Can You Paint Acrylic Over Enamel? Follow These Steps…

Repainting furniture is a low-cost and easy way to give it a new life. But what if you used enamel paint on these surfaces and want to repaint with a different paint, like acrylic?

It’s important to know if the mediums are compatible. If not, you could end up with a peeling and cracking paint job. 

So, can you paint acrylic over enamel? The short answer is yes, as long as it’s water-based enamel paint you’re painting over. But read on to learn how to do it properly for a smooth and lasting finish.


You can’t use acrylic paint over oil-based enamel paint. You need to prep the surface first, by sanding and priming the surface. 

In contrast, for water-based enamel paint, you can just clean the surface and apply acrylic paint directly on the surface.  

Can you paint acrylic over enamel?

Note that there are two types of enamel paint: water- and oil-based. You can paint acrylic straight over water-based enamel paint, but oil-based enamel paint is a different story.

Acrylic is a water-based medium, and it’s composition makes it hard for the paint to stick to the typical glossy finish of oil-based enamel paint. You will need extra preparations to prepare the surface for water-based paint. This includes deglossing the surface and repriming with an oil-based or bonding primer.

On the other hand, water-based mediums are compatible with each other. It still helps to do some light sanding when applying acrylic paint over water-based enamel to ensure the best possible adhesion. But it’s not 100% necessary. 

Always plan to apply two coats of acrylic paint to ensure the fullest color.

Related: Water-based Enamel Paint vs Oil Paint: A Side-by-Side Comparison

How to paint acrylic over enamel

To paint over enamel with acrylic paint, you’ll need the following:

  • Medium-grit sandpaper
  • Mild dishwashing liquid and warm water
  • Clean cloth for cleaning dust and another for wiping the surface
  • Fine-grit sandpaper or liquid deglosser
  • Multi-purpose primer
  • Acrylic paint
  • High-quality brushes or foam rollers

The first step is to find out what kind of enamel is used. This is necessary to know whether extra preparations are needed for acrylic paint. As mentioned above, water-based paint will not stick well on oil-based mediums.

To find out if it’s oil-or-water-based, put rubbing alcohol or acetone on a clean cloth or cotton ball. Then, gently wipe the surface. If the paint starts to loosen, it’s water-based paint. If not, then it’s oil-based paint.

If it’s water-based enamel, follow these steps:

  1. Clean the surface with a mixture of mild dishwashing liquid and water. After, wipe it clean with a cloth, then let air dry.
  2. We recommend lightly sanding with fine grit sandpaper (220+ grit) before priming. This helps to create a rough surface that paint can cling to. For better paint adhesion and durability, you can apply a layer of primer but this step isn’t completely necessary. 
  3. Then, apply two coats of acrylic paint. Make sure that each layer has fully dried.
  4. After, you can decide whether to put a topcoat over acrylic paint for more durability.

For painting over oil-based enamel paint, you’ll need to:

  1. Clean the surface with a water-mild dishwashing liquid mixture. Then, air dry.
  2. Sand the entire surface with medium grit sandpaper. Then, vacuum and wipe the surface to get rid of the debris. Alternatively you can use liquid sandpaper by Klean Strip or another brand to degloss the paint.  
  3. Then use a multi-purpose primer to prime the entire surface. In most cases, one coat will be enough to sufficiently block out the underlying color. 
  4. Once the primer has fully dried, start painting with acrylic paint. Use either a high quality brush or high-density foam roller. Always apply two coats for the fullest color. 
  5. Seal it with a topcoat, or leave it as it is.

Acrylic paint is not as durable as enamel paint. For added durability apply a top coat of polycrylic or polyurethane. 

Can you paint enamel over acrylic?

While you can’t paint water-based paint directly over oil-based paint, it is not true vice versa. Oil-based mediums will adhere to oil-or-water-based paints, so it is safe to do it without worrying about poor adhesion or cracking.

How to paint enamel over acrylic?

For painting oil-based enamel over acrylic, you’ll need:

  • Medium-grit sandpaper
  • High-quality paint brushes
  • Enamel paint

To use oil-based enamel over acrylic paint, always start by cleaning the surface. This will improve the adhesion of primer or paint. Use a mixture of mild dishwashing liquid and water to remove dust, grime, and other contaminants.

Then, follow the steps below:

  1. Lightly sand the surface with medium-grit sandpaper. Wipe off the surface again.
  2. After sanding, although it’s not completely necessary, for best durability, apply a layer of oil-based primer. 
  3. Lastly, apply the enamel paint in thin layers and sand in between for better adhesion. Two should be sufficient for the fullest color. 
  4. Enamel paint is a durable medium, so you can skip the topcoat. But you can still apply one for extra durability.

You can follow these same instructions for water-based enamel paint as well. 

Can you paint enamel over enamel paint?

Again, the simple answer is yes. But the preparation and steps for painting differ if you’re mixing the same or different bases.

As a general rule:

  • water-based mediums stick to each other well
  • oil-based mediums adhere to oil and water-based mediums
  • water-based mediums will not stick properly to oil-based mediums

The only exception to these rules is primers, as they stick to each other well, regardless if they are oil or water-based.

If you’re using water-based enamel paint over oil-based enamel paint, follow the instructions below:

  1. As always, start with a thorough cleaning with mild dishwashing liquid and water. Then, let your furniture air dry.
  2. Then, lightly scuff with fine-grit sandpaper. Wipe the dust away after sanding.
  3. Use a multi-purpose primer like Zinsser 123 on the surface. If painting light over dark colors, a second layer of primer may be necessary. Then, wait for your primer to fully dry.
  4. Finally, you can add your water-based enamel paint on the surface. Apply in thin layers, and sand in-between for the smoothest finish. Wait for each layer to dry for at least 24 hours before adding another coat.



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