What Is Acrylic Paint: Easy Steps to Seal Acrylic Paint on Wood

Acrylic paint is excellent for wooden structure, it’s used for decoration and other projects that do not encounter vigorous activities such as high traffic. For added durability, you should seal it with a finishing layer over an acrylic paint on your wood.  In this post, I’ll channel all my focus on the subject, how to seal acrylic paint on wood.

The sealing of acrylic paint on wood needs patience and proper work for maximum protection and improved durability of your structure. Ensure that you pick the most suitable products- sealers, for your work and prepare it.

It is also important to note that it will be best if you used a clear sealer such as polycrylic. I recommend the use of Minwax Polycrylic Protective Finish for best sealing results. Apply thin coats of the formula using paintbrush, allow it to dry before applying the next.

However, we have multiple sealing options in the market with different application strategies. In this guide, I will highlight some sealers to consider and how to use them on your acrylic surface successfully.

What Is Acrylic Paint

Image of kiln dried wood being painted but How Long Can I Wait to Paint After Priming?Acrylic paint came about in Germany in 1934 as an acrylic resin, water, and pigment particles formula. It was a groundbreaking discovery as it is a household paint and an alternative to other artists’ medium and oil finishes.

The product has pigment, a binder, and an acrylic vehicle.

  • Acrylic Pigment. The pigment delivers the finish color and comprises small granules suspended in the formula without dissolving. In addition, it can be synthetic or natural, organic or inorganic to accommodate various project needs.
  • Acrylic Binder. This component is also the acrylic polymer and has two roles: It holds the formula’s pigment in place after the paint dries. Also, it forms a protective finish when the moisture evaporates from the surface.
  • Acrylic Vehicle. Most acrylics have water as the medium that transports the pigment and binder. The vehicle blends with the binder to create a polymer emulsion. Therefore, you get a polymer film with colored pigment particles when the finish dries.

A grip on the science of acrylic paint helps better understand how it works. Also, since the formula is water-based, it dries as the water evaporates. But more processes exist.

Here’s what happens as the acrylic, water, and pigment become a long-lasting film.

  • Initially, the formula is a finely balanced pigment dispersion in a water and acrylic polymer emulsion. The water content keeps the emulsion in liquid form and acts as a chemical chaperone, preventing the polymer particles from locking before you are ready.
  • Water in the emulsion evaporates or soaks into the painting support with atmospheric exposure. This step is when the acrylic polymer compounds come into direct contact and fuse.
  • Finally, the polymer particles form a stable, hexagonal structure. It traps the pigment in place, resulting in a water-resistant, vibrant, permanent paint film.

Acrylic paints are pretty popular as they dry pretty quickly. Thinner coats dry within ten minutes, while thicker applications need one hour. In addition, the formula is easy to use and is permanent when dry.

Nonetheless, like most products, acrylic formulas have benefits and drawbacks. Check out their pros and cons below for a better understanding.


  • Acrylics are extremely versatile and work on any oil or wax-free surface. In addition, besides canvas, you can use the product on cardboard and paper, glass, stone, plastic, and metal.
  • Since the formula is water-based, you do not need turpentine or paint thinner to clean your painting accessories. All you need is soap and water.
  • The product is flexible and works with different features and textures. It is also possible to slow down its drying time with a few formulas.
  • Acrylic paint dries quickly, meaning that you do not have to stop painting during the day to wait for each coat to dry.
  • This formula retains its vibrancy and water-resistance qualities even after drying. It will not turn yellow or peel and crack later.
  • You can work with pets and kids as the paints are non-toxic, solvent-free, non-flammable, and have a low odor.


  • Acrylic formulas dry so quickly; thus, you cannot take long with a painting.
  • It is tough to clean a dry acrylic finish from your palette, brushes, and skin.
  • The paint’s colors may darken after drying, so your final painting may look different.
  • Some art collectors and galleries frown upon the formula, considering it less worthy than watercolors and oil paints.

