By Debbie Wolfe | Updated Apr 26, 2022 12:49 PM
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Paint is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to add color and style to any surface. Wood is a versatile crafting medium that accepts paint well—so it’s natural that the two go hand in hand.
There are many options for paint that will work on wood crafts. Acrylic paint is the most popular due to its versatility, range of color, and price point. However, there are other paints that work well if you are trying to achieve a particular finish. With so many options available, it helps to have a guide like this to show you why certain paints are ideal for wood crafts. We also explore the best paint for wood crafts that will turn any wood surface into a work of art.
Paint for wood crafts is available in several forms, colors, and finishes. Selecting the right paint mainly involves choosing a product that will achieve the look and finish you want. All wood crafting paint might seem similar, but it helps to consider a few things when shopping for one.
Acrylic paint is the most popular choice among crafters and artists because it’s affordable, available in a range of colors and finishes, cleans up easily, and dries quickly. Acrylic colors are permanent once dry.
Acrylic paint is a pigment mixed with an acrylic polymer and is a water-based paint. It’s available in many colors and either matte or glossy finishes. The paints can be used directly out of the bottle or the tube for an opaque look. It dilutes with water easily for a wash effect. Acrylic paint works well on finished and unfinished wood, paper, Styrofoam, primed metal, terracotta, and other materials.
Spray paints are liquid paints, typically oil based, that are contained in an aerosol can. A pressurized gas forces the paint out of the can in an even stream. These paints enable the user to quickly apply an even and thin coat of paint onto an object. Spray paints are available in a range of colors and finishes.
Spray paints work well for painting items with corners and crevices that are hard to reach with a brush. These paints are suitable for use on all types of woods and other surfaces such as plastic, paper, stone, and more. The paint should be used in well-ventilated areas to minimize the chance of breathing in fumes.
Chalk paints are multisurface paints used on glass, furniture, cabinets, and walls. Created by Annie Sloan, the paint rose in popularity due to the modern farmhouse trend. Chalk paints have an ultra-matte finish and work well for most wood surfaces. Unlike chalkboard paint, which creates a surface that you can write on with chalk, chalk paint is a specialized paint that lends a chalky appearance and feel to surfaces.
As opposed to paints that can make nearly any surface look like wood, chalk paint gives wood surfaces a time-worn or modern rustic look. The best thing about using chalk paint is that a primer is often unnecessary because the paint is thick and clings to porous and nonporous surfaces. Once the paint dries, it can be sanded and distressed. It’s also a water-based product, which means it cleans up easily with soap and water. The paint can also be finished with a wax that is buffed to seal the paint and provide a smooth protective finish.
Outdoor or exterior paint is specially formulated to be durable and last under all weather conditions. It’s designed not to fade or chip against moisture or sunlight. These paints are perfect for sprucing up pots, lawn ornaments, and other surfaces.
Outdoor paints come in various forms, finishes, and colors. They have resins and other additives that prevent them from cracking, chipping, and fading when exposed to the elements. Outdoor paint will also protect the wood and other surfaces from decay and damage.
Metallic paint is an inexpensive way to create an all-over metallic effect on surfaces. These paints are available in various forms, and many have water-based formulas for easy cleanup.
Most metallic paints have a glossy finish, but some are available in a matte finish. The paints come in spray or liquid form. Colors aren’t just limited to traditional metals like silver, gold, and bronze. Metallic paints offer plenty of bright tones like magenta and tangerine, plus pastels such as lilac and sage.
Crafters who are new to painting wood might not be sure what to look for when choosing craft paint. Wood surfaces can be challenging to paint, especially if you do not choose the right paint. The best paint for wood crafts varies based on thickness, lightfastness, opacity, and pigment. Here are some things to consider when looking for the best paint for wood crafts.
Color quality depends on the concentration of finely powdered pigment in the paint. Paint consists of pigments, binders, solvents, and additives. Pigments provide the color and help with hide (ability to obscure background), while binders can hold the pigment together and create the paint film.
Professional quality paints are richer in pigment and are more vibrant and consistent. Craft or student-quality paints have less pigment and, therefore, are less expensive. A high percentage of pigment in paint provides better coverage. However, the sheen of the paint also affects coverage. Flat or matte paint contains more pigment than glossier paints. Overall, paints richer in pigment will cost more.
