Can You Apply Acrylic Paint Over Enamel? (How-To)

No one likes the look of chipping enamel paint. So no wonder you want to paint over the enamel with acrylic paint. But can you paint acrylic over enamel? Here is the answer to that.

You can paint 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. The thick sheen has to be sanded and primed before it can be painted over with acrylic paint.

Buts there is more. Let’s dig in.

Does Acrylic Stick to Enamel?

Generally, acrylic paint doesn’t stick to an enamel finish. This is because most enamel paints are oil-based and latex paints like acrylic don’t stick to oil-based paints.

However, there are water-based or latex enamel paints. These enamel paints have a similar solvent with acrylic paint; water. The similarity of the paint solvents will allow the acrylic to stick to the water-based enamel. But usually after enough surface preparation.

Acrylic paints aren’t usually applied over enamel paints. This is because enamel paints are usually oil and chemical-based – why? Because enamel paints by design are very common for covering building exteriors and outdoor objects.

As such, the paint is built to withstand heavy use, dust, and temperature variations hence, the oil-based nature. The oils in the enamel paint give it improved resistance against the exterior environment.

Not just that, enamel paints are also designed with additives and paint pigments that make the enamel coating resistant to the sun’s UV rays.

All of these extra chemicals and oils make it very difficult for acrylic paints to stick to enamel. Acrylic paints by nature are water-based. The difference in paint solvents (water and oil) will make paint bonding difficult. The presence of strong chemicals in the enamel can also discolor the acrylic finish.

Does this mean you can’t apply acrylic over enamel? Not quite. You can apply acrylic over water-based enamel since both paint types have similar features. In most cases, all you need is just a little sanding.

But before you put acrylic over oil-based enamel, you need enough surface preparation. The instructions below will guide you on how to complete the task.

How to Apply Acrylic Over Enamel Paint? (Made Easy)

Applying acrylic over enamel isn’t tough 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.

To apply acrylic paint over enamel, you’ll need some tools:

  • 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)

Here is a brief rundown of how to apply acrylic paint over enamel:

  1. Remove The Glossy Topcoat on The Enamel Paint (For oil-based enamel)
  2. Sand Lightly
  3. Apply Latex Primer
  4. Thin the Acrylic Paint
  5. Apply The Acrylic Paint
  6. Seal With a Topcoat

Now, roll those sleeves, and let’s get to work.

1. Remove The Glossy Topcoat on The Enamel Paint (For oil-based enamel)

Remove The Glossy Topcoat on The Enamel Paint

If you plan on painting acrylic over water-based enamel, you can skip this step. But if you are working with oil-based enamel, the next step is to remove the glossy sheen on the enamel finish.

Oil-based enamel paints when dry form a glossy film that is super thick. This thick film will prevent the acrylic paint from sitting tightly. So you need to get rid of it by:

1. Scrapping the thick film off: For this, you’ll need to use a metallic paint scrapper.

2. Apply rubbing alcohol or a chemical-based paint stripper on the gloss: Rubbing alcohol will work to remove the gloss but not in every case. This is because rubbing alcohol has different concentrations of isopropyl alcohol. Isopropyl alcohol is the active ingredient in the solvent that removes paint.

If the isopropyl in your rubbing alcohol is lower than 70%, then it might not remove the gloss. 70% isopropyl and above will surely remove the wax. If you suspect the rubbing alcohol isn’t strong enough, use a chemical-based paint stripper.

Chemical-based paint strippers are designed with chemicals as strong as methylene chloride, acetone, and turpentine. All of these compounds will remove the gloss on the oil-based enamel.

2. Sand Lightly With Fine-Grit Sandpaper

Sand Lightly With Fine-Grit Sandpaper

After removing the gloss, you should sand the enamel with a fine-grit sandpaper. This helps to smoothen the enamel by removing bumps and paint pimples. It also helps to even out grain after removing the gloss.

Sand the enamel using ultra fine-grit sandpaper. Coarse or medium-grit sandpaper will ruin the enamel finish.

3. Apply Latex Primer

Apply Latex Primer

With the enamel paint well sanded, apply two coats of latex paint primer on the enamel. The primer will help seal the enamel paint. It also ensures paint bonding, durability, and smoothness.

4. Thin The Acrylic Paint

Thin The Acrylic Paint

Acrylic paints usually come in tubes which means you’ll have to squeeze out the paint into a container first. The paint in its form can’t be applied directly because it’s too thick. So you should thin the acrylic paint with water.