Why Seal Acrylic Paint On Wood

Wood is organic, fibrous, and porous, making painting tricky if you do not adhere to the correct application steps. In addition, you need to seal the surface to protect it from sunlight, peeling, dirt, water, and other external damage.

Not all lumber surfaces need a topcoat sealer, but it is advisable when the wooden item is outdoors. Also, lumber objects that experience frequent moving and handling would benefit from a sealant.

Due to harsh environmental conditions, the acrylic finish may eventually scratch, crack, and peel off. The surface may also warp due to dirt and moisture exposure. Therefore, it is prudent to seal the surface to keep it looking attractive for a longer duration.

How to Seal Acrylic Paint On Wood

Image of application of latex paint, but can you paint over lacquer?Wood is naturally smooth, making it a perfect option for multiple painting applications. In addition, it is adaptable enough for water-based or oil-based formulas and affordable to most woodworkers. 

However, wood painting or sealing is not as simple as throwing some paint on the surface. It is wise that you handle acrylic paints and sealers with caution and take the recommended steps to prepare the lumber.

When you are happy with your painting and the acrylic finish is dry, seal the surface. A clear sealant protects the paint’s original color and helps it last. In addition, it protects against scratches, UV rays, peeling, and moisture damage.

Sealers are available in various finishes and types. For instance, varnish formulas are standard in local hardware stores, while Gesso is an all-purpose primer and sealer for multiple mediums.

The products are easy to apply. Check out the tips below for a satisfactory outcome.

  • Apply the first sealer coat in a thin layer. Depending on the manufacturer’s instructions, you can use a paintbrush, a sponge brush, or spray the formula. Also, it is okay to use quick sprays to cover the surface when working with a spray sealer.
  • Let the finish dry for six to 12 hours before adding another layer. In addition, although the sealer may feel dry in about 30 minutes, allow it enough time to settle.
  • Add another sealer coat and if needed, apply more than two layers. Only ensure that the sealer dries in between layers.

Let me highlight a few issues to consider to guarantee the best outcome when painting wood. These tips will make your work easier.

  • Consider working with high gloss formulas to offer excellent durability. But the choice depends on your project expectations, so there are no limitations.
  • Remember to apply thin layers. Having multip0le thin coats is better than a few thick ones as they dry faster and are more uniform.
  • Some sealants need a few weeks to cure before you can resume using the surface entirely. Thus, have patience after the project.
  • Shake spray products as instructed by the manufacturer. The better you shake, the more uniform the finish.
  • Assess the sprayer and nozzle regularly to notice and sort out any clogging. This way, you can work without major interruptions.
  • Spray some water in the atmosphere in your work area before applying the formula to reduce dust particles in the air.
  • Test out the paint, sealant, and resin on scrap wood or material before finally having it on your artwork.
  • Sometimes, the formula has a high gloss finish and is durable. In addition, some surfaces remain indoors and never undergo heavy use. Therefore, they do not need a sealer topcoat.

How to Seal Acrylic Paint On Wood for Outdoors

First, it is advisable to use good quality paint, regardless of the project. In addition, getting the correct application tools and supplies makes the job much easier. After you’ve finished the work, seal the surface to protect it from peeling.

We have various brands of topcoats and sealing formulas to use for acrylic surfaces. However, the main attribute to consider is whether the finish is compatible with acrylic paints.

Also, properties such as UV rays and water resistance are essential depending on whether the wooden object will have constant exposure to sunlight and water. Check out the leading sealant options for your work.

  • Polyurethane

This formula is a durable sealant for lumber surfaces and works on painted or stained wood. The coating also protects the existing finish from sunlight exposure and scratches. But it is wise to choose a suitable polyurethane type.

We have oil-based and water-based polyurethane varieties. The oil-based category takes a longer time to cure to the touch, gives off an odor, and tends to yellow over time. But it forms the most durable coat and is more appropriate for outdoor products.

