How Can You Seal Acrylic Paints On Wood?

As an artist, you like to experiment with different kinds of paint supplies. If you work on regular canvases, you know all about the excellent pay-off of acrylic paints. But wood has always been painted using oil paints. Can acrylics provide the results you want on wood?

Acrylic paints are an inexpensive alternative to oil paints. They are easy to use and just as easy to clean up. They are also non-toxic, having a mild odor. These characteristics generally make them an excellent choice of paint. However, on wood, they cannot work alone. You have to seal them correctly to make sure you get optimum results. 

Why Should You Apply a Sealant?

Acrylic paints are highly susceptible to damage. Environmental factors such as ultraviolet rays, heat, water, and more can impact them negatively. Exposure to chemicals, rough handling, et cetera, can also cause them to degrade. 

That happens due to the formulation of acrylics. For instance, oil paints are not at all sensitive to water damage. But being water-based, the pigments in the acrylic paints lose their vibrancy and opacity. So, you observe a decrease in the aesthetic value of the wood painting. 


Thus, sealing acrylic paint on wood can help protect it against the above damaging factors. You can use a sealant on top of the painted surface for this purpose. You can find some solid ones which leave a tough layer on the piece of wood. That prevents the paint from scratching off as well as decolorization. 

The application of a sealant is also necessary before you begin the painting process. Why? Well, wood is porous. That means it is full of numerous microscopic pores which are capable of soaking in water. So, when you use water-based acrylic paints, you risk damaging the wood. 

Applying a coat of sealant on the bare wood helps cover these pores. Thus, no acrylic paint seeps into the wood, preventing water damage. If you do not apply a sealant, the top layer becomes irregular, causing the paint to crack and peel. 

Besides, the interaction between the wood fluids and the paints could cause discoloration. That could render you painting a yellowish-brown tint, effectively ruining it. 

Using a sealant for sealing acrylic paint on wood is thus a helpful technique for protecting your art. However, this is not a sure-fire solution. It helps maintain your painting for an extended period, yes, but not indefinitely.

Which Sealant Should You Use?

Now that you understand the importance of sealant, you must be wondering which one to use. There are hundreds of sealing products available in the market. Among these, you have to find the one that suits your needs the best. 

You can pick a well-known glaze or varnish for your wood painting. Liquitex acrylic varnish is a popular choice among artists. However, if you want a shiny, vibrant look, a resin-based varnish will work better. If you want a matte finish look, opt for a polymer-based varnish. 

Apart from varnishes and glazes, you can use Mod Podge as a sealant. It works best on intricate wooden pieces such as jewelry and ornaments. You can use this sealant both as a top and a base coat. 

Mod Podge is highly water-resistant, meaning it will protect the wood appropriately. Although it goes on white during the application, it dries clear, giving your painting a shine. However, unlike other types of sealants, it has a long drying time. So, you have to be patient. If you do not have Mod Podge at hand, you can use diluted PVA glue. It will yield similar results. 

If you check the price tag of the sealants available in the market, you will notice most of them are far too expensive for beginners. So, in case you are looking for something cheaper, diluted PVA glue is an excellent option! It works as a good base coat, meaning you can apply it before you start painting to provide optimum protection. 

Follow the steps given below for sealing acrylic paint on wood using PVA glue. 

  • Take PVA glue and water in a 1:1 ratio in a container.
  • Mix the liquids thoroughly until you get a milky consistency.
  • Use a brush to apply this mixture on the surface and edges of the wood.
  • Once the first coat dries, apply another one. 
  • Top it up with some primer and let dry.
  • Once dry, you can use any acrylic paint you want on the wood without worrying about damage. 

All the sealants mentioned above are suitable for wood pieces that remain indoors. But when you keep a wooden item outdoors for an extended period, it becomes more prone to damage. This degradation occurs due to the constant exposure to direct sunlight and hence, ultraviolet (UV) radiation, rain, snow, polluting agents, et cetera. Thus, indoor sealants cannot provide adequate protection. So, they need better sealing products.  

