Can You Use Acrylic Paint on Wood Furniture? Best DIY Acrylic Painting Practices 2022

Although painting wood furniture today is often undertaken mainly for practical purposes such as protecting the wood from the elements and durability, painted furniture also has a long and respected history as an art form.

For whichever reason you choose to paint your furniture, the type of paint you use will affect the final aesthetic and performance of the piece.

So, the question is, can you use acrylic paint on wood furniture?

Yes, you can. Famous for its quick drying times and the vibrancy of the colors compared to other paints, acrylic paint is an excellent choice for use in painting wood furniture.

The popularity of acrylic paints continues to grow because of their ease of use, lightfastness, permanency when dry (especially with artist-grade acrylics), and flexibility from the chemicals it contains.

Other characteristics that make this paint ideal include non-toxicity and non-flammability.

This article will give a comprehensive guide on choosing acrylic paints, using them on wood furniture for the best results, and quickly and easily removing them from wood.

How to Prep the Wood for Acrylic Paint 

Surface preparation is a critical component to the durability and performance of paint on a surface, especially one as porous as wood. 

When painting a wooden surface with acrylic paint, the preparation level depends on whether you want the grain of the wood to be visible through the paint.

If you want the grain to show through the paint, you can paint on the untreated wood, while if you don’t want the grain to show, you must first paint the wooden surface with primer.

Preparing the wooden surface involves two major activities: sealing up the pores that could absorb the paint as wood is naturally porous and creating an even surface on which to paint.

Below is a guide on adequately preparing the wooden surface for acrylic paint.

Step 1: Gather the Tools and Materials and Prepare Your Workstation.

Some of the tools and materials you will need include:

  • A tarp
  • An effective wood primer
  • A sealant
  • A flat, wide paintbrush
  • A lint-free piece of cloth
  • Medium-grit sandpaper
  • Protective respiratory equipment to offer protection against sanding dust and safety glasses

After you have gathered the needed equipment, your first move should be to protect yourself. 

Wear protective respiratory equipment to keep from inhaling any sanding dust and gloves to prevent any particles from harming your eyes. 

Before you begin painting, it is also essential to protect the areas around your workstation.

If the piece of furniture is movable, then we recommend that you do the painting outdoors.

However, if you cannot or do not want to paint outdoors, you can use a tarp to protect the surrounding environment from any stray paint. 

Also, if you are working indoors, ensure that the room is well ventilated.

Open the air inlets in the room or keep the fans running throughout. 

Step 2: Sanding

Woodworker using Rigid, the Best Cordless Random Orbital SanderIf you find the wood adequately sanded, you may skip this step.

If not, start sanding with medium-grit sandpaper and then finish sanding with one that has a finer grit; use 140 to 180 grit sandpaper, respectively.

Remember to sand in the direction of the wood grain.

You can stop sanding when the wood looks smooth. A simple test is to run the rag across the wood surface to ensure no snags.

Step 3: Prime or Seal the Wood

Priming the wood involves creating a foundation layer on which to apply paint.

Primer increases the adherence of the paint to the surface and creates an even surface to paint on.

On the other hand, a sealer is used to seal up the numerous pores in the wood.

If those pores remain open, they will suck up the paint you apply, necessitating another coat of paint on the wood, which is cost and labor ineffective.

The wood could also warp because of excess moisture.

So, with both these methods playing such a critical role in wood prep, do you prime, seal, or can you do both?

That depends on the wood you are working on.

 If the wood is unfinished, that means that the pores are open. Although primer can seal the pores, that is not its primary job.

In this case, seal the wood, prime it, and then paint it. You can also opt for a primer/sealer combo to achieve this. 

After applying the paint and primer, you can then paint the wood.

Here’s a Video On How to Prep the Wood for Acrylic Paint 

How to Use Acrylic Paint on Wood 

While using acrylic paint on wood, especially engineered wood can be problematic, you can get excellent results with adequate care and consideration.

The remaining part is relatively simple after preparing the surface. Apply the paint to the furniture and paint away.

If the project is large, work on small areas at a time because acrylic paint dries quickly. Keep some water nearby and clean up any spills or errors as soon as they happen.

Also, ensure that you continuously dip your brushes in water to prevent the paint from drying on the bristles.

After the paint dries (we recommend twenty-four hours), you can seal the acrylic-painted wood following the instructions provided below. 

The paint characteristics also play an essential role in determining how you use your acrylic paint. 

Not all acrylic paints are manufactured equal, and a thorough understanding of the paint properties will help you identify the best paint for your wood painting project.

Below is a comprehensive guide on the factors to consider when choosing acrylic paints and how to use them on wood to get the best results.

