Can You Sand Acrylic Paint? Step By Step Guidance

Painting with acrylic is an easy, exploring, and convenient experience, but how do you correct mistakes while painting? What if you get lumps, bumps, and streaks on your painted surface? What will you do if you want to make the surface smooth and glossy? All these things can be handled if you know how to accurately sand acrylic paint.  

At the beginning of my profession, I didn’t consider the grit size of the sandpaper, which used to ruin my artwork, or I could not get desired results with sanding. But with time, I learned and realized how important it is to know the correct grit size, surface type, and technique for sanding the paint.  

In the blog post, I’ll go through all the crucial information and precautions you need to know for successful sanding. 

Can You Sand Acrylic Paint?

Yes, acrylic paint can be sanded but make sure you wait until the paint has thoroughly cured before attempting to sand it to avoid damaging the surface. Use fine-grit sandpaper or sanding blocks to gently sand the paint in order to get the desired effect. Don’t forget to take precautions such as wearing a mask and working in a well-ventilated area to avoid inhaling dust particles.

Why Is Sanding Acrylic Paint Necessary?

The first thing that comes to mind when discussing sanding is why we need it. What are the uses of sanding paint? People may choose to sand a surface for different reasons, depending on their requirements. To clear out the concept, I’ve mentioned some potential benefits of sanding down the paint.

Why Is Sanding Acrylic Paint Necessary
  •  Correcting Mistakes

No matter how professional or skilful you are, making mistakes during the painting is unavoidable. So there should be ways to correct them. One of these ways is sanding the paint. For example, if you have applied paint to an area you didn’t want to paint, you can remove and clear the section using sandpaper. Here sandpaper works like an eraser. 

  • Removing Paint

If you want to remove the older paint and replace it with a new coating, you’ll need to use sandpaper. For example, if you want to renovate your walls, you have to remove the previous layers to apply new paint. Not only walls, you can remove paint from any surface but make sure you use accurate sandpaper size (Discussed later).  

  • Adding Texture and Effects

Sometimes you want to add some texture to your painting. It may be a part of your art, or you want some base for your coatings. Here comes the role of sanding. Moreover, different effects can be added to your acrylic painting using sandpaper.

  • Making Surface  Rough

It is always recommended to apply acrylic paint to a slightly rugged surface to help the paint adhere firmly and last longer. If the surface is smooth and even, you can sand it to make it rough and accept the paint better. It’ll prevent the coating from peeling. 

Making Surface  Rough
  • Smoothing Surface

Sometimes paint develop bumps when applied to a surface. It can be due to incorrect use of paint mediums or poor art skills. Fortunately, sanding is an option there to make the surface smooth and get rid of these irregular streaks, lumps and spots. Read more on how to fix lumpy acrylic paint.

  • Thinning Coats

If you want to thin out the layers of paint after they are dried, you can use sandpaper. Make sure you choose the right grit sandpaper and proceed with a proper procedure to achieve the goal. (Sandpapers are discussed in detail below). 

How To Successfully Sand Acrylic Paint?

Now let’s come to the primary goal of our discussion, which is how to get acrylic paint sand down successfully. Three things need to be taken care of while going for sanding any surface. 

  1. Sandpaper Grit Size
  2. Surface Type
  3. Accurate Procedure

All these factors are discussed in detail below. 

  • Sandpaper Grit Size

Sandpaper is formed from various ingredients like silicon carbide, aluminium oxide and garnet. But the main thing about sandpaper is grit size when it comes to using it practically. Grit size represents the grains present all over the thin base of sandpaper. I’ve discussed all the types of sandpaper and their uses in painting. 

  • Ultra Coarse Sandpaper

This type of sandpaper comes in grit sizes 24, 30 and 36. It can be used to remove paint from larger sections like walls. It can remove materials quickly due to larger grains. 

  • Coarse Sandpaper

It has grit sizes 40, 50 and 60. It can be used for walls too, but it will take more time to remove the paint. In addition, this one is used in furniture varnishing as well. 

  • Medium Sandpaper

Medium-sized sandpaper is available in grit sizes ranging from 100 to 150. It is used to sand down the primer on surfaces. In other words, it is suitable for large paintings.

