Painting is an art form that has seen centuries of evolution, with each generation creating new techniques, tools, and unique styles.
Today’s modern painter still faces the same challenge – finding the best way to achieve their desired results.
With so many types of paints on offer, it can be hard to decide which one you will use for your project.
Acrylic and enamel are two popular choices, but there is a common confusion between them: Can you paint acrylic over enamel? Fortunately, I have the answer.
In this post, I’ll explore this question in more depth while offering helpful tips for mixing your own acrylic and enamel-based paint combinations.
What is Acrylic paint?
Acrylic paint is a water-based paint that uses acrylic polymer emulsion as its binder. It consists of paint pigments suspended in a liquid medium, typically water.
Notably, acrylic paint dries quickly, forming a durable, flexible film on the painted surface. It is known for its versatility, as it can be used on various surfaces such as canvas, wood, metal, and more.
Water-based acrylic paint offers a wide range of colors, is easily mixable, and can be thinned or layered for different effects.
What is Enamel Paint?
Enamel paint is a type of paint that uses a glossy and hard finish. It is typically oil-based or solvent-based, providing durability and resistance to wear, stains, and moisture.
i. Water based enamel paint
Water-based enamel paint is a type of paint that uses water as its solvent instead of traditional solvents like oil or mineral spirits. It contains a resin binder that gives it a smooth, glossy finish.
Water-based enamel paint is known for its low odor, quick drying time, and easy cleanup with soap and water. It is commonly used for interior surfaces like walls, furniture, trim, and doors.
ii. Oil-Based Enamel Paint
Oil-based enamel paint, also known as alkyd enamel, is a type of paint that uses an oil-based solvent (mineral spirits or turpentine) as its base.
Its durable and glossy finish provides excellent coverage and resistance to wear, stains, and moisture.
Oil-based paints have a longer drying time compared to water-based and require proper ventilation during application.
Can You Paint Acrylic Over Enamel?
Unfortunately no. You cannot paint acrylic directly over enamel. The different chemical compositions and drying properties of acrylic and enamel paints can lead to adhesion issues. It is advisable to either remove the enamel paint or apply a suitable primer before painting with acrylics.
How to Paint Over Enamel: Step-by-Step Process
Tools you need:
- A Scrapper
- Rubbing Alcohol
- Chemical-Based Paint Stripper
- Synthetic Bristled Brush
- Fine-Grit Sandpaper
Step 1: Paint test
Conduct a paint test to determine if the surface you’re working with is enamel. Use a scrapper to scrape off a small inconspicuous surface area and check the paint chips it produces.
If the chips are hard and thick, then it’s likely that you have an enamel coating on your walls.
Step 2: Sanding
Once you’ve determined that the paint is enamel, it’s time to sand the surface. This will help create a smooth surface and base for your new coat of paint.
Use fine-grit sandpaper to remove any imperfections or bumps in the finish. Be sure to wear a face mask and safety glasses while sanding.
Step 3: Applying primer
Apply a suitable primer designed for glossy surfaces, such as enamel. Use a brush or roller to apply an even coat of primer. Ensure full coverage over the sanded surface.
Step 4: Wait for primer to dry
Allow the primer to dry completely according to the manufacturer’s instructions. This usually takes a few hours, but drying times can vary. Avoid painting over the primer until it is fully dry.
Step 5: Apply acrylic paint & let dry
Using a brush for acrylic to apply thin, even layers of acrylic paint over the primed surface. Allow each coat to dry completely before applying the next layer. Multiple thin coats are often preferred over one thick coat.
Step 6: Finish with a coat or sealant
Once the final layer of acrylic paint has dried, consider applying a clear varnish or sealant coat to protect the painted surface and enhance its durability. Choose a product specifically designed for acrylic paints.
Painting Acrylic Over Enamel Primer
When painting acrylic over an enamel primer, follow a few key steps to ensure a successful and professional finish:
Surface Preparation: Begin by ensuring the enamel primer has fully dried and cured according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Clean the surface to remove any dust or debris.
Sanding (optional): If desired, lightly sand the primed surface with fine-grit sandpaper to create a smooth and even texture. This step can enhance adhesion and promote a flawless paint application.
Stir and Prep the Acrylic Paint: Before starting, thoroughly stir the acrylic paint to ensure proper consistency. If needed, thin the paint with a small amount of water according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Applying Acrylic Paint: Use a high-quality brush or roller to apply thin and even coats of acrylic paint over the enamel primer. Work in one direction for a smooth and consistent finish. Allow each coat to dry completely before applying the next.
Additional Coats and Touch-ups: Depending on the desired coverage and finish, you need to apply multiple coats of acrylic paint. Ensure each layer is fully dry before proceeding. If needed, do touch-ups to achieve an even and uniform appearance.
