Using Acrylic Paint on Wood Crafts

Acrylic paint is a versatile and accessible medium that opens up endless creative possibilities for wood craft projects. From painting intricate designs on small wooden trinkets to creating stunning landscapes on large wooden canvases, acrylic paint is the perfect choice for both novice crafters and seasoned artists.

Using Acrylic Paint on Wood

Basics of Acrylic Painting for Beginner Crafters

Here are some key supplies and techniques beginners will need to start painting wood crafts with acrylics:

Painting Supplies

  • Acrylic paint – Good quality paints like Liquitex or Winsor & Newton provide rich pigments and smooth blending. Start with primary colors plus black and white.
  • Brushes – Synthetic bristles work best. Have a variety of brush sizes and shapes.
  • Palette – For mixing paints. Can be wood, plastic or disposable paper.
  • Primer – Helps paint adhere to wood. Look for gesso or acrylic primers.
  • Finishing spray – An acrylic sealant will protect the finished piece.
  • Wood surface – Can be wood planks, boxes, furniture, decor items and more.
  • Water container – For thinning and cleaning up acrylic paints.

Painting Techniques

  • Washes – Diluting acrylic paint with water creates a transparent wash for staining wood.
  • Dry brushing – Using a lightly loaded brush on dry paint creates texture.
  • Blending – Mixing two colors together softly creates subtle gradients.
  • Glazing – Adding transparent layers of paint for depth.
  • Stippling – Using short brush strokes to apply small dots of paint.
  • Sponging – Dabbing paint on with a natural sponge for texture.

Take time to practice these techniques on scrap wood before moving to final projects. This helps develop skills and comfort working with acrylic paint.

Why Use Acrylic Paint on Wood Crafts

There are many advantages to using acrylic paint that make it a top choice among crafters and DIYers working with wood:

Vibrant Colors

The pigments in acrylic paint allow for deep, rich shades across the color spectrum. Painters can create bright, saturated hues or subtle pastel shades.

Quick Drying

The fast drying time of acrylics makes the painting process quick and easy. No waiting around for layers to dry like oil paints.

Waterproof Finish

Once dry, acrylic paint is water-resistant and durable. Pieces can withstand being used outdoors or in wet environments when properly sealed.

Easy Clean Up

Brushes and other tools can be cleaned with just soap and water since acrylics are water-soluble. No harsh chemical solvents needed.


Acrylic paints are low odor and non-toxic when dry, making them safer to use than oils or spray paints.


Acrylic paint is readily accessible and affordable to hobbyists. Even student grade paints offer decent quality for crafts.

With this winning combination of traits, it’s easy to see why acrylic has become the paint of choice for crafters.

How to Choose the Right Acrylic Paint

With so many brands and types of acrylic paint available, it can get confusing determining which paint is right for your wood craft project. Here are some tips for choosing acrylic paint:

Paint Quality

Artist quality paints have more highly concentrated pigments for richer, more vibrant colors. Student quality paints contain more fillers and may be streaky.


Thick, heavy body acrylics work well for impasto techniques. Thin fluid acrylics are good for watercolor-like washes.


Matte paints have no shine when dry. Glossy paints look shiny when dry. Satin is in-between.

Color Options

Some brands offer dozens of pre-mixed colors while others focus on primary colors. Choose paints with the colors you need.


Check that the paint specifies adhesion to wood, or you may need a separate primer.

Your Budget

Artist quality paints are more expensive than student grades. Only spend extra if your project requires intense color.

Test out a few brands and styles to determine what works best for your projects and skill level. Having the right paint makes the painting process smooth and enjoyable.

Step-by-Step Guide to Painting Wood Crafts

Follow this step-by-step guide for foolproof results painting wood crafts with acrylics:

1. Prepare the Wood Surface

  • Sand the wood lightly to improve paint adhesion
  • Wipe away any dust with a clean cloth
  • Apply 1-2 coats of acrylic gesso primer and let dry fully

2. Sketch the Design

  • Lightly sketch your design in pencil directly on the primed wood
  • Use rulers and guides to ensure straight lines
  • Start simple if new to painting

3. Mix Your Paints

  • Squeeze out desired acrylic paint colors onto a palette
  • Thin with water for transparent washes or use thickly for coverage
  • Mix colors to create shades like green, purple, orange, etc.

4. Start Painting

  • Use high quality synthetic bristle brushes for best results
  • Apply paint starting with the background or base colors first
  • Work from broad areas to finer details and outlines

5. Refine and Detail

  • Let base layers dry fully before adding details
  • Use smaller brushes for painting intricate elements
  • Touch up any mistakes by waiting for it to dry and painting over again

6. Finish and Seal

  • Allow paint to dry completely, around 24 hours
  • Spray on 1-2 coats of an acrylic sealant for protection
  • Avoid handling painted surface until fully cured

Take your time and don’t rush the process. Good preparation leads to a smoother painting experience and better end results.

Common Mistakes Painting Acrylics on Wood

Painting with acrylics is forgiving, but watch out for these common rookie mistakes:

Forgetting to Prime

  • Unprimed wood can lead to the paint absorbing unevenly or failing to adhere at all.

Applying Paint Too Thickly

  • Acrylic paint can crack or peel if applied in very thick layers. Do multiple thin coats instead.

Inadequate Drying Between Layers

  • Rushing the process can cause paint to lift or mix unintentionally. Allow each layer to dry fully.

