Acrylic paint is the go-to choice for crafts because it’s easy to use, affordable, and fast-drying. But because the paint is also water-based and straightforward, many people wonder how well it will stick to surfaces after painting. Is acrylic paint permanent?
Acrylic paint becomes permanent after it dries completely. However, that doesn’t make it entirely waterproof. You can make acrylic paint last longer by sealing the paint. Depending on the surface material, a top coat may be necessary to protect the paint from the elements.
In this article, we’ll explain what makes acrylic paint permanent and how you can use sealant to protect your paint job. Use these tips to help you boost the longevity of your painted surface and produce beautiful crafts each time.
Is Acrylic Paint Permanent?
Acrylic paint is permanent when it’s dry. The paint consists of pigments in an acrylic polymer emulsion. These pigments produce the paint’s color, while the polymer binds the pigments as it dries. When acrylic paint fully dries, it becomes permanent and somewhat water-resistant.
However, make sure the paint still adheres to the surface properly. Otherwise, it may peel and chip off. The best way to do so is to seal the paint. The steps you take to prepare the surface and the type of sealer you use varies based on the material. For example, clothing requires a fabric medium heat treatment to make the paint permanent.
If you accidentally get acrylic paint on fabric like your clothing, it will most likely come off in the wash. Acrylic paint becomes more permanent on clothes with a little bit of help. You can mix the paint with special additives like a fabric medium to make it more permanent and finish off the project by heat sealing the paint with an iron to help it last.
Fabric medium allows the paint to better adhere to clothes because it encourages the paint to seep through the fabric without causing it to feel stiff. Heat setting the paint also helps acrylics stick to the surface long-term. However, you only need to heat set if you use a fabric medium.
You can apply acrylic paint directly to the fabric, but if you don’t use a medium or heat set the paint, consider hand washing and air drying the clothing. Following the proper steps should extend the life of your design.
Similar to clothing, you can use acrylic paint to add design to your shoes. However, you want to prep and seal the paint because shoes typically take on a lot of wear and tear over time. You can use acrylics to paint either fabric or leather shoes.
For the best results, you need to clean the surface and apply a primer before painting. Allow it to dry between each layer. When it’s dry, you can seal the surface following the direction on the bottle. Select a sealer made for leather or fabric. You may also want to finish with a waterproofing spray for added moisture resistance.
For leather shoes, go with a leather preparer and deglazer as your primer. A fabric medium is more helpful for cloth shoes. These products are available in most craft stores. The sealer you use also depends on the surface.
Acrylic paint becomes permanent on wood after it dries and you seal the surface. Most wood surfaces are treated, stained, or heat-sealed, so the paint cannot bond unless you prepare the surface first.
When painting wood, it’s best to prepare the surface by lightly sanding and cleaning it. If you don’t, the paint may not adhere correctly or last long. Apply primer before painting the wood, then seal the paint with a topcoat.
Acrylics do not adhere well to slick surfaces, such as glass. You can paint glass with acrylics, but you must use a medium to help the paint stay. The medium creates a “tooth,” allowing it to stick to non-porous materials.
Painting glass also works better when you use acrylic paint made for the surface. Specialized acrylic glass paint doesn’t require you to heat set the paint. It’s best if you follow these with a sealant or varnish.
If you’re using regular acrylic paint, heat setting the paint will help it last. Place the glass object in the oven at 350 degrees F, baking it for 30 minutes. Allow it to cool for at least 72 hours before using the object. For safety, do not use varnish on an object in the oven.
Like glass, acrylic paint does not adhere well to a metal surface without preparation. Before painting, you must clean and degrease the metal with mineral spirits. Remove any rust and lightly sand the surface. Next, apply a primer and paint the surface. Use a sealant for longevity.
Plastic is a traditionally tricky surface to paint. Acrylics can become permanent on a plastic surface if it’s prepared first. Sand the plastic and apply primer before you paint. Add a topcoat of sealer to protect the paint job as well.
You might be able to skip the primer with some plastic types. However, using primer boosts the longevity of the paint. It’s also challenging to figure out which plastic you have.
How Long Does Acrylic Paint Take to Dry?
Professional acrylic paint takes between 20 and 30 minutes to dry. However, thick layers can take much longer. Expect dense applications to dry in an hour or two. Acrylic paint dry time varies based on environmental conditions and the surface you paint as well.
How Long Does Acrylic Paint Last?
If you prepare the surface and seal the paint properly, acrylics can last a long time. Some colors may lose their vibrancy after a few years or under heavy sunlight exposure, though. That said, acrylic paint is surprisingly resistant. Acrylic paint could last up to 20 years or more.
If you have acrylic paint that you haven’t used yet, that’s a different story. Unopened, unused acrylic paint can last up to 10 years in the bottle. The ingredients may separate over time, but they should still work because the paint has not yet been exposed to air.
