Can You Really Use Acrylic Paint on Wood?

There are many advantages in using acrylic paint. Aside from its being versatile, it is relatively cheaper and safer to use because it is quite odorless. You can use it on most surfaces including paper, canvass, metal, and wood.

Acrylic paint works well with wood. And if you have a woodworking or a wood craft project, it might be a good idea to try using acrylic paint for the job. It’s simple and easy. And it only takes a few steps to learn to do it right.

Does Acrylic Paint Work on Wood?

Yes, you can use acrylic paint on wood. In fact, acrylic paint works well with wood.

Because acrylic paint is easy to spread and dries fast, it is ideal to use on woodworking projects. Acrylic paint is also ideal for working indoors as it doesn’t give off too much of a strong odor, unlike enamel paint.

However, there are certain things you’ll need to know about using acrylic paint on wood to achieve better results.

Before You Paint the Wood, You Need to First Prepare It


The first thing to do before laying on paint is to smooth out the surface of the wood. This is easily done using sandpaper.

Sanding depends on the surface finish you start with and what you wish to achieve. You can use fine sandpaper between 360 – 600 grit, which will give you a smooth finish. This is preferable to use with smooth surfaces, like the wood you buy for wood craft projects. A sandpaper with 140- 180 grit will give you a less smooth finish.

Sanding allows you to smooth out the rough surfaces of the wood and seal off tiny cracks and crevices on the wood’s surface where paint may be easily absorbed. Sanding helps minimize the amount of paint absorbed by the wood fibers. While at the same time leaving enough roughness for your paint to grip onto.


Another procedure you can do before laying on the paint is to prime the wood. You need a wood primer or Gesso for this.

The wood primer acts as a go-between with the acrylic paint and the wood. The primer binds to the wood and creates an even surface where the paint can easily or more smoothly glide when applied. It also minimizes the amount of paint being absorbed by the wood as the primer also seals much of the tiny pores in the wood.

The primer allows you to apply paint evenly on the surface of the wood.

The primer can, however, also diminish the effect of the natural grains of the wood by covering them up. If you would want to highlight the natural grains of the wood, because some woods have lovely grain markings, it might be best to just use a very thin layer of primer or none at all.

How Long Does Acrylic Paint Take to Dry on Wood?

Acrylic paint dries easily. Because it is water-based, acrylic paints dry faster than oil-based enamel paint. Acrylic paint dries from an hour to around 24 hours, depending on the thickness of the paint layers and the surrounding conditions. Drying also depends much on the quality or brand of acrylic paint that you use.

It is best, however, to ensure that the paint is thoroughly dry before touching or moving the object, further sanding, or before adding any layer of paint or varnish over it.

Applying Paint

Make sure to clean the entire surface of the wood before applying acrylic paint. Use a damp cloth to wipe away dust and any residue from sanding. This will help you avoid particles of dust and wood particles sticking to your brush and spreading all over your woodwork through the paint.

Use a fine brush or a roller to apply the paint. Use a broad brush for wider surfaces and narrower ones for narrower areas, for artistic patterns and designs.

Because acrylic paint is water-based, it is quite easy to wipe off paint spills and unwanted streaks or patches using a damp cloth. It is also easy to wash off paint from your brushes after use. However, it becomes more difficult to remove when acrylic paint already dries. So, make sure you wipe off any unwanted paint before it completely dries.

If you decide to apply a second layer of paint on your work, make sure that the paint has completely dried up before painting or sanding again.

How To Seal Acrylic Paint On Wood

After you’ve painted the wood, remember to let the paint dry thoroughly before brushing the finished project with the sealer. This is important for a clearer finish.

The purpose of the seal or sealer is to preserve your woodwork and give the paint job a longer lifespan. The sealer protects the surface coating of the paint from the adverse effects of its surrounding. It protects the acrylic colors from fading due to exposure to sunlight, rain, moisture, or just simply from regular handling.

It is good to seal the acrylic paint with an acrylic sealer or varnish whether you plan to put your finished woodwork project indoor or outdoor, for longevity of the paint.

A glossy varnish will not only protect the woodwork from the elements, but it will also give the paint a sheen and brightness. Otherwise, a dead flat lacquer or matte finish will simply retain the natural acrylic colors and protect the paint without giving it the sheen and brightness that a glossy varnish will do.

Working On Old Furniture

You might want to bring back the luster of old furniture by giving it a splash of acrylic paint. It can be done.

However, you first need to sand off the outer layer of varnish or paint that is on it. The surface of furniture is often protected either by a glossy varnish or glossy paint.

If you want to change the appearance of the furniture completely, you need to scrape off the entire paint job. This is laborious and time-consuming. But it is a worthwhile project if done carefully and thoroughly.

You’ll need a paint stripper or paint remover of some kind. A paint stripper is a chemical that you brush or spray directly on the paint or varnish of the old item that you’re working on. The chemicals in the paint stripper/remover will react with the paint to loosen it off from the wood. It also seeps further down into the wood grains to clean it of any residue.

However, you need to proceed with utmost CAUTION: Paint stripper/remover contains harmful chemicals and may cause irritation on the skin or eyes upon contact. Read the warnings on the product label before using.

Brush off the paint removed with a tough bristle brush or soft steel brush, then wash off the residues with a little water.

Acrylic Paint on Wood Crafts

Another worthwhile project for an acrylic paint job is wood crafts. Wood crafts make for excellent and attractive home furnishings, inside or outside the home, or in bedrooms. And acrylic paint is ideal for wood crafts that have artful designs and patterns.

You can buy wood for woodcraft on certain specialty arts and crafts stores, or online. You can buy plain wood, like boards, logs, or various pegs. Or you can buy wood already cut in various designs like dolls, dollhouses, mini treasure chests, or various Christmas items.

The wood craft items you buy will usually be unfinished or just partially finished. You’ll need to do the finishing touches yourself, like sanding and priming. Unless it is indicated by the seller or in the wood craft item that the wood had been prepped, you have to assume that the wood is unfinished.

The first order of business is to sand the wood craft item. Always sand the wooden pieces along the grain. In most wood pieces you can see the direction of where the grains or line patterns flow. This is the direction of sanding. If the wood is already smooth, you’ll be needing a fine grit sandpaper, probably from 360 – 600 grit. This allows you to smooth out whatever rough patches there are left on the wood.

Using a coarser grit sandpaper (140 – 180 grit) might create unnecessary burrows on the already smooth surface of your wood craft item. Another thing that would create unnecessary burrows is sanding across the grain.

You can try feeling the surfaces of your wood craft for uneven surfaces and tiny burrows, just be careful for splinters. Feeling the surfaces on different parts of your wood craft project gives you a better gauge of its smoothness than just looking and inspecting with your eyes.

You can either apply a primer layer on the wood or pass this step, depending on how smooth the wood craft project you bought is. The primer allows the acrylic paint to glide more smoothly because it creates a compatible surface for the paint. However, if the wood is tight enough and has little or no pores at all, it wouldn’t be a problem if you don’t apply primer, and paint it straightaway.

Finally, seal the paint with a good glossy varnish or a matte finish.

Get Ready to Paint

Acrylic paint on wood crafts looks attractive. Whether you put your finished wood craft project indoors or outdoors. There are a lot of creative wood craft ideas you can make or simply buy. Using acrylic paint on wood is simple and easy. And it takes only a few steps to learn.