Can You Use Acrylic Paint on Plastic

Can You Use Acrylic Paint On Plastic?

A staggering 70% of DIY enthusiasts have wondered: “Can You Use Acrylic Paint On Plastic?”

It’s a question that has puzzled many, given the unique nature of plastic surfaces.

With years of experience in the art and craft domain, I’ve seen firsthand the outcomes of various paint-plastic combinations

If you’ve hesitated, brush in hand, unsure about the outcome on plastic, this article aims to dispel your doubts. Read along to learn;

  • Will acrylic paint work on plastic?
  • How to use acrylic paint on plastic
  • Best primer for acrylic paint on plastic
  • How to prime plastic for acrylic paint
  • How to make acrylic paint stick to plastic
  • Mistakes to avoid

Can you paint plastic with acrylic paint?

Yes, you can paint on plastic with acrylic paint. Acrylic paint adheres well to plastic surfaces when properly prepared. However, you must clean, prime, and allow drying time. Select a plastic-specific primer for the best results. Multiple thin coats will give an even coverage, and a clear sealer can enhance durability and protect the finish.

Will Acrylic Paint Stick to Plastic?

Yes, acrylic paint can adhere to plastic when properly prepared.

To achieve the best results, choose plastics such as ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene), polystyrene, or PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) known for paint compatibility.

Avoid plastics like polyethylene or polypropylene, as their smooth, oily surfaces can hinder paint adhesion.

Is acrylic paint good for plastic?

Yes, acrylic paint is well-suited for plastic. It adheres effectively, offering a durable finish that resists chipping.

When prepped with a primer, acrylic paint can provide a smooth, vibrant finish on plastic items, from toys to furniture.

Its quick-drying nature and wide color range make it ideal for customization and art projects.

How to Paint Plastic With Acrylic Paint

Below is a step-by-step process of how to paint plastic with acrylic paint.

Materials Needed

  • Acrylic paint
  • Plastic surface
  • Primer (specifically for plastic or all-purpose)
  • 220 or 400 grit Sandpaper
  • Pencil or marker pen
  • Tracing paper 
  • Sealant
  • Rugged cloth
  • Paint thinner
  • Paintbrush
  • Soap and warm water

Step 1: Preparing Your Paint

To prepare your acrylic paint for painting plastic, start by squeezing the desired paint colors onto a palette. If custom colors are needed, mix them thoroughly on the palette. To achieve the right consistency, add paint thinner incrementally. 

Test the paint on a scrap surface to confirm the flow and coverage meet your requirements. Adjust by adding paint thinner for thinning or more paint for thickening until the ideal consistency is reached. 

Avoid adding too much thinner because it can significantly alter the paint’s properties and negatively impact your painting process and final result.

Step 2: Planning Your Design

Planning your design for painting on plastic with acrylic starts with a sketch or a clear vision of the intended design. Sketching helps visualize the composition, shapes, and details. 

Do not be stranded with the color scheme. For vibrant, energetic designs, combine complementary colors like red and green. 

Choose analogous colors like blue, green, and teal for harmony. Try contrasting colors like blue and orange to create contrast and make elements pop. 

Please do not rush through the design without considering the surface texture and its impact on the final artwork.

Step 3: Transferring Your Design

After sketching your design, let’s transfer it onto the plastic canvas. One nifty trick is using tracing paper. Place it over your sketch and trace the lines with a pencil or a marker. Flip it over, align it on the plastic, and trace again. 

Voila! Your design magically appears on the plastic. Just remember, the major blunder to dodge is pressing too hard while tracing. 

Step 4: Preparing the Plastic Surface for Painting

First, grab a gentle soap and warm water; give that plastic a good scrub to remove any grime or dust. Once clean and dry, grab some sandpaper. 

A grit between 220 to 400 should do the trick. It’s gentle yet effective in providing the right texture for the paint to adhere.

Gently rough up the surface to help the paint stick better. Now, here’s the big no-no: don’t skip this sanding step.

Step 5: Testing Paint and Primer Compatibility

Begin by selecting a small, inconspicuous area on your plastic surface. Apply a thin coat of primer and let it dry as directed. 

Then, apply a dab of your chosen paint atop the primed area. Allow it to dry too. You’re good to go if the paint sticks and dries smoothly without peeling or cracking.

Rushing through this test can lead to unpleasant surprises. Take your time and let those compatibility tests shine bright.

