Will Acrylic Paint Stick to Plastic Surfaces?

If you buy something through our posts, we may get a small commission. Read more here.

If you’re an artist who uses surfaces of plastic as a canvas, you may have experienced the frustration of your acrylic paint not sticking. This problem can lead to wasted time and materials, but it can be avoided. 

In this article, I’ll share methods and insights to ensure your acrylic paint bonds flawlessly with plastic, elevating your artistic endeavors.

Acrylic Paints, Explained

Acrylic paint is a fast-drying, water-soluble paint made from pigment suspended in an acrylic polymer emulsion. These are versatile and can be used on various surfaces, including canvas, paper, fabric, wood, and more. 

They are water-resistant and lightfast, meaning they won’t fade or turn yellow over time. Unlike oil paints, this paint is dry to a flexible, durable film resistant to cracking and peeling. 

APPLE BARREL Matte Acrylic Paint Collection

Additionally, these can be thinned with water and easily cleaned up with soap and water. This makes them popular among artists and hobbyists, who appreciate the ease of use and quick drying time.

Acrylic Paint Uses

These paints are widely used for various applications due to their versatility, quick-drying time, and durability. 

In the fine art world, these are used by artists for painting, drawing, and mixed media artwork, as they offer vibrant colors and the ability to be easily manipulated with water or other mediums. 

They are also ideal for mural and signage projects, as they dry quickly and resist fading and weathering. These are also commonly used in the crafting industry, as they can be used for decoupage, scrapbooking, and home décor projects.  

painting furniture with acrylic paint

In addition, they are often used by hobbyists and students, as they are easy to clean up with soap and water and are relatively inexpensive compared to other types of paint. 

These paints offer a range of benefits that make them a popular choice for artists, crafters, and hobbyists alike.

Does Acrylic Paint Adhere to Plastic Well?

When it comes to painting on plastic, the type of plastic and how you prep the surface can greatly influence the paint’s adhesion. Typically, this paint sticks best to plastics that are smooth, clean, and dry.

However, some plastics, such as polyethylene and polypropylene, can be more challenging to paint on because they have a non-porous, slick surface that can cause the paint to bead up and not adhere properly. 

Liquitex Professional Heavy Body Acrylic Paint

In these cases, it may be necessary to use a primer or sand the surface to improve adhesion. To ensure the paint adheres well to plastic, it’s crucial to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and clean and prepare the surface properly before painting.

Primer and Paint Compatibility

When you’re buying paint and primer, it’s crucial to ensure they’re compatible. If you’ve opted for a primer specifically crafted for a certain surface, there’s a good chance it may not gel well with just any paint.

Still, if you’re ever in doubt, there’s a simple way to put those concerns to rest: a compatibility test. This will ascertain the harmony between your chosen products.

Here’s how you can evaluate the compatibility between your paint and primer:

paint primer
  1. Choose an appropriate paint testing surface and apply the primer evenly. 
  2. Allow the primer to dry thoroughly before applying the paint.
  3. To assess the adhesion of the primer and paint, make a distinct scratch on the surface using a sharp implement. 
  4. Then, cover the scratch with tape and remove it. If the paint remains intact and adheres to the surface, you can now rest assured that the primer and paint have been applied successfully. 

Conversely, if the paint peels away, it indicates that the primer and paint have not appropriately adhered to the surface.

List of Plastic Materials You Can Paint with Acrylic

Garbage Cans

A diverse array of waste receptacles of varying dimensions are utilized for various purposes. 

spray painting garbage can

It is possible to acquire pre-owned plastic waste containers from second-hand shops and renovate them by applying paint, thus imparting a new aspect to their appearance. 

The alteration of minor elements, such as waste containers, can elevate the overall aesthetic appeal of a room and enhance the ambiance.

Flower Pots

Flower pots are versatile objects that can be utilized both indoors and outdoors. By applying a coat of paint to existing flower pots, you can imbue them with a new and revitalized appearance. 

