Can You Use Acrylic Paint On Stained Wood? How To Paint It

If you have really old bedroom furniture or you don’t like their style up at the colour of that, and you want to change it out. Or if you don’t wanna go out and buy brand-new furniture and want to restore or redesign the existing one, then this post is for you.

Stained wood is processed wood coated with a specific dark or clear paint. The stain enhances the natural colour of the wood, adding a look to the wood and maintaining its original tone.

When it comes to painting, can you use acrylic paint on stained wood? Yes, acrylic paint can be used on stained wood, but you have to prepare the surface well and apply the paint correctly. Preparation includes proper sanding, cleaning, and priming of the wood surface.  

Don’t worry; I’ll describe all the steps to paint wood with acrylic, whether doors, windows, furniture, or any other wood material. So keep reading! 

Can You Paint Stained Wood?

Yes, it is possible to paint stained wood, but the process can be a bit more involved than painting unfinished or previously painted wood.

How To Use Acrylic Paint On Stained Wood?

Stained wood has a glossy finish which makes it challenging for acrylic paint to stick to. So there is a great need to prepare the surface well. Even if you use raw wood, you still need to follow these steps to get a successful outcome. 

Thus I’ve mentioned them below. To make it easy to read and follow, I’ve organized the process into three stages with a sequence from start to finish. 

  1. Sanding
  2. Priming
  3. Painting 
How To Use Acrylic Paint On Stained Wood

How To Sand Wood? 5 Steps

Let’s talk about preparing stained wood for paint. The crucial part of any finishing project happens before you open a can of stain or paint. It starts with sanding.

Proper sanding smooths and cleans the wood surface and opens up the pores of the wood to accept the paint. If you start with a rough surface, you will finish with a rough surface. 

Sanding is an essential part if you want your wood to get painted as expected. Here is a detailed procedure on how to prepare stained wood for painting by sanding it successfully. 

Step 1: Arrange Required Materials

You’ll need the following materials to sand down any wood surface.

  • Electric Sander
  • Sandpapers of varying grit sizes (40, 60,120,180,220)
  • Wooden and Sponge Block
  • Vacuum 
  • Cleaning Brush
  • Vacuum 
  • Gloves
  • Anti-dust Mask
  • Piece Of Cloth
How To Sand Wood

Step 2: Choose a Safe Environment

The next step is choosing a safe environment. You better start sanding in a ventilated room or outdoors so you are not get stuck with the dust released by the process. In addition, use an anti-dust mask to be much safer from inhaling the tiny particles. 

Step 3: Select the Right Grit Size

A lot of people are confused about what grit to use when sanding, and the answer, unfortunately, depends on your project.

However, it is possible to skip one grit when you’re sanding. In other words, you can go from 150 grit to 220 grit skipping 180. But you can’t go from 120 to 220 and skip two grits. 

To successfully sand down your wood, you will need to use sandpaper of varying grit sizes, going from a more coarse to a more fine grit size. The coarse grit size will get rid of any large imperfections in the wood, while the fine grit size will allow for a smooth finish.

Step 4: Begin Sanding

Begin sanding the areas that have a list of access using a detailed Sander and sandpaper of grit size 40. If you don’t have the electric detail Sander, find a block of wood and wrap sandpaper around it and then use it for sanding down those areas of wood which are difficult to access.

You probably know this already, but the cardinal rule of sanding by hand is to sand with the grain. That way, the scratches that the sandpaper leaves are kind of hidden by the grain of the wood. In some rare cases, you can’t sand across the grain if you are trying to remove a lot of material quickly. But the sanding scratches are much more visible. 

To sand down complex shapes having irregular structures, roll the sandpaper around the sponge block to get the sandpaper of any size you want to fit the wood shape perfectly. You can even do things like sticking the sandpaper onto a spatula to sand very tight quarters.

Brush down your wood to remove any dust. Turn over and continue sanding the underside of the wood. Continue sanding down using the medium grit size sandpaper to get rid of any marks made from the 40 grit size sandpaper.

Do the same, switching to the 120, the fine grit size sandpaper, which will enable you to achieve a smoother finish. 

Step 5: Clean The Surface 

Vacuum away any dust and finish off by wiping down your wood with a damp cloth. Your wood is now ready to be painted, stained, or vanished.

How To Prime Wood?

The second stage is applying primer over stained wood. First of all, why do we need a primer? Well, the paint has ingredients in it that can literally eat through and damage the painting surface, and without a protectant barrier there like gesso (primer), the substrate can adversely affect the paint on top of it by bleeding through.

For example, if some sort of sap were on the wood, it could bleed through the paint if the primer wasn’t there.

So to avoid any problems with cracking or discolouration, primer is crucial. Here is a detailed procedure to prime wood.  

Step 1: Arrange Supplies

  • Brush

I prefer to use a fine-haired brush when applying primer. I find the hairs to be very soft and supple, and they don’t create a lot of texture as a chip brush might do, plus they don’t share as much.

