Can You Paint Plastic With Acrylic Paint?

So here’s the thing, acrylic paint on plastic is not the most ideal combination ever. This means that painting on it will need a lot more work than if you were just using acrylic paint on canvas. But, do not let this put you off completely! 

Here we are going to outline just how to create your work of art on a plastic canvas, and we will outline the best ways for you to prepare your surface so that it will be long-lasting for years to come.

Can You Paint Plastic With Acrylic Paint

Will Acrylic Paint Stick To Plastic?

The response to this question can be pretty plain and simple. This answer is a resounding ‘NO’. Well, at least not without some understanding of the substances which are being used – and also you really need to be willing to put some work in. 

We know that using plastic is a really tempting choice for showing off your creativity, but as we said earlier, you will have to work hard on this material to make sure that it is prepared sufficiently. 

This will mean that your paint will stick properly, after all, you do not want to be wasting your time putting all this work in and then having your paint not stick to the surface.

Before we get into the ways that you can best prepare your plastic for using acrylic paint – you might be wondering why won’t acrylic paint stick to plastic?

Well, for us to give you a solid explanation as to why this kind of paint will not stick to plastic – then we need to get a bit technical. We need to visit the physics of acrylic paint.

Don’t get us wrong, we could spend hours and hours going in depth on the various factors that have an impact on how well liquids stick to substances. 

In this case, we are referring to the plastic and the paint – and ultimately finding an answer comes right down to the similarity of the substances to each other in terms of surface tension.

Getting Into The Physics

To really get into the science of this, it is all about how the paint interacts with the plastic. This interaction shows the level of ‘wetting’ which is occurring. What does this mean? Well, when the paint forms a bead, so similar to water on a plastic surface, then the difference between the surface tension is high. 

This is a strong indicator that the surface will not be ideal for painting. This is an indicator that the paint will not stick to the surface and it will just slip straight off.

It is true that a painter will require a surface which has pretty good wetting, and a painter can end up spending hours attempting to get the correct degree of wetting. You might be wondering what a good degree of wetting would look like, well, this would look like an even spread of paint.

It is important to note that plastics have a few other properties which make it the enemy of acrylic paint. These properties are low polarity and also being non-porous and hydrophobic. Yeah, plastic is not ideal because it has properties which repels water.

But if you want to paint on plastic with acrylic paint then there are some things that you can do to make your life a little bit easier.

How Should You Prepare Your Plastic Before Using Acrylic Paint?

How Should You Prepare Your Plastic Before Using Acrylic Paint?

Plastic is well-known for being an especially hard-to-paint surface. This simply means that without having the correct preparation in place, then your acrylic paint will not stick. By preparing your plastic surface for painting, you will need to be pretty thorough. 

This will involve you effectively cleaning and also sanding down the acrylic surface. Once you have done this you will need to apply a primer which will make sure that the acrylic paint sticks to the plastic. 

Why It Is Important To Clean Your Plastic Beforehand

It is important to note that one of the reasons as to why your paint will not stick to the plastic surface is because of interference of substances or also particles on the surface.

The interference can be caused by grease, or oils, or fingerprints or even dirt. Do not worry – there are a whole host of cleaning agents and also grease removing products which will provide you with a solution to this problem.

If you have not cleaned your plastic before you apply acrylic paint to it, then ultimately the plasticizers can emerge once you have finished painting. This will make the plastic extremely sticky. When this has happened, then it is extremely difficult to reverse the process and begin again.

Plastic is not the only surface that will require effective cleaning before painting, most other surfaces will need to be cleaned and also prepared effectively before any paint can be applied.

Make Sure That You Sand Your Plastic

Let’s jump right back to before you even think about priming your plastic for a second. You need to make sure that you sand your plastic first with sandpaper because this will really help the application of your acrylic paint. 

Once you have degreased your plastic, then you should use sandpaper to gently sand down the surface. Don’t forget to brush off all of the loose particles with a soft duster and then repeat the cleaning and degreasing process before you get onto painting the plastic with acrylic paint.

Priming Your Plastic

So, now that you have your sanded and de-greased plastic you now need to paint a thin layer of primer onto the plastic. This will increase the surface adhesion. 

This is something that you can do by using a brush or by spraying a primer onto the plastic. You could even use a 2-in-1 primer and spray paint to make your life a bit easier. 

In Conclusion

When it comes to making acrylic paint on plastic, you can use a brush to distribute your paint or you can use spray paint.

If you are using spray paint to paint your plastic then you need to make sure that you spray evenly – and you should hold the can a few inches away from the surface to make sure that the paint does not cling to certain spots.

It does not matter what kind of paint you use, you can use tape to make sure that you control where the paint goes.

So, if you are using tape to create clean and straight lines then you need to consider that putting tape on the paint might lead to the paint peeling off when you eventually remove the tape.

It is clear that acrylic paint and plastic are not the best suited combinations – and sure, there are other paint and surface combinations that would be so much easier to work with.

But, if you use the right plastic and paint combination along with preparing your plastic well then you will be able to get a great outcome. 

Mark Andrews
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