  • Fine Sandpaper

Fine grit Sandpaper comes in 180-240 grit sizes. It is used for smaller paintings to add effects and texture, correct lumps, and remove streaks. Moreover, it can be used to sand down between coats. My choice is 240 Grit Poliwell sandpaper for acrylic paints. 

  • Ultra Fine Sandpaper

It has a grit size of 320. It is mainly used for giving your painting a final glossy touch. It is fine enough to smooth the surface in a way to produce a glitter effect. 

How To Successfully Sand Acrylic Paint

Surface Type

Surface type matters a lot in deciding what grit size of sandpaper you should choose. Moreover, surface type also determines if there is a need for sanding. So we can’t ignore the factor.

Smooth surfaces like glass and metals need to be sanded down to make the acrylic paint stick to them firmly. Using fine-grit sandpaper for this purpose is ideal. Glass is sensitive, so you have to be very gentle when sanding. 

Too rough surfaces like wood material in the raw form need to be sanded down with medium or coarse sandpaper depending on the wood structure (If it is natural or refined). 

The plastic surface doesn’t need to be pre-sand in most cases, but for better adherence to paint and corrections, you can utilise fine-grit sandpaper. 

Concrete surfaces like walls don’t need to be sanded down if the paint is not applied. However, if there’s a layer of colour you want to remove, choose ultra-coarse sandpaper to speed up the process. I’ve discussed sanding acrylic paint on different surfaces below. 

Surface Type

How To Sand Acrylic Paint? Step By Step Procedure

Now, let’s move to the third point, which is using the correct procedure to sand down acrylic paint on a specific surface. Sanding down the paint is simple and easy, but doing it the right way to get your desired goal is a skill. I’ve explained the procedure step by step.

Materials needed

  • Sandpaper
  • Painted surface 
  • Vacuum or Dust Brush
  • Mask
  • Goggles 
  • Cotton
  • Water

The procedure of Sanding Acrylic Paint

Step 1: Wear Personal Protective Equipment

The very first thing you need to care about is your health. No matter what kind of activity you perform, personal protective equipment is necessary—especially when dealing with paint dust, drops or vapours. Wear a mask, goggles, and gloves to protect your lungs, eyes and hands. 

Step 2: Damping The Surface

Next is damping the painted surface to prevent the dust particles from floating in the air. Inhaling these particles can bring health hazards. You can dampen the surface either by sprinkling water over it or using cotton dipped in water.

Step 3: Sanding The Surface

Take fine grit sandpaper and press it over the painted surface, lumps or desired areas. Use circular motions for better coverage and immediate effects. If you’re removing the entire paint, start from the edges and go your way to the mid. Fold the sandpaper according to your requirement to reduce the touch area if you’re smoothing a streak or bump. 

Caution: Don’t be aggressive while sanding. You must sand down the paint gently.

Step 4: Remove The Dust

Remove the dust particles produced during sanding. You can do it either by using a vacuum or a brush. Moreover, you can clean the dust with a piece of cloth or a hair dryer (the airflow will push away the particles). 

Step 5: You’re Done

Once you have completed sanding and cleaning the surface, you can proceed with the surface. If you’re sanding the paint for a glossy look and final touch, use a sealer as well. 

Note: The paint should be fully cured in order to sand it. 
How To Sand Acrylic Paint (Procedure)

Tips To Sand Acrylic Paint

Sanding, or you can say smoothing acrylic paint on a surface, looks easy and fun. But getting the desired objective practically is not that straightforward. I’ve learned many minor tricks during these years of professional art life. These tips and tricks are as follows. 

  • Start with finer grit sandpaper, even if there is a need to use coarse grit sandpaper. It will give you confidence and help you have a good grip on the surface.
  • If possible, put one hand beneath the surface on the opposite direction of the sandpaper. It will help you remove the bumps precisely without damaging nearby parts. 
  • Use clear tape to hide the surrounding of a specific section you want to sand. It helps you rub the area by being careless about hurting the surroundings parts. 

Can You Sand Acrylic Paint On Canvas?

Acrylic paint can be sanded down on the canvas, and it is where fine-grit sandpaper is mainly used. You can reduce lumps or sand between coats for better sticking among layers. Moreover, adding some effects is possible only by rubbing, which is done via sanding the paint. 

