How to Seal Acrylic Paint on Wood: A Beginner’s Guide

Have you ever marveled at a piece of wooden artwork only to see its brilliance fade over time? Well, that’s where sealing acrylic paint on wood comes into play. To preserve the charm and durability of your wooden masterpiece, sealing is a critical step you cannot afford to overlook. But why so?

Just think about it, we all love the radiance of a newly painted wooden item, right? The enchanting colors of acrylic paints can instantly uplift the aesthetics of any wooden surface. Yet, as much as acrylic paints hold the magic, they’re no match for the relentless onslaught of time and environmental elements unless they have a robust shield protecting them. That’s where sealing comes in, offering the much-needed armor to your acrylic paint, preserving its brilliance and vibrancy for longer.

Acrylic paint, in its raw state, is prone to external damages, including scratches, sunlight, or water. Plus, the paint can chip away from the wood surface, robbing it of its allure and making it look old and worn out. That’s a bummer. But with a well-applied sealant, you can kiss these troubles goodbye. Not only does a sealant offer protection, but it also enhances the paint’s luster, making your wooden pieces look brand-new for ages.

Understanding Acrylic Paint

Let’s take a detour into the land of colors, shall we? Acrylic paint, the artist’s best friend, has been around since the mid-20th century. Bursting with color and versatility, acrylic paint can adhere to various surfaces, making it the go-to choice for artists around the globe. But what makes it special, you ask?

At its core, acrylic paint is a pigment-rich, water-based product. It’s known for its quick drying time, vibrant colors, and strong adhesive properties. But the real showstopper is its plastic polymer base, which ensures that acrylic paint becomes water-resistant once dry.

Doesn’t that sound like a dream? But wait, there’s more. You see, acrylic paint is like a chameleon. It can mimic the sheer fluidity of watercolor and the heavy texture of oil paints, making it an all-rounder in the world of paints.

But how does it fare on wood? Incredibly well, in fact! Given its adhesive properties, acrylic paint forms a strong bond with wood. It seeps into the grains, highlighting their natural patterns, while adding a splash of color. The result? A striking piece of wooden art that captures the eye and heart.

However, the story doesn’t end here. While acrylic paints perform remarkably well on wood, they still need a little help to withstand the test of time. And that’s where sealing becomes essential, making your wooden pieces visually stunning and long-lasting. After all, what’s the point of creating something beautiful if it won’t last, right?

Preparing Wood for Acrylic Paint

Let’s roll up our sleeves and dive right into the action. There’s some groundwork before your brush kisses the wood with the stunning acrylic hues. Let me guide you through this preparatory phase.

The first step to any great masterpiece is cleanliness. So, grab a damp cloth and gently wipe down the wood to remove any dust, grime, or sticky residues. This simple step ensures your paint adheres to the wood instead of the dust particles, giving you a smooth and vibrant outcome.

Next up, let’s bring out the sandpaper. Yes, you heard it right! Sanding is a crucial step that preps the wood for painting. It helps smooth out the rough edges and uneven surfaces, which can otherwise lead to a bumpy paint job. So, gently rub a medium-grit sandpaper over the wood, moving toward the grain. Dust it off once the surface feels smooth, and you’re ready!

But wait, we’re not done yet. The final step in our preparatory journey is priming. Primer is like a secret sauce that enhances the overall painting outcome. It provides a neutral base for acrylic paint, helping the colors stand out and shine. Plus, it prevents the paint from soaking into the wood, making your artwork more durable. To prime the wood, apply a thin layer of acrylic primer with a brush, and allow it to dry completely.

The Painting Process

With the preparations out of the way, it’s time to dip our brushes into the world of colors. Let’s walk through the process of painting the wood with acrylic paints, one step at a time.

First things first, gather your tools. You’ll need your acrylic paints, various brushes for different effects, a palette for mixing colors, and a cup of water for rinsing your brushes.

Start by squeezing out your chosen colors onto the palette. Remember, less is more. You can always add more paint if needed. Now, please pick up your brush and lightly dip it into the paint.

Next, gently apply the paint onto the wood, moving the brush in smooth, even strokes. The key to a flawless finish lies in layering. So, start with a thin layer and allow it to dry completely before adding another. This helps build up the intensity of the color, while ensuring a smooth and even application.