Neglecting to Seal the Finish

  • An acrylic sealant is essential for protecting paint from moisture, scratches and UV damage.

Using the Wrong Brushes

  • Inexpensive craft brushes don’t hold paint well. Invest in good synthetic brushes.

Failing to Clean Promptly

  • Dried acrylic paint is hard to remove. Wash brushes and tools right after painting.

With some care and patience, you can avoid these issues and end up with professional-looking painted wood crafts.

Acrylic Paint on Different Wood Types

One of the joys of working with wood is the beautiful range of grains and textures available in different wood species. Here’s how acrylic paint performs on some popular woods:


Soft, lightweight pine is beginner-friendly to paint. The wood grain provides light texture without being too pronounced. Pine dents easily though, so handle crafts gently.


The bold grain of oak wood adds interesting visual detail under acrylic paint. However, oak contains tannins that can discolor or bleed through paint over time.


Hard maple wood has a fine, smooth grain that creates an ideal painting surface. It has no pores or tannins that could bleed into the paint.


Plywood offers an affordable and stable painting substrate thanks to its layered construction. Choose sanded plywood for the smoothest finish.


MDF has an ultra-smooth surface that acrylic paint strongly adheres to. The lack of grain also allows for fine details in painting.

Take some time to experiment with painting on different wood types to discover which ones you enjoy working on most.

Using Acrylics for Outdoor Wood Crafts

The waterproof durability of acrylic paint makes it perfect for outdoor wood projects like garden furniture, signs or lawn decorations. Here are some tips:

  • Use exterior grade wood like cedar or teak that can withstand weathering
  • Apply extra primer and sealing coats since outdoor pieces experience more wear
  • Add a UV-resistant varnish for sunlight protection and to prevent fading
  • Use high pigment paints so colors pop against natural backgrounds
  • Reapply sealant every 1-2 years as needed to refresh and protect paint

With the right preparation, acrylic painted wood crafts can withstand full sun, rain and snow for years of enjoyment outdoors.

Troubleshooting Common Acrylic Paint Problems

Here are some simple fixes for common problems that can occur when painting wood with acrylics:

Paint Not Sticking?

  • Ensure the surface is properly sanded, cleaned and primed before painting

Cracking or Peeling Paint?

  • Avoid thick layers which can dry too quickly and crack. Apply multiple thin coats instead.

Brush Strokes Visible?

  • Use high quality synthetic brushes and thin paints to the optimal consistency

Colors Mixing Muddily?

  • Thoroughly rinse brushes between colors or use a separate brush for each color

Paint Drying Too Fast?

  • Slightly dampen the wood before painting to slow drying time

Colors Looking Dull?

  • Make sure to seal the finished piece with an acrylic varnish for bright colors

With acrylics, most mistakes can simply be painted over after the layer dries. Patience and practice will resolve many of these common issues.

Sealing Acrylic Paint on Wood

The final step after the paint is fully dry is applying a protective acrylic sealant. This seals the porous wood surface and creates a moisture barrier to prevent paint damage over time.

Here are some tips for sealing acrylic paint on wood:

  • Use a spray sealant for full, even coverage on all surfaces
  • Choose matte, satin or gloss finish based on your preference
  • Apply thin coats, avoiding drips or runs
  • Allow full drying between coats, usually 1-2 hours
  • For outdoor pieces, use a UV-resistant sealer for sun protection
  • Reapply sealant every couple of years or as needed

Take the time to properly seal your painted wood project, and it will maintain its vibrant colors for many years to come.

Recommended Acrylic Painting Supplies

Having quality painting supplies makes working with acrylics much easier and more enjoyable. Here are some recommended products:

Winsor & Newton Galeria Acrylic Paint – This top-tier acrylic paint offers stunning pigment concentration and a buttery smooth consistency.

Reeves Acrylic Paint Set – A budget-friendly option, this massive set of 75 acrylic paint tubes covers all the basics.

Royal Langnickel Essentials Paint Brush Set – With 10 brushes of varying shapes and sizes, it’s a great starter set.

Art Alternatives Canvas Panel Boards – These pre-primed boards provide a ready-to-paint wood surface.

Loew-Cornell Detail Brushes – Tiny brushes for adding fine details and outlines. The snaptight cap keeps bristles protected.

Montana Spray Paint Acrylic Varnish – This convenient aerosol sealant provides fast drying protective coats.

Inspiring Wood Craft Painting Ideas

Need some inspiration for your next acrylic paint wood project? Here are some fun ideas:

  • Paint a landscape mural on a salvaged wood coffee table
  • Upcycle thrifted trays into colorful serving boards with painted designs
  • Decorate wooden boxes with faux inlay designs using paint
  • Add whimsical animals and patterns to a child’s wooden furniture
  • Use stencils and patterns to create artsy painted coasters
  • Paint abstract geometric shapes on wooden wall art pieces
  • Give new life to an old chair with paint and decorative details
  • Create monogrammed planter boxes for your garden blooms
  • Design colorful signs to label plants in an urban garden


Working with acrylic paint is an enjoyable activity for crafters of all skill levels. With such versatility and ease of use, acrylics are perfect for creating stunning works of art on wooden surfaces. Acrylic painting on wood is a fulfilling hobby that results in professional-looking, durable pieces you’ll cherish for years.