Yes, you can definitely use acrylic paint on wood. The best type of paint to use on wood is artists grade acrylic paint. I recommend this Arteza Acrylic set to start with. There are a few types of acrylic paints that work wonderfully on wood. Below I give a step by step guide on how to successfully paint on a wood surface, and the best types of acrylic paints for wood.
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How to Use Acrylic Paint on Wood
To paint a wooden surface with acrylic paint, the first thing to do is to prepare the wood. To complete this project, you need the wood you will paint on , some sandpaper, wood primer, a paintbrush and paint palette, a sponge brush, (this is optional), a bowl of water, a few paper towels, and your choice of acrylic paint.
Before starting, make sure to find a well-ventilated area to work, such as a room that has plenty of windows or outdoors. I like to paint in my balcony for some fresh air. Sometimes acrylic paint has a strong odor that can give the artist a headache if the room is not well ventilated.
If you are working on a small craft project, you can also purchase an easel so that you can place the wood on it and make it easier to paint. For a larger surface, such as shelves or a table, I recommend painting outdoors.
The first important step is to smooth the wood to create an even surface. Do this by using sandpaper to sand the surface down. It is best to use 140- to 180-grit sandpaper and sand along, not against the grain of the wood until the surface is completely smooth. Some wood may come pre-sanded so you may skip this step.
Then, rub the wooden surface with a cloth or paper towel to remove any dust, dirt, and debris before painting.
Next, prime the wood to fill all of the exterior pores, allowing the acrylic paint to absorb evenly. I use a spray-on primer since it is easy to apply. It is important to apply primer evenly throughout the entire surface of the wood so that the acrylic paint goes on smoothly once it is time to get to the more intricate artwork.
To paint a specific design on the wood by using a stencil, gather tracing or graphite paper, and a tracing instrument. Then, trace the design that you want by placing the tracing paper over the pattern and copying it. Place the graphite paper on the wood with the graphite surface face down, and then place the tracing paper on top of the graphite paper to transfer the design onto the primed wood painting surface.
Next, squeeze the first acrylic paint color that you want to use onto the surface of the palette. Additionally, keep a bowl of water and paper towels nearby to wash the paint from the brush when switching and mixing colors. Cleaning the brush with water between colors is important, so that the colors do not mix together to create something unintentional.
For larger applications of paint, squeeze a large amount of paint onto the palette and use the sponge or a foam brush to apply paint instead. Sponge painting can also create a fun backdrop or design when used intentionally for its texture.
Using a paintbrush, apply the acrylic paint to the primed wood, following the design if you are using one. You can use a variety of brushes for different surfaces on the wood, such as a small round brush for precision painting and a flat brush for painting around curves.
Once you begin painting, the wood is your blank canvas to create an intricate decorative painting or use broad strokes with a foam brush to create a matte or lustrous design.
To create blended colors, clean your brush and then apply another color while both are still wet, making sure to use the paper towel to help to clean and continue to keep drying the acrylic paint brush completely between colors. In my opinion, blended colors are what makes an acrylic design unique, apart from it’s vibrant colors.
Once you have finished painting on one side, let the surface dry completely. Only once the surface is dry, turn the wood over to paint the other side. Again, make sure the entire wood is primed so you get the best results. If the wood surface has a base, paint that first and allow it to dry, as this allows you to rotate the art project without having to lay the wood on its side.
After you have finished painting, allow the art project to dry completely, typically over a 24-hour period. Some types of acrylic paint usually dry faster, but 24 hours is a good recommended time to guarantee the paint dries perfectly.
Finally, using a sponge brush, apply a sealant to seal in the paint. The purpose of a sealant is to protect the paint from the elements. For items that expect to see heavy use, you may want to apply hard shellac and a number of coats for the proper sealant.
Sealing off the work of art is important, since it will prevent it from getting worn out with regular wear and tear, especially if it is a drawer or something else that will see daily use. I use a spray on sealant for larger projects, and sometimes for just a small wall shelf. I find it easier to cover the whole project this way.
