How to Seal Acrylic Paint on Plastic: Guide For Best Results

To seal acrylic paint on plastic, it is important to prepare the plastic surface properly by cleaning, sanding, and priming it.

Acrylic resin varnishes are an excellent choice for sealing as they provide durability, UV resistance, and compatibility with acrylic paints.

Other options include clear acrylic sealers, Mod Podge, clear nail polish, and spray sealers.

Proper surface preparation and choosing the right sealer will ensure a long-lasting finish for your acrylic painting on plastic.

No matter what method you choose, if you can make it happen then it’s a good idea to opt for a water-based protective paint sealer like Polycrylic.

This brand is produced using polyacrylate and polyurethane, resulting in a crystal clear finish that will protect your paint from chipping and fading.

polycrylic protective finish

If you can’t get your hands on it then there are many different ways to choose the best way to seal your acrylic paint on plastic.

The options vary from commercial sealers to acrylic resins to using clear nail polish, Vaseline, spray varnish and more. 

Preparing the Surface

If you want to make acrylic paint stick then everything comes down to what you do before you paint. Preparing the plastic surface is your number one priority.

So before sealing acrylic paint on plastic, put a lot of thought in how you will prepare the plastic surface properly.

Preparation ensures that the paint adheres well to the surface, and the sealant provides a long-lasting finish. 

Let’s look at how we need to prepare the plastic surface so that it will make this water-based paint stick the first time before you apply any clear coat.

Cleaning the Plastic Surface

Cleaning the plastic surface is the first step in preparing it for sealing. Use a lint-free cloth to wipe the surface clean. If the plastic item is dirty or greasy, use a mild detergent solution to clean it.

Rinse the plastic with water and dry it with a clean cloth.

Cleaning ensures that the surface is free of dirt, oil, or any other contaminants that may interfere with the paint’s adhesion.

Choosing the Right Type of Plastic

Different types of plastic require different preparation methods. Some plastics are easy to clean and prepare, while others require more effort.

When preparing the surface, it is essential to know the type of plastic you are working with. Here are some common types of plastic and how to prepare them:

Type of PlasticPreparation
Polyethylene (PE)Clean with soap and water. Sand the surface with fine-grit sandpaper.
Polypropylene (PP)Clean with soap and water. Sand the surface with fine-grit sandpaper.
Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)Clean with soap and water. Sand the surface with fine-grit sandpaper.
Polycarbonate (PC)Clean with soap and water. Sand the surface with fine-grit sandpaper.
Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS)Clean with soap and water. Sand the surface with fine-grit sandpaper.
How to seal acrylic paint on plastic – Choose the Right Type of Plastic

Sanding the Plastic Surface

After cleaning the plastic surface, it is essential to sand it with fine-grit sandpaper.

As we all know, plastics tend to be pretty non-porous and smooth so giving it some sanding creates a smooth surface that allows the paint to adhere really well.

Sanding creates a fair amount of tooth for the paint to grip into. I recommend 800 to 1000 grit sandpaper as it will create the finest and smallest sanding.

Use circular motions to sand the plastic surface gently. After sanding, wipe the surface with a clean cloth to remove any dust.

Priming the Plastic Surface

Priming the plastic surface is an optional step, but it is highly recommended. Priming a surface creates a smooth, even area that allows the paint to stick. Use a plastic primer that is compatible with the type of plastic you are working with.

Apply primer in thin, even coats and allow each coat to dry completely before applying the next one.

By following these steps, you can prepare the plastic surface for sealing acrylic paint. Proper preparation ensures that the paint sticks to the surface well, adding the sealant provides a long-lasting finish.

Some of the best brands of primer paint for plastic include:

  • Behr Premium Spray Paint/Primer
  • Rust-Oleum Corporation Painter’s Touch 276116 Spray Paint
  • Rust-Oleum 249079 Painter’s Touch
  • Krylon K04293000
  • Testors Acrylic Value Finishing Paint
  • Krylon Colormaster

I like Tamiya products (even Revel will do) as these are products that are tailored to the ultimate plastic painting market – plastic models. I used these products for years while I painted model planes and cars.

Choosing the Best Paint for Plastic

When it comes to painting plastic, choose the right type of paint. Basic advice right? But not all paints are going to act the same way on plastics, and using the wrong type of paint can result in chipping, cracking, and peeling.

While this article focuses understanding how to seal acrylic paint on plastic, there are other painting mediums that can also be used on plastics and I thought you should know about them as well.

Here are some of the best options for painting on plastic:

Acrylic Paints for Plastic

Acrylic paint is the best paint for plastic cups and other plastic objects because it is versatile and easy to use.

Acrylic allows you to paint minute details with a thin paintbrush or large areas with an airbrush or large paintbrush.

Regular acrylic paints work well on plastic, but there are also specially formulated acrylic paints for plastic, such as “Paint for Plastic,” which adheres to plastic easily.

These paints come in different colors, so you can choose the best paint for your project.

