I am a long time user of acrylic craft paint. I pretty much paint every Mod Podge project before the Podge goes on, and I use it on projects that I don’t decoupage as well. If I can get away with using acrylic, even on a furniture re-do, I will. Why? Because it’s easy to use and it’s non-toxic. It’s inexpensive and clean up is simple.
I’ve been thinking about my most important tips for decorating a project with craft paint, and I thought I would share them. Hopefully these can help you, especially if you are making home decor projects that need to look fabulous. These are my top tips for how to use acrylic paint.
1. Choose the right type of paint and the right color. Make sure you read the bottle carefully while you are in the store as opposed to just throwing it in the basket. I know the acrylic paint aisle at the craft store has a ton of selection, but you need to look carefully because it’s better than getting the wrong thing and making multiple trips. You should also look at the bottom of a bottle of paint to tell what the color is, rather than the label. While you are looking at the color through plastic, it’s more accurate than the label color because it’s the actual paint.
2. Prepare your surface thoroughly. I’ve found that good surface preparation can make a project. Not preparing a surface can break a project. Here is how you do it:
Wood – Sand smooth with fine grit sandpaper, wipe off sawdust.
Glass – Thoroughly wash in warm, soapy water to remove dirt, dust and grease film. Then rinse in warm water and let it dry.
Canvas – Wipe primed canvas clean; if unprimed, apply 2 coats of gesso primer or acrylic paint.
Plaster – Wipe clean with damp cloth.
Plastic – Clean with soap and water. You will need a special plastic paint though – “regular” acrylic paint doesn’t stick to plastic.
Papier-Mâché – Wipe clean with damp cloth.
Terra Cotta – Wipe clean with damp cloth.
Tin – Wash with soap and water, then wipe with a white vinegar dampened cloth if it’s really dirty.
3. Use good quality brushes and take care of them. It’s important to me to use soft natural bristle or taklon brushes. A cruddy brush will show brushstrokes or leave brush hairs in your project. I have wanted to throw a project across the room because I couldn’t get a brush hair out of it – they are very elusive! Also, wash your brushes between projects and leave them to dry on a paper towel (use your fingers to shape them while they are wet). Well cared for brushes are worth the investment because they will last a long time. The same goes for rollers or sprayers. Don’t scrimp and clean them up throughly afterwards.
4. Don’t put too much paint on your brush. Paint should stay from the tip to the middle of the brush. It’s better to go back and get more paint than to have a ton on the brush. Too much paint can make the brush go wacky and make the paint harder to apply (especially important for detail work). If you need to cover a bigger surface, get a larger brush or use a roller.
5. Consider priming, and definitely basecoat dark items with white. If you don’t, you will spend a lot longer covering an item, and you may not get the adherence of paint or the brightness of color that you are looking for. I recommend using gesso or a highly pigmented white (like FolkArt Titanium White). Kilz is also great if you need a large amount of primer or a product that acts oil-based.
6. Keep water nearby so that you can add it to your brush frequently. Acrylic paint, when put on a palette, tends to dry out somewhat quickly. It’s not THAT quickly, but it’s enough that the paint could start drying while you are painting an item. Don’t thin out the paint too much because you’ll dull the color, but it’s okay to dip your brush into the water and swirl it around into the paint to get it going again.
7. Use a sealer to finish. Acrylic paint has a somewhat chalky feel (well, depending on the finish) without a sealer applied. Some acrylic paints are Satin or Gloss and have a built-sealer, so then you won’t have to add anything on top. If there is no built-in finish, I would use a clear acrylic spray or brush on sealer so that the surface doesn’t scratch easily.
8. Make paint chips. Use cardstock to create “chips,” or small squares that show the colors you have in your stash. That way you know what you have for the next project. Plus, you can take the chips to the store for home decor matching . . . rather than hoofing a table to the fabric store to get those curtains!
Plaid has a great painting education center with more tips and videos. Enjoy – and if there are more questions you have that I can answer, leave them in the comments. I’ll do my best to help you.
PS – my friend Amanda has a great article that includes tips for painting on plastic. Please check it out!