Can You Use Acrylic Paint On Plastic?

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I have always been passionate about arts, crafts, and everything DIY.

I love the satisfaction I get from completing a project on my own.

I recently ran into an issue painting some plastic cups, so I am sharing what I learned in case you ever need to use acrylic paint (consider sanding first) on plastic.

So Can I Use Acrylic Paint on Plastic?

I thought this to be a straightforward question, but it turns out there is more to it than I first imagined. The answer is yes, but the key is preparation.

Also, it depends on the finish you require, as you may need to apply a sealer if you want your results to be permanent.

Hopefully, this guide will help you if you are planning to paint plastic with acrylic paint.

What Kinds of Plastic Can I Paint?

The first thing to realize is that plastic is a tricky surface to paint. Plastic is not porous so the paint does not have anything to grip.

So one of the first things we need to do is to prepare the surface so it is more likely to allow the paint to hold.

Polyethylene and polypropylene plastics are recognizable by the triangular recycling logo.

Acrylic paint (is it toxic?) will not adhere to these, so you will need to use a primer to get the paint to stay on.

Preparing Your Surface

You need to remove any dirt or oils from the item you are painting, so take a bucket of warm water and add some dishwashing liquid or soap.

Use the softest cloth or sponge that you can find. If the item you’re painting is outdoors, you can afford to be less gentle and use a scrubbing brush first.

Once you have thoroughly scrubbed the surface, make sure to remove all soap by rinsing it well with fresh water.

Next, take some fine-grit sandpaper and gently sand the surface. I used 300-grit sandpaper to avoid scratching the surface.

Finally, wipe with rubbing alcohol to remove any remaining oils, and from here on in, handle your item with care.

Apply Your Primer

Use masking tape to cover any areas that you do not wish to paint. I used spray-on primer as I found that it gave an even coat.

You could use a brush to apply the primer as it tends to even itself out as it is not very thick.

But if your item is on the large side, a spray-on primer will save you a lot of time. Find a well-ventilated area and cover the ground with newspaper or an old sheet.

Be sure to coat every surface well as otherwise, your acrylic paint will not adhere to the plastic later.

Allow the primer to dry and have one last check to make sure you got all the surfaces.

Apply Your Paint

Next, test your paint and make sure it is not too thick. You can thin acrylic paint with a little fresh water to obtain the right consistency.

I aimed for a creamy consistency to give a smoother coat of paint.

Apply your first coat of paint and don’t worry if you miss any spots as you will be applying several coats. Spray-on paint was easy to work with, but brushing is also fine as long as you applied the primer properly.

The number of coats you need depends on your item, but I applied 3 coats of paint.

Allow each coat to dry before applying the next. If you need a sealer, apply a single coat 24 hours after your final coat of paint.


So while the answer is yes, you can use acrylic paint on plastic (and even use acrylic paint on leather), it will require a little preparation.

I hope that these tips help you with your project and your finished product brings you joy. Happy painting and good luck with your endeavor.