Oil-based Paints for Plastic

Oil-based paints are another option for painting plastic, but they require more preparation and care. They take longer to dry and require mineral spirits or turpentine for cleanup.

Oil paints also emit strong fumes, so it is important to use them in a well-ventilated area. However, they are more durable and long-lasting than acrylic paints.

For smaller projects, you can’t go past paints made for the plastic model industry.

  • Tamiya
  • Revell

Water-based Paints for Plastic

Apart from acrylics, there are other water-based paints that are a good option for painting on plastic.

Water-based paints are great because they are easy to use and clean up with soap and water. They are also less toxic than oil-based paints and have fewer fumes.

But, they may not be as durable as oil-based paints on plastic and may require a sealer to protect the paint from chipping and fading.

When choosing the best paint for plastic, it is important to consider the type of paint, the different colors available, and the best paint for your project.

It is also important to choose the right type of sealer to protect the paint from chipping and fading.

There are many other polymer varnishes that will also do the job so don’t panic of you are unable to find any of the ones mentioned above in stock.

Many different brands will provide the protective finish you need. Keep in mind that most acrylic sealants are designed for indoor use even if they are water resistant and have UV protection included.

Applying Acrylic Paint on Plastic

When it comes to applying acrylic paint on plastic, there are a few key steps to follow to ensure the best results.

Here, we’ll go over the process from start to finish, including tips for applying the first layer, base coat, thin coats, and top coat.

Applying the First Layer

Before you start painting, make sure the plastic surface is clean and free of any debris.

We recommend wiping it down with a lint-free cloth and using a little bit of rubbing alcohol to remove any stubborn dirt or grime.

Once the surface is clean, it’s time to apply the first layer of paint. Use a brush to apply the paint in even strokes, making sure to cover the entire surface.

Don’t worry too much about brush strokes or getting the coverage perfect on the first layer – you’ll have plenty of time to build up the color and fix any mistakes in later layers.

Applying the Base Coat

After the first layer has dried completely, it’s time to apply the base coat.

This is where you’ll start to build up the color and texture of your painting.

Use a little bit of paint and apply it in thin, even coats, making sure to cover the entire surface.

It’s important to let each coat dry completely before adding another layer. This will prevent the paint from becoming too thick and clumpy, which can affect the final result.

Applying Thin Coats

As you continue to build up the color and texture of your painting, it’s important to keep applying thin, even coats of paint.

This will help you achieve a smooth, even finish without any clumps or bumps.

If you’re using a particularly thick paint, you may need to thin it down with a little bit of water to achieve the right consistency.

Just be careful not to add too much water, as this can affect the color and texture of the paint.

Drying Time

Drying time is crucial when it comes to sealing acrylic paint on plastic. Make sure each layer has dried completely before moving on to the next one.

This will help prevent the paint from smudging or smearing, and ensure a smooth, even finish.

If you’re in a hurry, you can use a hair dryer on the cool setting to speed up the drying process.

Just be careful not to hold the dryer too close to the surface, as this can cause the paint to bubble or crack.

Applying the Top Coat

Once you’ve built up the color and texture of your painting, it’s time to apply the top coat. This will help seal the paint and protect it from scratches and other damage.

There are a few different types of top coats you can use, including acrylic polymer varnish and mod podge.

Choose the one that best suits your project and apply it in thin, even coats, making sure to cover the entire surface.

And there you have it – a step-by-step guide how to seal acrylic paint on plastic.

With a little bit of patience and practice, you’ll be able to achieve beautiful, long-lasting results that you can be proud of.

Sealing Acrylic Paint on Plastic

When it comes to sealing acrylic paint on plastic, there are several options available.

In this section, we will cover some of the most popular methods for achieving a protective layer that will help your artwork last longer and resist damage.

Using an Acrylic Resin Varnish

Acrylic resin varnishes are a great clear sealing agent. It is a type of varnish but not in the traditional sense. To me, acrylic resins are the best sealant to use for acrylic paints on plastic.

Acrylic resin end up drying as a type or plastic so you are basically sealing a polymer (plastic) based paint on plastic with some more plastic – a guaranteed way to make acrylic paint stay on plastic.

Acrylic resin varnishes are specifically designed for use with acrylic paints and offer several benefits:

Durability: Acrylic resin varnishes provide a protective layer that can help prevent damage to the painted surface, such as scratches, peeling, or fading due to exposure to light or handling.

UV resistance: Many acrylic resin varnishes have built-in UV protection, which helps prevent the colors from fading when exposed to sunlight.

Enhancing appearance: Varnishes can enhance the overall appearance of the painted surface, giving it a uniform glossy finish. You can now also choose the desired sheen level (matte, satin, or gloss) if you are not into high gloss finishes (but I love high gloss resin finish as opposed to a matte varnish).

Compatibility: Acrylic resin varnishes are compatible with acrylic paints and should not cause any adverse reactions when applied over the paint.

While I am singing the praises of acrylic resin for plastic, it’s important to note that the adhesion of acrylic paint to plastic may not be as strong as on other surfaces, such as canvas or a wood surface. 

