How to use acrylic paint on wood

red acrylic image by Andrew Brown from

Acrylic paint is formulated with pigments suspended in an acrylic or plastic binding emulsion with a water base. Acrylics dry very quickly and are available in a wide spectrum of colours. They are simple to apply, do not emit toxic fumes and can be cleaned with soap and water. The medium on which they are painted must be sturdy, but otherwise there are no limits to the use of acrylics. As a traditional painting surface, wood can provide an interesting grain pattern, but it is quite porous, so sealing it may be required.

Apply gesso with a broad brush across the entire wood panel, using as many coats as needed and ensuring that it is completely covered with no wood showing below and that the layers are even. Begin by applying the gesso vertically, letting that dry, then horizontally, to ensure an even application.

Sand away any excess gesso once it has dried, which will take about 30 minutes per coat. Make sure your surface is completely level to begin painting.

Draw a sketch of the painting on a piece of paper that you wish to recreate on the wood panel, making notes about the colours and details. Acrylic paint is quite forgiving and can easily be painted over, but making a sketch beforehand can save time and resources.

Paint your images directly onto the panel, using the sketch as your guide. Allow the paint to dry and then add details and highlights. Experiment by building up colours in different areas.

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