Step 6: Selecting Primer 

Look for a primer labeled ‘plastic primer’ or ‘adhesion promoter’ at your craft store. The best primer for acrylic paint on plastic is an all-purpose primer. 

A fantastic choice is the KRYLON ColorMaster Primer. It’s designed to prep various surfaces, including plastic, for a smooth painting experience with acrylics. Don’t use a generic primer meant for other surfaces – that won’t stick well to plastic.

Krylon K05131507 ColorMaster Paint + Primer, Ultra Flat Primer, White, 12 oz.
  • Dries in 10 minutes
  • Increases paint adhesion
  • Ensures true paint color is achieved

Step 7: How to prime plastic for acrylic paint

Time to prime that plastic for a vibrant painting. Grab your KRYLON ColorMaster Primer and a brush. 

Dip the brush into the primer, ensuring a moderate amount on the bristles. Start at one end of the plastic and use long, even strokes. Imagine you’re painting a picture, nice and smooth. 

Cover the whole surface evenly. All this time, have rags on the floor to catch any potential drips or spills. Use Rags and not old newspapers as they might end up sticking and making a messy situation worse. 

Step 8: Letting the Primer Dry

After applying the primer evenly with your brush, let it air dry. Don’t rush this step; it’s like waiting for a cake to bake. The primer needs its sweet time to settle and bond with the plastic. 

Find a cozy spot and let it air dry for 30 minutes to an hour. Don’t touch or paint over it until it’s completely dry. Just don’t be impatient. Let’s roll! Onward to painting brilliance!

Step 9: Applying the Paint 

Grab a clean brush, dip it into your chosen paint, and gently tap off excess paint to avoid drips. Here’s the magic: apply the paint using gentle, even strokes. Think of it like you’re painting a gentle breeze – smooth and flowing.

Start at one corner and work your way across, coating the primed surface evenly. If you see clumps after your paintwork, don’t worry; here’s how to smooth out acrylic paint on plastic.

Alternatively, you can use spray paint, and here I recommend you use KRYLON Colormaxx Spray Paint and Primer for optimal results. This paint offers excellent coverage and adhesion for a smooth, vibrant finish on plastic surfaces.

Hold the spray can about 6-8 inches away from the plastic, applying even and overlapping strokes. 

Krylon K05545007 COLORmaxx Spray Paint and Primer for Indoor/Outdoor Use, Gloss White 12 Oz (Pack of 1)
  • SPRAY PAINT AND PRIMER – Krylon COLORmaxx Spray Paint and Primer delivers premium coverage and superior color with adhesion and durability. This primer and spray paint can be used on wood, metal, wicker, most plastics, glass, plaster/ceramic and more.
  • INDOOR/OUTDOOR RUST PROTECTION – Whether your spray paint project is inside or outdoors, this gloss white spray paint offers rust protection for a variety of DIY and craft projects including craft foam, hard surfaces, paper mache, fabric and paper.
  • GLOSS WHITE SPRAY PAINT – Color changes everything – from a furniture refresh to creative touch-up. White gloss spray paint has a modern, sleek finish. White color spray paint can be used for a variety of projects, and the gloss finish has a shiny sheen.

Step 10: Allowing the Paint to Dry

Now it’s time for a bit of a waiting game. Allow the paint to dry – it’s like letting a flower bloom. Ensure your piece is on a flat, clean surface where it won’t be disturbed. 

Leave it, giving it a good hour or two to dry thoroughly. Avoid any temptation to touch or smudge.

Step 11: Sealing the Acrylic Paint on Plastic

Pick up a clear acrylic sealer from your craft store for sealing paint. ALEENE’S Acrylic Sealer is a top choice for sealing acrylic paint on plastic. It offers a clear, protective coat that enhances durability while preserving the vibrancy of your acrylic artwork.

When sealing, hold the can about 8-10 inches away from your piece. With a gentle hand, spray an even coat over your painted surface. 

Keep the can moving to avoid any pooling or unevenness. Do not forget and work on a closed area while using spray paint.

Aleene’s 26412 Spray Gloss Finish, 6 Oz Acrylic Sealer, Original Version
  • Acrylic sealer spray provide a protective, clear finish
  • Give a glossy luster to virtually any indoor or outdoor project
  • A durable protective finish

Step 12: Letting the Sealer Dry

You’ve applied the sealant to protect your masterpiece, and now it’s time to let it set. Leave your piece in a well-ventilated area, just like a mini artist retreat. 

Allow the sealer to dry completely, like watching paint dry, but just a bit faster! Usually, it takes around 30 minutes to an hour. Don’t touch, lift, or move the piece during this time.

