One of the great things about acrylic paints is that they are versatile. You can use them on lots of different surfaces. But they work better on some surfaces than others.
Acrylic paints can be used on many different surfaces. This includes canvas, wood, linen, and some other fabrics. However, acrylics work better on some things than others and you need to prepare many of the surfaces or the paints before use or they don’t work.
I have shared many of the surfaces you can use acrylic paints on below. Some are more successful than others while some you should not use acrylic paint on.
With acrylic paint it’s not so much can the paint be used on a surface, it’s more will it stay on that surface for the use that you want it for. Is it safe to use it in that way?
Below is a list of things people want to use acrylic paint on along with if they can be used on them and how well it works and if you need to do anything to the surface to make it work better.
Use Acrylic Paints On Wood
You can absolutely use wood as a surface to paint on for acrylic painting. In fact, wood is a fantastic surface to use acrylics on. You can even buy wood slices or wood panels, especially for that purpose.
Wood does require some preparation if you want your painting to last, for example sanding and priming to give better results and reduce the chances of your paint chipping or soaking into the wood.
Acrylic paints can be painted on wood that has been stained. Just follow the same method you would for other wood and make sure you prepare and prime the surface for painting.
Although you can paint on wood if you use acrylic paint on exterior wood you have to take into account weather conditions. Rain, cold, sun, etc will all play a factor in the deterioration of your painting. In fact, let’s face it virtually any paint you use fades and chips with time.
I would recommend that you use a paint that is meant for outside rather than acrylic art paints. However, if you do choose to use acrylics outside make sure you prime well and seal the finish. In addition some colors last longer than others, for example, black and green. While others fade more quickly like yellow and red.
Plywood Is Easy To Use
If you want to paint on plywood for art you can easily use it. Acrylic paints work well on plywood. You need to prime it to make sure you have a good even surface to paint on.
Working With Acrylics on Plastic Can Be Tricky
At first glance, this looks like a simple question with a simple answer. But it isn’t. There are several issues here if you want to use acrylic paint on plastic surfaces.
- Acrylic paint although plastic itself and obviously it sticks to itself isn’t designed for plastic surfaces.
- Plastic is smooth. Acrylic paint doesn’t tend to stick so well to smooth surfaces. In fact, I’ve just done a test on some paint bottles that have had acrylic paint on them for ages and it just scrapes off as though I only just painted it. So it clearly stays on if not touched but is not very stable and only on the surface.
The paint needs a bit of bite to stick to. You can prepare the surface and make it rougher by sanding it and priming it. Or you can use a plastic primer to prime it or start by using something that is suited to plastic, then paint over that. Then seal it when you have finished.
- There are lots of different plastics. Acrylic paint reacts and sticks differently to different ones. This makes it very difficult to say how successful you will be because you just don’t know until you try it.
- The quality of your acrylic paint makes a difference. The lower quality cheap brands are less likely to stick to plastic.
Some people say the reason it doesn’t stick is that acrylic paint is plastic. There is some dispute over this because let’s face it acrylics stick to other acrylic paints even different brands. While this clearly shows they do stick to plastic it does not mean they will stick to all plastic.
My view is that they will stick to plastic but if it is smooth the paint will peel off easily. If you are keen and don’t mind the possibility of ruining your surface try it out and see what happens. Or try a test on the exact same plastic. If you know what it is.
You Can Paint With Acrylics On Rocks & Slate
Rocks and slate are great to paint on. You can use art acrylics. Some people prefer to prime the surface of the rocks or slate before they paint while others don’t.
You Can Paint On Glass, Jars, Bottles & Windows
Again like the plastic glass is smooth. This means that acrylic paint doesn’t stick to it very well and can easily be scraped off. You need to prepare the surface properly by cleaning off any debris and oils. You also need to get a medium so that your paint will stick to the surface of the glass.
I prefer to use paints meant for glass so I have specialist glass paints for painting on glass. They are acrylic but meant for glass.
Do not use acrylic paint on lightbulbs that are going to be used as light because they will get hot and it isn’t meant for that. In fact, I wouldn’t paint them full stop as I would consider it a safety issue.
Painting on Tin, Aluminium or Iron Metal
You can use acrylic paints on metal surfaces like tin, aluminum, or iron. The surface needs to be thoroughly cleaned, checked for rust and primed with a primer first to make sure your design stays on the surface.
The Challenge With Painting on Concrete & Concrete Statues
You can paint on concrete and concrete statues. I wouldn’t use acrylic paints where I was going to walk. Also, there’s a good chance if it’s concrete it is outside so you have to consider weather conditions and sun. These will damage your artwork very quickly. Either by wearing it down, by the sun fading it or causing the paint to chip. You need to seal any work that you put outside.
You also need good preparation by making sure the item is dry, clean, and oil and dirt free. Concrete is also very porous so your paint may soak into it. This means you have to do extra preparation before painting it.