To thin, add little water to the acrylic paint. Then stir to you have an even consistency and color.

5. Apply The Acrylic Paint

Apply The Acrylic Paint

With the enamel paint well prepped, the next thing is to apply the acrylic paint. You need two or three coats of acrylic paint over the enamel. Two coats are usually enough but if you didn’t prime the enamel first, you’ll need at least 3 coats to arrive at a perfect finish.

Apply the acrylic paint with a synthetic-bristled paintbrush. Each coating of acrylic paint should be applied lightly so it can dry faster and be easier to control.

You should wait until the existing (or first) coating dries before you apply the next. This prevents the second paint coating from peeling off.

6. Seal The Acrylic Paint

Seal The Acrylic Paint

After applying the acrylic over enamel, it’s usually a good idea to seal the acrylic paint. Sealing acrylic paint helps to protect and preserve the finish. It also gives the water-based acrylic finish a glossy sheen that makes the finish reflective and vibrant.

Common choices of sealant for acrylic paint include oil-based polyurethane and clear wax.

When you have completed all these steps, you have successfully applied acrylic paint over enamel.

Can You Mix Acrylic Paint With Enamel?

You shouldn’t mix acrylic paint with enamel paint. In most cases, both paints will have a different chemical formula and solvent making 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 not cure. The finish will remain tacky or sticky for days.

This is because the oils in the enamel paint will mix with the water. So you neither have water nor oil. This makes it difficult for the solvents to be fully evaporated from the paint particles. Hence, the paint will remain tacky.

However, you might get away with mixing water-based enamel and acrylic paint since both paints have similar features. But even with the same base, the mixture might still not come out nice.

One major reason for this is because acrylic paints are usually 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. It’s better to use acrylic over enamel instead.

Speaking of using acrylic over enamel, can you use acrylic lacquer over enamel paint? Let’s find out.

Tip: It’s never a good idea to mix oil-based and water-based paints.

Can You Put Acrylic Lacquer Over Enamel Paint?

You shouldn’t put acrylic lacquer over enamel paint. This is because acrylic lacquers usually contain a thinning agent that makes the lacquer easier to apply and dry.

The thinning agent in most acrylic lacquers is turpentine and turpentine is known to remove enamel paints. If acrylic lacquer is used over enamel, the thing agent (or turpentine) will lift the enamel paint underneath making the entire finish come crumbling down.

Lacquers by nature aren’t designed to be used directly. This is because lacquers are usually sprayed and the lacquer in its original state is too thick to be sprayed. So the lacquer has to be thinned first to ensure it can be sprayed.

Lacquers are usually thinned with turpentine or mineral spirits. Both of these thinning agents will remove enamel paints. So if the acrylic lacquer is applied, it will remove the enamel paint underneath.

You might get away with applying water-based acrylic lacquer on enamel. This is because water-based lacquers are thinned with water which makes it safe to use on enamel since water will not remove paint.

However water-based acrylic lacquer over enamel might produce a color tint in the paint coating after a while. Yellowish color is usually caused by the chemicals in the enamel paint.

Related Read: Can You Apply Enamel Over Latex Paint?

Can You Put Acrylic Clear Coat Over Enamel Paint?

You can put an acrylic clear coat over enamel paint. But, the enamel finish has to be carefully sanded, primed, and prepped to receive the acrylic clear coat. If the enamel isn’t well prepped, the acrylic clear coat will not bond properly.

An acrylic clear coat can be used over enamel paint because the clear coat is designed to be used on paints. As a clear coat, it can be used to seal different paint types including enamel.

However, you should never use acrylic paint over enamel except for small areas. This is because acrylic paint isn’t designed to go on or seal enamel. It’s designed to be used on a primer or bare surface.

When picking a sealant for your enamel finish, you can go with an acrylic clear coat. As a topcoat, it will stick to enamel but the enamel has to be prepped especially if it’s oil-based enamel.

For oil-based enamel, the gloss had to be stripped off. If not, the acrylic clear coat will not adhere since the gloss is virtually impermeable.

For water-based enamel, you don’t have to strip any gloss cause there isn’t any. However, for both types of enamel, you’ll have to sand lightly and use a latex primer before sealing with an acrylic clear coat.

Final Words

Overall, you can paint acrylic over enamel. But what determines the success of the paint job is the prep work done before applying the acrylic paint.

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 for proper paint adhesion and durability.

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