These revitalized pots have the potential to bring a cheerful and inviting touch to any outdoor or indoor space and serve as an economical means of elevating your outdoor living area.

How Can You Paint Plastic Flower Pots?

Acrylic painting on plastic flower vases or pots is a simple and easy DIY project that can transform the look of your plants. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to do it:

flower pots

Jars and Bottles

Utilizing recycled plastic bottles and jars as decorative elements can imbue an area with a lighter and brighter ambiance. 

plastic jar

These containers can serve purely aesthetic purposes or be put to practical use as storage solutions for various items, including cooking implements, paint brushes, buttons, writing utensils, flowers, makeup brushes, or other objects.

Storage Containers

Storage containers and bins come in many shapes and sizes, making them ideal for storing many items. 

Beyond conventional storage, they can be repurposed as compost bins, vermiculture beds, containers for growing potatoes, or utilized for any other purpose as deemed necessary. 

You can customize them to suit your style by applying paint, rendering them truly unique.

Baskets

Baskets serve many purposes, from holding laundry to storing toys and serving as decorative elements. Their versatility allows them to be utilized for whatever purpose you see fit. 

plastic basket

The appearance of a basket can be revitalized through the application of paint, giving it a fresh and new look.

Light Switch Covers

You can make your room look different by painting the cover on the light switch. Kids like this idea because it makes their space special and fun.

Closet Organizers

Sometimes it takes work to find things in the exact style or color you want. But that’s okay! You can use your imagination and some ideas to make your plastic closet organizer look special and just how you want it. All you need to do is paint it.

Toys

You can make old toys look new again by painting them. It’s easy to make them seem better without spending much money.

Easter Eggs

Easter eggs aren’t the only holiday items ripe for a paint makeover. There’s a plethora of festive objects that can be transformed with a brushstroke. For those who enjoy hosting, it’s not only a creative outlet but also a savvy way to spruce up your décor without breaking the bank.

easter eggs

Home Decors

You can find cheap things to buy at second-hand stores or yard sales. By painting them, you can give them a brand-new look. You can choose to decorate them or just paint them to make them look how you want. If you wish, you can even have new decorations every month.

Furniture

Revitalizing furniture through the process of painting can elevate the appearance of a room or space. This is a practical solution for children’s tables and chairs that have become worn or outdated over time or when merely cleaning is insufficient. 

The application of paint can effectively refurbish the item and bring it back to its former state. Furthermore, painting outdoor furniture can enhance its appearance and elevate the aesthetic of the outdoor living environment.

How to Properly Apply Acrylic Paint on Plastic Surfaces

Necessary Materials

Here is the list of materials you will need: 

Step #1: Prepare the Surface

Before you start painting plastic with acrylic, make sure you have all the things you need to keep yourself safe and protected. You should wear clothes that you don’t mind getting paint on and make sure you have a cloth or newspaper to keep your working area clean.

preparing work area for painting

Go to a place with fresh air or open a window to make sure the paint doesn’t make you feel sick. Some paints have bad stuff, like xylene [1], toluene, methyl ethyl ketone, and turpentine, that can make you sick if you breathe it in. 

If this happens, you can use a fan or a special mask to keep you safe.

Take your sandpaper and gently rub the shiny surfaces of the thing you want to paint. Don’t rub too hard, or you might scratch it. Plastic is a special type of material that doesn’t soak up paint, so rubbing it will help the acrylic paint stick to the plastic better.

After you are done sanding, wipe the surface with a soft cloth to get rid of any dust. If you want it to be extra clean, you can wash it with soap and water. 

cleaning plastic object

Use rubbing alcohol or special cleaning to remove any oils, fingerprints, or dirt on the surface. This will also help the acrylic paint stick better.

Use masking tape to cover up the parts of the item that you don’t want to paint. This will help you paint a clean line and ensure you only paint the parts you want.

