Can You Use Acrylic Paint On Styrofoam? How To Paint It

Styrofoam is a type of plastic composed of polystyrene. It is used for insulation purposes. In addition, it provides resistance against friction and water. When it comes to painting and decoration of styrofoam, what kind of paint is good, why, and how to use it? I’ll answer your queries. 

I choose acrylic paint for designing styrofoam for many reasons, but the most important point is the paint’s and foam’s compatibility.

In the blog post, I’ve explained and argued every aspect you need to know to paint styrofoam successfully. Moreover, I’ve given a complete procedure to paint the foam.

Can You Use Acrylic Paint On Styrofoam?

Yes, you can use acrylic paint on styrofoam as the paint is compatible with the foam in many ways, such as being water-based, budget-friendly, non-toxic, easy to handle, and doesn’t melt the plastic.

What Paint To Use On Styrofoam?

Acrylic is the best paint for styrofoam if you want to decorate your styrofoam cups, plates, balls, boxes, or any other shapes with some sparking colours. Acrylic paint is versatile and water-based, making it my first priority whenever I paint something porous like styrofoam. 

Other paints too can be used on the foam, like tempera, poster paint, and latex paint. All of them are water-based, but there are some reasons why I don’t go for them, which will be discussed later in the post.

Does Acrylic Paint Melt Styrofoam?

Some acrylic paint contains solvents such as acetone, which can break down the styrofoam and cause it to melt or warp. So it is always a good practice to use primer as a base coat when using acrylic paint on styrofoam.

This will create a barrier between the paint and the foam, preventing the solvents from melting the styrofoam.

Why Is Acrylic Paint Good To Use On Styrofoam?

Everyone may have their own experiences with acrylic paint and especially painting styrofoam, but still, most artists agree on some points and benefits of acrylic over other dyes. Here are the reasons why acrylic is suitable for painting foam. 

  • Water Based

We know very well acrylic paint is water-based, meaning that the solvent used in colour is not a chemical or something that can harm the plastic material of the styrofoam, but the solvent is a natural ingredient, i.e., water. It makes the paint stick to the foam without melting it. 

Paints containing chemical solvents like alcohol, oils, hydrocarbons, and acids can eat away styrofoam. In other words, these solvents can melt the plastic material present in the foam.

  • Fast Drying

Acrylic paint is fast drying and takes from minutes to a few hours to get dry, depending on the brand, making it my first choice to design styrofoam.

You’ll never want your small projects or kids’ crafts to take hours and days to get ready. So definitely, you’ll look for paint that dries in no time. Here comes the acrylic paint. 

I usually use fast-drying Arteza acrylic paint for styrofoam as it comes in various tones and has good coverage with extended-lasting features and durability. 

  • Non Toxic

Acrylic paint is non-toxic, which is one of the best features I prefer it. One of the most important things about paints is the solvent. It evaporates and leaves hard colour behind. The vapours can be dangerous to your nose, eyes, and lungs. 

We know acrylic has water in it as a solvent, which vaporises quickly and leaves the paint behind. Water vapours are not toxic to health, making the paint ideal for use with children and animals. But still, the plastic, pigments, and binder present in the paint are dangerous if ingested or inhaled. 

  • Easy To Handle

Another reason why artists choose acrylic paint to use on styrofoam is it can be handled and controlled easily. The paint can be thinned down and washed away easily. Bumps and lumps can be fixed and corrected by sanding.

In short, the paint can be used even by a beginner and kids to paint styrofoam. But still, one needs to know the correct procedure to get desired results. Don’t worry; I’ve given a step-by-step procedure below. 

How To Paint On Styrofoam With Acrylic? Step By Step

Acrylic paint can last for years and deliver a vibrant colour if applied correctly. Styrofoam has a bit different surface, making it tricky to work with. But at the same time, it’s also simple to paint the foam. It’s all about knowing what to do and how to do it. Go through the procedure given below for successful styrofoam painting.

Materials needed

  • Styrofoam 
  • Acrylic paint
  • Brushes 
  • Bowl
  • Gloves
  • Newspaper
  • Tape
  • Primer

Procedure To Paint Styrofoam

Step 1: Arrange Your Set Up

The first step is arranging your tools and setting up your surroundings. Put a newspaper or rough paper beneath the working area to protect your floor from stains. Put on gloves so that your hands are safe from dyes. Tape the sections of styrofoam you don’t want to paint. 

Step 2: Prime Styrofoam Surface

The next step is priming the styrofoam surface. It is necessary to make the surface even and fill the cracks and pores. It also helps the paint adhere to styrofoam firmly. Moreover, priming helps acrylic paint remain resistant to harsh environmental conditions. Let the primer dry before you proceed to paint. I prefer Mod Podge. It works excellently with acrylic paint. 

Step 3: Pour Paint Into the Bowl

Now pour some acrylic paint into a bowl by squeezing the tube. Stir the paint to make it consistent. You can mix different colours for newer colour tones. You can also add mediums if you want to thin out the colour. 

Step 4: Paint Styrofoam Surface

Now take your brush and dip it into the bowl having acrylic paint. Tap off the excess amount of the colour. Begin applying the paint with vertical and then horizontal strokes. Spread the paint evenly and apply 2-3 coats for better coverage. 

TIP: Use a skewer to hold the styrofoam. It helps you paint the surface better without touching it with your hands. 

Step 5: Seal Styrofoam Surface

Sealing styrofoam for painting not only provides resistance against a wide range of harms but also gives an even and glossy finish that is attractive to the eyes. So it is an excellent choice to seal the paint. However, make sure you allow the paint to dry to the touch before applying a sealer. 

