Can You Use Acrylic Paint On Balsa Wood?

Can you use acrylic paint on balsa wood

Different woods are going to take or even reject your acrylic paints with differing results. Balsa wood is a great example of this. So, can you use acrylic paint on balsa wood? Technically, you can, but it’s not really recommended. The balsa wood is too porous and it’s going to drink up your acrylic and possibly bleed it or mix it up in interested, but undesirable ways. Treating it in advance with a sandable primer will work but another paint will be much easier and save you time. 

Just in case you are curious (or just a little stubborn, like me), I’ll tell you how it’s done so that you can give it a try if you like and see for yourself!

The problem with painting balsa woodthe problem with painting with balsa wood

Balsa wood is fun to work with. It’s easy to cut and shape, lightweight, and its workability means that your project takes less time. That said, it’s also notoriously difficult to paint without preparation. The problem that you run into if that all these qualities that make it fun to work with come at a cost. Balsa wood is lightweight and easy to cut because it is highly porous.

While this makes it an ideal material for making things like models, when it comes to paint the balsa wood tends to soak it up like a sponge. This can be frustrating, as you might not get the colors that you like and what you do get could come out uneven.


Thankfully, that doesn’t mean that you CAN’T paint it. Let’s look at how it’s done.

How to paint balsa wood

how to paint balsa woodFirst off, you’re going to need to use a sandable primer. A sanding sealer works a treat for this and you can get it at your local hardware store. This will prepare the surface and you can then sand it a little between coats so that you can get your paint applied properly in layers and then it’s going to look it’s best.

For uncovered areas and interiors, just a few coats of cheap acrylic should be fine, but you’re going to do some detail work then I’d recommend that you look for some acrylic paints with a faster dry-time. This will allow you to get the details on and to see how they look without as much frustration involed in seeing how the finished look turns out.

Using a fine grit sandpaper, you can lightly sand between layers to rough up the surface and maximize the holding potential for your acrylics. If you aren’t using waterproof acrylics, then a quick waterproofing or a polyurethane coat afterwards is a very good idea.

…and that, my friends, is how it’s done.

It might be easier to stain or dye it insteadIt might be easier to stain or dye it instead

Staining or dyeing the wood, if you are building a model, is an alternative choice that you might find a little easier. Painting with acrylics looks good but until you’ve tried painting balsa wood you don’t really know what a headache it can be. As it gobbles up your paint, interesting and often vexing things can and do occur so even if it’s just for the base overall color, dyeing is simply a good and practical idea.

Just sand down the piece thoroughly before you add any glue or anything else and immediately dye the pieces. You can’t sand in-between and the layer of dye might be thin, but it will generally look nice and get the job done.

After that, you can try fine acrylic lines for details, just use fast-drying acrylics and with a little luck the details will stick well enough to take.

Sadly, I can’t guarantee the finished results with either of the methods, due to the porosity of the wood involved, but experiment a little with each and you’ll quickly find what works with your materials at home.

In closing – Balsa wood is going to be tricky, but possible.

Well, there you have it. Can you use acrylic paint on balsa wood? Sure, you can, but you’ll have to prepare the surface with sandable primer and results may be lackluster at best. Without preparation, the balsa wood will simply absorb most of the acrylics and the results will be chaotic at best. It’s easier just to select another paint.

You can always try, of course.  If you want to get a little advanced preview of how the paint will look, try mixing up some specific blues and even purples and see how they come out once you’ve applied a coat or two and let it dry. If you’d like to see some information about different paints and woods in advance, then check out this external link here and you’ll find a paint guide that can tell you a little more.

Alternately, we’ve got a great article here too that will work, entitled ‘Can you use acrylic paint on wood’. Whatever you choose, we wish you the best of luck with your balsa wood project!







Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.