Step #2: Add the Primer

Before painting plastic with acrylic, it is vital to make sure it is ready. If the plastic is shiny, you should first put a clear, glossy coating on it to help the acrylic paint stay. You can use a special spray or liquid primer made of plastic.

Make sure to put a thin layer of primer all over the plastic and let it dry before moving on to the next step.

Step #3: Start Painting the Plastic Surface

When you are ready to paint your plastic item, it is crucial to start by placing masking tape around the area you want to paint. 

spray painting plastic bowl

This will help ensure that the paint does not go where you don’t want it to. Then, make sure to choose the right paint for plastic by checking for the label that says “for plastic.”

Once you have the right paint, you may need to prepare it. This could mean just using it straight from the container or mixing it with a thinner. Before you start painting, check the instructions on the paint label.

To achieve a smooth, polished look, you should thin your paint with either paint thinner or water. Then, apply a light coat of paint using a roller, brush, or spray paint. If you are using acrylic spray paint, hold the nozzle about an inch away from the surface and apply several light coats.

painting plastic bowl green

Patience is key when painting. Wait a minimum of two hours before layering on another coat. If your paint specifies a post-drying period, resist the urge to touch the item for at least four hours.

Continue adding coats until you achieve your desired appearance, ensuring each layer dries fully before proceeding with the next.

Step #4: Seal the surface

To protect the plastic’s painted surface, it’s essential to use a sealer. Acrylic paint is known for being durable, but it can become chipped or scratched from frequent use over time.

I recommend using glaze or varnish to keep your painted item in good condition. This will help to protect it and make it last longer.

You can either apply the acrylic sealer with a brush or spray it on. Choose the type of sealer you want to use – it can be matte, satin, or glossy. Start by putting on a light coat and letting it dry for about 30 minutes.

sealing with polyurethane

I suggest applying several thin coats of sealer instead of one thick coat because the sealer can become sticky if it’s too thick.

Step #5: Allow it to Dry Completely

To make your painted plastic item look more interesting and special, add some extra touches before the paint dries. For example, you can use a paint marker or special paints to create details, characters, or life.

You can use sandpaper to add some texture if you prefer a more rugged look. Remember, there’s no right or wrong way to paint your plastic item as long as you like the result. Have fun and be creative!

Once you’ve finished applying clear acrylic sealers to your item, wait for it to dry thoroughly, following the instructions on the bottle. Don’t touch it until it’s completely dry, and then your work is done.

Acrylic Spray Painting on Plastic in 4 Steps

Acrylic painting on plastic with regular spray paint can be a quick and effortless option. With some spray paints, you don’t have to prepare the surface by using a primer or sealing the paint. 

ARTEZA Acrylic Paints on wooden table

Additionally, the drying process is often quicker with spray paint than with traditional liquid paint, making the overall experience more convenient.

Here are the steps to use acrylic spray painting on plastic materials:

Step #1: Ready the Surface

Before you start painting acrylic, it’s essential to properly prepare the surface of the plastic by cleaning, sanding, and priming it. Also, be sure to read the label on your paint for plastic. 

Some spray paints require you to shake the can beforehand and between each clear coat of paint. The label will also indicate if using a primer and sealer is necessary for conjunction with the spray paint.

Step #2: Apply Primer

If you use traditional spray paint instead of one specifically designed for plastic, it is crucial to apply a primer beforehand. There are numerous plastic-specific spray primers available on the market. 

Kilz and Zinsser primers lined up

Follow the instructions on your chosen primer bottle to ensure optimal results. Let the primer dry thoroughly before proceeding with the painting process.

Step #3: Start Spraying the Paint

Before starting the actual painting process, it’s a good idea to test the spray paint on a scrap piece of newspaper, cardboard, or drop cloth to check for the desired color and consistency.

When applying the spray paint, aim the nozzle toward the plastic and apply a thin, light layer. Hold the spray can from a distance of around 8 to 12 inches away from the surface of the plastic. 

