Acrylic Over Enamel Paint? (Here’s How To Do it)

Acrylic is a water-based paint and can stick to most paint. But, can you apply acrylic over enamel paint?

You can apply acrylic over water-based enamel paint. But, oil-based enamel paint will need to be lightly sanded and then primed with a latex primer before you can paint over it with acrylic paint.

This is because oil-based enamel forms a thick glossy film that prevents paint bonding. You must sand and prime the glossy top coat before painting it with acrylic paint.

Buts there is more. Let’s dig in.

Does Acrylic Stick to Enamel?

Acrylic paint doesn’t stick to an enamel finish. This is because most enamel paints are oil-based, and water-based paints don’t stick to it. But, acrylic sticks to water-based enamel. 

Water-based enamel has a similar solvent to acrylic paint; water. The same solvent makes both paints compatible and allows acrylic to stick to enamel paint.

To apply acrylic over enamel paint, you must first light sand and prime the enamel finish. Sanding helps to remove the glossy layer of enamel paint, and priming helps acrylic stick better.

Enamel paints are used for covering building exteriors and outdoor objects. Exterior enamel paints are formulated with additives such as paint pigments, UV-Resistance, and moisture resistance. All these additives prevent acrylic from sticking to enamel paint.

If you apply acrylic paint directly to enamel paint, the acrylic paint will peel off after a few days. In addition, the presence of oils in the enamel will also discolor the acrylic finish. So, you must prep the enamel paint surface before painting with acrylic.

How to Apply Acrylic Over Enamel Paint?

Painting acrylic over enamel isn’t hard, but the task can be time-consuming due to the level of surface prep required. Water-based enamel paint can be prepped for acrylic paint in less than an hour. Oil-based enamel paint will take a few hours.

Here are the tools you need:

  • A Paint Scrapper
  • Rubbing Alcohol
  • Chemical-Based Paint Stripper
  • Synthetic Bristled Paintbrush
  • Fine-Grit Sandpaper
  • Rags
  • Latex Primer for Acrylic Paints
  • Acrylic Paint
  • An Oil-Based Paint sealant (Optional)

1. Remove The Glossy Topcoat Of Enamel Paint

Remove The Glossy Topcoat on The Enamel Paint

You can skip this step if you are painting over water-based enamel. But, if you are painting over oil-based enamel this step is mandatory. 

Oil-based enamel, when dry, forms a thick layer. This thick glossy layer prevents acrylic paint from sticking. So, to paint over oil-based enamel, you must first remove the glossy top layer.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Scrape the Glossy Layer off – Use a metallic paint scraper to scrape as much paint as you can. 
  2. Apply Rubbing Alcohol – Apply the rubbing alcohol to the glossy surface, leave it for 10-15 minutes, and scrape the paint again. 

Rubbing alcohol contains isopropyl alcohol, and isopropyl alcohol is the active ingredient in the solvent that removes paints. However, use rubbing alcohol that contains more than 70% isopropyl alcohol. If the concentration is lower than 70%, rubbing alcohol won’t remove the glossy layer.

As an alternative, you can use chemical-based paint strippers. Chemical-based paint strippers are designed with chemicals such as methylene chloride, acetone, and turpentine. All of these compounds will remove the gloss on the oil-based enamel.

2. Sand Lightly

Sand Lightly With Fine-Grit Sandpaper

After removing the glossy layer, sand the enamel with fine-grit sandpaper. Sanding helps to smoothen the enamel paint by removing imperfections and bumps. It also evens out the grain after removing gloss. 

You must only use ultra fine-grit sandpaper. Coarse or medium-grit sandpaper will ruin the enamel finish.

3. Apply Primer

Apply Latex Primer

You must apply two coats of latex paint or stain-blocking primer. The primer helps acrylic paint to stick better and prevents enamel paint from bleeding through.

To apply primer, use a paintbrush. Wait until the first coat of primer dries before applying the next one. 

4. Thin The Acrylic Paint

Thin The Acrylic Paint

You must thin acrylic paint before applying it because acrylic paint is too thick. Use water to thin acrylic paint. Then, stir the mixture to have an even consistency and color. 

5. Apply The Acrylic Paint

Apply The Acrylic Paint

Next, apply the acrylic paint. You must apply two or three coats of acrylic paint over the enamel. Apply two coats of acrylic paint if you used a primer. If you didn’t prime the enamel paint, you need to add three coats of acrylic paint. 

To apply acrylic, use a paintbrush. But, you can also spray acrylic over enamel.

Wait until the previous coat dries before applying the next one. Acrylic paint dries within 2 hours. 

6. Seal The Acrylic Paint

Seal The Acrylic Paint

It’s recommended to seal the acrylic paint. Acrylic paint is water-based and isn’t as durable as oil-based paint. The sealer gives the acrylic paint a glossy top layer, making the finish reflective and vibrant.

To seal acrylic paint, you can use oil-based polyurethane and clear wax. 

Mixing Acrylic Paint With Enamel

You shouldn’t mix acrylic paint with oil-based enamel paint. Both paints have different chemical formula and solvent that makes them incompatible. 

If mixed, both paints will become unusable because the mixture will have a heavy paste-like appearance. If the mixture is used on a surface, it will remain sticky for days and won’t cure. Since the oils in enamel paint will mix with water, the mixture wouldn’t have a clear solvent. So, it’s difficult for the solvent to evaporate from the paint particles. 

However, you can mix acrylic with a water-based enamel. Both paints have the same solvent (water) and can be mixed. But, the finish may not come out nice because acrylic paints are more colorful and vibrant than enamel paints. 

If you mix water-based enamel and acrylic paint, you will struggle to achieve a uniform color. So to be on the safer side, never mix acrylic and enamel. Painting over enamel paint with acrylic is a better choice. 

Tip: Mixing oil-and water-based paints is never a good idea.

Acrylic Lacquer Over Enamel Paint

You shouldn’t put acrylic lacquer over enamel paint. That’s because acrylic lacquer contains turpentine (thinning agent) in its formula. Turpentine is known to remove enamel paint. So if you use acrylic lacquer over enamel paint, the thinning agent (turpentine) will lift the enamel paint underneath and ruin the finish.

Lacquers, by nature, aren’t designed to be used directly. Lacquers are usually sprayed, and since lacquer is too thick to be sprayed, you have to thin it first. Lacquer is thinned with turpentine or mineral spirits, both of these thinning agents will remove enamel paint. So, if you apply acrylic lacquer over enamel, it will remove the enamel paint underneath. 

However, you can apply acrylic lacquer over water-based enamel paint. Water-based enamel paints are thinned with water, so turpentine doesn’t affect the water-based enamel. But, the mixture will produce a color tint in the paint coating after a while, usually a yellowish tint. 

Related Read: Can You Apply Enamel Over Latex Paint?

Can You Put Acrylic Clear Coat Over Enamel Paint?

You can put clear coat acrylic over enamel paint. But, you have to sand and prime the enamel paint first. If you don’t prep the enamel, the clear coat acrylic won’t stick well. 

The acrylic clear coat can be used over enamel because the clear coat is designed to be used over paints. The clear coat is used to seal different paints, including enamel. 

However, you must sand the oil-based enamel paint before applying the clear coat. This is because oil-based enamel has a glossy top coat that prevents the acrylic clear coat from sticking. For water-based enamel, you have to sand lightly so the clear coat acrylic can stick.

Final Words

So, you can paint acrylic over enamel paint, but you need to prep the enamel paint surface first. For water-based enamel, you need a light sanding. For oil-based enamel, you need to strip the gloss off.

However, for both types of enamel, you should use a latex primer to improve adhesion and durability.

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