Final Inspection and Sealant (optional): Once the acrylic paint has fully dried, inspect the painted surface for any imperfections or areas that require touch-ups. If desired, apply a clear sealant or varnish designed for acrylic paint to enhance durability and protect the finished surface.
Painting Acrylic Enamel Over Oil-Based Enamel
While you can paint acrylic over enamel, does the opposite work? Can you paint enamel over acrylic? Absolutely!
Here are the steps to paint acrylic enamel over oil-based enamel:
Surface Preparation: Clean the surface thoroughly to remove dirt, grease, or contaminants. Lightly sand the oil-based enamel to create a rough texture, promoting better adhesion.
Test Compatibility: Perform a small paint test in an inconspicuous area to ensure compatibility between the oil-based enamel and acrylic enamel paint.
Applying Primer: Apply a suitable primer specifically designed for adhesion between oil-based and acrylic paints. Ensure the primer is compatible with both types of paint and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for application and drying time.
Applying Acrylic Enamel Paint: Once the primer has fully dried, apply thin and even coats of acrylic enamel paint using a high-quality brush or roller. Allow each coat to dry completely before applying the next.
Multiple Coats and Drying Time: Apply multiple coats of acrylic enamel paint as needed, ensuring each coat is fully dry before proceeding. Follow the recommended drying times provided by the manufacturer.
Finishing Touches and Sealant: Inspect the painted surface for imperfections once the final coat has dried. If desired, apply a clear sealant or varnish for acrylic enamel paint to enhance durability and protect the finished surface.
Related Post: Can You Paint Over Acrylic Paint
Painting Acrylic Over Water-Based Enamel
Painting acrylic over water-based enamel can be a tricky process. Enamel is an oil-based paint; the oils must be removed before adding your new acrylic layer.
The best way to do this is by using a high-quality degreaser or mineral spirits with a clean rag and scrubbing the surface of any oil residue.
You can begin painting your acrylic layer once the surface is clean and dry. The best method is to use multiple thin coats of paint rather than one thick coat. This will ensure the acrylic paint binds correctly to the underlying enamel layer.
Use a primer before beginning your painting process. Priming provides an even base for the acrylic paint and can help ensure it sticks to the surface correctly.
While painting, let each coat of paint dry completely before adding any additional coats to prevent any peeling or bubbling of the paint. Then, add a protective coat of varnish or sealer to ensure the acrylic lasts for years.
Painting Enamel Over Lacquer Paints
Start by thoroughly cleaning the surface you will be painting with a degreaser cleaner or mineral spirits. This will remove any dirt, grime or oils that could prevent the new coat of enamel from adhering properly. Wipe dry with a lint-free cloth.
To ensure a strong bond between the lacquer and enamel, sand the surface you will be painting with 150-grit sandpaper. Wipe any remaining dust away with a lint-free cloth.
Apply an alkyd primer to the surface before applying your top coat of enamel paint. This will help to further ensure a strong bond between the two paints and ensure even coverage of your top coat of enamel paint.
Finally, apply your new coat of enamel paint using a brush or roller. Apply several thin coats rather than one thick coat for the best results. Allow each coat to dry before applying the next.
Reasons Why Acrylic Does Not Stick To Enamel
The following are some of the reasons why acrylic does not stick to enamel:
i. Incompatible Chemical Composition
One of the main difference of acrylic and enamel paint is their chemical composition. They have different chemical properties, which can result in poor adhesion when applied directly. The acrylic paint may not bond well with the enamel surface, leading to peeling or flaking.
ii. Insufficient Surface Preparation
Proper surface preparation is crucial for good adhesion. If you apply acrylic paint directly before the surface is cleaned, sanded, or primed adequately, it will not have a rough or suitable surface to adhere to, resulting in poor bonding.
iii. Contaminants or Oils on the Enamel Surface
Presence of contaminants, such as dust, dirt, or oils, on the enamel surface, can create a barrier between the enamel and acrylic paints, preventing them from effectively bonding together.
iv. Poor Adhesion due to Smooth or Glossy Enamel Finish
Enamel paints often have a smooth or glossy finish, making it difficult for acrylic paint to adhere properly. The lack of texture or roughness on the surface hinders the bonding process.
v. Inadequate Drying or Curing Time
If the enamel paint has not fully dried or cured before applying acrylic paint, the drying process of the underlying enamel interfere with the adhesion of the acrylic, resulting in poor bonding and potential paint failure.
vi. Incompatibility between Specific Brands or Formulations
Different brands or formulations of acrylic and enamel paints have varying chemical compositions. Incompatibility between specific brands can lead to issues with adhesion and cause the paints to repel or not bond effectively.
vii. Incorrect Application Technique or Improper Layering
Applying acrylic paint incorrectly, such as using too thick of a layer or improper layering techniques, can prevent proper adhesion. It is crucial to follow recommended layering guidelines to ensure successful bonding between acrylic and enamel.
viii. Age or Deterioration of the Enamel Surface:
Over time, enamel surfaces become aged or deteriorated, affecting their ability to provide a suitable base for acrylic paint. In such cases, the surface does not allow proper adhesion, making the acrylic paint stick less effectively.
