Can Acrylic Paint Be Used On Wood? (Pro’s, Con’s and Warnings!)

While most people obviously know that acrylic paint can be used on canvas or paper, it's less clear if it can be used on wood.

So, can acrylic paint be used on wood? Want a short answer?

Well, yes it usually can! But there are caveats, so let’s go into more detail...

Can acrylic paint be used on wood?

Yes, acrylic paints can be used on an array of wood surfaces such as processed wood, raw wood, wooden planks, plywood, chip wood, cardboard, and other kinds of wood.

Processed wood is typically found in garden centers or art stores while wooden planks are easily found in hardware stores.

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Cardboard and paper boards are just as easy to find in art stores, school/office supply stores, and every craft store.

It can be harder to paint on wood than other surfaces, however. Wood can be uneven so you should sand down the surface with sandpaper first. 140-grit to 180-grit is the recommended sandpaper to achieve the best results.

Rub along the wooden grain until the surface is entirely smooth.

You should then wipe the wood down with a paper towel or cloth to get rid of any dirt or debris that could stick to the paint.

Just like using canvas, the finished result from acrylics is far better if your surface is primed first.

Priming should take place if you are using raw wood, wooden planks, or other processed wood types.

This is done with a primer which is available at most hardware and craft stores. You can choose from spray-on and brush-on types, depending on what you prefer.

If you are using cardboard or wooden items mixed with paper materials, you should use gesso. This is a unique kind of primer that looks just like white acrylic paint.

Its consistency is far thinner and dried much harder.

This results in a harder surface that won’t absorb moisture as much. This is especially helpful if you mix water with acrylic paints to change its texture.

You should let the primer completely dry before starting any painting which could take a few hours or longer depending on the amount of primer used and the temperature of your surroundings.

Priming is vital if you want to bring out the best in your colors and absorb moisture to avoid paint running and ruining your artwork.

The overall finish of your paint will thank you if the wood is primed!

Painting on wood with blue acrylic paint

How to paint on wood?

If you have a design in mind for your wood, you should trace its design first. Using graphite paper, draw an outline of your design and trace it onto the wood.

Take a pencil and follow these outlines to replicate it perfectly on the main wooden surface.

You should then arrange all the tools you’ll need to start painting. Start with squeezing your paint’s first color onto a palette.

Feel free to squeeze more colors too if you know which colors you will be using.

Fill up a bowl with water to the halfway point but keep some paper towels nearby to clean the brush between strokes (and any mess that usually occurs!).

Without this, you may find two colors that may mix and create an unwanted color on your masterpiece.

You don’t have to stick to brushes. Sponges are great if you are painting a larger design and can give a unique texture to your background.

Smaller designs are better with a paintbrush as they are easier to use with more precision.

If you want to paint both sides of the wood, simply wait for one side to dry fully. Depending on the brand of acrylic you use, it can feel dry within 30 minutes.

It's recommended you give it around 48 hours to dry completely, however. You should leave it in a dry, low-humid, and well-ventilated room at this time.

Once dry, simply flip it over and start on the adjacent side. Make sure this side is sufficiently primed too. 

Once all of the paint has dried, use a sealant to ensure the design doesn’t get damaged later on. If the wood is going to be used often, just apply several coats and hard shellac for added security.

First, what is acrylic paint?

Acrylic paints are perfect for those wanting to experiment with painting, especially beginners.

There is a huge range of colors to choose from and the best thing of all is that you can mix and match colors to get any color you want. 

Acrylic paints come in two grades: artists’ quality and students’ quality. The artists’ quality grade is seen as the “professional” type with a wide range of colors and high permanence ratings.

Students’ colors are often less expensive and have a smaller selection to choose from. Its color strength may weaken after some too due to lower pigment levels.

Beginners are advised to start with student’s colors as these are more affordable and easier to use.

With so many possibilities, acrylic paints are a favorite amongst professional and amateur artists.

You can paint on virtually any porous surface with some more traditional surfaces better than others.

What about wood? Let’s explore this below. 

Final Words On Whether Acrylic Paint Can Be Used On Wood

When you’re working with wood, always take the necessary precautions to get it ready for acrylic paint (see if it's toxic here).

You’ll need attention to details and a great deal of patience but you’re an artist! You are used to this!

When you have finished your work, you will have to wait a day or even a week (depending on its size and amount of paint layers) before you show it off to friends and family.

The wait will be worth it though. You’ll soon be getting requests in for more wooden masterpieces!