Yes, you can use acrylic paint on wood. This is a fantastic way to customize and decorate wooden furniture, crafts, art panels, keepsakes, decor pieces, and so much more..
There are many approaches to this method of painting, and it works with almost every type of wood, from furniture to door…
It is best to consider how you will approach the project before you begin, and this article will describe how you can best go about creating your wooden masterpiece.
How to Paint on Wood with Acrylic?
Now let’s get into the nitty gritty of prepping your wood and mastering acrylic painting techniques for stellar results!
Step 1: Preparing Wood for Acrylic Painting
Properly preparing your wooden surface is crucial before starting any acrylic painting project. Follow these steps:
Cleaning and Sanding
- Wipe away any dust, grease, or debris with a lint-free cloth
- Lightly sand the surface with 220 grit sandpaper
- Always sand with the wood grain for a smooth finish
- Completely wipe away sanding residue
- Primer provides a uniform base layer for paint adhesion
- I recommend water-based primers like gesso for acrylic painting
- Apply 2-3 thin, even coats of primer and let dry fully between coats
- Use a sealant like polycrylic after painting to protect the finish
- For furniture or outdoor pieces, use a protective outdoor sealant
With proper prep, your acrylic paint will bond tightly to the wood for a long-lasting finish.
PRO TIP: Remember to sand with the lines (grains) of the wood to preserve the natural look of the wooden face.
Having quality paints and brushes makes a world of difference for your acrylic wood painting projects. Here are my top tips:
- Artist quality acrylics have superior pigmentation and last longer
- Liquid paints offer smooth blending compared to heavier bodied paints
- Get a starter set with at least the primary colors plus black and white
Recommended Brands: Liquitex, Winsor & Newton, Golden, DecoArt
- Natural hair brushes hold and deliver paint smoothly
- Get a variety of shapes/sizes: flats, rounds, filberts, liners
- Store brushes tip-up to maintain their shape
Helpful Brush Styles:
- Flats – Backgrounds and broad strokes
- Rounds – Details and textures
- Liners – Thin, precise lines
- Fans – Blending and feathering
With quality paints and brushes, you’ll achieve professional-looking results as a beginner acrylic painter on wood.
Step 2: Painting Wood with Acrylics
Follow these steps for stellar acrylic painting results on your first wood project:
1. Sketch the Design
Lightly sketch your design first with a pencil. This lets you plan the composition and correct any mistakes before painting.
2. Apply the Base Coat
Use a large flat brush to apply an even base coat of acrylic paint in your background color. Let it dry fully before the next layers.
3. Block in Shapes and Darks
Mix your darker acrylic colors and use a round brush to loosely paint the main shapes and shadows. Don’t worry about perfect lines yet.
4. Refine Details and Lines
Switch to a liner brush for crisp, thin lines. Take your time perfecting the details – no rush!
5. Soften and Blend Edges
Use a damp brush to softly blend and feather any hard edges if desired. Let dry before sealing.
Be patient with yourself as you build up layers. Acrylic painting is a fun, forgiving process!
Advanced Acrylic Painting Techniques on Wood
Once you’ve got the basics down, try these advanced techniques for breathtaking acrylic artwork on wood:
- Dry brushing – Creates weathered, textured effects by brushing over dry paint with little to no paint on your brush
- Washing – Thin paints to a wash consistency and apply transparent layers for depth
- Glazing – Brush on layers of gloss medium over dry paint for a glass-like finish
- Scraping – Use the edge of a palette knife to scrape away paint for interesting textures
- Splattering – Flick paint bristles with your finger to create small splatter effects
Don’t be afraid to get creative and experiment on scrap wood pieces before incorporating advanced techniques into your finished paintings.
Step 3: Seal your Art
After you are happy with your design and you are sure you do not want to add anything else to it, you should seal your artwork. This will protect it from wear and tear over the years.
- Wait about a week for the acrylic paint to dry, and then seal it with your preferred finish or varnish. Let this dry 1-2 weeks before handling the piece.
- Apply 2-3 thin, even coats of a sealant, allowing drying in between
- Choose satin or matte sealants for flat finishes or gloss for durability
- Use extra protective sealants for furniture and outdoor projects
- Acrylic resin
Without a sealant, your painted wood will be vulnerable to staining, scratches and wear. Proper sealing locks in the paint for years of enjoyment!
Troubleshooting Acrylic Painting on Wood
Painting on wood comes with unique challenges. Here are solutions to common acrylic painting problems:
|Paint soaking into wood too quickly||Properly prime the wood first before painting.|
|Brush strokes showing through finished paint||Use high-quality brushes and apply thin layers of paint.|
|Acrylic paint peeling or chipping off wood||Ensure proper prep and sealing for paint adhesion.|
|Paint colors turning dull on wood over time||Use lightfast, artist-quality paints and seal correctly.|
|Paint rubbing off too easily from handling||Apply sufficient coats of a protective sealant.|
With some trial and error, you’ll get the hang of troubleshooting any acrylic painting issues on wood!
