Can You Use Acrylic Paint on Styrofoam?

Polystyrene foam, more commonly known as Styrofoam, is a popular material for a wide range of projects due to its flexibility and low cost.

While it is not typically thought of as a material for painting because of its surface, the only paint that can be used on Styrofoam surfaces is water-based acrylic paint. Below are the reasons why:

acrylic paint on styrofoam
  1. Acrylic paint is water-based, which means it won’t damage the Styrofoam like other types of paint (oil-based paints) would. 
  2. Acrylic paint adheres well to Styrofoam, so you don’t have to worry about it flaking off or chipping easily. 
  3. Acrylic paint dries quickly, so you won’t have to wait forever for your project to dry. 
  4. You can easily find acrylic paint in any color imaginable, so you can create whatever look you’re going for. 
  5. There is very little prep work involved when using acrylic paint on Styrofoam.

Now that we’ve gone over the reasons why acrylic paint can be painted on Styrofoam, let’s explore some of the positive and negative effects of doing so. 

painting styrofoam

The Positive Effect of Using Acrylic Paint on Styrofoam. 

  1. Styrofoam is a very budget-friendly option. It is inexpensive and easy to find, making it a great option for those looking to save money on their painting projects. 
  2. Painting acrylic paints on Styrofoam is relatively easy to do. As we mentioned earlier, there is very little prep work involved. This makes it a great option for beginners or those who don’t want to spend time on their projects.
  3. Acrylic paint on Styrofoam can create some unique results. Thanks to its texture and lightweight properties, painting on Styrofoam can give your project an otherworldly look that you won’t be able to achieve with other materials.     
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The negative effect of Using Acrylic Paint on Styrofoam 

  1. Styrofoam is a very porous material but lacks a smooth surface that doesn’t absorb acrylic paint very well. This means that your project may require several coats of paint to achieve full coverage.  
  2. It can be difficult to get a smooth finish. Since the surface of styrofoam isn’t smooth, there will be difficulty getting a smooth finish because you’ll need to paint an area more than once to cover it properly. If you don’t paint in layers, you will end up with a project looking “lumpy” or “bumpy” instead of smooth and professional. 
  3. You need to take care when working with styrofoam. Styrofoam is a very lightweight material, so it can easily get damaged. Handle it carefully and avoid putting too much pressure on it while working. 
acrylic paint on styrofoam

How to Paint Styrofoam Successfully with Acrylic Paints

Materials Needed for Painting Styrofoam with Acrylics

Before we get started, below are the materials you’ll need:

  • Styrofoam, having your preferred shape.
  • Acrylic paint(s) in your preferred colors.
  • A paintbrush. 
  • Water and Sealant.
  • Newspaper/dropcloth.
  • A plate for mixing paints.

Optional materials: 

  • Glitter (for a sparkly finish).

Now that we have all of our materials gathered, let’s get started!

STEP 1: Choose Your Acrylic Paint Colors.

The first step is to decide which colors you want to use for your project. You can either choose one solid color or several colors to create a design. Once you have decided on your colors, it is time to move on to the next step.

STEP 2: Cover Your Work Surface With Newspaper or a Drop Cloth.

This will protect whatever surface you’re working on from paint drips and spills. Then, use the painter’s tape to secure the styrofoam to the surface if possible. This will prevent the styrofoam from moving around while you’re painting it.  

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STEP 3: Prime the Styrofoam Surface.

The next step is to prime the surface of the Styrofoam. This will help the paint adhere better, prevent it from flaking off later on, and ensure that a true and even paint color is achieved.

To prime the surface, apply a thin layer of a primer such as Mod Podge or Plaster of Paris or white glue all over the styrofoam surface that you will be painting.

Let the glue dry completely, then use sandpaper to take off uneven areas before moving on to the next step.

STEP 4: Paint The Styrofoam

Once the primer is dry, it’s time to start painting! Load up your paintbrush by dipping it into the paint. Make sure to remove any excess paint from the brush before beginning to avoid dripping.

Begin by adding a thin layer of your desired paint color to the surface of your shape. Once that layer is dry, add another layer until you’re happy with the coverage.

Depending on the pattern/design you are painting and the thickness of the layers, this stage might take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour or more to complete.

STEP 5: Add Glitter (Optional).

If you want your painted styrofoam shape to have a little extra sparkle, add glitter! Simply sprinkle glitter onto the wet paint and then set it aside to dry.

When it’s dried, shake off any excess glitter and enjoy your sparkling new piece of art! 

STEP 6: Seal The Finished Work.

Once you’re happy with your finished product, it’s time to seal it. This will help protect the paint job and keep the colors from fading over time.

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Use a clear acrylic sealer or Mod Podge for this step. Simply apply a thin layer of sealant all over the surface of your styrofoam piece and let it dry completely. 


Painting styrofoam isn’t an easy task and requires patience, but with the right materials and technique, you can achieve beautiful results.

With a few simple steps, you can easily transform a plain piece of styrofoam into a unique and eye-catching project that will surely impress your friends! Have fun painting! 

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