How to Paint on Wood with Acrylic: a Comprehensive Guide

We all know that there are many different ways to paint on wood. But one of the most popular methods is using acrylic paints, which can be used for both indoor and outdoor projects. It is also a challenging medium that takes practice and patience. Acrylic paint dries fast, which means it doesn’t give you much time to fix mistakes or make corrections.

In this blog post, we will answer common questions about how can acrylic paint be used on wood and how to create a beautiful piece of art from start to finish!

Can You Use Acrylic Paint on Wood?

Acrylic is a great choice when working on wood surfaces since this type of paint has good adhesion properties which makes it easy for covering objects easily and evenly without causing issues or requiring multiple coats along the way. It’s a popular medium because you can achieve so many different looks depending on what type of brush and technique is used to apply the paint.

As long as you use the right type of brush and apply it to a clean surface, there is no reason why your project won’t turn out beautifully! Whether it’s a painting for your home or an art piece that will sell in a gallery, acrylic paints offer endless possibilities when working with wood surfaces.

Types of Wood Surfaces You Can Paint on

You can paint on wood of all different types, including plywood and MDF. When painting a flat surface like a tabletop or piece of paneling, you won’t have to worry about the grain because your acrylic paint will be applied directly to the smooth side.

But when working with wood logs or reclaimed pieces from old barns, there might be some texture which means you should test each one before diving in!

You can also paint on stained wood. That’s one of the great things about acrylic paints – they dry completely clear! The most important thing to consider is the type of stain that was applied before painting.

Painting Furniture with Acrylic Paint

Painting furniture is always a popular choice because it gives new life to old pieces. Just like painting on any other surface, make sure you sand the piece first and use a primer if necessary.

Should You Prepare Your Wood Before Painting on It?

When using acrylic paint on wood, it’s important to prepare the surface before painting begins. The main reason you should prepare wood is that it will help the paint adhere better to your surface. It also prevents moisture from seeping in and ruining the piece. Some common prep work includes sanding, priming, or staining if necessary.

You can leave some natural texture by not applying primer on rustic pieces of furniture before painting them with acrylics.

This look adds more character than a smooth finish would, but keep in mind that this type of preparation may make it harder for paints to stick without using spray-on adhesive first (which is an option).

How to Prepare the Wood for Acrylic Paint

Things You Will Need

  • Cleaning sponge
  • Water
  • Vinegar
  • Wood putty, if necessary
  • Sandpaper or sanding block
  • Primer/sealer coat (optional but recommended for outdoor pieces)

Steps to Follow

Prepare Your Work Area

Make sure you are working in a well-ventilated area that is large enough to accommodate your piece.

Always wear protective gear like gloves and goggles when handling paint because they can cause irritation if not used properly.

Tape off any areas of your project where you don’t want acrylic paint getting on them with painter’s tape so that there aren’t any mistakes made before applying coats of primer/sealer coat. Sometimes using a newspaper instead works just as well!

Clean the Surface

The first step is always to clean the wood surface using a damp cloth. Clean off any dirt, dust particles, or debris from your piece because they can create imperfections once painted over!

Sometimes you might need to wipe over it with an even mixture of vinegar and water before doing anything else because certain stains won’t come off as easily if they have been sitting on there too long.

Sand the Wood

If there are significant cracks in your project, make sure you fill them in with wood putty first. You should also sand down any rough surfaces or splinters so that your brush doesn’t snag or create unwanted scratches in your final product.

Wipe the sanding dust and clean the wood once again.

Seal the Wood

It is very important to seal unfinished wood before applying acrylic paint because otherwise, this could cause moisture damage that will not only ruin the project but also endanger anyone around it by trapping water underneath where bugs like carpenter ants can gain access through tiny openings.

If planning to use outdoors, always remember to apply at least one coat of good quality sealer first even if you are using exterior grade paints since they still won’t do as much protection against moisture and UV damage without doing so! You can either use a brush or spray-on sealer coat depending on what works best for your specific project.

How to Seal Acrylic Paint on Wood

There are multiple ways for how to apply a sealer coat depending on what look you’re going for. Sometimes you might want to apply it with a brush, which is perfect if adding texture. This method works well for smaller projects and rustic pieces in general since the unevenness of your surface creates an interesting finish when dry!

If wanting a smoother look or a larger project area, try using a spray instead and watch how quickly things come together!

Make sure you’re far enough away from your piece that it does not trap any moisture underneath- spraying too closely can cause dripping as well as drips on other parts where they aren’t wanted (like into cracks).

Another option is rollers like those used for painting walls/ceilings that provide more even coverage than brushes do.

