How To Paint Plastic

Plastic is a tough material to paint on. Plastic, unlike wood, is not porous; thus, you can’t just grab general purpose spray paints and get the best results.

You’ll find in the natural state; paint has little to adhere to. However, with the right kind of preparation, you can paint most plastic surfaces with varying results.

Now, if you have faded outdoor chairs, faded plastic flower pots, or you are into crafting, and you have a good use for old plastic bottles, or even just painting plastic models with conventional paints.

In our guide, you can find the answers to can you spray paint plastic to get the color and finish you want.

Plastic painting projects

By the end, you’ll see that using acrylic paints and an acrylic sealer spray on plastic carefully, you can quickly get the finish you desire for all your plastic painting projects. (Find Waterproof Paint For Shower Tiles)

How Do You Get Paint To Stick to Plastic?

Whether you are painting plastic furniture or something else, the steps for painting a plastic surface are all the same.

Here, you can find out the preparation steps and how to get your paint to stick to the plastic surface.

Choose Paint Materials

Not all paints work on plastic. You require a plastic-specific substance, usually spray paint. A plastic primer will also assist create a flat surface for the paint.

Prepping Plastic Surfaces

To avoid bumps, bubbles, and peeling, start with a clean plastic surface—Prep plastic by removing dirt with mild dish soap and water, and a sponge.

After scrubbing, rinse the plastic to remove any residual soap. Let it dry completely before continuing.

The next step is to roughen the surface to help the paint adhere. To avoid permanent damage to the plastic, lightly sand the surface with a fine-grit sandpaper.

Concentrate on glossy areas, which are often the smoothest and may take the longest to paint. Rinse or wipe the plastic product again to remove sanding dust.

Here, painter’s tape is used to form the line. Protect the surface from primer and paint using a drop cloth. Before applying primer or paint, make sure the area is sufficiently ventilated.

Wiping down the surface with a damp cloth of mineral spirits or rubbing alcohol is advised to remove traces of grease. (Learn How To Remove Spray Paint From Concrete)

Priming Plastic

Priming Plastic

Priming may not be necessary if the paint you buy for painting plastic functions without it, but it never hurts. If you’re using regular spray paint, you’ll need a plastic primer. The specialty primer can lay a basis for paint adhesion.

Apply thin layers of spray primer on sanded, clean, dry plastic. Keep the can moving and at the same distance from the item. Allow the primer to dry completely before painting.

Painting Plastic

Make sure you shake the can as instructed, and do a test spray to the side and see the jet is as it should be.

When using spray paint, aim it towards the plastic surface from 12 to 18 inches away. To get uniform coverage, keep the nozzle at the same distance from the item. A smooth motion is preferable for painting plastic, overlapping the paint to get a uniform coating.

You’ll likely need many coats of spray paint to cover completely. Rather than one heavy layer that may finish up uneven or drippy, make several thin layers. Always let the paint completely dry between coats.

Spray painting is superior to brush painting because it leaves no brush marks. Likewise, don’t opt for general-purpose spray paints as these are not designed for use on plastic. Use paint designed for plastic; spray paint labeled multi-surface is suitable.

Seal the Plastic Paint

A transparent acrylic sealant protects your freshly painted plastic surface. Sealer is optional, although it can help the effects last longer, especially if painting an outdoor item. A spray sealer makes the job easier.

Apply sealant when the paint has dried. Spray it on like paint, with even, smooth, overlapping sprays. One application of sealer is usually sufficient, although extreme conditions may need more. (Learn How To Get Sticky Residue Off Plastic)

With the correct paint and preparation, you can paint your favorite plastic things smoothly.

Guide for Painting with Acrylics

Acrylic paint dries on plastic, making it impossible to stick paint on plastic. Under the right conditions, you can make an acrylic paint stick.

Often, craft acrylic paints aren’t supposed to stick to plastic, so they peel away.

Larger surfaces benefit from acrylic plastic spray paint you can apply in several light coats. Bottled and tubed craft paint won’t stick as well.

If you’re painting smaller objects or adding fine details to plastic, bottled acrylics are easier to use with a paintbrush. This paint is also fantastic for recycled plastic bottles and jars.

Some acrylic paints contain priming or sealer. This type of spray paint for plastic is common. To get the greatest results, some require surface prep and paint sealing.

