Painting acrylic on wood is an escape from common painting on canvas. Acrylics work great on wood, as wood is a porous surface, it can help you with your creative process or paint wood furniture.
To paint acrylic paint on the wood you need to choose the best acrylics for wood, prepare and prime the right wooden surface, paint and seal the painted surface to make sure your art will last years.
Here I will share with you the painting acrylic on the wood process, as well as painting on wood ideas and tips, such as how to paint on wood without brush strokes or which paint is the best.
In this article:
- Can I paint wood with acrylic paint?
- What wood or wooden panel to choose for acrylic painting?
- How to prepare wood for acrylic painting
- Best acrylic paint to use on wood: 7 brands
- How to protect acrylic painting on wood + 6 best sealers
- How to paint furniture and wood without brushstrokes
- Painting acrylic on wood ideas
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Can I paint wood with acrylic paint?
Yes, wood is one of the painting surfaces for acrylics.
Painting on wood is the most sturdy and substantial surface available. You can paint on natural wood or composite boards but remember to prime your wooden surface beforehand to ensure that any natural elements in the wood, as well as contaminants, do not ruin your painting.
Masonite, HDFB high-density fiber board, and MDFB medium-density fiber board are examples of composites. The fact that they don’t have natural elements in them is one of their key advantages. But it also means that they are smoother and don’t offer natural wooden texture.
The biggest disadvantage of wooden panels is the possibility of swelling or molding if adequate priming and preparation are not followed. Not to mention the weight — wood is far heavier than paper or canvas.
Is it possible to paint acrylic directly on wood?
In a word, yes and no. You can paint directly on wood, but unprimed wood absorbs a lot of paint, requiring more paint, drying faster, and allowing natural wood elements to affect the painting afterward. It is preferable to prime the wood.
We will talk about wood priming below, but I also wrote a whole separate article about it: How to Prime Wood for Acrylic Painting.
Painting acrylic on wood: What wood or wooden panel to choose?
Let’s see some details about what exactly we can paint on when we talk wood. Choosing natural wood, we will go for hardwood and I’ll quickly explain why. I will list wooden panels that we can use too. Keep reading.
TAKEAWAY: If it is your first try pick wooden panels: masonite is the most used and great option Ampersand Gessobord (pack of 4). Another low-cost option is MDF: 30 6′′ MDF boards. If you want to paint on natural wood, paint on mahogany, birch, or maple. No matter what you choose always prime the surface.
Hardwood (Natural wood)
Because it will be a heavy object, painting on hardwood requires adequate priming, some room, and some strength. However, you have the option of selecting the size, thickness, and type of wood.
Mahogany, birch, and maple are three common varieties of wood that perform well for acrylic painting.
Mahogany is the best choice because it is rot-resistant, but birch or maple will also work well with careful priming and indoor storage.
Softwoods are not used for painting since they are prone to warping.
Plywood, hardboard, masonite, MDF, and other types of wood panels are available. They usually arrive unprimed and with the option of being cradled.
Acrylics are most commonly displayed on plywood panels, which are typically constructed of Baltic birch or maple wood. They have a flat surface and are usually unprimed, which means you will need to sand them and prime them with gesso if you’d like a smoother surface.
Some artists claim it will warp, and I don’t use plywood myself.
- Panels made of hardwood
Oak, birch, mahogany, and walnut are common hardwoods for panels. They’re long-lasting and a wonderful alternative to canvas.
However, they may be excessively heavy and pricey for acrylic painting.
Masonite or hardboard panels are extremely sturdy, inexpensive, and easy to paint on. It can be tempered and untempered. For acrylic painting, we need untempered masonite as it is more absorbent.
To paint on a highly smooth and absorbent surface, sand the masonite before priming or use a pre-primed masonite.
The most popular hardboard is Ampersand Gessobord – an affordable, high-quality pre-primed, and archival wooden panel. On Blick store pack of 4 boards, 4×4, will cost you only around $6 (I like Blick as it is often cheaper than Amazon).
- Medium-Density Fibreboard (MDF)
MDF (Medium-Density Fibreboard) is a low-cost, smooth, robust, and dense acrylic painting surface.
Unprimed MDF is not only unsuitable for painting since it is not water-resistant, but it will also soak up more paint than a primed surface. To avoid this, ensure that the surface is well-primed before painting and that the artwork is properly sealed afterward. I’ll say it again: prime all sides of MDF and use a respirator whenever you sand or cut it. For $14 on Amazon, you can get 30 6′′ MDF boards.
How to prepare wood for painting acrylic?
The best-recommended way to get the wood ready for acrylic painting is to sand the surface, apply at least 2 coats of sealing, and 2 coats of priming. Sometimes you can skip sealing and seal the painting when it is done to protect it.