Prime the Wood

You should also prime the wood with gesso before painting for a more professional look. This will help fill in any gaps or pores, making the surface smoother and preventing your paint from soaking into it too deeply which can make cracks/holes, later on, show up much worse!

If painting an outdoor piece, make sure there is no moisture before beginning to paint! Afterward, cover it up so that dust doesn’t settle on top of your project as it dries over time.

Difference Between Priming and Sealing the Wood

Priming is applying a very thin layer of paint to the wood in order to make the color go on more smoothly and evenly whereas sealing is coating it with a clear, protective coat that prevents moisture damage from trapping dangerous water underneath where bugs like carpenter ants can enter through tiny openings.

Sealing also helps even out blotchy spots leftover from sanding down areas too uneven for primer by filling these in before painting which makes the surface smoother so your acrylic finish goes on much easier without getting caught or sticking!

Remember to work from left-right when brushing because doing otherwise will create unwanted brushstrokes and imperfections making things seem less professional looking than they should be after including all this extra effort!

Adding texture by using sandpaper or an orbital sander can also be done but make sure not to press too hard because these tools will cause scratches that show up worse after applying paint unless intentional for some kind of rustic look.

How to Paint on Wood with Acrylic

Things You Will Need

There are a few things you will need to properly paint on wood surfaces. If you haven’t done much painting before, don’t worry because this list is easy to follow!

Here are the items that will help guarantee your project goes off without any issues:

  • A medium-sized round or angled brush for larger projects.
  • Smaller bristle brushes of varying sizes if doing detailed work like carving out letters or shapes in your piece.
  • An assortment of acrylic paints including primary colors, white, black, and grays.
  • A drop cloth or tarp to put over your workspace so that you don’t get acrylic paint on anything other than your project!
  • Thinners are necessary if using mediums with heavy viscosity since they will help balance out the flow of the paints. You can also use water but it might dilute certain pigments too much in some cases.

Steps to Follow

Prepare Your Work Area and Protect Yourself

  1. Prepare your work area by covering surfaces with newspaper or a drop cloth. Thinners and paints can get messy and you don’t want to accidentally spill them on the floor!
  2. Protect yourself by wearing an old shirt, long pants that are okay getting stained, and closed-toe shoes if painting indoors. If doing this outside make sure to avoid any areas of skin exposed except for hands/feet if necessary (most likely not).

Paint Your Base Coat

Next up it is time for you to use acrylic paints on that piece of wood now that it has been properly prepared with all the necessary materials from earlier steps.

Using medium viscosity brushes paint over your project in light coats waiting between each coat before applying more so make sure not to overload any area with too much color at once which could cause dripping and other unwanted effects if done wrong!

Apply two thin layers making sure they are completely dry before moving forward by touching them lightly with your fingertip checking if they are still tacky instead of wet.

Stencil Your Design

There are a few ways that you can go about stenciling your design onto the surface to paint. You can use carbon paper and tape it down, trace freehand with pencils or pens, or print out templates from online sources.

Take note of how thick the template is so that you know what kind of spacing between each line to work with. This will help ensure accuracy when painting! Hold your template up against your piece of wood and place some tape on top so that it doesn’t shift while applying paint.

There is also the option of just freehanding it without any special templates or stencils first before deciding whether or not you need them which be easier depending on what you are making.

Add Details

It is now time to apply any details that you want on your piece of wood. Whether it be carving letters or shapes, painting a pattern with different colors/shades, etc just go for it and have fun!

Use your smaller brushes and thinners with heavy viscosity paints to add in any final details like highlights or shadows. These kinds of decorative touches can really bring any project from meh to amazing so go ahead and try something new if you’ve never tried anything like this before!

This could include things like adding a special paint for highlighting or giving certain areas an extra coat of color if they are not standing out enough compared to the rest.

Remember: acrylic paints dry quickly so make not rush through any of these steps if you want good results!

Once all parts of your project have been finished, let them dry completely overnight before moving on to protecting them so that everything goes off without too many hiccups along the way.

Varnish Acrylic Paintings on Wood

The final step is to apply a protective coat of varnish to the surface in order to protect it from getting scratched, chipped, or stained over time. Make sure that you use varnish specifically designed for acrylic paintings on wood since other kinds could damage your work instead of protecting them.

  • Allow at least 24 hours after the paint has dried before coating them with this last layer. The more time spent drying up between each process, the better!
  • Apply thin coats over top making sure not to add too much which might cause dripping/dripping effects if done wrong. It’s best just go slowly until you get used to how things should look and feel.
  • Make sure to apply it in a well-ventilated area as the fumes can be harmful if exposed for too long!
  • Use matte varnish instead of shiny finish since they tend to look more natural on wooden objects rather than looking wet all the time. It also protects them better against exposure to air which can cause them to turn yellow over time so it’s a good idea for prolonging their lifespan.

