Using Acrylic paint on wood is not only easy, but it also looks great. I get asked all the time about this subject so I thought I’d throw together a little tutorial that can give you an idea of what you need and how it’s done. Today we’ll talk about using your acrylic paints on wood and go over the best paints, primers, and the steps that you need to do it right.
Feel like using your acrylic paints on some wood today? Then let’s get started!
Prime it, paint it, seal it
Painting wood with your acrylics is actually quite easy. Acrylic paint looks great on wood and as long as you do it right, it will stay on the surface and you can enjoy your work for a long time. When you boil down the steps, they are basically just ‘prime it, paint it, and seal it’ but I recommend that you put a little more into it if you really want the best results.
At the end of this article, I’ll detail the process from start to finish, so that you know what you should do and if you decide to take any shortcuts, well, that’s up to you!
Do you really have to prime wood before painting?
While you don’t technically have to prime the wood first, I always like to do it anyway. First off, it makes the surface silky-smooth because you’ll want to sand it down with a nice 180 or 140 grit sandpaper first and then finally, because your work will stick better with that application of primer.
Mind you, the differences are minute, but for me it’s just a simple question of ‘do I want this to look as perfect as possible?’ and the answer is always a resounding ‘yes!’.
Finding the best primers for using Acrylic paint on wood
While it’s an optional step, priming really does set the stage for how your work is going to look in the end. It takes a little work, but why not do it right? Your work deserves it!
Before using acrylic paint on wood, prime the surface with the following simple steps:
- Give the wood a light sanding
- Clean it thoroughly and let it dry
- Apply your primer
After you have applied your primer according to the steps on the package (which generally boil down to ‘paint it on with a brush’ or ‘spray evenly’, but check your package) then let it set out overnight.
Popular crafting sites such as Craftknights recommend some primers I’ve used with excellent results. These should give you an idea of what you are looking for or you can simply use one of them if you want to keep things simple. They both work great, so you really can’t go wrong with either selection.
Kilz latex primer
Kilz is great stuff. It comes in a large can, so you’ve got a lot to use for your projects, and it works on multiple surfaces. You can use it on drywall, metal, wood, and more, so it’s extremely versatile and it’s easy to use. It’s also got a minimal odor to it, so it won’t stink up your workspace though you should always ventilate an area before using any sort of primer.
It also covers up stains and this stuff dries in about an hour, so consider it for your projects. This is good stuff!
You can use Liquitex Gesso as a primer and it really works a treat! You can make this stuff at home if you Google the recipe, but if you just want to buy a bottle then it’s readily available and it shows off your acrylic work nicely.
One of the advantages of using Gesso for your work is that you usually only need 1 primer coat. After 10 or 20 minutes then it has dried enough to get a second coat if you like, but I recommend that you let it dry for at least 24 hours before you start painting your wood.
What paints are best for woods?
A lot of paints actually work well on woods but Acrylics are by far my favorite. They go on well and if properly sealed, they’ll look vibrant and beautiful for years before you need to give them a ‘touch-up’. You do have to seal your work, however, unless you’ve got some sort of specialized acrylic. Personally, I stick to the basics with standard acrylics that I’ve already used and like the look of and just let them dry and give it a good seal. That always results in colors I trust, locked into place for a good, long time, and that’s what you want, no?
You can use Acrylics on stained wood but you’ll need to do a little sanding and priming first. This is
“You’ll need to do a little sanding and priming first”
because any sort of stain application on the wood that is still there also had a good seal applied, and you can bet on that!
A little sanding will remove that protective seal so that you can paint on it, but before you do, apply a little of your favorite primer so that the surface is ideal for error-free painting and just be sure to seal it up when you are done.
Is acrylic paint good for wood
Yes! Acrylic paints look great on wood and in my opinion, they were practically made for it. As long as you are preparing the surface first with a little sanding and priming and then sealing it off, your paint will look great and it’s not going to hurt the wood at all.
Now, if you are a little new to this, you will need to select some Acrylics that you like so let’s talk a little about that.