  • Gesso Primer

Gesso Primer is basically gypsum or calcium carbonate mixed with titanium dioxide to white. It not only protects the wood surface but also creates a welcoming surface.

  • Squeezer or Scraper

You need to keep a squeezer on hand to smooth out any unwanted textures.

  • Bowl

 A bowl to pour a fluid medium into.

How To Prime Wood

Step 2: Size The Wood Surface

Now some artists use primer directly on the wood, and that works, but I like to size the wood first. This is an extra layer of protection. In the old days, the artists used rabbit skin glue which is still used today, but it’s hygroscopic, meaning it can absorb water from the humidity in the air and cause cracking of paint, especially on canvases. 

You can apply two layers of GAT 100 or golden fluid Matt Medium, which dries clear. After it’s dried, you can apply the primer. 

Step 3: Apply Horizontal Coating

For the first layer of primer, paint horizontally, moving the brush from side to side over the whole wood surface. On that first coat, you really want to push the brush into the texture of the wood and make sure that it is being absorbed into the grain. 

If you’re planning on doing a really highly textured painting, then the roughness of your primer won’t really matter. But if you want to smooth the surface, I suggest you use a squeezer and barely, barely drag it across the surface to move out those brush marks.

Moist your brush again with water and run it back over the wood to eliminate any unwanted textures. If you’re priming wood panels, don’t forget to paint the edges of your panel, too, especially if they are going to be in a floating frame where you can see them. I like to paint them with gesso and then paint them with a very dark, almost black colour on the sides.

Step 4: Apply Vertical Coating 

After the first layer of primer is dried for about one or two hours, remove the fine sandpaper and go over it to make sure everything is nice and smooth, and then clean that off. Now it’s time for the second layer, which you need to paint in the opposite direction. So this time, you need to go vertically with a brochure up and down to make sure that the entire surface is covered evenly. 

Again, if you are going for a smooth surface, then pull out your squeezer and lightly drag it across the wood surface. You can also purchase clear gesso, which works wonderfully over substrates where you want the base to show through.

How To Prime Wood-Apply Vertical Coating

Step 5: Final Touch

If you notice there are a few spots on the surface that look a little thin, go ahead and add some more primer and smooth that out. Check your edges to ensure that the primer hasn’t tripped over the sides.

You’re done with priming the wood surface now.  

How To Paint Over Stained Wood?

Once you’re done preparing the wood surface by sanding finely and priming, the final stage is painting on stained wood, giving it a specific tone. You can stain wood with acrylic paint from the colours of your choice.

Acrylic paint comes in a variety of vibrant tones. You’ll need to order it with acrylic cans if your project is a bit larger and needs a higher quantity. However, acrylic tubes will be enough for a smaller project like a wood panel. 

Step 1: Stir The Paint

Open the can and stir the paint with a stick or any hard, clean tool. Mix the paint well to make it consistent. If the paint is too thick, you can add paint thinner to thin it down.

However, I suggest a thick acrylic paint coating for wood to get good coverage.

Step 2: Apply The Paint

Now dip the brush into the can and take a small amount. Make sure you do not dip down the brush to the handle level. Just fill the paint to half the area of the hair.

Now begin applying it over the surface using even strokes. The first layer should be applied vertically, while the second one should be horizontal; two or three layers are enough. 

Step 3: Seal The Paint

Sealing the paint on wood is optional, but doing so extends the lifespan of the paint applied to your furniture or wood structures. But how do you seal paint on wood? It is quite simple. Just like you apply other fluids (paint, primer) with a brush, sealing wood is the same. 

Polyurethane varnish is a suitable sealant for wood materials. However, you can go for clear acrylic sealant too. It works well for Water-based colours. If you want to save time, go for an acrylic sealant spray. 

How To Paint Over Stained Wood

How To Whitewash Stained Wood?

Painting stained wood white is not different from simply priming the wood surface with Gesso. Most people love matching their furniture, doors, or windows with the light theme of their homes or bedrooms. In this case, they want to paint them white. 

No matter what surface you gonna paint on, the essential thing is to get a smooth and even surface. To achieve the goal, you’ll need to sand down the surface. Then clean out the wood surface using a wet cloth and vacuum cleaner. 

The next step is applying a white coat over the surface. It can be done in two ways. The first one is to use the Gesso acrylic paint. In comparison, the second way is going for white oil-based paint. Finally, varnish the surface to seal the paint and get a glossy finish. 

How To Paint Over Dark Stained Wood?

Before you start painting, the first thing to do is to get the area cleaned as much as possible. Sometimes you look at the stained wood surface; you don’t think that there is grease, but believe me, there is grease. So it’s very important to remove that grease. The cleaner you do, the better the paint and the primer grab.