The absorption rate of paint mostly depends on the surface. Unfinished wood absorbs a lot of paint. Furthermore, the variations in the wood grain can create an uneven finish. However, a finished wood surface will not absorb paint efficiently. For the best results, use a primer on any porous surfaces and sand finished surfaces before painting for the smoothest coverage.
Opacity refers to the paint’s translucence or the quality of allowing light to pass diffusely. Opacity in paint mostly means how much the surface is visible through the paint. Higher opacity means more light can come through.
Two qualities affect a paint’s opacity: color and body. Lighter colors will have higher opacity, but applying multiple layers of any color paint will decrease the opacity. Thick or heavy-bodied paints have a higher opacity because they deposit a heavier layer of paint with each stroke.
Lightfastness, also known as permanence, refers to the paint’s ability to resist gradual fading when exposed to light. Artist and craft paints are labeled with a permanence rating from ASTM International (formerly known as the American Society for Testing and Materials). The ASTM permanence ratings are:
Exterior paints and aerosol spray paint contain additives to help protect the pigment from ultraviolet radiation caused by sunlight, fungal growth, and high temperatures. These paints resist fading better than indoor paints.
A paint’s drying time will depend on its additives and viscosity. Water-based paints, like acrylics, dry quickly. Heavy-bodied or oil-based paints take longer to dry. Also, drying time varies depending on the layers of paint on a surface.
In the United States, any craft paint labeled with the phrase “conforms to ASTM D 4236” means the product is nontoxic. The bottle or tube will often highlight that the paint is nontoxic. The good news is that most acrylics and craft paint are not toxic.
Exterior and spray paints contain more additives that might be toxic. Furthermore, these paints release harmful chemicals or particles into the air as they dry or “off-gas.” When applying these paints, wear protective clothing, a respirator, and make sure to work in a well-ventilated space.
Considering the above shopping considerations, choose a paint among these recommendations that will suit your needs. The best paint for wood should be easy to use, have vibrant color, and have good coverage. The products below were picked based on brand reputation, value, and customer satisfaction.
Apple Barrel craft paints are popular among painters and crafters for any project because of their color range, multiple finish options, and superior coverage. This paint works wonders on wood, Styrofoam, construction paper, canvas, and other materials. The 18-count set features vibrant colors, and each dries to a matte finish.
This is a light-body paint, so it requires applying multiple coats for an opaque finish. The water-based paint is only for indoor use, so any painted object that will be exposed to weather will need to have a protective finish added. Additionally, Apple Barrel craft paints are safe for painters of all ages, from kids to teenagers and adults, since it is nontoxic.
Get the Apple Barrel acrylic paint set on Amazon or Walmart.
New and seasoned crafters will enjoy the variety that Aen Art Acrylic Paint offers. The set includes 24 bold and vibrant colors that work well on various surfaces, including wood, Styrofoam, plaster, rock, stone, clay, ceramic, and more. The set also comes with three artist paint brushes to help you get started.
Aen Art Acrylic Paint offers a wonderful variety at an incredible value. This acrylic paint blends well and can easily be brushed, stamped, and stenciled to your projects. It’s water-based and nontoxic, so it is easy and safe for kids to use. The brushes included in the set are basic brushes, but they make the set complete. This option is ideal for a beginner crafter looking to get started at a bargain price.
Get the Aen Art acrylic paint set on Amazon.
Liquitex invented acrylic-based paints in 1955. The brand is well known for its artist-quality paints, which feature highly pigmented color and medium viscosity for blending ease. The Liquitex BASICS is the brand’s student line, designed to deliver the same quality paints at an economical price.
This set features 48 vibrant colors in a range of opacities that are perfect for blending. The paint is also archival quality and nontoxic. Liquitex BASICS glides beautifully on canvas, paper, wood, masonry, metal, Styrofoam, stone, ceramics, and textiles. Although this set is a student line, it’s still significantly more expensive than craft paint. However, you can’t get much better than the BASICS line for the best quality artist-grade paint at an affordable price.
Get the Liquitex BASICS acrylic paint set on Amazon, Dick Blick, or Michaels.
Paint adds a pop of color to surfaces and helps protect them. The best paint for outdoor wood is formulated to resist fading and to hold up to any weather. The FolkArt Outdoor Gloss Acrylic Craft Paint Set features 12 colors in a paint that is incredibly durable and weather-resistant.
