Can You Use Acrylic Paint on Wood?

Garry Gay/Photographer’s Choice/Getty Images

Acrylic paints are safe to use on wood surfaces. Due to their flexibility and durability, paints formulated with acrylic latex resins are often favored over oil- or alkyd-based paints for use on projects involving wood.

Fluctuations in temperature and humidity can cause wood to expand and contract, resulting in cracks or uneven surfaces over time. Because of this, paints used on wood should also be able to expand and contract with a minimum of cracking or peeling. The latex binder in acrylic paints are emulsified, or suspended in water, which gives them a great degree of flexibility. Though acrylic paint eventually cracks and peels over time, it typically resists cracking and peeling for a longer period of time than other paints. Another benefit of acrylic paint is that it provides greater resistance to mildew because it contains none of the oils mildew uses for food. This lack of oils also means acrylic paint is unlikely to yellow with age like oil-based paint. Despite these advantages, it is still recommended that a primer be used before applying acrylic paint to wood. Unfinished wood can be subject to bleeding and other moisture-related problems, so paint applied directly to it with no primer begins to peel and flake much quicker.