Tips for a smoother finish, you ask? Well, patience is your best friend here. Rushing the process can lead to clumps and streaks, so take your time. Also, keep a wet edge while painting. Once you start a stroke, finish it before moving on to the next. This simple trick can help prevent unsightly lap marks.

Why Seal Acrylic Paint on Wood?

We’ve reached the crux of our journey: sealing the acrylic paint on wood. But why is this step so crucial? Well, hold onto your brushes, folks, as we delve deeper into the world of sealants and discover their hidden powers.

Imagine crafting a stunning piece of wooden art, pouring your heart into it, only to see it wither away with time. Heartbreaking. Well, that’s where sealing comes to the rescue.

Let’s start with the most obvious benefit: protection. Wood is a natural material, susceptible to weather, moisture, and everyday wear and tear. Without a protective seal, your beautiful acrylic artwork is at the mercy of these elements. Rain can wash it away, the sun can fade the colors, and the simple act of handling can lead to chips and scratches. But, with a good quality sealant, your artwork gets a robust shield that safeguards it from these potential damages.

Next up, we have color enhancement. You see, sealants can add a whole new dimension to your artwork. Depending on the type of finish they offer – matte, satin, or gloss – sealants can deepen the colors, add a gentle sheen, or lend a glossy, glass-like finish. This can elevate your artwork, making the colors pop and the effect more striking.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, a sealant can extend the life of your acrylic paint. A sealant prevents the paint from peeling, flaking, or chipping away by creating a barrier between the paint and the external elements. This means your artwork remains vibrant and beautiful for much longer, allowing you to enjoy your creation for years to come.

Choosing the Right Sealer

Now that we’ve unlocked the secret powers of sealants, it’s time to pick the right hero for your artwork. With many sealers on the market, choosing the right one can feel like finding a needle in a haystack. But fear not. I’m here to guide you through this maze!

When it comes to sealers, one size doesn’t fit all. The right sealer for your artwork depends on many factors, including the type of wood, desired finish, and the conditions to which the piece will be exposed.


Let’s start with the most common type of sealer: varnishes. Available in different finishes – matte, satin, and gloss – varnishes create a hard, clear coat over the paint, providing sturdy protection against moisture and UV rays. They are easy to apply and can significantly enhance the vibrancy of your colors.

However, varnishes come with their set of cons. For one, they can alter the texture of your artwork, giving it a plastic-like finish. Plus, removing or reapplying varnish requires a bit of elbow grease.


Next up, we have lacquers. Known for their high-gloss finish, lacquers can lend your artwork a polished, sleek look. They dry quickly and form a robust protective layer against the elements.

But, lacquers can be a tad tricky to work with. They dry quickly, leaving little room for error. And, due to their chemical composition, they require proper ventilation while application.

Polyurethane Sealers

Polyurethane sealers are your best bet if you’re looking for a heavy-duty protector. They form a hard, durable coating that can withstand extreme conditions, making them ideal for outdoor pieces.

However, their toughness comes with a trade-off. Polyurethane sealers can add a yellowish tint to your piece, which might not work well with certain colors.

Acrylic Sealers

Lastly, we have acrylic sealers. These are water-based sealers that provide a flexible and clear finish. They are easy to use and don’t emit harmful fumes, making them a safe choice.

However, they are less durable than their counterparts and might not hold up well against heavy wear and tear.

How to Seal Acrylic Paint on Wood

Now that we’ve navigated the labyrinth of sealants and found our champion, it’s time to take the plunge and seal our acrylic artwork. Ready to roll up your sleeves and dive in? Let’s get sealing!

Step 1: Gather Your Tools

First things first, assemble your toolkit. You’ll need:

  • Your chosen sealer
  • A clean, soft brush
  • A dust-free cloth
  • A well-ventilated, dust-free space

Step 2: Prepare Your Piece

Before we start, ensure your artwork is completely dry. This is crucial because applying a sealer over wet paint can lead to smudging or uneven finishes. So, patience, my friend! Once dry, use a dust-free cloth to wipe away any dust or debris from your piece gently.

