There are a couple of reasons that you might want to sand some acrylic paint. Usually, these boil down to either wanting to prepare it so that something else you are about to put on will stick or the more interesting one, you want to selectively peel off layers to show the color beneath. So, how soon can you sand acrylic paint, anyways?
You can sand acrylic paint as soon as it’s dry. Most people say to wait 35 or 40 minutes, but I recommend at least an hour. That way if you’ve got any accidental, uneven drying then waiting that extra time keeps you from schmearing paint everywhere on accident.
Can I sand acrylic paint to make it smooth?
Yes, you definitely can, but you want to be super careful about it. When you are first learning, it is very easy to sand too much, and then you’ve got to paint it on again and wait an hour before you can give it another try.
That said, in practiced hands, sandpaper is like having c chalkboard eraser for your work. Over time, you can get really good at it and ‘erasing’ things that you don’t like can be done quite skillfully and to good effect.
The most important thing is that you’ll want to use extra-fine grit sandpaper only. Anything else is going to ‘scuff’ more than it’s going to sand, and you’re not going to have a pleasant day. After you’ve got some extra fine grit sandpaper, then the rest of it is just practice, practice, practice!
Can you sand paint off canvas?
Yes, you can! There are two ways to have fun with this. The first is, in effect, ‘sketching’ on your dried acrylic paint in order to reveal the layer below, sort of like the breaking down of a jawbreaker candy. This is fun to do but I’ve only played a little with it, so if the idea strikes your fancy then be sure to post your work online so that everyone can enjoy your cool new trick.
The next reason for sanding down a canvas is because, hey, canvas can get expensive. Sanding it down lets you re-use a canvas and it also gets you some of that all-important practice with your fine grit sandpaper.
It takes time and patience, but the way that you do it is you sand lightly with your sandpaper until only a few bits of paint are still remaining in the canvas and those you can paint over with 3 – 4 coats of your new best friend – gesso.
This should clear up your canvas nicely in preparation for whatever you’ve got planned next!
How long should acrylic paint dry before sanding?
One hour should be sufficient time for your acrylic to dry before sanding. Anything less is a risk, really. While acrylic paint is supposed to dry in 20 – 30 minutes and you might be eager to start your sanding, I really recommend waiting.
Too many times when we are painting something, we get an idea about a detail that we want to add and start layering right away, without considering if that suspiciously-thick bottom layer has dried properly. This is a habit you’ll get out of fast, of course, because it generally leads to peeling and other unpleasantness, but every now and again it’s gonna happen.
If you give it an hour, then the layers should all be properly dried and if any cracking or peeling is gonna happen, then it should have happened by now. At this point, you should be set to sand away to your heart’s content without the worry that there’s wet paint waiting to surprise you underneath that top layer you’d just painted.
Sanding is a useful skill and I hope that after this article, you’ll go out and get some fine grit sandpaper so that you can start learning it on your own. Remember, you can start sanding about an hour after you have finished painting, because your acrylic paint should be sufficiently dry by then. Feel free to strip layers or simply smooth your work and as you grow in efficiency with your sandpaper you’ll soon have the equivalent of a ‘magic eraser’ for your canvas… it’s just going to take a little practice.
Speaking of erasers, here’s a 3rd party link on how to fix mistakes in your paintings that you might find useful. In the meantime, get that sandpaper and start practicing. You’ll be happy that you did!