Can I Use Acrylic Paint on Wood?

Learn all about this versatile paint and why it's a great choice for your next home project.

For your next painting project, choose acrylic paint. Easy to use and durable, it can be applied to all types of wood. As a home improvement professional, it’s my go-to paint for its versatility and superior results that I stand behind.

Rachel Otto, a Benjamin Moore paint specialist at Fleury Lumber in Easthampton, Massachusetts, describes acrylic paint as “the newest technology in interior and exterior paint and a real game-changer in the industry.”

If you’ve ever wondered, “Can I use acrylic paint on wood?” read on to learn all about the benefits of this exciting product, including expert tips and product recommendations.

Benefits of Acrylic Paint on Wood

Acrylic paint creates a durable, hard finish that’s easier to work with, dries faster and produces lower VOCs than oil-based paint.

Plus, the flexible finish resists cracking and adds a water-resistant protection for interior and exterior wood surfaces. It also cleans up easily with soap and water, and comes in lots of colors.

How Do You Get Acrylic Paint To Stay on Wood?

While many interior paints and some exterior kinds offer paint and primer in one, consider using a separate primer for the best adhesion.

“Primers can be water-based or oil-based depending on your preference and what type of wood you’re painting on, but generally a primer will help the paint stay longer,” Otto says.

Taking the time to properly prepare wood surfaces prior to painting will also produce longer-lasting results.

Does Acrylic Paint Make Wood Waterproof?

No. “[Its] durable finish will make wood more water-resistant, but not waterproof,” Otto says. Use products like lacquer, varnish or polyurethane on wood to create a waterproof surface.

Prepping Wood for Acrylic Paint

Make sure your surfaces are clean, dry and sound with no rotted areas or loose paint.

Begin by cleaning the wood to remove dirt, mildew or dust with a non-soapy cleaner like trisodium phosphate (TSP). Allow all surfaces to dry thoroughly before proceeding.

If the wood has been previously painted, scrape any loose paint, then smooth with 120-grit sandpaper. Wipe off any dust.

Apply a separate primer to unpainted or bare wood exposed after scraping. Otto also suggests a separate primer to seal knotty pine and cedar. Both contain natural resins that can bleed through paint, causing discoloration.

For dark color paint, use a separate tinted primer for the truest color results. Also, if you have water stains, smoke damaged or really slick surfaces, consider applying a special-purpose primer like Kilz Restoration before painting.

Best Type of Acrylic Paint for Wood

Benjamin Moore offers an extensive selection of interior and exterior acrylic paints with their Ben, Aura and Regal lines at various pricees. These offer a durable, long-lasting finish, and its Gennex Color Technology improves color consistency between gallons.

“Your first gallon to your tenth gallon [will] always have the same color,” Otto says, “There’s no need to combine cans for uniform color results.”

Sherwin-Williams also offers great acrylic paint options for interior and exterior projects. Their Emerald, Duration, SuperPaint and ProClassic formulas offer various colors, sheens and prices to meet your needs.

Application Tips

  • Weather conditions are important the day you apply paint and the following 24 hours. Plan to paint during days that fit the manufacturer’s recommendations for temperature, humidity and weather exposure. These will affect paint dry times and product performance.
  • Acrylic paint can be tough to remove, so protect nearby surfaces from unwanted paint. “When acrylic paint is wet it cleans up really nicely with soap and water,” Otto says. “But once it’s dry it’s harder to get off, so make sure to cover floors and carpets.”
  • Brushes, rollers and air sprayers can be used to apply acrylic paint, depending on your preference. If using brushes, medium to firm bristles suit most applications. If rolling, use a 1/4-in. nap roller for smooth, fine surfaces, and a 3/8-in. or 1/2-in. nap roller for semi-smooth surfaces.
  • As with any painting project, proper technique leads to better results. Start with cutting in (painting your edges first). When rolling, paint in a ‘w’ form as you cover the wall. This ensures you have even coverage and don’t miss any spots.

Does Acrylic Paint Need To Be Sealed?

Generally, no.

“Acrylic paint hardens with a really nice sealing resin over it, so it doesn’t require an additional application of sealant,” Otto says. “Unless you think your project will be used in a way that would make it prone to chipping, you really don’t need to seal it.”

Laurie M Nichols
I am a freelance real estate writer, specializing in accessible and engaging content for websites in the industry. I draw on thirteen years of real estate investing experience, as well as seven years as a home repair professional to inform my writing. I am a former high school English teacher with a M. Ed in Secondary Education and am a registered Home Improvement Contractor in the State of Massachusetts.