The easiest way is to buy pre-primed wooden panels. But you may still want to sand them more to get a smoother surface.
Here is the full step-by-step wood priming process I made a separate article about, but here I will guide you briefly through it.
3 steps to prime wood
If you have an unprimed wooden panel or you want an extra smoothness to your primed board, make sure the wood is clean and dry before you will start priming it. For easy cleaning use a lint-free cloth that has been moistened slightly with water.
Elevating the wooden panel on jars may be a good idea as this way you will be able to prime all sides evenly.
Consider using a few wood strips to reinforce the back of a large piece of wood. It’ll prevent it from distorting. (Clamped in place using glue)
Now you are ready to prime the wood!
Step 1: Sanding
If you want a smooth surface, use a 140 to 280-grit sandpaper or a sanding sponge and sand the wood, following the grain. When you are satisfied with the smoothness, clean the surface again.
Step 2: Sealing (Optional)
Sealing is absolutely mandatory for natural wood, but you can skip this step if you have a gessoboard or any other wooden panel. The main goal of sealing is to hold natural wood components from destroying the painting.
Working with natural wood, you need 2 coats of sealing. If you have knots, you may need special knot sealer.
Seal only clean and dry wood, and don’t forget to seal ALL sides.
Step 3: Priming wood
Priming is necessary for any unprimed wood, no matter natural or composite. Using a roller, brush or spray primer, apply 1-2 coats of priming. Start from front and sides, then prime the back of the panel too.
Liquitex White Acrylic Gesso is a good and affordable primer for wood.
More details on priming, sealing and recommended products here: How to Prime Wood for Acrylic Painting.
Acrylic Paint for Wood
You can use any acrylic paint for wood, even inexpensive craft, and student grade paint, if you’re considering painting as a pastime, or if you’ll be painting with your children, or if you’re just a newbie who has to try everything. If your professional art for sale is a painting on wood, use only artist-grade acrylic paint.
As professionals normally follow their own way to do things, I will give the list of paint any beginner or family can use to still make a very good painting.
- Acrylic Premium Artist Paint Arteza (Set of 24)
- Apple Barrel (Set of 18)
- Liquitex Basics Set of 24
- Handy Art 8 Color
- Blick Studio Acrylic Paint Set of 24
- Crayola Portfolio Series Acrylic Paint
- Pebeo High Viscosity Studio Acrylic Paint
Basically, any good-quality acrylics may be used on wood.
If you’d like to learn more about acrylic paint, I suggest you read my big research about 21 Best Acrylic Paint Brands for Beginners and Professional Artists.
- The best acrylic paint on wood for beginners overall is Liquitex Basics.
- Second place – Acrylic Premium Artist Paint Arteza
- Special prize for decor projects – Apple Barrel
1 – Liquitex Basics
$38.94 | Set of 24
One of the most popular and recommended acrylic paint among beginners and some Pros too! Liquitex is an old and well-known art brand, proven the quality for a long time already.
For beginners and painters on a budget, the Liquitex Basics are an excellent student grade paint. They’re bright, have high-quality pigment, are lightfast, blend well, and dry to a satin sheen.
They also come in bright and metallic colors (which are less lightfast). UV-resistant and water-resistant acrylic colors are available from Basics.
Twelve, twenty-four, thirty-six, or forty-eight colors are included in the Liquitex Basics Sets for novices. I propose the 24-color set, which is a best-seller and has all the necessary colors.
2 – Acrylic Premium Artist Paint Arteza
$21.09 | Set of 24
Arteza is one of the most affordable student grade acrylics, that are still showing great results. Arteza, as Blick, is not only a brand, but an online marketplace. They have everything a beginner may need (canvas, panels, brushes, paint, etc.).
I would say that it is a good option and a versatile paint for a beginner: you can use it on canvas, wood, ceramics.
3 – Apple Barrel
Apple Barrel is acrylic paint, great for wooden projects. I would recommend this paint for your small furniture projects and decor. I would not choose this paint to work on canvas.
Apple Barrel comes in 16 oz individual barrels and it has a matte finish. If you don’t need so much paint, go for their 18 pcs set – it will be enough for a couple of small decor projects.
4 – Handy Art 8 Color
$27.7 | Set of 8, 8 oz each
Handy Art 8 Color is another cheap paint brand working on different surfaces, including wood. They are available both individually and in basic set of 8 primary colors.
Like all acrylics, they are water-based, dry to a semi-gloss finish, and become water-resistant, which make them easy to clean.
5 – Blick Studio Acrylic Paint Set of 24
$28.59 | Set of 24
Blick, an art e-com giant, produces high-quality products for any needs (not only painting). They have several paints, Blickrylic is the simplest one, for school mostly, Blick Studio – good student grade paint, and Blick Artists’.