Some craft acrylic paint in bottles won’t stick to polyethylene and polypropylene. The bottom recycling logo shows the plastic kind.

Other polymers require priming and sealing. You can also use a methylated primer/sealer on tough surfaces.

Make Acrylic Paint Stick to Plastic

To keep acrylic paint on plastic, you must first prepare it, clean, sand, and prime it. After painting, seal the surface to provide a waterproofing layer and extend the paint’s lifespan.

Contamination is the primary cause of acrylic paint peeling off plastic, starting with mild dish soap and warm water. You can use a cleanser or degreaser designed to remove grease or dirt. Sanding plastic is a great way to help the paint bond thoroughly, and then you can brush or spray primer onto plastic in thin coats, so it sticks.

Tips in Painting Plastic With Acrylic Paint

How to Paint Plastic With Acrylic Paint

Painting plastic with bottled acrylic paint differs from painting with spray paint. Use the steps below to apply paint from a bottle or tube. Keep in mind that the materials required will depend on the color used. (Read Remove Spray Paint From Plastic)

Collect Materials

Make sure you have protective gear and clothing that you don’t mind getting paint on. Put down a drop cloth or newspaper.

Open a window or move to a well-ventilated area.

  • 180-220 Fine-grit sandpaper
  • Painter’s tape
  • Craft paint (made for plastic)
  • Sponge
  • Paintbrush
  • Towel
  • Dish soap
  • Rubbing alcohol

Prepping Plastic for Paint

  1. Clean the plastic surface using mild dish soap and warm water.
  2. Rinse with clean water then dry with a soft towel.
  3. Cover the surface with rubbing alcohol or mineral spirits, and leave to dry. The rubbing alcohol removes grease, oil, and fingerprints.
  4. Grab your fine-grit sandpaper, and lightly rub shiny surfaces. Because plastic is a nonporous surface, removing shiny ares increases paint adhesion.
  5. After sanding, wipe with a clean towel to remove dust.

Add Plastic Primer

  1. Primer aids in the adhesion of paint. For the greatest results, use a primer made for plastic. Many kinds are available as spray primer, although liquid solutions in cans or bottles are also available for models and other purposes.
  2. Follow the instructions on the bottle to apply the primer. Apply small layers of paint to the entire surface.
  3. Allow for complete drying of the primer.

Painting Plastic

Mark off the parts you don’t want to paint with painter’s tape before you start painting.

To apply the paint, use a paintbrush or a sponge. If you add acrylics too thickly, the layer may not adhere well.


Finally, allow at least two hours for your item to dry. Some craft paints might take anything from six to twelve hours to completely dry.

Spray Paint on Plastic


Before spray painting plastic, clean, sand, and prime it as you would with acrylic paint. Prep the plastic as described above.

Read the paint’s label. Some spray paints require shaking before and during use. The label will also tell you if you need to use primer and sealer.


If you use standard spray paint (not plastic-specific regular spray paint), you must prep the surface. You can use plastic priming sprays. For optimum results, follow the bottle’s directions. Never paint over primed surfaces.

Spray Paint

Test the spray paint on newspaper, cardboard, or your drop cloth. Verify the paint color and uniformity.

Apply a thin, light coat of spray paint onto the object. Keep the spray can 8-12 inches from the surface. You won’t have complete coverage of the first coat, and if you apply the first layer too fast and too thick, drips will appear. To remove dried drips, sand the surface level before applying the next layer.

Once dried, add another layer. You’ll probably need several thin applications of paint. Mist the plastic lightly from 12 inches away.

If the surface is still not entirely covered and saturated after two hours, carefully apply a third layer to the plastic.


Allow the spray paint to dry completely before using it. Keep the thing warm and dry for two hours.

Seal Acrylic Paint on Plastic

Plastic goods are frequently handled, so the paint needs to be sealed. The sealer also protects water-based acrylic paints from rain and dampness.

Sealants are liquid or sprayed. Many spray sealers come in glossy or matte finishes. Spray sealers are said to be easier and offer a smooth surface. Regardless, the sealer should work with acrylic paints and create a protective surface.

On thoroughly dried paint, apply a sealant to the final coat of paint carefully. Use the same approach as painting to apply a spray sealer for a flawless finish. Brush-on liquid sealers often require two coatings, but spray sealers require one.

