A step by step guide for painting on Plexiglass: how to add colour to acrylic sheets

When it comes to functional materials, plexiglass is one of the most versatile around! With properties of being shatter-resistant, easy to cut and shape, high transparency, and availability in a variety of colours, it is no wonder why you find it commonly used in households and even commercial applications.

And now, it has even found its way into the world of crafts and DIY!

Regardless of whether you are planning to paint over a large sheet of plexiglass for a DIY home project or if you are playing Picasso with acrylic sheet as your canvas, here are some tips that will come in handy!

guide for painting on plexiglass

Painting on Plexiglass: materials you will need

Like any crafty project you will need to prepare your materials ahead of them, here are some essentials that you need:

  • Fine-grained sandpaper
  • Soft sponge
  • Soapy water
  • Polishing cloth (lint-free) x 2
  • Acrylic primer
  • Acrylic paint (spray paint or any other kind). When deciding between acrylic paint vs latex paint, choose acrylic for plexiglass as other paints can damage the surface.
  • Brushes or rollers (optional)
  • Masking tape (optional)
  • Waterproof sealant to be used over paint (optional) – if you plan to use it outdoors or will expose it to water
  • Your acrylic or Plexiglass sheet
  • Some old newspapers or plastic sheets to make sure you do not make a mess
  • An outdoor or well-ventilated craft space

Painting on Plexiglass: a step by step guide

Have all the necessary materials on hand? Let us get started on our acrylic painting project!

#1 – Preparing the surface

guide for painting on plexiglass

Custom plexiglass sheets are incredibly smooth which makes it a pretty hard canvas to work on. This is why the very first step requires us to prepare the surface for the paint by roughening it up!

Simply use your fine-grained sandpaper and sand down the surface lightly. Make sure you take the time to cover the entire surface and that you do not miss a spot – else paint might not adhere well on parts of your canvas.

The next step of preparing the surface involves cleaning it up! Duh right? You would not want to work on a dirty or greasy surface. Make sure you clean AFTER sanding if you do not want small particles trapped under your paint.

How to clean it up? Simply soak your soft sponge or lint-free cloth depending on what you have available in soapy water and start wiping it down. Make sure to rinse off the suds with water. Once clean, use a dry lint-free cloth to wipe off excess moisture.

To make sure it’s extra dry you can leave it out to dry for a few hours before the next step. Alternatively, if it is small enough, you can dry it in an oven for 5-10 minutes at a low temperature (under 40 degrees Celsius).

#2 – Priming the surface

guide for painting on plexiglass

Priming helps to create a good adhesive surface for the paint, so make sure you prime it first!

If you are using a spray, so make sure you shake it well before spraying it on evenly at the recommended spraying distance. If you are using a liquid primer, make sure to evenly spread it across the surface.

Cover the surface in one coat and let it dry. Differs from brand to brand – check the recommended drying time for the brand of primer you are using.

#3 – Start painting on the acrylic sheet

guide for painting on plexiglass

And now you have it – a canvas that is ready to paint on!

To paint a full solid colour, simply layer on the acrylic paint (spray or liquid) across the surface evenly. If you are working with a transparent polycarbonate sheet, you might need to go over with several coats – probably 3 – 4 coats.

If you are painting on parts of it, simply use your brush, roller, or spray to paint on your designs. Again, you might need to go over with a few coats.

Make sure each layer dries before going on with the next to avoid smudging.

And you are almost done!

#4 – Water proofing & sealing protection (optional)

tips for painting on acrylic sheets

The last step is optional depending on whether you want to ensure durability for your “masterpiece”.

If you are putting it outdoors or exposing it to moist environments, this is a must do!

Like priming and painting, you will need to apply at least one layer of the commercial sealant over your artwork. This helps to create a barrier between the paint and the environment, protecting it and keeping it safe!

Simple tips for painting on Plexiglass:

Additionally, here are some useful tips you can take note of while trying out your painting on an acrylic project:

  • Avoid solvent-based paints which can eat away at acrylic – water-based paints are good
  • Use masking tape for perfectly straight lines
  • Drying time can differ depending on the paint used
  • For a glossy smooth finish, use clear polyurethane-based paint as a sealant

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