Can You Wash Off Acrylic Paint?
You can wash off acrylic paint, but the steps you take may depend on the surface and whether the paint is wet or dry.
Wet acrylic paint is easy to wash away from most surfaces. However, it’s much more difficult to remove once it’s dry. For example, you can typically wash acrylic paint off of your hands with soap and water. However, you may need rubbing alcohol or baby oil to remove the dry paint.
If you’re trying to wash acrylic paint from your clothes, try running them through the washing machine. Next, soak the fabric in rubbing alcohol or nail polish remover for at least 15 minutes and a scrub brush or old toothbrush to scrape off the paint. Repeat these steps as needed to remove the paint.
How to Make Acrylic Paint Permanent
Sealing acrylic paint is how you make it permanent. You can use a clear topcoat or varnish, depending on your project. The type of sealer you use varies based on your paint type and the material you’re painting. Some sealants come in aerosol form. Others are a liquid you paint on.
Sealer protects the paint from:
For these reasons, you must seal your paint job if it’s going to remain outside. Varnish is an excellent choice for exterior surfaces that are exposed to the elements regularly. However, varnish also contains more volatile organic compounds (VOCs) than an acrylic sealer.
What Can You Use to Seal Acrylic Paint?
There are many products you can use to seal or add a protective layer over your acrylic painting. However, the sealer you choose depends on the surface you’re painting.
Popular option to seal acrylic paint include:
- Acrylic sealer or varnish: The best sealant for acrylic is a varnish made for the paint. They’re available in liquid or spray form, and there are several types.
- Gesso: Although Gesso is better as a primer, you can somewhat seal acrylic paint with it. The medium is not as effective, but it works for canvas painting in a pinch.
- Shellac: Shellac is a sealer for wooden surfaces, particularly furniture.
- Lacquer: Lacquer produces a glossy finish on wood surfaces, but it’s not as long-lasting as traditional varnish.
- Hairspray: A lesser-known option, you can use hairspray to seal acrylic paint on canvas or stone. However, it may not last as long.
- Mod Podge: If you’re working with paper, fabric, or another porous material, you can use Mod Podge as a sealer for acrylic paint.
You can also make your own sealer for acrylic paint from glue.
How to Seal Acrylic Paint
The steps you take to seal acrylic paint vary slightly based on the surface. However, you can use the following basic steps to make your acrylic paint more permanent.
Step 1: Prepare the Surface
Before you apply the paint or sealer, make sure the surface is clean. You might want to use a combination of leather bleach and water for leather or a degreaser for metal or glass surfaces. Some materials also require light sanding to help the paint stick, such as clothing and wood. If you’re working with canvas or wood, you may also apply primer before painting.
Step 2: Paint the Object
Select an acrylic paint ideal for your project. For example, acrylic leather paint performs well on the surface. Apply the acrylic paint in thin coats, allowing each layer to dry.
Step 3: Apply Sealer
When the acrylic paint is dry, seal the paint. Remove any debris or dirt, and apply the sealer based on the directions. Make sure you cover the edges and the entire painted surface. Allow the first coat to dry, then add a second coat if needed. You may need several thin coats.
Most sealers dry quickly. They may dry to the touch in around four hours. However, you may need to wait up to 48 hours to dry completely.
Depending on your project, you may want to follow up with a waterproofing spray (like for shoes), or heat set the paint to help it last.
The Best Acrylic Paint Sealants
Acrylic sealers add a protective, transparent layer to keep acrylic paint safe over time. They come in spray and liquid form. There are many products and brands, so here are a few of the best options on the market.
Liquitex Professional Satin VarnishLiquitex Professional Satin Varnish is an excellent varnish for acrylic paint. The brand offers a variety of products for all your sealing needs.
This satin varnish is ideal for a range of interior and exterior projects. It is lightweight, non-toxic, and dries into a hard surface in 72 hours. When dry, the sealer is water-resistant and will not yellow over time.
One of the best parts of using Liquitex varnish is mixing it with other professional acrylic paint mediums and colors. It’s entirely safe to use as well.
Krylon Acrylic Spray PaintKrylon Acrylic Spray Paint is a clear coat that comes in aerosol form.
Using a spray can is perfect when you’re spray painting or need to quickly seal acrylic paint on certain surfaces, such as plastic, paper, metal, plaster, glass, wood, paper mache, or ceramic. Krylon’s clear acrylic coat is smudge-proof and moisture resistant. It improves your artwork and adds contrast.
The fantastic part about Krylon spray coating is that it dries super fast. Expect it to become dry to the touch in as little as 15 minutes. You can handle it in about two hours.
Although acrylic paint becomes permanent when it dries, you can extend the life of your paint job by following up with a sealer. The steps you take to seal the paint depend on the material you’re painting and the other products you use.
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