After cleaning, sand the surface using a sanding block. A lot of painters will tell you that you don’t have to use the sand block, but I like to go over the wood just lightly. And again, the more prep work you do on the wood, the better finish you gonna have. That’s why I like to use a sanding set. 

After using the sander block, go ahead and use the gloss set to really remove the shein from the stained wood. If you want, you can go ahead and just use the gloss, or if you have a sponge, you could put on the sponge, probably a little bit better. 

Now go for priming the surface to make the surface more sticky and welcoming for the paint. The primer should be applied, keeping in mind the paint type. For example, if you want to apply acrylic Paint over the surface, you need to use a water-based primer like Gesso. 

Finally, apply paint using a fine-haired brush. You can choose any colour depending on your choice. However, if you want the colour to be more vibrant and get a glossy finish, seal the painted wood with polyurethane sealer.  

Can You Stain Over Acrylic Paint?

No, you should not apply wood stain over acrylic paint. As I mentioned in the beginning, wood stain is specified for wood material. It should be applied to bare wood directly instead of a painted surface if you want it to give you desired results.  

The better option to be used as a top coat over acrylic paint is a sealant. An acrylic clear sealant or varnish is compatible to be used on the paint. They’ll give the same benefits as a stain can, like protection and resistance against weathering.  

Can You Use Acrylic Paint On Wood Doors?

Yes, you can. The first step when you are going to paint a stained door is you’ve got to start by sanding the surface. Next is priming the door. Now once you prime the door, you’re gonna want to give it about an hour to dry.

After the primer is dry, the final stage will be applying two coats of paint. One coat will not give you enough high coverage that you’ll want for a consistent finish.

Go ahead and apply your first coat, whether with a brush or roller and if you have an airless sprayer, you can use that as well; all three will work. You need to wait about half an hour between coats and then apply that second coat.

Just to recap, the first step is going to be sanding. The second step is going to be using primer and going ahead and appointing one coat of that. And then the final step is going to be applying two coats of whatever paint product you choose.

Can You Paint Over Exterior Stained Wood?

Yes, acrylic can be applied over a surface that is lying outside. But make sure you have a good budget in your bank as it will be costly for you to manage primers and paint for large exterior surfaces.

Moreover, you will need to use a wood cleaner, followed by light sanding to prepare the surface. Also, fill any rough surface with a filler.

Can You Paint Electric Wood Guitar With Acrylic?

Painting an electric wood guitar with acrylic paint is definitely possible, but it may affect its sound and value, so proceed with caution and do your research before starting the project.

When it comes to using acrylic paint on a guitar, you can employ a variety of techniques depending on the effect you want to attain. You can use brushes, rollers, or spray paint to apply the acrylic paint.

However, it is necessary to apply the paint in thin, even coats, and leave each coat for some time in the air to dry fully before applying the next one.

Can You Use Acrylic Paint On Wood Furniture?

Yes, acrylic paint can be used on furniture made with wood as it is a versatile medium that adheres very well to various surfaces.

However, if the wood has a glossy finish or varnish, you may need to sand it with a light hand to create a rougher surface for the paint to stick to. In addition, a base coat of primer and a top coat of sealant is recommended for the durability of the paint.

What Type of Paint To Use Over Stained Wood?

Well, there are numerous choices to be used to paint stained wood. Oil-based dyes are the primary selection when it comes to durability. However, latex and enamel are also good paint for stained wood.


Can you mix wood stain with acrylic paint?

Although it is possible to mix wood stain and acrylic paint it is not recommended both have their own properties. Wood stain penetrates the wood surface and provides protection while acrylic paint provides artistic impressions.

Can I use acrylic paint on the finished wood?

Yes, acrylic paint can be used on finished wood. But you have to prepare the surface to remove grease, shine and properly clean the surface to make it accept the primer and paint coating.  

Can you paint on MDF wood?

Yes, you can use acrylic paint on MDF wood. But as it differs from stained wood, it requires different preparation and handling.

Can you paint over stained wood with acrylic paint without sanding?

Acrylic paint should not be used over stained wood without sanding, as it will make the paint peel and chip later. Sanding helps the surface get smooth and adhesive.  

Is acrylic paint good for stained wood?

Yes, acrylic paint is good for stained wood. It dries quickly and is long-lasting, but oil-based paints are more compatible as compared. Moreover, there is another paint designed for furniture known as wood paint. 

What is an acrylic wood stain?

Acrylic paint wood stains are specific water-based mediums used for giving a stunning look to wood surfaces. They also help in protecting the wood material.

Can stained wood be painted?

Stained wood has a protective layer that prevents the new coating of paint from adhering. So it is necessary to sand down the surface before painting.


So can you use acrylic paint on stained wood? I hope you got a comprehensive answer with all painting and precautionary guidance. It’s not always the paint that matters but the preparation you do to make it work finely. 

Kindly comment on your queries below. Thank you!

Jose Scott

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