Conversely, water-based formulas do not leave any discoloration, are less toxic, and dry much faster than the oil-based alternative. However, it costs more and has a lower resistance to heat and certain chemicals.

Nonetheless, you will preserve the wood from dirt and keep the colors beneath the surface bright, regardless of the polyurethane type. In addition, both varieties are water-resistant, not waterproof.

So, how do we seal an acrylic surface using a polyurethane finish?

  • The first critical step is to let the paint dry to the touch before adding the polyurethane coat. Also, ensure that the surface is clear of grime, dust, or dirt as this compromises adhesion, leading to peeling.
  • Many recommend using half a cup of trisodium phosphate and some warm water to clean the surface. However, ensure that you wear a mask, gloves, and protective eyewear and work in a well-ventilated area. Or even better, work outside.
  • Take 120-grit sandpaper, rub the surface, and then clean it to remove the sanding dust. Remember that you will get a better result with a smooth and dry surface. Thus, do not skip this step.
  • Apply thin polyurethane coats using a roller, brush, or sprayer and leave the first coat to dry. Wait for about two to four hours for water-based polyurethane and 24 hours for its oil-based counterpart before adding subsequent layers.
  • You need three polyurethane coats and above for a durable result. So, use 220-grit sandpaper to smooth out the surface. But please avoid rubbing the finish too vigorously lest you remove the thin layer. 

 Furniture Wax

Furniture wax is a natural and easy way to seal an acrylic surface. So, use a small amount of wax on a cloth, apply it gently, and let it sit for a short time before buffing with a lint-free cloth.

It is also advisable to focus on the amount to apply to the wood and the recommended drying duration. 

 Gel Medium

This gel medium offers adequate protection to the acrylic finish and is easy to apply. In addition, it is available in matte and gloss finishes to accommodate various applications. You can also apply it using a roller, sponge, or brush and expect it to resist fingerprint marks.


A glaze is a formula that delivers a high-gloss and clear finish on the painted surface. Moreover, you can apply it over painted and stained lumber, making it suitable for various projects.

This sealer is not ideal for exterior applications and is not heat resistant. But its consistency is less dense than paint and needs about 30 minutes before you can add a second coat. Therefore, you enjoy a shorter working time.

Polyacrylic Sealant

Polyacrylic is another water-based, durable, and clear sealant for lumber. It is easy to clean and affordable, does not leave any smell, and dries fast. In addition, you can get the product in various finishes, including high gloss and satin.

This sealant forms a protective coat over the acrylic surface, making it resistant to changing temperatures, water, and sunlight damage. It is also available in two forms; you can either spray-on or roll-on.

Applying polyacrylic to a clean, smooth, and dry surface gives the best result. Also, use very fine-grit sandpaper to smooth the painted surface and read the manufacturer’s product application instructions for a successful job.

Again, it is vital to work in a well-ventilated space and wear protective gear when spraying the formula. Then, hold the sealant about a foot away from the wood and spray thin, uniform layers.

Use a high-quality synthetic brush and apply a thin coat, moving in the grain direction. Then, let the layer dry for about 30 minutes and sand it gently with 400-grit sandpaper before adding another coat.


Varnish has been a popular sealant for years and qualifies as an excellent topcoat for various surfaces. Moreover, it comes in multiple varieties. We also have acrylic varnish products: acrylic resin and acrylic polymer varnish.

Acrylic resin varnish is more durable and glossier than its counterpart. But it tends to be more toxic, requiring you to use protective gear and work in a well-ventilated area.

On the other hand, acrylic varnishes are safer as they are non-toxic and come in various finishes, including satin, matte, and gloss. The gloss finish highlights the acrylic paint’s colors, whereas a satin or matte surface delivers a less shiny look.

Also, using a satin finish requires you to use an isolation layer over the acrylic surface before varnishing. This coat is transparent and forms a coat between the paint and the topcoat, preventing solvents from damaging the paint or delivering a frosted look.

Apply the acrylic polymer varnish over the dry acrylic surface. But ensure that it is clean for maximum adhesion. Also, wait for about 48 to 72 hours before applying the varnish.