Let your imagination run wild! Acrylics can transform any wooden surface into a personalized work of art.
Comparing Acrylics to Other Wood Painting Mediums
Acrylics have distinct advantages and limitations compared to other mediums like oils, watercolors, and wood stains:
- Acrylics dry faster which is more beginner friendly
- Oils blend better and offer more open working time
- Acrylics have more vibrant colors on wood than watercolors
- Watercolors flow and bleed more making crisp lines difficult
- Acrylics sit on top of wood while stains penetrate the grain
- Stains enhance the natural color vs. opaque acrylic paint
Evaluate your project needs, skill level, and desired finished look when deciding on an acrylic vs. other wood painting medium.
Safety Tips for Working with Acrylic Paint
When painting on wood with acrylics, follow these safety precautions:
- Work in a well-ventilated area and take breaks
- Wear gloves and eye protection when sanding
- Avoid contact between paint/thinners and skin/eyes
- Clean hands thoroughly after painting
- Dispose of rags properly to avoid combustion
- Store acrylic paints in a cool, dry location
Practicing studio safety will allow you to focus on the fun, creative process and continue making art for years to come!
Do I Need to Prime the Wood Before Painting It?
You don’t have to prime the wood before painting it, but this is not a bad idea. Primer prepares the wood for painting and allows the paint to stick to the surface of the wood better.
Because the wood is so porous, you may find that the paint soaks in and you need to use more coats to achieve your desired look.
Also, you will see that it is more difficult to make clean lines without primer as the paint is pulled into the wood on either side of the brushstroke.
As type of primer, I would use Gesso or any other primer suitable for wood surface. These usually come in white, which will allow the colors of your design to shine through the most clearly.
You can also add a little bit of acrylic paint to your primer to tint it.
PRO TIP: If you want the natural color and grain of the wood to shine through, use a clear primer.
What is the Right Type of Acrylic Paint for Wood?
Any acrylic paint will get the job done depending on your price range and investment in the piece. Price is a helpful indicator of the quality of the paints you are using.
Different Acrylic pain grades
There are craft grade and student grade paints that are typically cheaper and good for beginners.
If you are a more serious artist and want something with more vivid colors that will last longer, go with professional or artist grade acrylic paint. This type will be more expensive, but the quality will be worth it.
Arteza offers a compromise between quality and price with their outdoor acrylic paint set.
This set works on a variety of surfaces, and since it is made for outdoor use, it won’t fade over time.
This is a great option if you want quality acrylic paint for various projects but you don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars to get started.
Liquitex, Winsor & Newton, Golden, DecoArt
What Kind of Brush Should I Use?
You can use a lot of the same principles for choosing paint when choosing the brush you want to use. Typically, more expensive, artist grade brushes will be higher quality and last longer. But, if you do not want to invest as much in this project, any brush or pack of brushes from a craft store will work.
Something else to consider when choosing a brush for wood Painting:
- If you are painting over a larger surface, use a bigger brush to paint the background.
- Use a thinner brush to add details and sharp lines.
- It is best to get a pack of different-sized brushes if you are painting a more detailed piece. This also allows you to use a different brush for each color if you are painting with multiple colors at a time.
These brushes from Arteza won’t shed and are very economical. This is a great option for beginners who want a good base set of brushes for more detailed artwork.
For those of you who will paint larger wooden pieces of furniture, I recommend using these: Pro Grade Brushes.
More about in related blog post: How to seal acrylic painting?
How Do I Maintain or Clean My Wood Painted with Acrylic?
Depending on the type a finish used, you can typically wipe down your piece with a cloth or use a soft paintbrush to brush off dust or dirt.
If you used a removable varnish to finish your painting, then you can wipe that off using the manufacturer’s recommended varnish remover and then revarnish it.
Yes, you can paint directly on wood with acrylic paint. Acrylic paint adheres well to most surfaces, including wood. The composition of acrylic paint allows it to bond to the wood surface without a primer.
To prepare wood for painting with acrylics, start by making sure the surface is clean and dry. Any dirt, grease or dust will prevent the paint from properly adhering. Lightly sanding the wood will help prepare the surface by giving it a bit of texture
Yes, you can use 100% acrylic paint on wood surfaces. The binders used in acrylic paint formulas allow them to strongly stick to the wood. When dried fully, a 100% acrylic paint will be durable and flexible on the wood surface. Acrylics are designed to bond well and hold up to the natural movement of wood over time.
There are a few tips for making acrylic paint last a long time on a wood surface. First, apply a primer or gesso before painting to improve adhesion. Sand lightly between coats of paint to help each layer bond smoothly. When finished, applying a clear acrylic sealer or varnish will protect the painted surface from moisture and scratches. It’s also best to avoid painting in very humid or damp conditions. Finally, be sure to allow the proper drying time between coats of paint. Following these steps will help acrylic paint remain vibrant and lasting on wood.