Many people choose acrylic paint because it’s versatile and quick-drying. The water-based paint is also highly affordable, making it excellent for a wide range of projects. You might already know how to use it, but is acrylic paint waterproof?
Acrylic paint is somewhat water-resistant, but it is not entirely waterproof. However, you can make the paint more waterproof by sealing it. The steps you take vary based on the type of surface you’re painting. You also need to prepare the surface in advance for the best results.
In this article, we’ll talk about the compounds that make up acrylic paint and how you can make it waterproof. Look for our list of top paint and varnish brands at the end for all your project needs.
Is Acrylic Paint Waterproof?
Acrylic paint does not provide a waterproof coat, but it is slightly water-resistant. You can make the paint more waterproof using various techniques to seal the paint. You may also need to prepare the surface before painting and sealing, depending on the material.
The proper process for your project depends on the surface you want to paint. For example, some surface types require you to prep by sanding the surface and apply sealer after painting. Other projects require you to use varnish instead of paint sealer, which may pose some safety concerns.
Does Water Wash Away Acrylic Paint?
Because acrylic paint is not waterproof, you may wonder if water or rain will wash away the color. If you have a project that you completed using acrylic paint, you must follow the proper steps for the surface and seal the paint. Otherwise, water splashes and rain will ruin it.
For this reason, it’s vital to protect your project as the paint dries as well. Wet acrylic paint on an untreated surface will wash away with water or rain. The paint only becomes water-resistant when it dries thoroughly.
Can Acrylic Paint Be Used Outside?
If the paint isn’t waterproof, is it safe to paint outside? What about painting outdoor objects? You can use acrylic paint outside or on outdoor surfaces as long as you take the proper precautions.
For example, consider completing your painting project and leaving it to dry in a garage. The cover protects your project from unexpected rain showers or spills.
When painting outdoor objects, consider the surface type and how you plan to use the item. A metal mailbox would require varying steps than painting a glass garden globe. Sealer or varnish helps the paint job become more waterproof as well.
What Makes Up Acrylic Paint?
Acrylic is a water-based paint with an acrylic polymer emulsion. This design makes the paint dry quickly. While the water in the paint evaporates, the paint dries. However, there is much more that goes into holding the particles together.
Here are the essential fundamental elements that make up acrylic paint:
- Resin: Acrylic resin is the binder. It separates the pigment and locks it onto the surface when the paint dries, holding the elements together and producing a buttery consistency.
- Pigment: The pigment is a powder that adds color to your paint.
- Base: The water base provides liquid for the pigment and binder.
When acrylic paint begins to separate, you may see the ingredients better. The clear substance that comes out before the paint is the binder. Your paint may detach if you purchase from a cheap manufacturer or store the paint tube improperly. Mix the ingredients back together to use the paint.
Ingredients also vary by manufacturer. The exact formula depends on the price point, which is why various brands offer different pigment proportions, even with the same color. Some paints include additives to disperse pigments or stop the paint from frothing. Cheaper manufacturers may add ingredients to cut costs, like fillers or dyes, to replace actual pigments.
Why Should You Waterproof Acrylic Paint?
The #1 reason to waterproof acrylic paint is longevity. Because the paint is water-based, you can thin the paint with water. If you paint furniture or shoes and don’t waterproof the paint job, acrylics may absorb the water and begin to crack or flake off.
Any decent amount of water could also remove the paint. Without a waterproofing element, the item could easily ruin.
How to Make Acrylic Paint Waterproof
To make acrylic paint waterproof, you need a sealer or varnish. There are many types of spray or liquid sealers and varnishes available at art or craft stores. They may come with varying features, but their main goal is to protect the paint from the elements. Look for a sealant or varnish made for acrylic paint.
The exact steps you take to make acrylic paint waterproof depend on the surface type you’re painting. You may also need to prepare the surface by cleaning or sanding before you paint for the best results.
Sealing the paint helps the paint become more water-resistant, but it also keeps it from chipping or peeling in the future. Taking the additional steps to seal the paint secures the lifespan of your paint job.
Waterproofing an Acrylic Painting
If you’re waterproofing an acrylic painting on canvas, you’ll want to add a sealer to complete the project. Most canvases are pre-primed to hold acrylics to the surface. You can use a Gesso primer to prepare an un-primed surface. When the primer is dry, the canvas is ready for you to create your art piece.
Once the acrylic paint dries, protect your painting with a sealer. You can purchase a spray sealer for quick dry times or go with a liquid sealer if you prefer. Look for a sealer with UV protection to add longevity to your painting.