Allow the paint to dry, then apply the next layer. Again, I’d recommend applying several thin coats rather than a single thick one. When spraying, maintain a distance of about 12 inches and give the object a light mist.

The first coat may not fully cover the object, but applying the first layer too quickly may result in drips. If you have any dried drips, you can sand the surface flat before adding the next coat.

spray painting ornaments with Rust-Oleum 245210

If the plastic still doesn’t look fully saturated after the paint has dried for two hours, you can add a third and final coat.

Step #4: Leave the Surface to Dry

After completing the painting process, let the spray paint dry thoroughly before using the object. I highly recommend placing the object in a warm and dry place for at least two hours to ensure full drying.

Tips for Painting Plastic

Here are a few tips to help ensure a successful outcome.

Use Painter’s Tape to Maintain Clear Lines

Make sure to use high-quality painter’s tape to ensure a clean and precise paint job. Although it may cost more, it will provide better results than lower-quality tape.

yellow paint tape

The tape will serve as a barrier and protect the areas of the product that you don’t want to be painted. To further cover the unwanted areas, you can attach a piece of newspaper or a paper bag to the surface.

Strip the Tape Immediately After Usage

I also recommend removing the painter’s tape before the paint can dry thoroughly. This is because if the tape is left on for too long, it can peel off the fresh paint, ruining the surface. 

To prevent this, it is best to only apply one coat of primer before moving on to the painting process.

Use Sandpaper or Sander Alternatives

If you want to ensure a good bond between your paint and the surface of the plastic, consider using a liquid sander instead of traditional sandpaper. These products can be found at home improvement stores, and some can even be painted over in just 10 minutes.

Slight alterations like painting can increase the perceived value of an item, saving you money instead of having to buy new products.

various types of sandpaper

Painting plastic items can give them a brand-new appearance and even make them look better than they did originally. Changing the color or adding designs to a room can make it feel more lively and welcoming.

Use Primer Alternatives

If you don’t have a particular type of paint called a primer, you can use enamels or oil-based paint as a base coat before using acrylic paint on plastic. However, using a primer specifically designed for plastic will give better results.

Inspect your storage for Materials You’re Not Using

Looking for ways to save money? Why not start by giving new life to old plastic items you no longer use or that have lost their shine? With a bit of effort and paint, these items can be transformed and restored to their former glory without spending much money on new ones.

How You Can Make Acrylic Paints Stay on Plastic Surfaces

To ensure that acrylic paint sticks on plastic, it is important to prepare the surface properly. This includes cleaning, sanding, and priming. To finish the job, you should seal the surface with a waterproof layer for added durability.

One of the main reasons why acrylic paint may peel away from plastic is contamination. Start by cleaning the plastic surface with mild soap and warm water. For objects that are heavily soiled or greasy, use a cleaner or degreaser specifically designed to remove these substances. 

preparing acrylic paint

You can choose from various options, such as those with low levels of volatile organic compounds or pure solvents. Roughing up the surface of the plastic can also make it easier to paint, and sanding the surface helps the paint bond more effectively. 

This also removes any oxides or films that may be present, which will increase the chance of successful adhesion. Use fine-grain sandpaper, and clean off any loose particles before painting. Moreover, when priming plastic, you can either use a brush or spray.

Just be sure to choose a primer that is specifically designed for the surface you are working with. The drying time and the number of coats required will depend on the type of primer being used. Most primers are applied in a thin base coat to secure the paint to the entire surface.

Sealing Acrylic Paint on Plastic Surfaces

Sealing your plastic surface right after you’ve painted it with acrylics is important. This is because water can affect acrylic paint, and the colors can quickly spread if not protected from moisture.