The best Acrylic paints for wood
Finding the best Acrylic paints for wood is tricky at best. This is because we all have our own personal preferences and you really don’t know what you like the best until you use it! That said, I can share some of my favorites to help you get started.
Give one or more of these acrylic paints a try and see what you like the best. Try them by themselves and try a few of your own personal mixes. I think you will very much like the results. Let’s go into these acrylics in a little more detail, though, and I’ll share a few pros and cons to help you decide.
Arteza Acrylic Paint
This Arteza Acrylic set is pretty awesome. It’s ACMI-safety certified, so it’s good for kids and for adults, and you’ve got 60 colors from the get-go so you can really go wild with your painting project. It’s non-washable and fade-resistant, so when you put it on then it will stay and it keeps looking good.
Now, on the caveat side, if you are an experienced artist then you might get a little frustrated when trying to blend these colors. While you get a large assortment, I sometimes get some inconsistent results when blending, so this paint is better for simple, out-of-the-bottle application and may not be a good fit if you want to mix and match.
Apple Barrel Acrylics
Apple Barrel is made in the USA and a little bit goes a long way. This Apple Barrel Acrylics set comes with 18 colors for you to mix and match and when applied, you get a nice matte finish to your work. These Acrylics are pretty thick, so you can cover quite a lot of area with just a little if you are patient, but you do need to be careful. The downside of the product’s thickness is that it can dry in the bottles if you are not careful, so you may want to pour a little out at a time, apply it, and then repeat so that you aren’t leaving your bottles open.
That said, it’s a great product and well-worth checking out.
Castle Art Acrylics
While it only comes in 12 colors for this particular set, Castle Art Acrylics are among my favorites for painting wood and I’ll tell you why. It provides you with exactly what you need, in that the colors are vibrant, washable (so seal your work if you wanna keep it!), and you can use it diluted or straight out of the tubes.
As far as caveats, a potential dealbreaker might be the smell (it doesn’t bother me personally, but it is a little strong), and you have to be careful about closing up your tubes or it’s gonna get a little clumpy.
“These are some good-looking Acrylics”
That said, if you are careful with it and don’t mind the scent, these are some good-looking Acrylics that you’ll get a lot of enjoyment out of.
Finding a good sealer for your Acrylic paint work
Okay, so you’ve primed your wood to prepare the surface and you’ve worked your magic to paint something beautiful (or something to scare the roommate) on your wooden surface. The next step is to preserve your work against the elements. A good seal will keep your work from chipping or flaking and help to give it a little UV and water protection as well.
This is not a step that you want to skip if you want to preserve your work, but thankfully choosing a sealant is a piece of cake. For sealing, a good Polycrylic is my favorite choice.
This Minwax Polycrylic provides a protective seal after you’ve applied your acrylic paint on wood surfaces and it comes in gloss, semi glosse, matte, and more, so that you can get the protective surface that you feel will fit the best with your work. The linked example is approximately half a pint in size and it dried in about 2 hours, so it’s ready for a second coat fairly quickly. Give it a try and see what you think. Personally, it’s my favorite seal, but as this is an individual choice then your mileage will vary.
The painting process outlined in simple steps
Once you’ve got your supplies then the actual process of putting those Acrylics to wood only takes a few simple steps. Here is what you need to do:
- Prepare your wood for your acrylics with a little fine sanding to smooth up the process and a little cleaning to make sure that you have an immaculate surface dried and ready for your work.
- Apply the primer of your choice and let it dry per the specifications detailed on the product packaging.
- Apply your background paint-coats and let them dry thoroughly.
- Paint in the more detailed portions of your art project and let these dry thoroughly as well.
- Apply your sealant and let it dry completely in a nice, well-ventilated area and voilla, you are done!
That’s how it’s done, folks!
Today we’ve gone over the process of using acrylic paint on wood and as you can see, it’s really a piece of cake. Just be sure that you experiment with your acrylics to find the colors that you like, as this is really the most time-consuming part. I recommend that you get in the habit of picking up pieces of scrap wood that you can store and use for practice or when you simply want to see how a particular color looks when it dries.
Beyond this, just stick to the steps I’ve shared with you today and practice, practice, practice… you’re going to love the results!