Sealing Acrylics Over Enamel
Follow the following steps to seal acrylics over enamel:
Choose a Suitable Sealer
Select a clear sealer designed for acrylic paint and compatible with enamel surfaces. Consider factors such as durability, gloss level, and intended use.
Apply the Sealer
Using a clean brush or foam applicator, apply an even coat of sealer over the enamel surface. Work in thin, smooth layers to prevent brush marks or pooling.
Allow Drying Time
Follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding drying time. Typically, the sealer takes a few hours to dry, but this vary depending on the product and environmental conditions. Read more here on enamel paint drying time.
Additional Coats (Optional)
Apply additional coats of sealer depending on the desired level of protection and finish. Ensure each coat is dry before applying the next. Multiple coats can enhance durability and appearance.
Once the sealer is fully dried, inspect the surface for any imperfections. If necessary, lightly sand the sealed surface with fine-grit sandpaper for a smooth finish. Clean off any sanding residue before proceeding.
Also, learn how to seal shrinky dinks.
Successful Tips and Techniques To Paint Acrylics Over Enamel
- Thoroughly clean the enamel surface and lightly sand it to create a rough texture for better adhesion.
- Apply a high-quality primer compatible with both enamel and acrylic paints to promote adhesion and create a suitable base for the acrylic paint.
- Apply thin layers of acrylic paint, allowing each coat to dry completely before applying the next to avoid cracking or peeling.
- Use high-quality acrylic paint formulated for use on glossy surfaces to ensure better adhesion and durability.
- Allow sufficient drying time between coats and after the final layer to achieve a fully cured finish.
- Brush Techniques: Use soft-bristle brushes suitable for smoothing acrylic paint application.
- Apply a clear coat for acrylic paint to protect the artwork and enhance its longevity.
- Perform a small test area before painting the entire surface to ensure compatibility and desired results.
- Ensure proper ventilation during application to allow fumes to dissipate and aid in the drying process.
- Clean brushes and tools immediately after use with soap and water to prevent acrylic paint from drying and hardening.
Will my acrylics paint stick to enamel?
Most enamel paints do not allow the acrylics to stick on them. Enamel paint is oil-based, and water-based paints don’t stick over them. If this happens, you can try sanding the surface or using a primer before painting with acrylics.
What can you use to paint over enamel paint?
You can use either acrylic or latex paints to paint over enamel paint. Prepare the surface correctly beforehand by cleaning and sanding the area in order for the new layer of paint to adhere properly. And can you mix the two paints? Here is a guide on mixing acrylic and latex paint.
What material will acrylic paint not stick on?
Most Acrylic paints usually do not stick well to oily surfaces or non-porous materials, such as metal, glass, and plastics. Note that some plastics require a special type of primer in order for the acrylic paint to adhere.
Is enamel waterproof?
Enamel is water-resistant, but not completely waterproof. While it can withstand some exposure to water without immediate damage, prolonged or excessive water exposure can eventually cause degradation. It is advisable to take precautions and protect enamel surfaces from prolonged contact with water to maintain their quality and longevity.
What’s the difference between enamel and acrylic paint?
The main differences between enamel and acrylic paints are in terms of their chemical composition, the application process, finish, and longevity. Enamel is oil-based and usually takes longer to dry than acrylic paints which are water-based. It also provides a glossier finish than acrylic paint, which has a more matte finish.
Can you mix acrylic and enamel paints together?
It is not advisable to mix acrylic and enamel paints together due to their different chemical compositions. The products react with one another and produce an inconsistent finish. They may also not adhere properly to the surface and cause peeling or cracking.
What is the difference between enamel and latex paint?
Enamel paint, as an oil-based option, delivers a durable and hard finish. This makes it perfect for high-traffic areas like trim and furniture. Latex paint, with its water-based nature and acrylic or vinyl acrylic binders, offers easier clean-up and quick drying. The choice between enamel vs latex paint depends on the specific project requirements and surface usage.
When it comes to painting acrylic over enamel, the answer depends on a few factors.
For instance, you will need to ensure the surface is clean and smooth and sand down any necessary areas where the enamel have become dull or glossy.
You’ll want to use a primer stripper so that your acrylic will adhere properly. It’s best to test a small area first to see what works; some areas require more prep work than others.
With patience and the right technique, painting acrylic over enamel is certainly possible and can produce stunning results.