  1. Permanence

Permanence refers to the ability of a paint pigment to resist gradual fading when it is freely exposed to daylight and ordinary exposure. 

Most acrylic paints have a higher permanence rating than watercolor or oil paints. 

When buying acrylic paints for use on wood, there are specific standards that you can use as provided by the (ASTM) American Society for Testing and Materials based on tests that simulate two decades of gallery exposure. 

The standards range from ASTM I, which is excellently lightfast, to ASTM III, which is not sufficiently lightfast. 

  1. Viscosity

Viscosity can best be described as the thickness of paint or how resistant a paint is to spread. 

The viscosity of paint is a vital characteristic to consider as it determines the performance of the paint when applied with different tools such as sprayers, rollers, and brushes. 

With their thicker consistency, heavy body acrylics are better for heavier paint applications as they retain brushstrokes and facilitate color blending and mixing. 

On the other hand, while fluid acrylics are thinner, they lend themselves better to dry-brush work, staining, and more detailed work. 

If you are a beginner at wood painting, we recommend starting with heavy body acrylics, as you can still thin them out with water or another medium if you need to do so. 

  1. Drying time

One of the main reasons many painters prefer to work with acrylic paints is their quick drying time, which allows them to work faster, and in items like furniture, it reduces the possibility of damaging the paint as it dries. 

However, suppose you prefer the versatility of acrylic paints but would like slower drying paint (for the creation of various effects). 

In that case, you can use a retarding medium or use open acrylics, which are manufactured to contain a retardant in them.  

  1. Quality

Commercial grade acrylic paint comes in two grades: professional acrylics and student acrylics.

Professional acrylics are designed with the most pigment and allow for more medium manipulation, and they are also designed to resist reactions to oxygen, UV light, and water.

On the other hand, student acrylics have a lower pigment concentration and are available in fewer colors.

Why Seal the Wood After Applying Acrylic Paint?

If you have acrylic paint with a built-in sealer, you may not need to seal the paint again. 

However, if not, you will need to protect the paint and the wood surface using a sealer. 

So, why exactly do you need to seal acrylic paint?

  1. Smooth Finish

If the acrylic paint on your furniture dries with more texture than you would prefer, you can apply a self-leveling sealant to help smooth out the surface.

More layers of sealant will work best to remove any unwanted textures.

  1. Protection and Cleaning

One of the primary jobs of a sealant on acrylic paint is to act as a protective finish. 

Sealants protect the paint from early wear and tear, especially if you are working on a piece of outdoor furniture that is frequently in direct sunlight or sees repeated use. 

The protective coat on the paint can keep off dust, debris, and other marks that could otherwise build up with time and discolor the paint.

A seal coat would also create a water-resistant finish and protect the paint from water splashes.

Therefore, it is crucial to check for the level of water and UV protection offered by a seal coat, and whether it matches your needs before purchase. 

Apart from offering protection, the seal coat would also allow you to easily clean your furniture and remove any accumulated dust and debris with a wet rag.

  1. Colors

Despite acrylic paints looking somewhat shiny when wet, they can dry to be matte-ish and look rather dull. 

Adding a seal coat on top of the acrylic paint can help to brighten up the colors and have them shine and look vibrant again.

How Do You Seal Acrylic Paint On Wood

There are several types and brands of sealers you can use to coat your painted wood. 

Whichever one you choose, the main factors to consider are its compatibility with the acrylic paint and its water and UV resistance, especially if you are working on an outdoor piece of furniture. 

Below are some of the best sealants you can use and how to apply them.

  1. Polyurethane

Polyurethane is a clear wood sealant that provides a glossy finish and protects the surface from scratches and exposure to sunlight. 

You can choose between an oil-based polyurethane, though it yellows over time and a water-based one. 

However, the drawback of using polyurethane is that it offers lower resistance to heat and some chemicals.

To apply polyurethane, wait until the paint is dry, and ensure the surface is free from dust and debris. 

Lightly sand the surface and apply a thin coat. After the first coat is dry, smooth it out using sandpaper and apply another coat. 

Repeat this until you have applied as many coats as you need, though three will probably be enough. 

When applied, polyurethane may appear milky. However, it will become clear once it has dried. 

  1. Polyacrylic

Polyacrylic is the perfect option to seal furniture that will mostly be indoors but under frequent use.

To apply polyacrylic, start by working on a clean surface, and use a brush or a roller to apply it to the surface. 

When using polyacrylic, it is critical that you only use a water-based one and not a solvent-based one.

Apply the polyacrylic in thin layers and allow it to dry for approximately one hour before applying another coat.

  1. Mod Podge

Mod Podge is an excellent choice for a sealer and is popular with crafters and DIYers. It is compatible with acrylic paint and works splendidly on acrylic-painted wood.