Outdoor things may require an extra layer. Items often exposed to hostile circumstances will require extra protection from the final coat.

Tips for Painting Plastic with Acrylic Paint

Here are a couple of tips you may need for painting plastic with acrylics.

Remove Tape ASAP

You don’t have to let the paint dry before removing the tape. If not, the tape may peel off your fresh coat of paint. Carefully remove the tape to avoid harming the new paint job.

Alternatives to Sandpaper

On plastic, a liquid sander might replace sandpaper. Hardware stores carry these items. They clean and remove the shiny surface of the plastic at the same time, saving time. These options are better suited for indoor usage and can be painted on in about ten minutes.

The Best Paint Materials for Plastic

You should use an acrylic paint and plastic primer on your creation. Sprays and liquids are both available.

Plastic Primer

Rust-Oleum Plastic Primer Spray

Rust-Oleum makes a beginner-friendly plastic primer. Cleaning and sanding the surface are required before using this primer spray. The primer is thin and white. It works on a variety of plastics and doesn’t scratch off. The company recommends one thin coat instead of a heavy coat or multiple coats.

Vallejo Grey Primer Acrylic Polyurethane

Vallejo Surface Primer is a 200 ml grey primer that can be used by brush or airbrush. Suitable for model kits and small plastic items. The primer is water-cleanable. This primer cannot be used with solvents or alcohol. Never use either component to clean plastic before priming.

Acrylic Paint Sealer

Clear is the ideal sealant for locking acrylics to a plastic surface. They’re also available as a spray or a liquid.

Aleene’s Spray Gloss Acrylic Sealer

Aleene’s Spray Gloss finish is a protective acrylic sealant. The clear coat dries glossy. Spray the sealant evenly for durable paint. It dries rapidly. It protects both indoors and out. Also, Aleene’s products protect plastic and a variety of other materials.

Sargent Art Acrylic Gloss and Varnish

The art world knows Sargent Art Acrylic Gloss and Varnish. The 16-ounce container paints well on plastic surfaces and dries glossy, and is non-toxic and safe.

This waterproof sealant can be used to give a clear layer and protect against water.

Best Paint for Plastic

On plastic, what type of paint may you use? Acrylic paint is available in two forms: craft paints and spray paints, which can be used on plastic surfaces. Which one you select is determined by your project.

If you need to use enamel paints, you can find these need to be thinned before use, or you could end up with one thick coat and then runs in your paint. (Learn How To Remove Gorilla Glue From Plastic)

Craft Paint for Plastic Surfaces

On the label, craft acrylic paint for plastic will indicate “plastic” or “multi-use.” Here are some of the greatest craft paints on the market.

FolkArt Multi-Surface Acrylic Craft Paint

FolkArt Multi-Surface Acrylic Craft Paint

The Folk Art acrylic paints come in a set of 16, which are non-toxic and work on many surfaces. They’re perfect for recyclable plastic bottles and jars. The water-based paint dries dishwasher safe.

Individual Acrylic Paint Set

An eight-color acrylic paint set. The paints may be used on plastic, pebbles, wood, or canvas, making them useful for many crafts. The 0.7 oz bottles are small, but the colors are vibrant from the quality paints. You can apply them smoothly and can mix colors.

Acrylic Spray Paint on Plastic

For plastic, acrylic spray paint is the simplest and most popular option. Rust-Oleum and Krylon are two of the most popular brands.

Rust-Oleum Spray Paint for Plastic

This Rust-Oleum spray paint is designed for plastic surfaces. It may be used on a variety of surfaces, including PVC, polypropylene, polystyrene, vinyl plastics, and more.

The paint requires no preparation, although a wipe down with a soft cloth and mineral spirits will remove grease and help stop orange peel. The paint also dries to the touch in as little as 20 minutes.

Krylon Fusion Spray Paint

Another popular brand of spray cans is Krylon Fusion. This paint adheres to PVC and resins. The painted surface dries in an hour and is chip-resistant after seven days of curing.

This paint requires no sanding or priming. With the EZ touch nozzle, you can paint light coats from any angle. However, Krylon Fusion is among the priciest plastic spray paints on the market.

How To Paint Plastic

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