Does Acrylic Paint Work on Plastic? FAQ & Recommendations!

Is acrylic paint the right material for your project? Do you want to use it on plastic or some other surface? Find out what acrylic painting is and whether or not it’s a good idea.

The question of whether or not acrylic paint can be used successfully on various surfaces has been asked many times over the years, with people often coming up with all sorts of different answers.

The truth is that this answer really depends largely upon the type of surface in question.

Acrylic paint can work well when applied to canvas, paper, wood, and lots more, but if you are looking at using it on the plastic then there may be some difficulties ahead!

This article will explore these difficulties further so that you know exactly why these problems exist and how you can overcome them in order to get great results.

acrylic on plastic

Why Acrylic Paint Finds it Difficult to Stick on Plastic?

Plastic is essentially a form of polycarbonate. The issue with acrylic paint actually lies not with the acrylic material, but instead with this plastic, which turns out to be a tricky substance to paint on and one that can cause the acrylic to just drip off when wet.

One reason for this is that plastic contains an oil-based component called resin — which means that it isn’t so great at soaking up paints like canvas or paper would usually be able to do.

This results in a very different painting experience and process than what artists are used to when using water-soluble mediums like gouache or watercolor on surfaces such as paper, fabric, or wood panels; wherein these normally soak up the water and then allow the pigments to be floated around and blended easily into a work of art.

Despite this, acrylic is still one of the most popular choices for artists who want to use water-based paints. It’s inexpensive, it dries quickly, it cleans up easily when spills happen (which can happen often), and it can be made into a huge variety of different colors. So while acrylics may not work well on plastic surfaces, in particular, they are certainly one of the best options for making your own artwork!

How to Apply Acrylic Paint on Plastic?

Despite the problems that acrylic paint has with plastic surfaces, there are still many reasons why you might want to use it on these materials.

Get Rid of Contaminants

One way to get around this issue is by using a special gluestick-like product known as Plastic Prep, which can be applied first and smoothed over any surface in order to create a smooth canvas for the acrylic to work on. Then when you apply your normal acrylic paints onto these prepared surfaces they shouldn’t move or shift at all once dry — so you should have much better results.

If you don’t want to spend extra on cleaning, you can go with regular dish soap and water wash for the plastic as well.

Apply Primer Coat

The next step is to prime the surface of the plastic with several layers of another type of paint like latex, oil, or gouache before applying your own acrylic paint.

These layers will help to seal in the surface and form a smooth, even canvas for your paint to go on top of.

Other things that you can try include using extra-thick gesso or glue (like plastic cement) in order to cover the underlying surface more effectively, with these too capable of creating the smoothness which acrylic paints require in order to work well.

acrylic painted plastic surface

However, we do recommend using spray primers that are specifically made for use on plastic surfaces. These will work best compared to the other two methods we talked about.

When trying out different options for getting your acrylic paints onto a plastic surface you will need to keep an eye open for any problems which occur, such as warping, bubbling, cracking, or peeling off — all of which may be signs that something has gone wrong. And if this happens then it’s probably best to stop what you are doing, clean up the surface as best you can, and then start again with a new layer of primer or some different paints in order to try and get better results.

See also  Is Acrylic Paint Aquarium Safe? Best Aquarium Safe Paints

Best Primer For Acrylic Painting on Plastic

There are hundreds, if not thousands of choices available when it comes to primers for plastic surfaces. But there are only a few models that would solve your problem. We review the one we liked the most-

Rust-Oleum 209460 Plastic Primer Spray Review

One of the hardest surfaces to paint is a plastic item. Rust-Oleum offers a product made specifically for this surface that gives you so many options and results when painting with any topcoat including acrylic one.

It could be your mailbox on the front porch, a storage locker in your backroom, or even just replacing the original color of our lawn chair with something new and better!

A wide variety of colors are available too – you don’t have to settle for something boring because you want an easier way to paint plastic items without it bubbling up all over. That’s what Rust-Oleum is here for! Try the primer – it doesn’t take much time or money out of your pocket and you won’t regret it as soon as it dries.


  • Fast-drying primer
  • Works great on almost any type of surfaces
  • Creates a hard bond with plastic
  • Makes it easy to stick acrylic paint on plastic surfaces
Check Price on Amazon

Applying Acrylic Paint On Plastic

Acrylics are applied on top of a plastic surface just like they would be to any other type of material, using water-based mediums and brushes to create works of art. You may also want to use an airbrush for more detailed work, though this may not give you as good results with acrylic paint when compared to the other types we mentioned; since airbrushes often have difficulties properly sealing in acrylic paint and can end up causing more problems than they are worth.

