How to Use Acrylic Paint

What it is and how to use it

Acrylic paint for projects

Caylin Harris


Acrylic paint is a huge tool in a crafter/DIY enthusiast's supply kit. Not only is it available in a stunning range of colors—including fun finishes like glitter and neon, but there are plenty more advantages. Plus, it works so well for a variety of projects. Here’s everything you've ever wanted to know about acrylic paint, but didn’t think to ask. You’ll be fully prepped to use this craft supply for your next project.

Acrylic painting wood
Caylin Harris

The Benefits of Acrylic Paint

Unlike oil paint, acrylic paint can be removed quickly and easily with just soap and water. It makes cleanup so much easier; it comes off of hands and paintbrushes with just a quick wash. We’ve already mentioned all the cool colors, but it bears repeating. You don’t have to sacrifice anything color-wise for your projects if you want to use acrylic. It also dries much faster than oil paints, allowing you to keep small projects from taking up too much time. One last thing to mention, acrylic paint typically costs less than other types of paints like oils.

Acrylic paint with a foam brush
Caylin Harris

How to Use It

You may be thinking that acrylic paint is easy to use, so why not start painting right away? Although it's a fairly medium to handle, there are some other little tips and tricks that can make the experience and finished project that much better. Since acrylic paint dries so fast it can be a little tricky if you’re painting a large surface. While you do want to paint in one consistent direction, you don’t want to go over your existing paint job and pull-up pieces of semi-dry paint with your brush. It will totally ruin the finish.

When you’re using acrylic paint another thing to keep in mind are your brush strokes, to cut down on their appearance sometimes it’s nice to use a foam brush. Plus, being patient and working in multiple coats to build the finish also helps add to a beautiful final product. While typically acrylic paint can feel dry to the touch in as quick as fifteen minutes depending on the surface, let each coat of paint cure for about an hour before starting on the next layer. Unlike spray paint, it’s also low odor so you can use it inside and won't need additional equipment like a respirator.

Here are the surfaces that you can paint with acrylic paint: wood, glass, metal, and fabric. Acrylic paint is typically non-toxic and can handle some indoor/outdoor conditions—which is why it works great if you’re painting cute planters or pots. 

Mixing Colors

If you want a more custom look, instead of buying what’s available use basic colors and mix primary colors (blue, red, and yellow) to make secondary colors (green, purple, and orange), to darken your colors add black to lighten them add white. It’s really pretty and fun to play with custom color. If you’re not quite done with a color, cover it tightly with plastic wrap and keep it in the fridge, it will help it last a little bit longer.

Placing stencil on fabric
Caylin Harris

Fun Ways to Apply Acrylic Paint

You can do more than just brush on acrylic paint! You can also layer colors to get effects like stripes or cool geometric patterns by using painter’s tape. Yup, it’s for more than just painting walls and trim. Start by painting your surface with the lightest color you want to use. Let it dry completely and then section off the piece of the next color you want to use with painter’s tape. You want to use your medium but not darkest shade. Let it dry and repeat the process with your darkest color. You want to do your darkest color last because it will take less coats to cover the lighter colors. It can add a really cool effect to a project! Plus, using the painter’s tape with acrylic paint will let you make some really clean, clear lines.

Another cool way to use it on a variety of surfaces is to use a stencil. You can stencil a piece of wood, paper, fabric, and even a glass surface. You’re going to want to use a blunt ended brush and dab the color over the stencil.

With so many options for how to use it, you’ll definitely want to pick up a few tubes of acrylic paint for your next projects!