Step 6: Let it Dry

The final step is letting the painted surface dry. It takes up to 24 hours for acrylic paint to get fully cured, depending on the brand. The sealer may take up to an hour to get dry. Put the surface near a windy location. 

TIP: Sand acrylic paint on the surface in case you get bumps.

What Kind Of Paint To Use On Styrofoam Other Than Acrylic?

Styrofoam is a sensitive plastic and can be damaged easily by some paints. The reason is already highlighted above. The solvent and chemicals used in some colours can eat away the surface of styrofoam.

These chemicals are strong enough to melt the polystyrene present in the foam. So be careful before you go for any paint when designing styrofoam. Here is a list of paints you can use on styrofoam other than acrylic paint. 

  • Latex Paint
  • Tempera Paint
  • Poster Paint 
  • Water Colours

Latex Paint On Styrofoam 

Can you paint styrofoam with latex paint? Yes, it is water-based and can be used on styrofoam. It comes in a variety of different color tones. The color is safe to be used and gives excellent results. Let’s compare some of its pros and cons to decide better if you should use it for styrofoam. 


  • Costs less
  • More Coverage than acrylic
  • Used for larger portions
  • Can be cleaned and washed easily


  • Take time to dry
  • It doesn’t last longer than acrylic
  • Less resistant to temperature 

Read this detailed comparison of acrylic vs. latex If you want to opt between the two.

Tempera Paint On Styrofoam 

Can you use tempera paint on styrofoam? Yes, it is another good option for painting styrofoam. It is also water-based and has a good sticking ability to plastic materials. It works on a variety of surface types and gives a matte finish. Before deciding on the paint to use on styrofoam, consider the following pros and cons. 


  • Safe for kids
  • Dries immediately 
  • Can be washed readily
  • It doesn’t contain any allergens


  • Difficult to handle 
  • Not as resistant as acrylic and latex paint 

Use of Poster Paint On Styrofoam 

Poster paint can be used to paint styrofoam as it is water-based as well. The colour is quite simple to apply and doesn’t need preparations. You can pour some quality of the dye into a colour plate and spread it over the styrofoam using a good-haired brush. Moreover, it is not much expensive and is available at every hardware store. 

The downside to using poster paint on styrofoam is you can’t manipulate the colour for designs due to many reasons like dry time, the thickness of the colour, and composition. 

Use of Water Colours On Styrofoam

Watercolours can be applied over styrofoam, and they are good to work with, especially when you’re painting for a school project, seasonal decoration, or kids’ craft. They are not as costly as other paints like acrylic and tempera. 

The downside to using watercolours on styrofoam is they are hard to keep wet as they dry very quickly. Moreover, they are not convenient to use as compared to acrylic paint.  

Can You Spray Paint Styrofoam?

Spray paint cannot be used on styrofoam because it can melt the polystyrene material of the foam, which can ultimately spoil your artwork. The reason is the solvent used in these aerosol sprays, which is alcohol, hydrocarbons, or oil. 

So how to spray paint styrofoam without melting? For this, you can use acrylic spray. It is water-based and has good adherence and coverage. Sometimes even these acrylic sprays are blended with harmful chemicals which can damage the surface. So make sure you read the label before spray painting styrofoam. 

How To Paint Styrofoam Balls? 

While painting styrofoam balls, follow the steps below.

  • Prime the ball with good-quality primer.
  • Pour acrylic paint into a bowl.
  • Dip a brush into the bowl filled with paint.
  • Spread the paint over the ball with the brush. 
  • Use two to three layers for good coverage.
  • Let the painted surface dry for 2-3 hours.
  • Seal the paint.
  • You’re done. 

You may also learn: Can you use acrylic paint on silicon?


Can you paint styrofoam with acrylic paint?

Yes, acrylic paint is a good option for this purpose, as it has versatile features that can match the nature of the foam. Moreover, it provides the surface with strong resistance against various stress conditions.

Is there any waterproof paint for styrofoam?

Yes, there are many waterproof paints for styrofoam, but acrylic paint is the best one as it becomes resistant to water and other harmful conditions once it is fully cured.

How to paint styrofoam for outdoor use? 

If you’re painting styrofoam for outdoor use, apply primer as a base coat and paint the surface with high-quality acrylic paint. In addition, apply a sealant layer to protect the paint from light, UV, harsh pollutants and unusual climates. 

How long does acrylic paint take to dry on styrofoam?

It depends on the brand of acrylic paint and surrounding factors. Fast-drying paints take 30 minutes to 2 hours to get dry on styrofoam. Moreover, ventilation, heat, temperature and chemical mediums also play a role in the dry time of acrylic paint.  

Can You Mix Acrylic and Tempera Paint?

Yes, you can mix both paints, but it’s not recommended because they are water-based, but they still have different compositions and consistency. 

Can you use acrylic paint on foam?

Acrylic paint can be used on foam as long as the paint is free from melting chemicals. Various brands sell high-quality and plastic-friendly acrylics. Look for them near your hardware store or shop online from Amazon.

Is Acrylic Paint on Styrofoam Permanent?

Acrylic paint on Styrofoam can be permanent if properly sealed and cared for. However, exposure to harsh weather conditions or excessive handling may cause the paint to chip or peel over time. It’s best to keep painted Styrofoam objects indoors or in protected environments for longevity.


So, can you use acrylic paint on styrofoam or not? You can decide better after reading the post. Acrylic paint is the primary choice among all paints; it has few drawbacks and significant advantages over other paints. 

Please comment below for any queries related to the topic. Thank you!

Jose Scott

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