Using Acrylic Paint on Furniture: Everything You Should Know

Acrylic paint is a water-based paint often used for art, but other purposes as well. 

And while there are common types of paint for furniture such as latex paint and oil-based paint, acrylic paint is also popular. 

In this post, you can learn everything you need to know about painting furniture with acrylic paint.

Can You Paint Furniture With Acrylic Paint?

Yes, you can paint furniture with acrylic paint. Not only that, but you can also use acrylic paint on walls, fences, and other surfaces. It’s a very versatile paint that’s easy to apply. 

Acrylic and latex paint are similar in many ways. Both paints are water-based and popular for painting furniture. Acrylic paint is widely used for outdoor furniture in particular. 

Acrylic paint is typically non-toxic and won’t release harmful fumes, unlike enamel or oil paint. This makes it a great paint for indoor applications. You should still take safety precautions when dealing with paint, especially if you’re going to sand the surface. It’s recommended that you only paint in a well-ventilated area.

Applying acrylic paint is easy as it goes on evenly and tends to be self-leveling. It’s quick-drying too, so you will be able to apply an additional coat sooner rather than later. And since it’s water-based, clean-up is easy too. You only need soap and water.

The one drawback of acrylic paint is that it takes a long time to cure; it can take two to three weeks to fully harden. But when it fully cures, it will have a durable and flexible finish that’s very resistant to chipping and cracking even without a top coat. Nevertheless, you can still seal your acrylic paint with a water-based top coat though to prolong its life.

Acrylic paint can come in a matte, satin, or glossy finish. You can apply it using a brush, roller, or paint sprayer.

Related: Can Wall Paint be Used on Furniture

How to Prepare Wood for Acrylic Painting

Preparing the surface you’ll be painting is an integral part of the painting process. While acrylic paint can adhere to a lot of surfaces, you won’t get the best results unless you clean and sand the surface. Acrylic paint, any any other paint for that matter, won’t adhere well to your furniture if your furniture has any grease or grime on it. 

To clean the surface, you only need soap and warm water. Soak a clean cloth or rag with soapy water, then scrub it on the surface in circular motions until all dust, dirt, and grime are removed. Then, wait for the wooden surface to dry before moving on to next steps. 

Once you’re done cleaning, you can proceed to sanding your wooden furniture. Sand down your furniture with fine-grit sandpaper. Sanding your furniture will create a roughened texture that the your paint or primer can strongly “grip”.

After sanding, use a clean, damp cloth to clean the surface of any sand dust. Make sure to let it thoroughly dry before applying primer or acrylic paint. 

Related: Oops Paint: Where and How to Buy it

How to Prime Wood for Acrylic Painting

Technically, priming your furniture isn’t 100% necessary for furniture in some cases. However, for the best results and most durable finish, primer is always recommended. After all, acrylic paint adheres the best to your furniture if a layer of primer has been applied first.

Make sure that you have cleaned and sanded the surface before applying a primer. Using an applicator (e.g. brush, roller, or spray), apply the first coat of primer to the surface. Typically, most water-based primers will dry to the touch in around 30 minutes and you can typically move on to painting within an hour. However, your climate and weather conditions can affect your primer’s dry time. 

Lightly sand the dried coat of primer if you want to remove brush strokes in the primer that can make an uneven surface. Just remember to clean the surface off before painting. 

Choosing Primer for Acrylic Paint On Wood

Zinsser Bulls Eye 123 is an excellent multi-purpose primer that can be used for most furniture painting projects. 

If you need a really effective stain-blocking primer, then go with Zinsser BIN Shellac Primer. It does a great job of sealing stains (water stains, cigarette smoke stains, pet stains) and trapping odors. Additionally, if you’re working on wood that’s high in tannins (such as mahogany), this shellac primer will prevent the tannins from bleeding through your paint and causing yellow stains. 

Best Acrylic Paint for Furniture

Not all acrylic paints are made equal. Some are specifically made to be used on wood furniture.

FolkArt Home Decor Chalk Furniture & Craft Paint is an excellent acrylic paint for furniture. It has an ultra-matte sheen that comes in 35 vibrant colors. It can adhere to a lot of surfaces such as metal, glass, and of course, wood. It comes in 8oz 16oz, and 32oz containers.

One thing that this paint boasts is that it doesn’t require sanding and priming (although it’s still best to sand and prime for the most durable results). Still, it’s always recommended that you at least lightly sand your surface. You can also purchase a pre-packed set of this acrylic furniture paint if you plan to give your furniture more than one color.

Other great acrylic paints include Waverly acrylic chalk paint and Apple Barrel acrylic paint. 

How to Seal Acrylic Paint on Wood Furniture

Although it’s not completely necessary, sealing acrylic-painted furniture can help to protect it. Sealing your furniture will make your furniture more durable and prolong the life of your paint.

There are many top coats you can use for acrylic paint furniture including polycrylic, polyurethane, and spar urethane. 

Minwax Polycric Protective Finish is an excellent choice for sealing acrylic paint on wood furniture. It’s a water-based clear top coat that’s fast drying and easy to apply. You have two choices of finish when it comes to this sealer: satin or flat. It doesn’t yellow over time unlike some oil-based finishes.

Rust-Oleum Varathane Ultimate Polyurethane is another popular option. It’s a water-based polyurethane that offers great scratch and stain protection, making it perfect for high-traffic pieces. It’s fast-drying too, able to be recoated after just 2 hours.

For outdoor projects, Minwax Helmsman Spar Urethane is your best choice for a sealer. It’s specifically designed to protect against UV radiation and water. It does a great job at protecting furniture from even the harshest of weather. 

Benefits and Drawbacks of Using Acrylic Paint on Furniture 

Acrylic paint is a popular choice for furniture, but like other paints, it has it’s unique pros and cons:


  • Easy to apply
  • Typically self-leveling
  • Fast-drying
  • Durable finish that can resist scratches and stains even without a sealer
  • Comes in vibrant colors
  • Very accessible. You can buy one at any art or hardware store
  • Clean-up is easy as you only need water and soap
  • Is non-toxic and can be safely used indoors


  • Takes a long time to cure
  • Most acrylic paints come in small containers
  • Not all acrylic paints are suitable for painting wood furniture
  • Is typically more expensive than latex paint
  • You need to work quickly with acrylic paint since it dries fast; it’s hard to correct a mistake once it dries



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