FolkArt’s outdoor paint dries to an ultra-glossy finish that will protect your wood project outdoors for years to come. The paint set’s 12 basic colors are blendable, meaning you can create many colors from those included. The paint also works on various surfaces such as wood, terra cotta, glass, ceramics, and more.
Get the FolkArt outdoor acrylic paint set on Amazon or Walmart.
Spray paint is one of the best paints to use on wood and makes covering a large surface area fast and easy. Rust-Oleum Painter’s Touch spray paint features a variety of colors and finishes that work on several interior/exterior surfaces, including wood, plastic, plaster, metal, masonry, and unglazed ceramic.
The Painter’s Touch line features a variety of colors and finishes, so no matter what your look or preference is, there’s a color to match. Each bottle contains 12 ounces of paint that can cover up to 12 square feet. The spray paint is an oil-based formula and is low odor. However, it’s best to always use spray paint in a well-ventilated area with respiratory protection.
Get the Rust-Oleum Painter’s Touch spray paint on Amazon, Ace Hardware, The Home Depot.
Chalk paint, like this one from Rust-Oleum, is great for furniture. Although it’s possible to make homemade paint similar to chalk paint, getting it premade is more convenient and it stores better. Rust-Oleum Brands Chalked Ultra Matte Paint offers a variety of colors to paint wood, metal, ceramic, and canvas, and it easily distresses to create a vintage look. The ultra-matte chalk paint does not require priming for most surfaces. However, priming is recommended for bare wood or wood high in tannins (such as redwood, mahogany, and fir) for best results.
The chalk paint dries to the touch in less than 30 minutes, and for most surfaces, a single coat of paint is all that is needed. It layers well, and it’s easy to distress with sandpaper for a modern farmhouse look. Like all chalk paints, a wax or a polyurethane finish is required after painting to protect the paint.
Get the Rust-Oleum Brands chalked ultra matte paint on Amazon, Ace Hardware, or The Home Depot.
Metallic paints allow you to transform wood and other surfaces into a metallic-look finish. This set by FolkArt features eight 2-ounce bottles of metallic paint in Bright Gold, 14k Gold, Antique Gold, Rose Gold, Chocolate Brown, Charcoal Black, Platinum, and Silver Sterling. FolkArt’s patented self-sealing formula offers superior coverage with fewer coats and a quicker drying time.
The paint is dishwasher-safe once oven-cured (on nonwood surfaces). Although it works very well on wood, the metallic paint in this set also glides easily onto glass, ceramic, metal, terra cotta, canvas, paper mache, fabric, and other materials. This paint can be brushed directly onto most craft surfaces as a base coat or used with other creative art techniques such as stenciling or sponge painting.
Get the FolkArt metallic acrylic craft paint set on Amazon, Walmart, or Michaels.
FolkArt’s chalk paint set can help you give your furniture or craft project a rustic and weathered look without buying large amounts of paint. This set includes nine 2-ounce bottles of paint in a fun array of neutral colors.
Chalk paint is one of the best paints to use on furniture, but you can also use it on terra cotta, metal, ceramic, paper, canvas, glass, fabric, and more. This set features highly pigmented colors with an ultra-matte finish. Best of all, there is very little prep work needed to ensure the paint adheres to the surface. It does require a wax or polyurethane finish to help protect the finish.
Get the FolkArt Home Decor chalk paint set on Amazon.
The Apple Barrel Acrylic Paint Set is an excellent option for crafters and DIYers. It’s our top choice based on price, versatility, reputation, and quality. Those looking for a wide range of colors at an affordable price might look to the Aen Art Acrylic Paint, which features 24 bold and vibrant colors.
After exploring dozens of paint options for wood crafts, we considered several criteria before choosing our top picks. We based our choices on brand reputation and each paint’s versatility, usability, and price. The top choices feature a range of colors, are made from high-quality pigments, and work on wood plus other various surfaces.
There is a lot to consider when shopping for the best paint for wood crafts, so it’s understandable if there are some lingering or specific questions. Below are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about paints used for wood crafting.
Start by prepping the wood surface. If you are painting unfinished wood, wipe the dust away with a tack cloth, then paint. For finished wood, sand the surface first or use a primer before painting.
No. Typically, the wood is sealed after painting to help preserve the surface.
You can use acrylic paint on unfinished wood surfaces. If the wood surface is finished, you will need to sand or prime the surface prior to painting.
Most craft paints are acrylic. However, craft paint can also be oil based or spray paint.
Use a polyurethane sealer to protect a newly painted surface.
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