Does Acrylic Paint Need a Primer for Plastic?

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Paints are generally applicable to most surfaces, and artists like to experiment with paint on different materials. However, using acrylic paint on plastic can be challenging. 

Acrylic paint needs a primer for plastic. Plastic surfaces are too smooth and nonporous, which makes it difficult for acrylics to bond through. Applying primer after you clean and sand the surface would easily make acrylic adhere to the plastic.

In this article, I’ll discuss the use of acrylic paint on plastic surfaces. I’ll also explain why priming is crucial to preserve the quality of your paintings, and will answer the question Does Acrylic Paint Need a Primer for Plastic?

How To Use Acrylic Paint on Plastic

Given that plastics are typically smooth, artists may find it hard to paint on them using certain paints like oil and acrylicOpens in a new tab.. Also, plastic is nonporousOpens in a new tab., which means that liquid and air particles cannot pass through it due to the lack of pores on the surface.

Fortunately, you can still apply acrylic paint on plasticOpens in a new tab. in five easy steps. Follow the steps below to give artistic life to some plastic stuff in your house, like bowls, cups, storage containers, or bigger surfaces.

One – Prepare the Surface of the Material

Acrylic paints easily adhere to surfaces if they’re rough or textured. That is precisely what you should do to the exterior of the item you intend to paint — make it rough. Follow the steps below: 

  • Clean the surface thoroughly with liquid soap, warm water, and a sponge. Ensure that all dirt, stains, or other particles are removed. Otherwise, you’ll get an uneven look when your painting is finished. 
  • Sand the surface using sandpaper. Use sandpaper with 180 to 220 grit to roughen the surface. Do not forget to do this gently so that the surface will not be too thin for you to paint on.
  • Clean the plastic surface again. Wipe off the debris with a damp cloth, then apply rubbing alcohol to the surface to remove any particles, oil, and grease. Let the plastic dry in an area with good air ventilation afterward.

Two – Check the Compatibility of the Paint and Primer

Paint and primer, in general, are compatible with each other. Still, if you want to be extra sure, you can take additional steps to test it.

On a different item with a similar surface, repeat the first step in this section. After this, check the acrylic paint and primer’s compatibilityOpens in a new tab. by doing the following things:

  • Apply a small amount of primer and wait until it dries.
  • Put on a layer of acrylic paint and stand by again till it is not wet anymore. 
  • Scratch the painted surface with any sharp object. 
  • Cover it next with tape and ensure it sticks well to the painted layer.
  • Pull the tape off. 

If pieces of paint come off, it means that the primer and the acrylic are not compatible. Choose another product that works well with plastics. On the other hand, if the paint remains in tack with the plastic, then they are compatible!

Three – Apply the Primer

Now, you can start painting. It is advisable to apply at least two coats of primer for better adhesiveness of the acrylic. You can do this through these steps:

  • Use tape to mask off the areas you’ll not be painting. Flatten the tape out so that no paint or primer will leak in.
  • Apply a thin and even layer of primer across the surface and leave it to dry.
  • Apply another coat of primer. 

You can still follow these even when using primers in spray cans. Just take extra caution by wearing protective gear to prevent yourself from inhaling paint particles. 

Also, make sure no children or pets are nearby to ensure their safety.

Four – Start Painting With Acrylic

Applying acrylic is just like applying primer. They should be applied in thin layers. 

Before applying another layer on top of the first one, ensure it’s completely dry. Acrylics are fast-drying, so it would only take 15 – 20 minutes to dry each layer.

The whole painting will take 12 – 24 hours to dry completely. You can only remove the tape until then. 

Five – Coat the Acrylic Paint With Sealant

Apply a thin coat of sealantOpens in a new tab. as a final step. Doing this will provide a final finish, make the colors more intense, and preserve your painting.

It would be a pity for you to do all that hard work and come up with a beautiful piece of art only to have it ruined by things like dust. Using sealant ensures your handiwork will remain around for a while — in its original glory. 

The Importance of Primers in Painting

Primers are not only good when using acrylic paint. Most artists and even house contractorsOpens in a new tab. recommend using paint primer before painting for several reasons. 

Primer Provides a Stable Base Layer

Different materials in painting have different surface porosity. As I mentioned above, if a surface is nonporous, the paint will have a hard time sticking. On the flip side, too much porosity on the surface leads to uneven layers of paint as the material will be too absorbent. 

Primers are helpful in these situations. They can even out the surface of your chosen material and make the paint easy to adhere to. This makes them an excellent base layer under coats of paint.

Primer Minimizes the Risk of Paint Peeling And Preserves the Painting’s Quality 

Paint peeling often happens when a painting turns completely dry. The paint loses its hold on the surface, cracks, and starts flaking after a while. 

That is why primers are essential. They increase the adhesiveness of paints and help avoid flaking or paint peeling. 

Applying primers is beneficial if you want to preserve the quality of an artwork. Because they reduce the likeliness of paint peeling, the longevity of your painting is also ensured!

Final Words

Acrylic paint is a very versatile medium for paintings. It can be applied effectively even on a variety of surfaces. However, one might find it challenging to use it on plastic surfaces. 

The use of primers helps with this. Aside from increasing the adhesiveness of the paint, primers provide a stable layer for a painting, reduce the risk of flaking, and preserve the quality of the artwork for a long time.

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Caraca's self-taught artist based in the UK, Ines explores unconventional materials and sustainability.

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