Can You Use Acrylic Paint on Walls? (How To)

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Reviewed by
Eral Kadrija

Tony Adams

Paint improves the look and durability of walls. So, can you use acrylic paint on walls?

You can use acrylic paint on walls. The paint has strong adhesive qualities and can stick to different types of walls, including plaster, concrete, and wooden walls.

Acrylic is water-based, so you can use it indoors. When dry, it offers a colored protective layer that makes the surface durable and beautiful.

Will Acrylic Paint Peel Off Walls?

If applied correctly, acrylic paint won’t peel off walls. That’s because it has one of the strongest bonds of any paint type due to its formula. As a result, it will only peel off if it was applied on a filthy surface or if it was applied over an old oil-based finish.

Acrylic paint has strong adhesive qualities due to its water-based solvent and formula. It is made from a combination of stabilizers, polymer emulsions, and plasticizers. When dry, all these ingredients form a strong and vibrant finish that is resistant to moisture and chipping.

Before applying it, the surface must be clean, sanded, and primed. Cleaning removes dust, and sanding removes imperfections and creates a smooth coating for the primer to stick. And, primer seals holes and imperfections and improves adhesion.

If you don’t prep the wall before painting, the finish will peel off. If the surface isn’t cleaned, the dirt will repel the coating and reduce its bonding.

And, if the wall isn’t primed, then there will be tiny holes or pores in the surface that can trap moisture and air. The trapped air and moisture will prevent the paint from curing and cause it to eventually peel off.

If you apply it over an oil-based finish, the paint will peel off. That’s because acrylic paint is water-based and can’t be applied over oil-based finishes. You must either apply a stain-blocking primer or remove the oil-based finish completely.

Related Read: Is Acrylic Paint Washable With Water?

How To Apply Acrylic Paint On Walls?

Applying acrylic paint on a wall isn’t difficult, but it can be time-consuming due to the prep work needed. The required level of prep work depends on the size and condition of the surface.

Here are the tools you need:

  • Rags
  • Cleaning Agent (Like Rubbing Alcohol or TSD)
  • Sandpaper
  • Paint Stripper
  • Putty Knife
  • Acrylic Paint
  • Water-Based Primer (For The Type of Wall Material)
  • Paint Roller
  • Drop cloth
  • A Sealant or Clear Topcoat
  • Painter’s Tape

1. Prep Your Workspace

Prep Your Workspace

First, prep your workspace. The result of a paint job might look attractive and clean, but the process is anything but. The process gets messy so prepare your workspace to handle that mess unless you want to spend the next few hours cleaning up.

To prep your workspace, place a large drop sheet or drop cloth on the floor and use a tape to hold the sheet. So, the dust and spills that come off the wall will land on the drop sheet instead of the floor. This protects your floors from any damage.

Also, everything in the workplace should be covered or removed. 

2. Clean The Wall

Clean The Wall

Regardless of its condition, the wall should be cleaned. They hide dust nibs and grease well, so even if it doesn’t look dirty, it probably is. So, clean it with a clean rag. 

For stubborn stains, use warm soapy water and a soft brush, or rubbing alcohol to get them off. When the surface is clean, leave it to dry. 

3. Strip Off The Existing Finish

Strip Off The Existing Paint

If the surface isn’t painted or has a water-based finish, skip this step. 

If the surface is finished with oil-based paint or sealant, you must remove the existing finish first. That’s because an old-based finish won’t allow the paint to penetrate its coating, and will prevent it to stick. 

To do so:

  1. Use a scraper (metallic) to scrape as much paint as you can.
  2. Apply a coat of chemical-based paint stripper over the surface.
  3. Wait 15 minutes.
  4. Use a scraper to remove the stripping compound (the finish will come off too).

You can also use mineral spirits, paint thinner, and chemical-based paint strippers to remove an oil-based finish. To remove a water-based finish, use rubbing alcohol, white vinegar, or warm water mixed with soap. 

If you don’t want to remove the existing finish, you must sand the surface and apply a coat of stain-blocking primer. However, the finish will be too thick, so it’s best to remove it. 

4. Sand The Wall

Sand The Wall

After removing the old finish, sand the walls using sandpaper or a sander. For rough walls, use coarse-grit sandpaper (80-100 grit), for fine walls, use fine-grit sandpaper (180-grit+).

Sanding evens out the grain, especially on wooden surfaces, and removes imperfections from it. 

5. Apply Two Coats of Primer

Apply Two Coats of The Needed Primer

A primer coating will cover imperfections on the surface, and provide a textured layer for the next coating to stick to. It also seals tiny pores and holes that the surface may have.

Apply two coats of stain-blocking primer over the wall. Wait until one coat dries before applying the other. 

6. Apply Acrylic Paint

Apply Multiple Coats of The Acrylic Paint

Once the primer dries, you can apply the acrylic paint. To apply it, use a roller or sprayer. For small surfaces, you can also use a brush. 

You need to apply 2-3 coats of paint. Wait until one coat dries before applying the next one. It takes acrylic 2 hours to dry enough for a re-coat. However, its dry time depends on the thickness of the coat and room temperature.

7. Seal The Finish

Seal The Finish

After the final coating fully dries (cures), seal the finish with a sealant. The sealant will produce a glossy transparent layer over it and protect the finish from moisture, water, and scratches. You can use polyurethane or spar varnish for this. 

How Long Will Acrylic Paint Last on Walls?

On average, acrylic paint lasts 5-15 years on walls before there’s a sign of chipping or damage. The paint lasts longer on interior walls than on exterior surfaces. That’s because the interior surfaces aren’t exposed to weather elements or constant water. 

Though exterior acrylic paint is designed with additives that make it UV and moisture-resistant, the paint will still get washed off after a while (if left unsealed). 

To improve the durability of the paint, you must seal it with a waterproof sealant. The sealant will provide a waterproof layer (shield) over the finish and protect it from different weather elements. This makes the paint last longer.

However, for low-traffic indoor surfaces, sealing isn’t necessary as the finish won’t be exposed to water or handling. Proper surface preparation before applying the paint can also make it last longer.


Can You Paint Over Acrylic Paint on a Wall?

You can paint over acrylic paint on a wall. That’s because acrylic is water-based and has a textured finish that accepts coatings over it. However, if the paint is sealed with a waterproof sealant, you must remove the sealant first and then paint over it. 

Can You Mix Acrylic Paint With Latex Paint?

You can mix acrylic with water-based wall paint or latex. That’s because they both use the same solvent (water), and are compatible with each other.

However, you shouldn’t mix oil-based wall paint with acrylic. That’s because they use different solvents (oil and water) and aren’t compatible. If you mix them, you will get a coating with inconsistent color and flow. 

How Long Must Acrylic Paint Dry on Walls Before Hanging Pictures?

You must wait until the acrylic finish is fully dry (cured) on walls before handing pictures, this usually takes 24 hours. 

Tony Adams

Tony Adams

Woodworker, Interior and Exterior Painter, Flooring Specialist

Tony is a professional painter and an author of DIY Geeks. Tony has completed over 1,000 painting projects for his clients. It's safe to say he knows what he Is talking about.

Eral Kadrija

Eral Kadrija

Lead Editor, Home Renovator

Eral has a passion for home renovation and repair. Over the years, he has bought, renovated, and sold 7 old homes. Using his experience from different DIY projects he created DIY Geeks.

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