Some canvases are available in the market, claiming that they are pre-primed, but whenever I’ve to use them, I sand them and apply a new coat of primer

Can You Sand Acrylic Paint On Wood?

Acrylic paint can be sanded on wood for different reasons. The wood surface is uneven and irregular, which is unsuitable for acrylic paint. But sanding the surface can tackle the problem. It makes the surface even and suitable for the adhesion of acrylic paint. 

Moreover, you can remove any undesirable paint stains from the wood surface using appropriate sandpaper, depending on the stain coverage. In addition, acrylic paint can be sanded down on wood for a shiny finish. 

Can You Sand Acrylic Paint On Wood

Can You Sand Acrylic Paint On Plastic?

Yes, acrylic paint can be sanded on plastic material, but you need to be careful while doing so. Plastic is a porous material and can adhere to paint firmly, so you’ll not need to make it rough by sanding it before painting. A single layer of primer will be enough.

But to undo some paint portions or remove irregular sections, you can sand it using fine grit sandpaper. Make sure you don’t rub too much, as the plastic is thinner and may get damaged. 

Can You Sand Acrylic Paint On Plastic

Can You Sand Acrylic Paint On Metal?

Acrylic paint can be sanded down on metal surfaces before painting to make the surface adhesive. As we know, metal is hard and smooth. So you’ll have to use medium grit sandpaper to rub it and give it a rough look. 

Moreover, you can also sand paint after it dries for a final touch and even finishes. In that case, you will have to use ultra-fine grit sandpaper.

Can You Sand Acrylic Paint On Metal

Can You Sand Acrylic Paint Between Coats?

Yes, acrylic paint can be sanded down between coats, and it’s an excellent way for strong bonding between the layers, but it will consume your time. As we know, we can’t sand a wet surface, so we’ll have to wait for a layer to dry fully before sanding and applying a second layer. It may take hours. 

I’ll not choose sanding acrylic paint between coats as I’m strict on deadlines. Although acrylic is fast-drying paint, it takes time to be fully cured.

Can You Sand Acrylic Paint To Remove Streaks And Texture In The Paint?

Acrylic paint can be manipulated in many ways. You can eliminate streaks and textures by simply rubbing the desired areas with fine-grit sandpaper. You can do it by holding a hand under the affected area and rubbing the sandpaper with another hand. 

Make sure you fold the sandpaper in the desired size according to the size of streaks and textures so that surrounding parts of the paint are not affected or damaged.

Can You Sand Acrylic Paint To Remove Streaks And Texture In The Paint

How Do I Make My Acrylic Paint Look Glossy?

There are two ways to make your acrylic paint look glossy. Both are effective and work. One uses ultra-fine grit sandpaper, and another one applies a varnish or top coat.

Once the paint is fully dry, take ultra-fine grit sandpaper and rub it over the painted surface, putting a light hand. Begin from the edges and go your way to the middle. Keep sanding until you get a glitter finish.

Another method of making acrylic paint glossy is simply applying a varnish, sealer or other top coat. It’ll give the painted surface a shiny look. In addition, it protects against harsh environmental conditions. 


How do you fix bumps on acrylic paint?

You can fix bumps on acrylic paint by sanding the dried-out paint with fine-grit sandpaper. Fold the sandpaper into the desired size and rub it against the spots until these bumps are removed or smoothened. 

How long should acrylic paint dry before sanding?

Acrylic paint needs to be fully cured or dried before you go for sanding. It may take up to 24 hours or more, depending on the type of paint. Sanding wet paint can ruin your artwork. 

How to smooth out dried acrylic paint?

You can smooth out dried acrylic paint by using fine-grit sandpaper. Rub it over the rough surface in circular motions gently till you get a smooth and even surface. 

Can you sand acrylic enamel paint?

Yes, acrylic enamel paint can be sanded, but you have to consider the type of surface and the sandpaper’s grit size and use an accurate way of sanding. 


So, can you sand acrylic paint? We can conclude that fixing things while painting is not a big deal as long as you have good knowledge and skill. You can sand acrylic paint in many ways according to your requirement and objective. Sanding is not just about correcting mistakes and removing irregular spots, but it is about adding different effects to your artwork too. 

I hope you got what you were looking for in the post. Please comment below for queries. Thank you!

Jose Scott

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