However, what you may find is that acrylics do not spread out evenly over the whole surface — which means that you will need to apply several layers before it dries so that the entire area has a uniform coating.

If you’re planning on making something that requires a lot of color variation, like a painting with lots of bright pigments or shades, then taking this extra step can be an absolute must.

Plus, you may need more than a coat of paint to get the desired result. So, be prepared for using acrylic paint twice or thrice on the same area before you see the perfect color.

What is the Best Acrylic Paint for Plastic?

The answer to this question depends on what you plan to do with your painting. If it’s going to be used as an art piece and hung on a wall, then any good quality paint will work fine.

However, if you want it to look like a real object, or need it to adhere better than regular paints, then there are some special paints made just for that purpose. These often have more solvents in them and are less likely to peel off over time. They also tend not to leave brush strokes behind which can detract from the illusion of depth created by shadows in the painting itself.

Here is our recommendation-

Krylon K05131507 ColorMaster Paint + Primer Review

I’m an artist and one of the best products I’ve found when painting is Krylon ColorMaster.

This product lets you skip over the hassle of using primers because it’s also a primer AND paint, which means your painting project can go from being 10 steps to 5.

The best part about this range of paints is that they’re fast-drying, meaning there will be more opportunities for tweaking as you create different layers.

Painting with these felt quick and painless since I could do so in just 10 minutes instead of having to wait several hours like other expensive brands would require me to. Do you know what makes this even better? They have various colors which allow you to customize your furniture or wall art in whatever way matches your style!


  • Dries faster than most other similar products
  • Comes at a reasonable price
  • Bonds strong against plastic surfaces
  • Paint and Primer in one cuts short the work process
  • Spectacular color outcomes when dried
Check Price on Amazon

Let the Paint Dry

Acrylic becomes transparent when it is dry, so if the underlying surface is not properly covered beforehand then you may find that your final work has some patches in which the true colors are revealed.

Also, remember to keep any plastic surfaces you plan on using with acrylic paints out of direct sunlight as much as possible — these materials can become hot and warp if they are exposed to too much UV light for extended periods of time.

See also  How to Fix Lumpy Acrylic Paint in 3 Easy Ways?

Seal the Paint

In addition to that, you may also want to seal the acrylic surface after it has dried using a clear sealer or topcoat in order to improve your painting’s durability and reduce how likely impacts will damage it.

If you are planning on using this technique for any sort of commercial application then we definitely recommend adding these extra layers as they will help to protect the work as much as possible.

An important thing to remember with acrylic paints after they have dried is that you should not use any solvents on top of other types, since this can cause them to lose their friction and fall off easily during use.

Best Acrylic Paint Sealer for Durability

Acrylic is a type of water-based paint, which means it’s not as strong and durable as oil-based paints. For that reason, acrylic needs to be sealed with an appropriate sealant in order to last longer. Here is what we recommend to get things right for the beginners-

Krylon K01305 Gallery Series Artist and Clear Coatings Aerosol Review

Aren’t you tired of your paintings getting ruined because the humidity outside is messing with them? No more do you have to worry about that with Krylon Gallery Series Clear Coatings.

They’re made specifically for all types of artwork and apply in minutes without smudging or leaving any sort of residue on the original artwork.

Plus, it protects against harmful UV light rays so no fear about fading from the sun during a hot summer day! Doesn’t it sound like an amazing product already?

For preserving the new-looking shine on your artwork and having an extra layer of protection against minor scratches, we found this one a true deal-breaker at the price point.


  • Prevents paintings from getting yellowish
  • Preserves that new-looking shine for a long period
  • Resistant to humid weather
  • Fast drying properties make it go past the competitors
  • UV rays protection makes it a must for sun-exposed artworks
Check Price on Amazon

Ways to Use Acrylic Paint On Plastic Surface: Summary

So overall we would recommend against using acrylics on plastic surfaces because they are not flexible enough in order to do this effectively.

However, if you really want to use acrylic paints on a plastic surface in some capacity they can be applied over surfaces that have already been treated with primers specifically made for that purpose — though you should be warned that the results may not be what you’re looking for!

Basing your decision upon whether or not you want to clean all the resin off is an issue since it’s going to build up anyway unless you wipe it down every time you play and then reapply new layers of primer. You might as well just put up with slight irregularities and imperfections if they aren’t in noticeable areas permanently showing through the paint.

How to Make Acrylic Paint Stick to Plastic?

Even though acrylic on the plastic surface may not be the best, it is still possible and can still give you great-looking results if you just know what you’re doing. Make sure that all your materials are clean and dry before starting, then simply follow these steps and we’re sure everything will turn out fine!

