Tips & How To’s

How To Paint Plastic And Get It To Last For Longer

Tim Parry


how to paint plastic

Plastic is one of the most common items in the world. It is used to make all sorts of things. From plastic toys to plastic cutlery and crockery to house fixtures. It is a dynamic material that has been around for a long time. Unfortunately, with time, plastic becomes dull. Given that, let's find out how to paint plastic and spruce up any plastic items you own.

Why Should You Paint Plastic?

Well-made plastic items are very hardy. They last for long, and you can very easily paint on plastic. However, after a while of having plastic items, you might notice they will start to look very unappealing. They might also start to chip, especially the paint coating on the plastic surface. However, painting plastic is very simple and can be done at home.

While it is simple to paint plastic, the science behind it is not as easy. This is because plastic is not porous. Therefore, it will not absorb paint. This is why you need to be prepping plastic before painting or spraying. Whether you use acrylic paint or spray paint, the outcome may vary depending on how the prepping was done.

You need to prep plastic carefully before painting. Doing this will ensure you have a beautiful finish. Painting plastic will make the plastic piece look as good as new. However, you just have to know how to do it. Let's discuss how to paint plastic and ensure the paint stays on.

How To Paint Plastic

 Plastic Spray Paint

As we have mentioned above, painting plastic first needs a lot of preparation. There are steps to take before the actual painting. Here are some strides you can take for prepping plastic.

Preparation includes:

a) Cleaning

For better paint adhesion to your plastic painted items, thoroughly cleaning the plastic item is the first step. Using warm water and soap or mild dish soap should get the plastic item clean enough for the next step. Any oil or dirt should be thoroughly removed to get a smooth surface. You can then dry the plastic surface with a damp cloth.

Allow the plastic surface to completely dry before proceeding to the next steps.

b) Using Rubbing Alcohol

After the first step above, wipe the plastic surface with rubbing alcohol. Rubbing alcohol is extremely drying, and hence it will do away with any remaining moisture. All plastic painting projects should undergo this step. It is crucial to remove any remaining oil, dirt or grit and let the item dry completely. After this step, you can now prepare your work area.

c) Prepare Work Area

A work area should be set up in a well-ventilated area. Whether you are using general-purpose spray paints or craft acrylic paints, the smell will always be strong. Inhaling the fumes can be dangerous. Next, spread a large plastic sheet, paper, or cardboard over the area you will be working on. This minimizes any mess and cleanup later.

If there are some areas you don't prefer to paint; you can use painter's tape to block them off. After these prepping steps are done, you can now proceed to the painting, as highlighted in the steps below.

Painting Plastic Surfaces includes the following steps:

d) Remove The Shine

This step is to give you a matte and smooth base to work with. The aim is to remove the shiny surface you see on most plastics. To do this, you can use fine-grit sandpaper and get to scrubbing the entire surface. First, lightly sand the plastic surface. Make sure not to rub too hard. After getting the shiny surfaces out of the plastic, proceed to the next step.

e) Wipe The Plastic Down

This is completed with a very soft cloth or brush. You can remove all the dust from the sanding process. To prevent small bumps and irregular surfaces, ensure to remove all the dust. If you leave any dust, not only will it be visible through the paint, it will also look horrible.

f) Priming

When painting plastic, you need to prime the entire surface. When painting on plastic, you need to consider whether it is a plastic item for indoor or outdoor use. To let the paint stick to plastic is the challenge. Therefore a plastic primer helps with that. If you are painting indoor plastics, such as plastic furniture, use a high-adhesion latex stain-blocking primer.

For outdoor plastics such as plastic flower pots, prime with specialized primers for plastics. After the priming is done, proceed to the actual painting. 

g) Painting

Before painting, ensure that any areas of the plastic surface you don't want to paint are covered with painter's tape. Next, using the spray cans, position the nozzle toward your item and begin to spray several light coats. Thin coats ensure you have more control over the outcome of the painted surface.

One thick coat of paint is not recommended because it might dry unevenly and lead to overpainting. After you are satisfied with the outcome, ensure to let the plastic surface dry for at least 24-hours. Before moving indoor plastic back into the house, ensure all the smell is gone.

h) Finishing

For indoor items, an acrylic sealer spray is not necessary; however, it is important. The choice remains yours. However, to maintain the lasting effects of spray paint, applying an acrylic sealer is important. Outdoor items especially. The lasting gloss finish of spray sealers is also protective.

The spray paint on plastic surfaces can look very beautiful. However, the elements might erode it after a while. Spray paint doesn't last long on outdoor items without a spray sealer. After applying a thin coat of acrylic sealer, let the item dry completely before using it again.

Factors To Consider Before Painting Plastic

There are a few items of consideration before applying acrylic paint to plastic. First, acrylic painting on plastic surfaces is safe and can be done at home. However, if you don't have experience with spray paint, enamel paints, and acrylic paint, you might be more comfortable with the following steps.

1) Test Spray

Before you use acrylic paint, painting smaller objects might be a good start. First, ensure the smaller objects you paint are not valuable to you. You can also use pieces of cardboard. Next, spray these items as you would a larger project. Begin with prepping, then applying a base coat. You can also try a spray primer.

You can also experiment with a first coat and a final coat. To begin, you can also use general-purpose spray paints on any plastic item or recycled plastic bottles.

2) Paint And Primer Compatibility

This is very important, especially when using spray paint. Any acrylic paint you select should be compatible with the primer you select. As you purchase your acrylic paint, ensure your selected primer or base coat is also compatible. A lack of compatibility with the two will cause your spray paint not to stick.

Acrylic paint on plastic surfaces requires a compatible plastic primer spray. Without it, you will not have a good paint job, and it will look uneven.

3) Liquid Sander

Liquid sander can be utilized in place of fine-grit sandpaper. Instead of creating more mess using sandpaper, you can use a liquid sander instead. Before applying spray paint, this type of sander delivers the same results as when you lightly sand any surface. Furthermore, it dries fast, and you can apply spray paint or acrylic paint just after ten minutes.

It will make acrylic paint stick well, especially for indoor items. If you prefer to manually sand before applying acrylic paint or spray paint, then you can also do so.

4) Brush On Paint For Smaller Items

Using a spray paint is less messy compared to manually using a brush. However, smaller items require attention to detail. Spray paint might not be suitable in this case. Therefore, it is important to brush on the paint for smaller items. You should note that acrylic paint is toxic when ingested.

If you are spray painting plastic items that have a home on your table, then ensure to spray paint plastic items without painting the rim of the item. The spray paint can start a few inches below the rim or opening of the item.

5) Use Paints Specific For Spray Paint Plastic

Regular spray paint might work great for plastics. However, there are plastics that don't do well with spray paint. Acrylic paints specifically for multi-surface plastics will give better paint adhesion. Acrylic paints that are specifically for plastic surfaces do better on all plastics. When you use acrylic paint, make sure it is suitable for your plastic project before purchasing.

The Bottom Line

Painting on plastic can be a fun way to spend your days, especially if you love DIY projects. Furthermore, it is very interesting to learn different methods and tricks when learning how to paint plastic. We hope you found our article on painting on plastic useful.

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Tim Parry

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