How To Make Acrylic Paint Not Sticky? 6 Effective Methods To Fix

When dealing with acrylic, many artists encounter the frustration of their paint feeling tacky or sticky which affects the overall quality of their art. 

If you’ve been searching for effective solutions to this common problem, you’re in the right hands as I’m going to provide you with practical tips and techniques on how to make acrylic paint not sticky. 

To prevent acrylic paint from becoming sticky, you can employ many strategies such as keeping a check on the humidity level, may use a medium, applying the paint in thin layers, sealing the surface, using high-quality paint, and being very conscious about the paint’s consistency. 

For detailed directions, read the post below.

As an experienced acrylic artist and passionate painter, I have encountered and overcome the challenges of sticky acrylic paint throughout my artistic journey. The information and tips shared in this blog are a conclusion of my extensive research and personal experiences. 

Why Is Your Acrylic Paint Sticky? Reasons Discussed

Before going into the solution to get rid of sticky paint, first, we need to find out the reasons behind this frustrating condition. 

Acrylic paint can become gummy or sticky due to several reasons, each of which is associated with specific factors. Here are the potential reasons why acrylic paint gets sticky:

  • Insufficient Drying Time

If the paint doesn’t dry completely before additional layers are applied or before the artwork is handled, the surface may remain tacky or sticky. This can occur in humid or cold environments where the drying process is slowed down.

  • Low-Quality Paint

Using low-quality acrylic paint with inadequate binders can cause stickiness. Cheaper paints may contain more fillers and less acrylic polymer which leads to insufficient bonding and a less durable, sticky surface.

  • Incompatibility with Other Products

Mixing acrylic paint with incompatible additives or mediums can alter the paint’s properties and cause it to remain sticky. Different brands or types of mediums may have formulations that don’t work well together.

  • High Humidity

Humid conditions can slow down the drying process of acrylic paint. The moisture in the air prevents the water or solvents in the paint from evaporating quickly, which causes the surface to get tacky.

  • Cold Temperatures

Acrylic paint dries best in moderate temperatures. In colder conditions, the evaporation process is hindered, and the paint may take longer to dry, resulting in stickiness.

  • Thick Layers of Paint

Applying thick layers of acrylic paint can cause the outer surface to dry faster than the inner layers. The outer skin can dry and harden while the underlying layers remain wet, leading to a sticky surface.

  • Contaminated Tools or Surface

Using dirty brushes, palettes, or painting on a contaminated surface can introduce foreign substances into the paint, affecting its ability to dry properly and causing stickiness.

  • Improper Surface Preparation

Not properly preparing the painting surface, such as using a surface with residual oils, dust, or improperly applied gesso, can lead to adhesion issues and sticky paint.

How To Make Acrylic Paint Not Sticky? 6 Effective Methods

Acrylic paint can feel sticky or tacky, which can be frustrating when you’re trying to create a smooth, dry surface. Fortunately, there are several methods you can use to prevent or fix this issue. