ideal for acrylics. The product is also certified non-toxic and. Safe.

This sealer is also entirely waterproof, so you can use it to provide a clear coat and protect against the water.

The Best Paint for Plastic

What kind of paint can you use on plastic? Acrylic paint comes in craft paints or spray paints, both of which work on plastic surfaces. Which one you choose depends on your project.

Craft Paint for Plastic Surfaces

Craft acrylic paint for plastic will say “plastic” or “multi-use” on the label. Here are a few of the best craft paints.

FolkArt Multi-Surface Acrylic Craft Paint

Folk Art acrylic paintsThese Folk Art acrylic paints come in a set with 16 vibrant colors. The paint is non-toxic and made for multiple surfaces. They’re ideal for recycled plastic bottles or jars and other small plastic objects. Use them indoors or out. The water-based paint is even dishwasher safe after it dries.

Individuall Acrylic Paint Set

paint acrylic plasticIndividualls acrylic paint set comes in eight vibrant colors. The paints are suitable for plastic, rocks, wood, or canvas, making them versatile for tons of craft projects. The 0.7-fluid ounce bottles are small. However, these premium paints are highly pigmented to create rich and long-lasting bright colors. The paint glides on and dries quickly. You can even blend the shades.

Acrylic Spray Paint on Plastic

Acrylic spray paint is the easiest and most common choice for plastic. Some of the top brands include Rust-Oleum and Krylon.

Rust-Oleum Spray Paint for Plastic

best primer to use on plasticThis spray paint option from Rust-Oleum is made with plastic surfaces in mind.

It’s fantastic for outdoor and indoor items, and the paint even works on PVC, polypropylene, polystyrene, vinyl plastics, and other hard-to-paint surfaces.

You don’t need a primer for the paint, and the long-lasting paint dries to the touch in as little as 20 minutes.

Krylon Fusion Spray Paint

Krylon Fusion spray paintKrylon Fusion spray paint is another well-known brand. This paint is made to bond to most plastics, including PVC and resins.

It’s a fast-drying formula (1 hour) that’s also chip-resistant after the paint sits for at least seven days.

There’s no sanding or priming required for this paint. Plus, the EZ touch nozzle features a 360-degree spray tip for easy painting.

However, Krylon Fusion is also among the most expensive spray paints for plastic on the market.

Summary

A little acrylic paint is a great way to renew faded plastic or change the color altogether. You can use acrylics to paint many plastic surfaces, making an immense number of different projects you could complete. The trick lies in choosing the right paint for your needs. Purchase a primer or sealer made for plastic if your paint doesn’t already have this feature as well.

Did you enjoy learning how to paint plastic with acrylics? If you found our painting tips helpful, please leave a comment with your thoughts. Share our post with your family and friends as well.

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