Step 3: Apply the Sealer

Now, onto the fun part. Dip your brush into the sealer and apply a thin layer over your artwork, following the wood grain. Start from one edge and work your way to the other, ensuring the entire piece is evenly covered. Remember, applying multiple thin layers rather than one thick one is better, so resist the urge to slather on the sealer!

Step 4: Let it Dry

Once you’ve applied the sealer, it’s time for a break. Let your piece dry completely. The drying time can vary based on the type of sealer and the conditions of your workspace, so refer to the manufacturer’s instructions. A word of caution: don’t rush this process. Letting the sealer dry naturally ensures a smooth, even finish.

Step 5: Apply Additional Coats (Optional)

If you feel your piece needs additional protection, you can apply another coat of sealer. Repeat steps 3 and 4, ensuring each layer is fully dry before applying the next.

Step 6: Admire Your Work

Once your final layer is dry, it’s time to sit back and admire your work. Your beautiful acrylic artwork is now dazzling and equipped to stand the test of time.

Care and Maintenance

Congratulations on successfully sealing your acrylic masterpiece! But the journey doesn’t end here. It needs a little tender loving care to keep your artwork looking its best for years. Here are some tips and tricks to maintain and care for your acrylic-painted wood.


It’s natural for your painted wood to gather dust and grime over time. Cleaning it is simple but requires a gentle hand. Use a soft, dry cloth to dust the surface lightly. If your piece is in a high-traffic area and accumulates dirt, wipe it gently with a damp cloth, then dry it immediately. Avoid harsh cleaners or abrasive sponges, which can scratch or damage the paint and sealer.

Avoiding Direct Sunlight

UV rays are a sworn enemy of acrylic paints. They can cause the colors to fade and the sealer to break down over time. To prevent this, keep your artwork out of direct sunlight. Consider using a UV-protective sealer for added protection if it’s an outdoor piece.

Avoiding Extreme Conditions

Extreme heat, cold, or humidity can affect your artwork. They can cause the wood to expand or contract, leading to cracking or peeling paint. Keep your piece in a stable environment with consistent temperature and humidity levels.

Regular Inspection

Make it a habit to inspect your artwork regularly. Look for signs of wear and tear, such as chipping or peeling paint, or cracks in the sealer. Early detection can make repair and restoration easier.

Repairing Damages

If you notice any damage, don’t panic. Small chips or cracks can be repaired with matching acrylic paint and sealer. You might need to sand the area, repaint it, and reseal it for larger damages.

Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

The road to sealing perfection can sometimes be bumpy, filled with a few detours and pitstops. But don’t fret! We’re here to navigate you through common sealing pitfalls and ensure your journey is as smooth as your finished artwork. So, let’s steer clear of these mistakes!

Mistake 1: Not Allowing Paint to Dry Fully

The excitement of seeing your finished work can make you rush to the finish line. But sealing over wet paint is a big no-no. It can cause smudging, uneven finishes, or even peeling.

How to Avoid: Patience, dear friend! Allow the paint to dry completely before moving on to the sealing stage. The drying time can vary based on the thickness of the paint and the environment, so it might take anywhere from a few hours to a few days.

Mistake 2: Neglecting to Prep the Piece Before Sealing

Sealing isn’t just about protecting the surface. It’s also about enhancing the visual appeal of your artwork. Sealing over dust or debris can cause a bumpy and unattractive finish.

How to Avoid: Before sealing, gently wipe your piece with a dust-free cloth to remove any dust or debris. A clean surface is the foundation of a flawless finish!

Mistake 3: Applying the Sealer Too Thickly

It’s tempting to slather on the sealer to provide maximum protection. But applying too much sealer at once can lead to drips, bubbles, or an uneven finish.

How to Avoid: Remember, less is more! Apply the sealer in thin, even layers. It’s better to apply multiple thin layers, letting each dry fully, than to apply one thick layer.

Mistake 4: Rushing the Drying Process

Rushing the drying process using a hairdryer or placing the piece in the sun can cause the sealer to crack or peel. It can also lead to an uneven finish.

How to Avoid: Allow the sealer to dry naturally in a dust-free environment. The drying time can vary based on the type of sealer and the conditions of your workspace, so be sure to refer to the manufacturer’s instructions.