Since surfaces of plastics are touched frequently, it’s important to secure the paint so that it lasts a long time. Sealing the surface also makes it resistant to water.

sealing painted pot

There are effective methods for sealing plastic with acrylic paint that I have tried and tested. These five methods are highly recommended for anyone looking to protect their painted plastic surface:

Applying Polyurethane for Longevity

When it comes to protecting your painted plastic surface, polyurethane is a more durable option compared to polycrylic. However, it’s important to note that water-based polyurethane tends to turn yellow after drying and can change the desired color of your project. 

But if you still prefer poly, here are our recommendations for the best non-yellowing polyurethanes!

It can also be applied in the same manner as a polycrylic roll-on. Polyurethane is ideal for big projects such as toy cars, figurines, outdoor or indoor furniture, flowerpots, and more, as it is self-leveling.

Applying Polycrylic for a Clear Finish

The primary purpose of polycrylic is to provide a protective barrier for painted surfaces of plastic, making it ideal for indoor projects. It’s available in different finishes, including matte, semi-gloss, high gloss, and ultra-flat.

To use polycrylic on your plastic surface, apply an even coat of the spray solution. You can add multiple thin layers and wait for each one to dry for 2 hours before applying the next. It’s recommended to apply 2 to 3 coats in total to complete the project.

painting plastic bowl green

While it’s not as durable as polyurethane, one of its advantages is that it doesn’t yellow over time and dries quickly.

Applying Acrylic polymer for Outdoor Furniture and Paintings

To protect your plastic furniture and surfaces from discoloration, consider using acrylic polymer varnishes, which come in a range of finishes such as gloss, satin, and matte. 

If you are a skilled painter, DIYer, artist, or crafter, you may opt for the satin finish, a combination of both gloss and matte. These varnishes are designed with UV protection in mind, helping to maintain the original color of your plastic surface.

Using Acrylic Resin for Detailed Crafts and Arts

Acrylic resin varnish is a strong and durable finish. It is ideal for small projects like costume jewelry and beads that require a robust protective surface. Once applied in a thick layer, the final result will have a bright, glossy luster appearance with no added color.

Using Mod Podge for a Glossy Finish

For a smooth and glossy finish, consider using a mod podge on your plastic surface. This medium-strength, clear permanent glue can be used as a topcoat for paint. It’s a good choice if you want a glossy coating for your project.

CRAFTS 4 ALL Acrylic Paint Kit

Are There Sanitizers and Cleaners That Can Help in Painting?

Yes, several sanitizers and cleaners can help with painting projects. Here are a few examples:

Solvent cleaners

Solvent cleaners, such as mineral spirits or denatured rubbing alcohol, are commonly used to clean brushes, rollers, and other painting tools. They can also clean surfaces before acrylic painting to remove dirt, grease, and other contaminants.

TSP (Trisodium Phosphate)

TSP is a heavy-duty cleaner used to clean surfaces before acrylic painting. It is particularly effective at removing grease and oil stains, making it a good choice for kitchen and bathroom surfaces.

acrylic paint

Water-based cleaners

Water-based cleaners, such as white vinegar or dish soap, can also clean surfaces. They are less harsh than solvent cleaners and are a good choice for cleaning delicate surfaces or if you are looking for an environmentally-friendly option.

Disinfectant sprays

 After the surfaces have been cleaned and before painting, you can use a disinfectant spray to sanitize the area. This is particularly important in areas with a high risk of contamination, such as bathrooms, kitchens, and hospitals.

It is important to follow the instructions on the label of the sanitizer or cleaner you choose to ensure that it is used safely and effectively.

Read Also: Will Bleach Prevent Wood Rot?

Best Acrylic Paint Primer for Plastic Surfaces: Rust-Oleum 245197 Universal Enamel Spray Paint, Satin Black

Ie highly recommend this primer for its compatibility with acrylic paints. The ultra-fine mist spray ensures that the acrylic spray paint gun nozzle tip won’t become clogged, making the application process much smoother. 