Using Acrylic Spray Paint on Plastic – (Step by Step Process)

Acrylic spray paint is a great option for painting plastic. It is specifically designed to adhere to plastic surfaces and dries quickly.

Below is a step-by-step process of how to use acrylic spray paint on plastic.

Step 1: Gather materials needed

To spray painting acrylic on plastic, you need the following materials:

  • Spray paint for acrylic
  • Plastic surface
  • Masking tape
  • Newspaper or drop cloths

Step Two: Prepare the area

Before beginning, you will need to prepare the area where you will be painting. Cover any surfaces that you do not want to paint with masking tape or newspaper. This will help to protect your surfaces from the paint.

Step Three: Clean the plastic surface

Next, you will need to clean the plastic surface that you will be painting. Use a rag or cloth to wipe down the surface. This will help the paint to adhere to the surface.

Step Four: Apply primer (optional)

If you are using a primer, you need to apply it now. This will help the paint to stick to the surface and provide a better finish.

Step Five: Begin painting

Now you are ready to begin painting. Hold the can of paint about 12 inches away from the surface and spray in a steady, back-and-forth motion. Overlap each stroke to ensure even coverage.

Step Six: Allow the paint to dry

Once you have finished painting, you will need to allow the paint to dry.

Interesting Read: Mixing Acrylic Paint With Resin

What Are Some Tips for Using Acrylic Paint on Plastic?

When using acrylic paint on plastic, you should keep a few things in mind.

  • First, it is important to use a primer before painting. This will help the paint to adhere to the surface and provide a better finish. You can purchase primers specifically for plastic surfaces or use an all-purpose primer.
  • Second, acrylic paint dries quickly. This is because plastic is a non-porous surface. To avoid this, make sure to work in small sections and use a wet brush to blend your colors.
  • Finally, if you are having trouble finding an acrylic paint that will stick to plastic, you can try using a primer specifically designed for use on plastic surfaces. You can also try using a different type of paint, such as spray paint or enamel on plastic. Similarly, when painting back with acrylics, first determine if painting acrylic over enamel is recommended.

Read Also: How Long for Enamel Paint to Dry

Are you looking for other design ideas for your plastic? Read our article Can You Sublimate on Acrylic Tumblers?

Will acrylic paint stay on plastic permanently?

Acrylic paint can adhere to plastic, but its permanence depend several factors.

The inherent flexibility of plastic can cause paint to peel or chip. Environmental elements like UV rays, moisture, and temperature fluctuations can degrade the paint over time.

Additionally, the type of plastic and the quality of the acrylic paint play roles in the paint’s lifespan.

While acrylic can adhere to plastic, it’s not inherently permanent.

Want to paint your shrinky dinks permanently with acrylic? Check our guide on how to color shrinky dinks.

How to Make Acrylic Paint Stick to Plastic Firmly and Durably

Making acrylic paint stick to plastic firmly and durably requires some creativity. Here are some out-of-the-box ideas to ensure your masterpiece lasts:

  1. Texture Magic: Use a fine-grit sandpaper or a scouring pad to create a slightly roughened surface on the plastic. The added texture improves paint adherence.
  2. Hair Dryer Technique: Once you apply the paint, use a hair dryer on a low setting to help the paint set quickly onto the plastic. This reduces the chance of smudging or paint lifting.
  3. Clear Tape Overcoat: For intricate designs or areas prone to chipping, applying clear tape over the dried paint can act as a protective shield.
  4. Nail Polish Top Coat: Instead of a traditional varnish, use a clear nail polish top coat over the acrylic. It’s designed to be hard-wearing and can add an extra layer of protection.
  5. Add Fabric Medium: Mix your acrylic paint with a fabric painting medium. It makes the paint more flexible, which can be beneficial for pliable plastics.
  6. UV Spray: Use a UV-resistant spray over the painted surface. This not only protects from sunlight but adds another adherence layer.
  7. Layering Technique: Instead of one thick coat, apply multiple thin layers, allowing each layer to dry thoroughly. This builds up a resilient paint surface.
  8. Decoupage: Integrate your acrylic-painted design with decoupage. Apply a thin layer of decoupage medium over your acrylic design to seal and protect.
  9. Grip Enhancers: Add a tiny amount of grip-enhancing solutions (used in the auto paint industry) to your acrylic paint. This can enhance adhesion.
  10. Magnetize: For small plastic items, attach a magnet at the back. Paint tends to adhere better to magnets. Plus, they can be placed on metallic surfaces, reducing direct handling and potential wear.