This will bring out all those pretty colors and make everything look perfect!

Now that all steps have been completed, hang or prop your finished work in an area where people can see them since this is always the most fun part about doing anything crafty like this! You are now ready to show off your brand new piece of artwork at home, school, or anywhere else you wish to display!

Working with Various Techniques When Painting Wood

The best way to achieve different effects when painting wood is using various techniques such as dry-brushing, sponging, and glazing.

Dry-brushing is when you dip your brush in paint but very little or no water; then wipe off the excess on a rag before applying it to your project. This technique gives an aged look which can be great for country pieces!

Sponging is another popular method that works well with wood surfaces. Simply take some acrylic paint onto a piece of foam sponge (or just use any type of sponge) and dab it on randomly over the surface of your project so there are varying degrees of intensity throughout.

Glazing is similar to dry brushing because it allows more time for corrections, plus this technique also provides color variations throughout the piece as well. Put some paint on your brush and then add a little bit of water to thin it out before applying. This is another great technique for distressing wood surfaces!

You can also check out our tutorial on How to Blend Acrylic Paint if you’re interested!

Tips and Tricks

  • Use a palette to paint on instead of directly onto the wood. This will make it easier to mix colors and more convenient for storage at any point in time which can come in handy when working with paints!
  • Always use a primer before applying any paint on wood. This will help the surface to absorb the color better, plus it provides an extra layer of protection against moisture and stains!
  • Use tape/painter’s masking tape for making straight lines when painting patterns onto surfaces. This makes everything easier by having crisp right angles instead of them being smudgy or looking too messy if done wrong!
  • Try to use a brush that has stiff bristles for more control over the paint. It’s also best if they come to sharp points at the end, but this is not necessary as long as you are comfortable working with whatever type of tool you have available.
  • If something does happen and chips off, then it’s best to fix this by applying a thin coat of paint over the top and letting it dry for another 24 hours or so until everything is set. Then you can go ahead and redo any missed spots as well if there are any flaws at all!
  • It’s usually a good idea to use opaque paints when covering up wood since they tend to look more vibrant against shiny surfaces whereas transparent ones provide an aged look which may not be what certain pieces need. Experiment with both types until you figure out what works best for your project!
  • Avoid using glossy finishes on wooden objects because they will make them seem really wet looking even after being dried completely.
  • If you want your project to really stand out, then try using metallic paint mixed with white (or whichever color you prefer) on top of everything. This will give it an added boost that makes it look far better than before without any issues at all.

People Also Ask

How Long Does Acrylic Paint Take to Dry on Wood?

Acrylic paint dries very quickly which means there isn’t much time for correcting mistakes and making changes as you go along. That being said, there are different types of acrylic paints - some dry faster than others depending on what they contain (i.e., water vs oil). If possible, test each color using a piece of scrap wood first so you know how long it will take to dry.

Should I Seal, Prime, Or Do Both Before Applying Acrylic Paint?

There are three things to consider when painting on wood with acrylic: the type of paint you use, how it reacts with your project surface, and what kind of finish will work best for your piece. It is always a good idea to seal any porous surfaces before applying paint. Priming is used to prevent rough patches leftover from being sanded down too far showing through after applying a top coat, while sealing is used to protect the wood from moisture damage and provides an even surface so that paint goes on easily without getting caught in cracks or crevices.

How to Clean Acrylic Paint off Wood?

Using a basic soap and water mixture containing dish liquid is the easiest way. Be sure not to use anything too harsh like abrasive cleaners since this will damage the surface of the wood instead! If you do happen to get any paint on other surfaces such as carpeting, clothes, etc... it can easily be removed with some hand sanitizer which works great for getting rid of stains without causing further problems.

What Colors Look Good on Wood?

There’s no limit as far as color combinations go, though certain hues tend to stand out better against wooden surfaces. Black is usually a safe bet since it’s very versatile and works great for any type of project - no matter the theme or subject. Other shades that look amazing on wood include navy blue, dark green, silver/gray, cream-colored paint with hints of pink/rose gold mixed in for accents. These tones will really bring out the beauty while adding an elegant touch at the same time!


Painting wood can be a great way to transform any piece into something that looks fabulous and spectacular! It’s also easy for anyone to do since there is no need for expert skills or anything like that which makes it accessible even if you don’t have the best artistic abilities.

Just follow these tips and tricks, and you should find this process enjoyable while achieving amazing results at the same time!




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