Additionally, the Rust-Oleum spray paint provides great coverage and leaves a smooth finish, making it versatile enough to use with other paint types as well. Just make sure to observe a 24-hour drying period before utilizing the plastic surface after applying the primer.

Best Acrylic Paint Sealer: Aleene's 26412 Spray Gloss Finish, Acrylic Sealer, Original Version

Aleene’s acrylic spray sealer dries to a glossy coating and offers protection for your surface. It’s an excellent choice for projects that will not be subjected to frequent handling or cleaning. 

These spray sealers are suitable for both indoor and outdoor use because this product can guard the surfaces of your plastic against harsh weather conditions.

Best Paints for Plastic Projects: FolkArt Multi-Surface Acrylic Craft Paint

The FolkArt Multi-Surface craft paint is a great option for simple surfaces of plastic. This acrylic paint will stick to plastics and almost all surface types, making it a versatile choice for all your crafting needs.  

With a wide range of colors, textures, and finishes to choose from, FolkArt Multi-Surface is perfect for all your creative craft acrylic paints project. Plus, it’s fade-resistant, non-toxic, and designed to resist chipping, so your finished product will look great for a long time.

Best Acrylic Spray Paints for Plastics: Krylon Fusion Spray Paint Gloss Sunbeam 12 Ounces

I highly recommend Krylon Fusion for its versatility and performance on plastic. These paints dry quickly, bond well to various surfaces, including metal and plastic, and give a smooth finish after drying.

What truly caught my attention was its efficacy on fabric. Contrary to expectations, the paint didn’t leave any sticky residue, thanks to its rapid-drying formula.

FAQ

What kind of paint sticks to plastics?

The kind of paint that sticks to plastics is acrylic paint. It is easy to use and dries quickly. Before using any type of paint on plastic, it’s a good idea to prime the surface with a plastic primer, which will help the acrylic paint stick better and provide a smoother finish.

How long will it take for acrylic paint to dry on plastic surfaces?

On average, acrylic paint for plastic can take anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour to become touch-dry. However, it may take several hours or overnight for the paint to fully cure and reach its maximum hardness and durability.

To ensure the best results, it is advisable to let the acrylic paint dry undisturbed in a well-ventilated area. 

Why is acrylic paint not sticking to plastic?

If you are experiencing issues with paint adhesion to plastic, the cause may be due to a chemical imbalance. If the chemicals in your paint are not mixing correctly or are not present in sufficient quantity, this could result in paint that does not stick to the plastic surface.

Can I use acrylic paint as glue?

Acrylic paint can be used as a bonding agent for paper and fabrics. However, the bond it creates is not as strong as some other types of glue. The drying time can also vary widely depending on the type of paint and the conditions in which it is used. For the best results, check out our review of the best super glues next!  

How do I maintain acrylic paint on plastic?

A clear acrylic sealer spray can enhance the durability of a freshly painted plastic surface by adding an extra layer of protection. Using a sealer can be beneficial, especially if the item is used outdoors. Spray liquid sealers are also available for easy application.

How to keep acrylic paint from cracking on plastic surfaces?

By using a high-quality pouring medium, you can ensure that your plastic with acrylic paint will remain protected after it has dried. It is important to avoid using cheap pouring mediums as they may result in discoloration on your surfaces.

What’s the best application method for painting plastics?

If you want to paint plastic, spray painting is the quickest and easiest option for a smooth and even result. When spray painting plastic, it’s important to wear a mask, protective eyewear, and gloves and to work in a well-ventilated area.

Interesting Read: Removing Acrylic Paint from Wood 

Conclusion

So, will acrylic paint stick to plastic surfaces? The answer is yes, but the result may vary based on the type of plastic and the preparation of the surface. 

However, it’s also important to note that not all acrylic paints are suitable for use on plastic, and it may be necessary to use a specific type of paint, such as a spray or air-drying plastic paint designed for plastic.

robert headshot

Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You’ve probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Articles
Join our community on facebook and get 3 woodworking plans for free!