The Best & Worst Paper To Use With Acrylic Paint
You can paint acrylics on paper. If you’re going to use acrylics to paint on paper you can buy specialist acrylic paper. If you don’t want to do this then the next best paper to use acrylics on watercolor paper.
You need any paper you use to paint on with acrylics to be acid free.
The other issue you have is how good is your paper at holding together while wet? And how thick the paper is. The thin paper doesn’t work very well to paint on as it is not sturdy enough and can easily wrinkle and rip, either when you are painting or as the paint dries.
- Regular paper – can be used if it is thick enough and acid-free.
- Heavier watercolor paper – This works well for acrylics although it can be a bit absorbent.
- Heavy drawing papers – As drawing paper is acid-free you can paint with acrylic paint on it. But again many drawing papers are not really thick enough to hold the paint and it is likely to ruckle under the weight and the wet of the paint.
- Acrylic paper – meant for acrylic paints. Again it is quite absorbent. I find the first couple of layers not much good for wet on wet techniques. If you have read my previous posts you know it isn’t my favorite but it is used for many of the acrylic painting samples on this site.
I wouldn’t recommend any of the following papers for use with acrylics:
- Bristol paper
- A4 paper and other printer sizes of paper
- Chart paper
- Construction paper
At the end of the day, it’s a bit of paper. Give it a go and see how it works for you. I have seen people paint with acrylics on printed newspapers before and do a good job as well. If someone asked I wouldn’t recommend it based on the criteria I know about. And if you have paid out for decent paints why skimp on your painting surface? But there’s no reason not to try it.
Foam Boards Are Not Great For Long Use
You can paint on foam boards with acrylic paint. As acrylics don’t need solvents it works well. However, the boards themselves do break down so they are not ideal if you want your art to last.
Cork Boards Make a Fun Surface To Paint
Cork boards can be painted with acrylic paint if you want to spice up your board with an interesting design. You can simply paint onto your board with the acrylic paint.
Can Cotton Fabric Be Use to Paint With Acrylics?
Cotton fabric is perfect to paint on with acrylics. In fact, it is one of the main surfaces that canvases are made from, the second most popular being linen.
However, if you intend to use your fabric as an item of clothing rather than just for display as an art piece it’s not a good idea just to paint acrylics on it.
There are different types of acrylics some are better suited to this type of painting than others. Some acrylic paints can be a bit stiff as well.
And you have to allow for the materials that will need to be washed which acrylics are not meant for at all. You can get a fabric medium for this purpose.
Painting Polyester With Acrylics
You can use acrylics to paint on polyester. The challenge is that polyester does stretch so you need to make sure you allow for this when painting.
If you’re using normal acrylic paints you need to use fabric medium. Alternatively, you can use acrylic fabric paints that are specially designed to use this way.
T-Shirts Make Great Canvases For Your Art
I admit when I first found out I was a bit surprised that acrylic paints work fine on T-shirts. While I know acrylic paint stays on T-shirts perfectly well as I have small brightly colored paint splatters all over mine to prove it, I thought they wouldn’t work on T-shirts because they are all stretchy and acrylic paints go stiff.
While acrylic paints work well on cotton most T-shirts seem to be a cotton-polyester mix, hence the stretch. In fact, T-shirts are usually made of polyester, cotton, and rayon.
Acrylic paint does stretch when dry and you can use a fabric medium to convert it so it is better suited to use on things like T-shirts. Its softer and attaches to the material better.
Fabric medium helps the paint to absorb into the fabric and be much softer than it normally is.
Jute Bags Make Great Painting Surfaces
Jute bags are made from cotton, jute, or NWPP which is non-woven polypropylene which is a plastic and hessian which is also made from jute and also hemp.
You can use acrylic paints to paint on your jute bags (source) in fact it is one of the better choices of paints to use.
Acrylic paints will fade eventually due to wear and tear and weather conditions like rain. According to Jute, this is a good thing because “ you can then paint a new design on the bags”.
Jute bags come in different styles and weaves. If you are going to paint on a jute bag I recommend that you start with a closer woven fabric to start with as this is easier to paint on. As you are not going to wear it and probably not going to wash it too often you may not need to worry as much about fabric medium. Although you can use a fabric medium to be on the safe side.
Decorate Denim, Jeans, Jackets & Shorts
You can use acrylic paints to paint on anything denim. Denim is made for 100% cotton, However, stretch denim will have other materials in them. Denim works well for acrylic painting as it is quite firm and not too stretchy (unless designed to be).
You do need a fabric medium to paint on denim though if you are using acrylics to paint on denim clothes and you want your pattern to stay on it longer and the acrylic paints not be too stiff.
Some Types of Acrylics Work With Leather
You can use art acrylics on leather but it can cause a few issues with wear & tear. It tends to crack and peel off the leather. You also need to seal them onto the leather. The best way to paint onto the leather is to use acrylic paints that are meant especially for leather.