Epoxy Resin

This product provides a beautiful glossy finish, making all your acrylic paint colors stand out. Moreover, it is available in various forms and accommodates multiple sealing applications. However, you can only get the desired result with the correct supplies.

The tools for the project include gloves, the epoxy resin product, a stirring stick, and a spatula to level the epoxy. Also, you are better off with two or more measuring cups, a mixing cup, toothpicks, a heat gun or torch, and something to cover the finished work as it dries.

In addition, some plastic covering or sheeting will come in handy to protect the floor or areas you do not want to paint.

Only start applying the epoxy resin after the acrylic paint dries. Therefore, let it dry to the touch and wipe with a clean cloth to remove dirt and dust. Also, consider pre-sealing the lumber to prevent bubbles from escaping into the finish.

Calculate the resin amount you need for the project. Also, you can easily find and use an online calculator. This way, you will not buy too much or too little formula for the job.

Once you have the correct estimate, mix the two components in the epoxy kit: resin and a hardener. Again, ensure that you wear protective gear and work in the workspace with enough air circulation.

Can I Use Mod Podge to Seal Acrylic Paint On Wood?

You can use Mod Podge as a waterproof for acrylic surfaces. The formula dries fast, is easy to use, and comes in matte and gloss finishes. It is also fade and water-resistant, delivering superior protection.

As with any wood sealant, the surface must be clean and smooth. Then, brush on a thin layer and let it dry before adding the next coat. You can do five or more coats but leave each finish for at least 20 minutes until it dries or becomes clear.

The finish is perfect for medium to smaller lumber crafting ideas and indoor projects. Also, you can use a sponge or roller to apply the formula to prevent brush marks.

How to Seal Acrylic Paint On Wood Coasters

First, it is best to ensure that you correctly paint the surface. Otherwise, sealing will not do much good. So, paint the coaster but ensure that you cover the wood and put on some gloves before work.

Next, use a paper towel to wipe off the excess formula from the coaster and seal it with a clear sealant. Also, paint the stencil on the coaster and consider sealing it again for added protection.

Varnish is an excellent finish for waterproofing coasters, thanks to its chemistry. It features a high solid to finishing solutions ratio, and you can use spar varnish to protect the lumber from water damage.

Apply two coats of the sealer, spraying the coasters’ top, sides, and bottom sides for complete coverage. Also, it is prudent to work in a well-ventilated area and allow the finish to dry for about 20 minutes.

Frequently Asked Questions

 Here are some of the most “notorious” questions around the subject of discussion.

How Long Does Acrylic Paint Take to Completely Dry on Wood?

Most acrylic paint types need an hour or two to dry. However, artist-grade formulas typically dry quickly, while the rest require a few to 24 hours to dry to the touch. In addition, very thick layers can take up to 48 hours.

Allow the paint to dry to the touch for at least 12 hours. Also, ensure the surface is not sticky, and there are no visible saturated areas before resuming regular use.

 Can I Pre-Seal Wood Surface Before Painting?

It is advisable to pre-seal lumber to prevent future rotting, discoloration, and stains from seeping through the paint. In addition, applying the sealer also facilitates a uniform surface and guarantees complete coverage.

Do I Need to Prime Wood Before Painting With Acrylic Paint?

You do not have to prime wood before painting with an acrylic formula, but I highly recommend it. It fills the wood pores and delivers a smoother surface, guaranteeing uniform and perfect coverage. In addition, you will use fewer acrylic paint layers to get a good look.


Acrylic paint is among the best choices, whether working on small craft applications or painting an entire wood dresser. It is popular among hobbyists and artists, but the dilemma arises during sealing. Thus, the question:

How to Seal Acrylic Paint on Wood

The sealing process is relatively easy if you have the correct formula and necessary supplies. So, apply the coats uniformly and wait for each to dry before adding subsequent layers. Then, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for accurate drying durations.

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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