Next, let’s discuss acrylic paint uses on other surfaces.

How to Remove Acrylic Paint from Plastic

Removing Wet Acrylic Paint from Plastic:

  1. Act quickly: Time is of the essence when it comes to removing wet acrylic paint. The faster you act, the easier it will be to remove the paint.
  2. Blot the paint: If the acrylic paint is still wet, use a clean cloth or paper towel to gently blot the paint. Avoid rubbing the paint, as it may spread and make the situation worse.
  3. Rinse with water: Rinse the plastic surface under running water. This will help dilute the paint and wash away as much of it as possible. Use lukewarm water for better results.
  4. Soap and water: If rinsing alone doesn’t remove all the paint, mix some mild dish soap with water and use a sponge or soft cloth to gently scrub the affected area. Rinse again with water.
  5. Isopropyl alcohol: If the paint persists, dampen a cloth or cotton ball with isopropyl alcohol and gently dab at the paint. Be cautious not to rub too hard, as it may damage the plastic. Continue until the paint is removed.

Removing Dried Acrylic Paint from Plastic:

  1. Scrape off excess paint: Use a plastic scraper or a credit card to scrape off as much dried acrylic paint as possible carefully. Be gentle to avoid scratching the plastic surface.
  2. Soak in warm water: Fill a basin or sink with warm water and let the plastic item soak for several minutes. This will help soften the paint, making it easier to remove.
  3. Scrub with soap and water: After soaking, apply some mild dish soap to a sponge or soft cloth and scrub the painted area. Use gentle, circular motions to loosen the paint. Rinse with water.
  4. Rubbing alcohol: If the soap and water method doesn’t completely remove the paint, moisten a cloth or cotton ball with rubbing alcohol and gently rub the affected area. The alcohol will help dissolve the paint. Continue until the paint is gone.
  5. Nail polish remover: As a last resort, you can use a nail polish remover that contains acetone. Apply a small amount to a cloth and gently dab at the paint. Take care not to use excessive force or leave the acetone on the plastic for too long, as it may cause damage. Rinse thoroughly with water afterward.

Can You Hydro Dip Platic with Acrylic Paint?

Yes, hydro dipping with acrylic paint can be applied to plastic surfaces.

The process involves creating a pattern on the water’s surface with the paint, then carefully dipping the plastic object through the paint pattern.

The acrylic paint, specifically used for hydro dipping, adheres to the plastic, resulting in a visually appealing and durable finish.

Proper surface preparation and the use of the appropriate paint for hydro dipping are essential for achieving optimal results.

Can You Use Acrylic Paint on Plastic Guitar?

Yes, you can use acrylic guitar paint on a plastic guitar. Ensure that the guitar’s surface is clean and free of any debris before applying the acrylic paint.

Apply the acrylic guitar paint in thin layers, allowing each coat to dry completely before adding another.

After finishing the design, seal the paint with a clear varnish or sealant to protect it and enhance its durability.

This allows you to customize your plastic guitar with various colors and designs using acrylic paint.

Read also: Can you use polyurethane over acrylic paint?


What happens if you use acrylic paint on plastic?

If you use acrylic paint on plastic, the paint will adhere to the surface. However, Just like using acrylic paint for interior walls and other surfaces, note that you must use a primer. The paint may not adhere correctly without a primer and could chip or peel over time.

What paint to use on plastic bottles?

The best paint to use on recycled plastic bottles is acrylic paint. This type of paint is specifically designed for use on plastic surfaces. It is important to note that you will need to use a primer with this type of paint.

Can you use acrylic paint on plastic phone case?

Yes, acrylic paint can be used on plastic phone cases. However, it is important to make sure that the paint is properly dry before using the case. If the paint is not completely dry, it may start to peel or chip off over time.

Is acrylic paint toxic to eat if used on a plastic plate?

Yes, acrylic paint is toxic if ingested. It is not food-safe and should not come into direct contact with food or be used on surfaces that will come into contact with food. It is important to use appropriate, food-grade materials for such purposes.

Can You Use Acrylic Paint on Plastic? – Conclusion

You can use acrylic paint on plastic. However, it is important to prepare the surface and use a primer. You will also need to seal the paint after applying it.

These steps will help you achieve the best results when painting plastic surfaces.

I hope this article was helpful. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below. Happy painting!

Next, learn more about painting acrylic paint on metal.


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