You may need several coats of sealers to cover the painting fully. Apply each coat in a thin layer and allow it to dry completely before moving to the next step. If you plan to keep the object outside, look for an outdoor polyurethane sealer. You’ll also want to make sure you cover all sides thoroughly.
When the painting is sealed correctly, you can hang it indoors or out.
Waterproofing Acrylic on Glass
You can use acrylics to paint directly on a glass surface. Leave the paint to dry for around 24 hours, then set the paint using your oven to help waterproof the surface.
Place the painted glass in the oven and turn the heat to 350 degrees F. Avoid pre-heating the oven for this project. Allow the glass to heat slowly to reduce breakage.
When the temperature reaches 350 degrees F, set a timer for 30 minutes. If you mixed regular acrylic paint with a glass medium, leave it in the oven for 45 minutes. Always check your paint’s product label to make sure they don’t have varying instructions.
Switch the oven off and allow the glass object to cool completely before removing it from the oven. You want the temperature to increase and decrease slowly. However, you can use an extraction fan or open the oven door to help release the fumes.
Allow the glass to cool for at least 72 hours. Next, you should wash the item by hand to remove any dust or debris. Some people choose to air dry for a total of 21 days.
If your glass item is too large for the oven, you could use a hairdryer on low heat to help set the paint. Hold the hairdryer at least two inches away from the surface. Alternatively, you could leave the object to dry in the sun.
Waterproofing Acrylic Paint on Metal
It’s common to paint metal with acrylics because the paint sticks well to the surface. Projects like doorknobs, picture frames, mailboxes, and lamp bases may sometimes need sprucing up. However, you must apply varnish to seal the paint.
After painting, apply a single coat of poly varnish to the metal surface. You could also select any metal varnish. There’s no need to apply multiple coats or sand the surface.
Waterproofing Acrylic on Wood
Apply varnish to seal acrylic paint on wood. Varnish is the standard go-to for sealing painted wood surfaces. It can completely transform a wooden object’s appearance, changing the color tone or adding a glossy finish. However, you can seal other surfaces with varnish too.
A polymer varnish is ideal for wood. But you can use any wood varnish. Paint on two coats of the varnish, allowing it to dry for about a day or two between coats.
If you’re applying varnish, the most crucial factor is applying an even layer. You may want to use a foam poly brush. It helps absorb excess varnish for a smooth, even finish. Also, make sure not to pause when applying the varnish. Too much in a particular area may cause issues.
Cover the entire surface area with varnish to protect against damage. To avoid fingerprints, varnish each side separately. Allow the varnish to dry for around three days or more.
There is also more prep work involved with using varnish. Most wood projects will require you to sand the surface before painting. A foam poly brush also helps apply varnish evenly. The brush soaks up the excess for a smooth surface.
Waterproofing Acrylic Paint on Fabric
Similar to glass, you can use heat to seal acrylic paint to fabric. Turn your iron onto medium heat and use it on the painted areas. The heat you apply allows the paint to cure into the fabric fibers, making it more waterproof and durable.
Plug your iron in and use it to seal the paint. Place the fabric paint-side down. Make sure to keep the iron moving for up to five minutes to avoid burning the fibers.
How to Choose Between Varnish and Sealer
You can use either varnish or sealer to help acrylic paint last longer and protect against water. Varnish is typically for wood surfaces, while sealers come with a wide range of applications.
Both options come in a spray or liquid form, so you can apply them how you want. Spray options are typically easier to use because they cut back on the application and dry time. They’re also great for applying thin, even coats.
Varnish is a clear or colored coat sometimes called lacquer. It’s excellent for providing a glossy finish to wooden surfaces. But according to MedlinePlus, varnish or lacquer is harmful to breathe for a long time. Varnishes contain hydrocarbon substances that are also poisonous.
Sealants also come with possible hazards, but the potential harm varies based on the type of sealants. The ingredients determine which product has a higher percentage of toxins and the possible ill effects for humans.
Therefore, using varnish may require more care. Most varnish brands contain highly flammable carcinogens like benzene, and the fumes are toxic to breathe. A 1998 study found that varnish even emits formaldehyde 115 days after using the material.
On the other hand, the varnish is beneficial because most brands come with UV protection in the formula or other additives to protect against fading. Varnish can make nearly anything waterproof.
Acrylic varnishes are also ideal if you’re not sure the painted finish is complete. Because you can paint over most acrylic varnishes, you don’t have to know for sure the project is over to seal and protect your work.