To improve adhesion to these surfaces, it’s recommended to lightly sand and clean the plastic surface before applying a good primer. After the primer is dry, you can apply the acrylic paint and let it dry completely before sealing it with the acrylic resin varnish.

When using a varnish, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for application methods and drying times. Some varnishes may require more than one coat for optimal protection. Always test on a small, inconspicuous area first to ensure compatibility and desired results.

Using a Clear Acrylic Sealer

A clear acrylic sealer is a popular choice for sealing acrylic paint on plastic. This sealer provides a durable finish that is water-resistant and protects the paint from chipping and fading.

It is also available in different types of finishes, such as matte, high gloss, and satin finish, allowing you to choose the perfect type of finish for your artwork.

To use a clear acrylic sealer, simply spray it over the painted surface in a well-ventilated area. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions to get the best results.

Using Mod Podge

Mod Podge is a versatile sealer that can be used on a variety of surfaces, including plastic. It is a water-based sealer that provides a protective coat that is both durable and water-resistant. It is also available in different types of finishes, such as matte and high gloss.

To use Mod Podge, simply brush it over the painted surface in a thin, even layer. Allow it to dry completely before applying additional coats.

Using Clear Nail Polish

For small acrylic paintings on plastics, using a clear nail polish is a quick and easy way to seal acrylic paint on plastic.

It provides a protective layer that is both durable and water-resistant. You should note that it may not be as long-lasting as other types of sealers.

To use clear nail polish, simply brush it over the painted surface in thin layers. Clear nail polish is usually self levelling so you won’t see brush marks.

Allow it to dry completely after the first coat before applying additional coats.

Using a Spray Sealer

A spray sealer is another popular choice for sealing acrylic paint on plastic. It provides a protective layer that is both durable and water-resistant. It is also available in different types of finishes, such as matte and high gloss.

To use a spray sealer, simply spray it over the painted surface in a well-ventilated area. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for best results.

Overall, choosing the best sealer for your plastic surface will depend on several factors, such as the type of finish you want, the level of protection you need, and the type of sealer that works best for your specific project.

By using one of the methods outlined above, you can ensure that your artwork stays protected and looks great for years to come.

Tips and Tricks for Sealing Acrylic Paint on Plastic

Applying an Isolation Coat

Before sealing your acrylic paint on plastic, it is crucial to apply an isolation coat. This coat acts as a barrier between the paint and the sealer, preventing any chemical reactions that could cause the paint to crack or peel.

To apply an isolation coat, mix equal parts of water and acrylic medium, and apply a thin layer over the painted surface. Let it dry completely before applying the sealer.

Using Painter’s Tape

If you want to protect certain areas of your painted plastic object from the sealer, use painter’s tape. Apply the tape over the areas you want to protect, and make sure it is firmly in place.

Then, apply the sealer over the rest of the surface. Once the sealer is dry, remove the tape carefully to reveal the protected areas.

Avoiding Direct Sunlight

After sealing your acrylic paint on plastic, it is important to avoid exposing it to direct sunlight for extended periods of time.

Direct sunlight can cause the sealer to yellow and crack, which can ruin your artwork. Instead, keep your painted plastic object in a shaded area, or cover it with a cloth when it is not in use.

Waiting for a Long Time

When sealing acrylic paint on plastic, it is important to be patient and wait for a long time before using the object. Even if the sealer feels dry to the touch, it may not have fully cured yet.

Wait at least 24 hours before handling the object, and avoid using it for at least a week. This will ensure that the sealer has fully cured and your artwork is protected for a long time.

By following these tips and tricks, you can ensure that your acrylic paint on plastic stays vibrant and protected for years to come.

Outdoor Use of Sealed Acrylic Paint on Plastic

When it comes to outdoor use of sealed acrylic paint on plastic, there are a few things to consider. UV rays and the protective layer are two of the most important factors to keep in mind. Here are some best practices to ensure the best results.

UV Rays and Sealed Acrylic Paint on Plastic

UV rays from the sun can cause acrylic paint to fade and lose its vibrancy over time. This is why it’s crucial to use a protective coat or layer to prevent this from happening.

A clear sealant is the best option for lighter colors, while tinted sealant works best for darker colors. Applying a thin coat of sealant using a brush or spray bottle is recommended.

Make sure to allow the paint to dry completely before applying the sealant.

Best Practices for Outdoor Use

To ensure the best results when using sealed acrylic paint on plastic for outdoor use, here are some best practices to follow:

  • Clean the plastic surface thoroughly before painting to ensure a smooth and even surface.
  • Apply multiple thin coats of acrylic paint instead of one thick coat.
  • Allow each coat of paint to dry completely before applying the next one.
  • Once the paint is dry, apply a clear sealant to protect it from UV rays and other environmental factors.
  • Avoid placing the painted plastic in direct sunlight for extended periods of time.
  • Store the painted plastic in a cool, dry place when not in use.

By following some of advice, you can ensure that your sealed acrylic paint on plastic will last for a long time and maintain its vibrancy even in outdoor settings.

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