Blick acrylics are high performant, bright and intense, and durable on wood. I didn’t try it on large wooden pieces yet, so I can’t recommend it for big projects.
They offer not only sets, but you can also buy any color you like or a smaller set.
6 – Crayola Portfolio Series Acrylic Paint
$8.60 | Set of 2ml 6 tubes
Another student grade acrylic paint suitable for painting on wood (but also clay and fabric). The colors are vivid, and the paint is quite thick due to its high viscosity. Water-resistant once dried.
If you want specific colors, better purchase individually, as Crayola only has a basic set of 6 colors, which is extremely cheap, by the way.
I haven’t met a lot of people who use this paint, but it seems legit.
7 – Pebeo High Viscosity Acrylic Paint
$5.56 – $20.60 | only individually
Pebeo is a very good brand with good student-grade acrylics: good pigment, vivid, thick. This specific High viscosity paint was created for projects on board, wood, metal, canvas, and other surfaces.
If you will buy by tubes, always make sure you have extra white (to mix colors).
How to protect acrylic painting on wood
Protection of an acrylic painting starts even before we paint: the surface should be clean and well-primed. Priming is one of the major protective factors, as it keeps wood from molding, shrinking, soaking extra paint. All of it affects how long our painting will last.
But once the painting on wood is ready, we should also protect the paint from sunlight, time, dust, and moisture. The best way to protect an acrylic painting on wood is to seal it with a clear coat of acrylic varnish, protective finish, or spray coating.
The painting should be fully cured (the paint is not only dry to touch but it is dried completely). In general, it will take 24 hours for acrylic paint to fully dry. Read the label or check my research on acrylic drying time and factors.
How to seal acrylic paint on wood
Sealing acrylic paint on wood is the right way to protect a painting from environmental factors and internal wooden alterations.
To seal acrylic paint on wood use 1-3 thin layers of a recommended sealer: Minwax Polycrylic finish is one of the best.
- Make sure the painting is dry.
- Clean it (wipe with a cloth) to make sure there is no dust.
- Depending on what sealing product you use, follow the instructions (the common recommendation is to make an even, not too thick, coat of protective finish in a dust-free room). 1-3 thin coats.
- Let it dry up to 24hrs.
What you can use to seal acrylic painting on wood:
I give you 6 options, but I would recommend using Minwax Polycrylic finish as a wood sealer.
- Liquitex Varnish – popular, good brand, easy to use. However, lately, varnishes are less popular, as you need to replace them in 20-50 years and they can yellow, but this one you CAN’T replace, it is non-removable.
- Mod Podge – it is a sort of old-fashioned sealant based on the glue. Needs 2-3 coat. It is milky but should fry clear.
- Minwax Polycrylic finish – modern “varnish”. No need to replace, easy to use. Gain more and more adepts now. I recommend it! Both for wooden panels and furniture.
- Mr. Super Clear protective finish – UV protective spray sealant with a matte finish.
- Krylon crystal clear acrylic coating – spray. Some artists get used to spraying as they think it gives more even coats. I would say it is not for a beginner, as I’m personally very bad at holding the same pressure while spraying.
- Grumbacher spray varnish – another popular spray option. Clear and non-yellowing.
You can know this process as varnishing (for canvas), so it is basically the same process and products.
How to paint furniture and wood without brushstrokes
I just published a couple of months ago a big material about painting without brushstrokes: 27 Tips How to Paint Without Brush Strokes or Marks.
Here is the summary of it, if you don’t have time to read it (bookmark it and read later):
- Don’t save money on brushes. Brushes should not bend, lose bristles, and be durable. For acrylic paint, we choose synthetic brushes. If you’re completely lost in brushes, read this: The Best Brush for Acrylic Paint – it is a comprehensive guide on how to pick a brush and some recommended brands.
- Use good paint, if you’re a beginner, thin it, to make sure thick consistency will not alter the brushstrokes.
- Always keep sandpaper next to you to quickly fix a dried brushstroke.
- Always paint in thin layers. The thicker layer of the paint is, the more likely you will have a stroke.
- The easiest way to avoid brush strokes is to use a roller. Smooth and even surface. But be careful, the roller may have more load capacity than a brush!
- Try to paint in one direction and not go over just the painted area (it can be still wet).
- If you’re painting the furniture, apply at least 2 paint coats.
These are the most common recommendations, as I said, you can read a full article once you have time or.. a brushstroke 🙂
Painting on wood ideas
You can paint on a gesso board or renew a furniture piece. Don’t be shy – be creative. Here are some ideas to inspire you.
- acrylic painting on wooden cut
- painting signs, letters, quotes on wood
- Christmas, Easter, or any other holiday decorations
- paint and assemble dry branches
Ocean views, especially if you will combine it with acrylic pouring, look fantastic on round wooden panels or tables.