However, the option you choose depends on your project. Both protect your paint and seal your work. Consider the surface and paint type for the best results.
What Makes Varnish Water Resistant?
Lacquer and varnish are sealants with excellent waterproofing properties. Varnish adds a layer of protection because it brings a sealing layer to your work. After using varnish, you could put a painted object outside without worrying about water damage. It’s water-resistant thanks to the ingredients.
Varnish only has a few main ingredients, including:
Depending on the varnish you use, the formula may include other additive ingredients for UV protection or anti-fading as well.
Types of Varnishes for Acrylic Paint
Like acrylic paints, varnishes come in varying types. The main difference in varnishes is the finish. Most options provide a glossy surface. There are also matte and satin varnishes available. Satin tends to protect against the sun more.
Each varnish is also made for certain paint types. Oil-based varnishes typically have the most water resistance because the synthetic resins bond to drying oils. There are also fast-curing varnishes with an added urethane resin (typically polyurethane). The polyurethane varnishes form harder and produce a more waterproof film.
The best varnish for acrylic paint is acrylic polymer varnish. It’s easy to dilute with water and doesn’t offer any smelly chemicals for you to clean. You can even wash your painting materials with soap and water after use.
The other popular varnish for painting with acrylics is acrylic resin, which creates a more high gloss finish. The varnish is more robust and transparent compared to the polymer.
The downside is that the resin is toxic to inhale or ingest, so you need to work in a well-ventilated area. It’s also not safe for the environment. Cleaning an acrylic resin varnish involves using mineral spirits.
The Best Acrylic Paint Sealer
The best sealer for acrylic paint matches the surface you’re painting. Look for a sealer for acrylic paint, and make sure to use liquid if you want to paint on the sealant.
Plaid Mod Podge Clear Acrylic SealerMod Podge Clear Acrylic Sealer is a 12-ounce can of waterproof sealer that’s ideal for oil or water-based paints. It dries clear and will not yellow over time. The U.S.-based company is well-known in the art world for ease of use and high quality.
The best part about using this acrylic sealer is that the spray makes it easy to apply. Beginners have no trouble covering an entire project with a thin coat of sealer. Plus, Mod Podge is fantastic for applying multiple coats without problems.
However, Mod Podge products come in a water-based liquid option you can paint onto your project as well.
Aleene’s Spray Gloss Finish Acrylic SealerAleene’s spray sealers come in varying finishes, like gloss or matte. The spray provides a protective, clear finish for either indoor or outdoor objects. The transparent layer is durable, and the formula follows federal safety regulations.
Applying Aleen’s Spray Gloss Finish Acrylic Sealer is quick and easy. The spray goes on evenly in thin coats, and it dries quickly to offer a faster application process.
The outstanding part is that you can use this sealer on any acrylic paint project, including surfaces like metal, wood, glass, ceramic, plastic, cardboard, paper, and other painted surfaces.
The Best Varnishes for Acrylic Paint
Most varnishes for acrylic paint come in liquid or spray form. The type of varnish you choose depends on the surface you paint and the paint type you use.
Gamblin Gamvar Picture VarnishGamblin Gamvar Picture Varnish is a synthetic resin varnish similar to natural varnishes. It has a gloss surface, and it’s unlike any other type of varnish because you can apply it sooner. The formula contains a low molecular weight, and the synthetic element makes this option safer.
With this varnish, you have a sealer that’s easy to apply or remove. It won’t yellow over time. Plus, the semi-gloss surface protects against water and UV rays. Even though it applies Gamblin varnish with a paintbrush, the result does not have visible brush marks.
Krylon Gallery Series Artist and Clear Coatings AerosolKrylon is another well-known name in the art world. This 11-ounce can of varnish provides a clean gloss and added UV protection. It’s ideal for many surfaces, including metal, paper, wood, plastic, glass, ceramic, silk, wicker, plaster, and paper mache.
The protective surface is permanent. The coating will not yellow over time, and it dries in just ten minutes after applying it. The result is moisture resistance and color fading protection for any project. Beginners even love this Krylon sealer because it’s smudge-proof so that you can improve artwork and DIY projects with less work.
While you may not need to prime or prepare all surfaces for painting with acrylics, it’s often best to do so if you’re working with varnishes. Sealing the paint with either a sealer or a varnish allows your art to hold up against water damage. However, the type of sealant you choose may depend on your project.
Did the steps above help you make your acrylic paint project more waterproof? If you enjoyed learning about waterproofing acrylic projects, please share this article with your friends and family. Let us know more about your experience in the comments below.