Can You Use Oil Paint On Wood?

Can You Use Oil Paint On Wood?Painting on canvas is fun and traditional, but every now and again you want to throw your paints on to something else and that brings us to our primary subject of the day. Can you use oil paint on wood? The good news is that you certainly can but you are going to need to slap some primer on it first. You want to make sure that the wood is dried out and that there is a thin layer in place for your oils to properly stick to and dry on. As long as you prime it first, the sky is the limit!

Today I’ll tell you a little more about painting on wood. We’ll go into drying, whether acrylic or oils are better for food, and what the best paints to use on wood might be. If you wanna decorate some wood this weekend then you’ve come to the right place.

Let’s get started!

Will oil paint dry on wood?Will oil paint dry on wood

Yes, oil paint will dry on wood, you just need to make sure to prime it first so that it’s going to behave as-expected. There are 3 easy ways to do this. You can prime it with Gesso, for instance, like you would with an older style canvas, and this gives you the option to go with different textures so that you can get a very specific look to your work.

Another option is going to be turpentine, which is a bit on the stinky side, but it does work a treat. If you want to use it, however, you’ll want to mix it up in equal parts with Tung oil so that you can treat all of the wood beforehand to keep it from warping in the future and ruining your work. We’ll call this option TnT, because that makes it easy to remember!

Finally, Linseed oil works, and it’s something that you’ll have on hand if you are doing regular oil painting, just be sure that after treat the wood with linseed or with your TnT mix that you work with a mask or a respirator and that you are in a well-aerated place because the fumes are quite toxic and you definitely don’t want to get a lungful.

Once your wood is fully dried out, you can paint right on it and your oils should stick and dry nicely, just like they would on a prepared canvas.

Is oil paint or acrylic better for wood?

Is oil paint or acrylic better for woodWhen it comes to acrylic vs. oils for painting on wood, acrylic paints come out on top. Yes, you can use either, but acrylics have the advantage here. The reason for this is that wood tends to warp over time and that’s going to crack or otherwise decimate oil painting, whereas acrylics form a semi-plastic when they dry that is flexible and is going to be more resistant to the natural warping of the wood.

Mind you, if you prime the wood first then this is not something that is going to happen anytime soon, but EVENTUALLY down the line that treatment is going to wear down and then all it’s going to take is a little moisture or a little expansion/contraction from heat and cold and then the wood is going to flex and when it does… crack goes the oil!

On the bright side, acrylics are generally cheaper than oils, so you can save your oils for the canvas and simply pick up some cheap acrylics to paint the wood with. They’ll last longer and the pigments will be appreciably brighter on the wooden surface.


What is the best paint to use on wood?What is the best paint to use on wood

When it comes to painting wood, your best options are going to be either acrylic paints or latex paints. Both are going to be more flexible in regards to the wood stretching out or contracting and this makes them the better fit by far. Yes, you can prime the surface ahead of time if you are dead-set on using your oils and it will last a good, long time, but if you really want your work to last then the best option is going to be acrylics or latex paints – hands down.

If you want to go with latex, I recommend getting a water-based latex paint and selecting the glossy variety. This looks really nice if you are painting on furniture or even just making a sign. You get a solis, shiny finished work that is much better than a flat finish (in my humble opinion).

In closing

So, can you use oil paint on wood? Yes, you definitely can, but you’re going to need to prime it first. Use some gesso, TnT (turpentine and tung oil), or good ol’ fashioned linseed oil to treat the wood so that it won’t end up warping on you and destroying your work. Acrylic paints are going to be a better choice, but as long as your prime the wood your oils will be fine.

Before I conclude this article, I’ve got a 3rd party article that will help you to select wood for oil painting on and you can find it here. It’s got some recommendations that are solid and should help you to select the best wood for your project. Have fun with it and don’t forget to prime that wood first!