Can You Use Acrylic Paint on Stained Wood?
Yes, you can paint over stained wood. In fact, there are many ways to paint stained wood and the method you choose should depend on the type of stain used, the state of the wood, and whether or not you’re painting a piece of furniture or some other object.
Just like the steps above, prepare your materials and the wood you will be painting. Clean the wood with a cloth to remove any dust or dirt on it. Once your wood is cleaned, sand it down with what I recommend at least a 150 grit sandpaper, keep in mind that the state of the wood will determine the amount of sanding needed.
Many stained woods have a waterproofing quality that give the wood a glossy, smooth finish. Sanding the stain is helpful because it roughens the finish, allowing the paint to adhere to the surface of the wood.
In some cases, the stain may not be glossy and paint may have no trouble adhering to the wood. In this case, you will only need to sand the wood if it’s too rough in some places.
Next, paint the wood with primer as this is especially important if the wood has been stained to a dark color. If you skip this step, your final color may come out different due to the prior dark stain. When purchasing a primer, ask the paint professional what type of stain-killer primers are available for purchase.
Also, let them know what type of stain you’re painting over (oil-based or water-based), and what type of paint you intend to use.
Once the primer is dry, you can start the paint process. I recommend multiple layers to ensure adequate coverage, especially if you are painting a light based color.
Remember, do not replace any drawers or knobs until the paint has fully dried for at least two hours. I would wait about 12-24 hours to make sure everything and every corner has dried properly. A good tip to know is that paint is not dry until it no longer feels tacky.
Which Paint Is Best for Woods?
When choosing the colors for your project, there are a few different types of acrylic paint to choose from. You can buy acrylics in two grades: Artists quality and Students quality. Artists quality paints (sometimes referred to as “professional”) come in a wide range of colors, and have a high concentration of finely ground pigment.
Students colors are cheaper but the trade off is a smaller selection, lower pigment levels and the possible inclusion of fillers which may weaken the color strength. The difference between the two isn’t just how they’re made – often it’s noticeable that artists’ colors are more vibrant and have a smoother texture that makes them easier to blend and layer.
If you’re a beginner and on a budget, it’s fine to start off with students quality paint, but I’d recommend graduating to artists colors once you start producing artwork that you care about preserving. Another option is to take the middle road by getting students paints for the earth colors and the artists colors for the pure intense colors.
|Acrylic Paint Types||Description|
|Typically the least expensive paint available. Tend to have less pigment than other paints|
|Gouache||Similar to water colors. Greater intensity of color. Excellent reflective and opaque qualities.|
|Fluorescent||Bright colors that appear to glow. Glow effect achieved through use of a black light.|
|Craft Grade||Generally inexpensive and versatile. |
How Long Does Acrylic Paint Take to Dry on Wood?
A lot of artists prefer acrylics because they dry so quickly, but this can be a hassle if the paint dries out on the brush or palette before you’re done with it. When I’m finished with a wood project, it’s typically dry in an hour or so, depending the size of my project.
When I paint a large cube shelf, it will generally take anywhere from 4 to 12 hours to dry. On a regular canvas however your paint will be dry within the hour or even get clumpy as you’re an hour into your canvas project. You will then need to mix and add a little more paint to keep your acrylic from drying completely.
Luckily, you have some options if you’d like to extend the drying time of your acrylics. Artists who like the slow drying time of oil paints, but still prefer the versatility and permanence of acrylics, can either use a retarding medium or buy interactive/open acrylics, which is a relatively new form of acrylic paint that is manufactured to include a retardant that can slow drying time down to as long as a few weeks.
Open acrylics are a convenient solution for people looking to replicate oil paints with acrylics.
So whether you’re painting on regular wood or stained wood, just remember to follow the steps and check out my other articles for more information regarding your projects.