You can protect the outdoor wood pieces using water-based polyurethane and polyacrylic sealants. These products form a hard external coating that prevents ultraviolet (UV) light and moisture from harming the wood. 

You can also use resin for this purpose. Large indoor pieces of wood and furniture that you use often can also wear out quickly. So, sealing them in polyurethane or polyacrylic products can help protect them.

What Should You Keep in Mind While Choosing a Sealant?

The type of sealant you use depends on the needs of your wood and acrylic paints. If the sealing liquid interferes with either of the two, your painting will be damaged. Besides, the sealant has to dry to clear. So, while choosing, rule out any products that dry as murky or non-transparent. 

Selecting the sealant based on its purpose is also crucial. For example, a product that can cover the pores in the wood will not offer protection against external harm and vice versa. So, you have to choose your sealing liquid accordingly. If you want an all-in-one solution, you can find some sealants in the market that work as both top and base coats. 

Some sealants popular among experienced artists include polyacrylic finish, Mr. Super Clear gloss protective, Krylon crystal clear acrylic coating, and surprisingly enough, watered down PVA glue. 

What Are the Steps to Creating the Perfect Acrylic Wood Painting?

Choosing the appropriate sealant is only a preparatory step for the sealing process. The way you use the sealing liquid makes all the difference. Here is a guide to sealing acrylic paint on wood that you can follow to get the best results. 

#1 Sand the Wood

Paint cannot stick to a slippery or uneven surface. So, you have to prepare the wood by sanding it. First, with the help of medium-grit sandpaper, smoothen the wood by going in the direction of the grain. Once you are more or less satisfied, follow up with fine-grit sandpaper. That will yield your desired smooth surface. 

#2 Clean the Surface

Once you complete sanding, use a damp cloth to remove all the dust that accumulates. Leaving behind any particles can prevent the sealant and, later on, the paint from sticking to the wood. So, take your time on this step, and when you finish, let the surface dry. 

Do not use a cloth that is too wet as the moisture can seep into the perforations of the wood. Besides, this will increase drying time. If you want to avoid this hassle, you can get a tack cloth. It consists of an adhesive material that can remove dirt and dust without using a drop of water.

#3 Apply the Sealant

Coat the entire surface of the wood with the sealant of your choice. Let it dry for a few hours or more, as per the instructions mentioned on the product. Then, apply a second coat for better results. Allow it to dry completely for a day or more, as necessary.

#4 Apply the Primer

Once you finish applying the sealant, lay down a coat of primer. That makes the surface more adhesive, ensuring that the paint sticks. Thus, the purpose of a primer is different from that of a protective sealant. So, make sure you apply both. 

Primers come in both spray-on and brush-on forms. You have to use two coats of either, letting it dry in between. Transparent or white acrylic gesso works best as a primer for acrylic paint. Apply it generously, making sure to cover every inch of the wood. This way, you will end up with a smooth wooden surface, on top of which you can paint easily. 

#5 Paint to Your Heart’s Content

Now that all the preparation is complete, you can move on to painting the wood. Use your favorite acrylic paints and see the magic happen! One coat of paint is usually never enough. So, top with one or two more layers, allowing each to dry. Once you are satisfied with your painting, let the paint cure for a few hours or days. 

#6 Apply the Final Layers of Sealant

After your painting cures completely, you have to apply a few thin coats of the sealant. Before you do so, clean the surface with a cloth to remove any dirt or debris. Then, you can either spray the sealing liquid on or use a brush or roller to apply it. A sponge might help cover corners and other areas which are difficult to reach. 


Acrylic paints look beautiful on any surface if applied and maintained correctly. So, while using them on wood, a substrate, which has little resistance to damage, you must take extra precautions. That includes the application of a sealant, which helps in sealing acrylic paint on wood

In general, this sealing step comes in twice. First, it has to go on before the primer to cover the pores of the wood. Then, again, you have to apply it, in the end, to protect the painting from exterior damage. The rest of the steps in painting wood using acrylics remain the same. 

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