We recommend brushing on the mod podge on wood surfaces instead of spraying it on. After ensuring that the surface is dry, apply the sealant in thin, even layers. 

Allow the mod podge approximately 20 minutes to dry before applying another layer. We recommend using two coats of this sealant. 

Does Acrylic Paint Wash off Wood?

Yes, it does. Acrylic paint is water-based, and you can use soap and water to clean off fresh paint. 

However, using just water may prove ineffective against strains that have been dry for some time. 

To wash acrylic off the wood with water, dampen a washcloth or a rag and wipe off as much paint as you can. 

If the paint proves resistant, moisten the cloth with hot water and then use a good soap that will work up a good lather and get into the wood grain. 

Scrub the paint gently using the soapy cloth until all the paint is gone. Wipe the area using a damp rag and remove the soapy residue.

Finish it off by drying the area using a towel or a dry cloth and allowing the wood to dry completely.

Other ways you can use to remove acrylic paint from wood include:

  1. Using Rubbing Alcohol

Rubbing alcohol is your best bet in removing acrylic paint from bare wood. 

When used on a varnished surface, it will dull its shine. The steps to follow are as follows:

  • Use a putty knife to remove as many paint layers as possible. Work gently and precisely to avoid damaging the wood. 
  • Saturate a small portion of clean cloth with basic rubbing alcohol.
  • Begin rubbing the remaining paint with the saturated cloth and adding alcohol to the cloth until the paint is one. When using alcohol, you must use it only on the spot with the paint stain as it may damage the wood’s finish. 
  • Wipe the area with a moistened cloth to remove all residue, and then wipe the surface with a clean cloth. 
  1. Use a Heat Gun

Image of Heat Gun In WoodworkingWhile the other methods are excellent at attacking minor, localized paint stains, using a heat gun may be a viable solution if you remove acrylic paint from a large, continuous surface. The steps for using one are as below.

  • Before you begin doing anything, you must read and understand the instructions for use that have been given. A wrong setting on the heat gun can char the wood or even start a fire. Also, wear your respiratory protective gear as the melting paint can produce dangerous vapors. 
  • Hold the heat gun about three to four inches from the painted surface for approximately ten to twenty seconds. If you want to work on a larger area, try moving the gun in circular motions. 
  • Once you see bubbles forming under the paint surface, use a putty knife in your other hand to scrape off as much paint as you can gently. Be gentle and move in the direction of the wood grain to avoid damaging the wood.
  • After the wood cools down, wipe it with a damp rag to remove any paint residue and allow it to air dry completely.
  1. Using a Solvent

You can also use paint solvents to strip acrylic paint from wood quickly.

While the most common stripper is methylene chloride, you can also use lacquer thinner or ammonia. 

However, it is essential to note that paint strippers are dangerous and should be used with the necessary safety precautions. 

  • After choosing the solvent, put on your protective equipment such as a ventilation mask, gloves, and eye protection. Work outdoors, if possible, but if you can’t move the wood, open all windows and doors in the room and set a fan to blow the fumes from you and through the window. 
  • Apply a thin coat of your chosen solvent to the paint and let it sit for however long the manufacturer recommends. The paint will bubble as the solvent is working. 
  • Afterward, scrape off the paint using the putty knife in the direction of the grain while avoiding gouging the wood. 
  • After removing the paint, the best way to neutralize the wood is to cleanse the area with a rag soaked with mineral spirits. Allow the wood to dry before you refinish it. 
  1. Sand the Wood

This method involves using a piece of sandpaper to rub off the paint. 

If you are removing acrylic paint for a larger surface, start rubbing gently with coarser sandpaper and then graduate to finer sandpaper. 

You can also opt for a power sander if you want to remove large areas of paint. Wipe away the sawdust and debris with a damp rag. 

Final Thoughts

While acrylic paints are an excellent choice for use on wood furniture, they have some disadvantages; the main one is the quick drying time that necessitates fast painting and the darkening of some colors as they dry. 

However, you can easily take these challenges to hand and get the best results with the correct information. Still, the question remains,

Can You Use Acrylic Paint on Wood Furniture?

Yes, you can! If the wood is well prepared and the best choice of acrylic paint is selected, using acrylic paint on wood furniture is possible and recommended. 

You will get a vibrant and durable color.

We appreciate you for reading this article, and we hope it has been informative. Please feel free to leave any comments, questions, and suggestions in our comments section below. 

Image of a woodworker wearing hearing protectors for woodworking

Tyron Otieno

Tyron is an avid woodworker and writer. He founded this website to help other woodworkers, whether hobbyists or professionals by sharing his knowledge and experiencie after a decade of woodworking.

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