You’ve got questions. We’ve got answers! Here are some commonly asked queries about sealing acrylic paint on wood. Hopefully, these responses will address any lingering questions you may have!

Can I use Mod Podge to seal acrylic paint on wood?

Absolutely! Mod Podge can act as both a glue and a sealer. It’s available in several finishes, so you can choose one that best fits your project. Apply it using a brush, allow it to dry, and voila! Your artwork is sealed. However, remember that Mod Podge is not as durable as other sealers, especially for outdoor projects or pieces that will be handled frequently.

Do I need to seal wood before painting with acrylic paint?

Yes, it’s usually a good idea. Prepping the wood surface with a primer or undercoat before painting can prevent the wood from absorbing the paint, leading to brighter colors and a smoother finish. It also provides an extra layer of protection for the wood.

How long should I wait before sealing acrylic paint?

It’s best to wait until the paint is completely dry. Depending on the thickness of your paint layer, this could take a few hours to a few days. Rushing the process can lead to smudging or peeling, so patience is key!

Can I use hairspray to seal acrylic paint on wood?

While it’s true that hairspray can provide a temporary fix, it’s not recommended for long-term use. Hairspray can turn yellow over time and isn’t waterproof. Using a dedicated sealer for a more durable and lasting finish is best.

Can I use a roller to apply the sealer?

Sure thing! A foam roller can give you a smooth, even finish. However, a brush allows for more control for smaller or more detailed pieces.

Product Recommendations

Your sealing journey doesn’t have to be a lonely one. These trusty sidekicks are here to lend a hand and help you achieve the perfect finish. Here are some product recommendations that have proven winners in the sealing game.

1. Aleene’s Spray Acrylic Sealer

This sealer is a crowd favorite due to its versatility. Available in both glossy and matte finishes, Aleene’s Spray Acrylic Sealer gives your painted wood a protective, clear finish that doesn’t yellow over time. Its easy-to-use spray can ensure a smooth, even application without any brush strokes.

2. Mod Podge Clear Acrylic Sealer

Mod Podge’s sealer is a great option if you’re looking for something easy to use and budget-friendly. It provides a strong, clear finish that enhances the vibrancy of your acrylic paint. It’s also non-yellowing and available in both matte and gloss finishes.

3. Krylon Clear Coatings Aerosol

Krylon’s sealer offers durability and UV protection, making it a great choice for outdoor pieces. It’s fast-drying, provides a hard, protective, non-yellowing coat, and is available in various finishes.

4. Liquitex Professional Varnish

Liquitex Professional Varnish is a fantastic choice for those seeking a more professional finish. It provides high-quality UV protection, resists discoloration, and is ideal for various surfaces. Plus, it’s non-removable, ensuring a longer-lasting finish.

5. Golden Polymer Varnish with UVLS

This waterborne acrylic polymer varnish provides a protective, dust-resistant surface. It’s uniquely formulated to be removable, allowing future conservation of your work. UV light stabilizers also reduce light damage to your painted wood.

DIY Project – Seal it with Love!

If you’ve got a piece of wooden furniture or décor at home that needs a little love, why not give this DIY sealing project a go? Here’s a simple project you can do:

  1. Pick Your Piece: Find a wooden item in your home, like a small stool, picture frame, or wooden coaster.
  2. Preparation: Clean the wood thoroughly and sand it for a smooth finish. If the wood is dark, you might want to apply a primer.
  3. Unleash Your Inner Picasso: Create your masterpiece on the wooden item using your acrylic paints. Remember, there are no mistakes, just unique creations!
  4. Seal the Deal: Once your paint has fully dried, it’s time to seal it. Please choose your preferred sealer from our recommended list above, and apply it carefully following the instructions on the package. Don’t forget to let each coat dry before adding another.


We’ve journeyed through the world of sealing acrylic paint on wood together, from understanding acrylic paint and wood preparation to diving into the painting process and the critical role of sealing. We’ve explored how to choose the right sealer and the step-by-step application guide.

Sealing your acrylic-painted wood isn’t just a protective measure – it’s a way to enhance the vibrancy of your colors, giving your piece that extra pop. It also represents your effort to preserve your creative expression for years. So, why wait? Grab that brush, don your creative hat, and start sealing!