Polymer Clay Projects Are Often Painted
You can use most acrylic paints on most polymer clay. A lot of polymer clay artists do use plain uncolored polymer clay and paint their pieces with acrylic paint. You can use most acrylic paints but medium or heavy-bodied ones work the best.
I have made polymer clay pieces. You can paint your pieces either before or after you bake them. Although some people recommend that you paint after and not put the piece into the oven with the paint on as it can go funny. Make sure you keep to safe temperatures.
I haven’t put mine into the oven with paint on and prefer to paint after baking.
As polymer clay is made from plasticized vinyl you are really painting plastic on plastic. This can cause issues depending on which brand clay you are using with which brand of paint. Some will work well while others won’t. Test your paint before you use it.
Plaster Is A Great Surface To Use
Acrylic paints work very well with plaster projects. You need to prime the surface of cured plaster with gesso before you start so it doesn’t absorb the paint and to prevent chipping.
Use Craft Paint For Rubber
You can use craft acrylic paints to paint rubber but it will not stay on very well unless you prepare the surface properly. Also, if you use the area with the rubber a lot it will chip off and wear away. It is only useful for inside craft projects.
Canvas Is a Great Surface For Art
Acrylic paints can be used on canvas. In fact it is one of the main and most popular painting surfaces used for acrylic painting.
Canvases come on board, pre-stretched, and on a roll. All of these can be easily used with a bit of preparation. And in some cases, the preparation has been done for you.
Can Acrylic Paint Be Used On Canvas Shoes?
Yes, you can paint canvas shoes with acrylic paint. After all one of the most popular surfaces acrylic painters paint on is canvas.
However, a word of warning if you want to do this. First, check that your shoes are actually made of proper canvas i.e. cotton. I recently bought a pair of shoes that were described as canvas and they were in fact made of a form of plastic.
You would be better off not using the thick acrylic paints for this. If you can, use the thinner ones. If you only have thicker acrylic paints then water them down slightly.
Make sure you use fabric medium.
Can You Paint On Converse & Van Shoes?
Some people have asked if you can paint Converse or Van shoes with acrylics. Both of these names are branded shoes and not actual materials. So if you want to paint on them I would recommend that you check out what materials your particular shoes are made from and if they have any special waterproof or other coatings. Each shoe is made from different materials and in some instances more than one material on the uppers. These are suede, leather, canvas & fabric, etc.
Treat each shoe as a material check if you can paint on that material and if so use the painting methods and primers etc, for that particular material.
Use Acrylic Paint On Furniture, But Be Careful
You can paint with acrylics on most types of furniture. However, furniture is too generic to give a clear answer to whether you can use acrylic paints on it or not.
If you want to paint on furniture I recommend that you break it down to the type of furniture surface you want to paint on. Is it metal, wood, plastic or cloth, etc.
These are all included in this article under the hard materials and clothing and fabric, etc.
The challenge you have with furniture is that it is to be used and this can change whether you can or should use acrylics on it as it may not stand up to wear and tear.
Acrylic Paints Are Great On Eggs & Easter Eggs
You can paint real chicken, duck, goose and ostrich eggs with acrylic paint if you are only using them for decoration only and not be used after painting. Acrylic paint works well on eggs and you can create many exciting designs using eggs.
You Can Use Acrylics With Some Jewelry
With jewelry, it really depends on what your surface is as jewelry can be made up of so many different things as to whether you can paint with acrylics on them. For instance, I used to make jewelry from cabochons. As stones work with acrylic paints there is no reason why not in this case. I would not because I used specialist cabochons with amazing patterns. There would be no point.
If you are painting on jewelry think of what it is made of and decide whether to use acrylics based on that.
Paint On Terracotta & Terracotta Pots
You can use acrylic paint to paint your terracotta and terracotta pots. You do need to seal them first with a surface primer.
I wouldn’t want to paint anything that I was growing plants to eat in just in case it gets into the food. It’s not very likely but I’d err on the side of caution.
Also, I wouldn’t want to paint the whole pot either as the whole point of using terracotta is it is breathable.
If you are putting the posts outside you have to consider that the weather conditions will affect your painting may be causing chipping and sun damage.
Coffee Mugs & Ceramics Are A Challenge
My sister and I tried painting on ceramic mugs a couple of winters back. It worked well enough but the image did not last. The surface is too smooth and the image scratched off very quickly.
If you do want to do this you can seal the picture but it is not much good as you cannot use it to drink from or as a surface for food use. And you cannot put it in a dishwasher if you want to keep the pattern.
When I painted on ceramics properly we used special paint and painted on the surface while it was raw and un-glazed.
If I were going to do this I would paint the picture on canvas, copy it over to a photo, and have it printed on the mug form one of the print services.
Ceramic tiles have similar issues to other ceramics. More so as they are often in places where a good clean is needed due to either fat spits or bathroom dirt. You can paint ceramic tiles as you can get a specialist primer to paint over them. This is meant for painting over with bathroom paint and not artist acrylic paint. Oil-based paints are better for this though.