Make the Plastic Surface Rough

Use fine-grit sandpaper to roughen up the surface of your plastic materials so that they are not slick and smooth like glass. This will prevent acrylic paint from running down the sides when it dries, making sure that you’re able to keep your colors right where you want them to be.

Use a Coat of Primer

Acrylic paint will stick to most surfaces better when they are treated with primer first. Just like we said before, some acrylics may not stay where you put them if they are applied directly onto plastic without any sort of base coat.

Use a Plastic Brush or Sponge

Instead of using a regular, hard paintbrush on your acrylic paints, you may want to consider switching it out for something that is made of soft plastic instead. This way you’ll also get to benefit from the paint sticking to the surface better.

Use High-Bonding Paint

There are also paints out there designed to stay on plastic longer. Make sure you’re using the right kind for what you’re trying to achieve.

Use Acrylic Sealer for Further Strengthen the Bond

After you’ve applied your paint, you may want to consider sealing it with a clear sealer. This will help to hold the paint in place even better and prevent any sort of peeling or cracking after it has dried.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you keep acrylic paint from cracking on plastic?

This is a question I get asked fairly often.

See also  Can You Sand Acrylic Paint? FAQs Answered!

I can tell people that I have used acrylics on several types of plastics and never had an issue with cracking, but it doesn’t help them much if they are using a different color or type of plastic.

As long as you use decent quality paint on clean plastic it should work fine.

Acrylic paint actually looks great on plastic as long as you follow the guidelines we have prescribed above. The only time I’ve seen acrylic crack was when a person had used cheap craft paints on dirty, oiled, or greasy surfaces.

One tip for using paint on plastic is to roll the sealed surface and then brush over it lightly. This should prevent the paint from cracking in most cases.

why acrylic paint won't stick to plastic

What kind of paint can be used on plastic?

Acrylic and latex paints should be fine. However, oil-based enamel paints may not work as well on plastic because of their higher solvent content.

Generally speaking, you can use almost any kind of spray paint on plastic. Just make sure the paint is not corrosive. And it is recommended that you check the product for a clear indication of adhesion to plastic surfaces. This will make things a lot easier.

The other way to check if a paint will stick to plastic is applying on a small plastic object that’s made of similar materials for that you purchased the paint.

Is acrylic paint permanent on plastic?

Yes, the paint will remain on plastic as long as you applied the paint correctly following the procedures we have mentioned above.

If not, it will eventually start to peel and crack. The paints are easy to remove from plastic. So, keep the artwork safe from external interventions even after the curation process

It also means that the acrylic can be easily removed from your plastic surfaces when you need to do so, without causing any damage to the plastic itself. So you should not worry about that either.

Is it okay to use spray paint for plastic?

You can use spray paint without any problem or fear of the quality of the product getting affected. As a matter of fact, spray painting is one of the best and most recommended methods of getting your work done, especially if you are a beginner.

Do you need to seal acrylic paint on plastic?

Yes, we recommend that you seal acrylic paint on plastic.

If you want to protect your acrylic painting, a spray-on varnish or UV gloss medium is recommended. Be aware that not all paints are created equal and some acrylics can yellow and darken with time. So, sealing is necessary to preserve the actual color. Plus, it will act as an added protection over the paint.

Do you need special spray paint for plastic?

Yes, you should get those that are specifically made to adhere to plastic, just like the correct adhesive to glue plastic together. 

Regular paint will just flake off of the surface because the surface itself does not provide enough cling.

As we know, there are two kinds of material: porous and non-porous. Porous materials allow air or fluid to get into their structure, while non-porous materials do not allow that to happen.

Plastic is nonporous, which means that water will not penetrate the surface of the smooth plastic.

When you apply acrylic spray to it, it won’t stick well due to the non-porous nature of the surface unless you prepare the plastic before with priming or other methods we have described above.

Priming is not enough as well, the paint you’ll use must have better bonding strength than regular paints.

Can I use acrylic paint on Shrinky Dinks?

Yes – and no. The short answer is that you can “paint” on Shrinky Dinks – but the paint may not stay there very long, or if it does then you probably won’t like the result.

What I mean by this is that acrylic paint should stick to the Shrinky Dinks initially but if your child plays with the Shrinky Dinks, the paint may not remain on it for long.

However, our recommended paint and primer model does it really well to stick on Shrinky Dinks but we couldn’t check whether it makes a permanent bond or not.

How long does it take acrylic paint to dry on plastic?

It depends on the paint, but probably not long enough to put your plastic in the microwave.

High-quality acrylic paint sprays should dry within 10 to 15 minutes while cheap acrylics may take up to an hour or two before you can touch the painted surface.

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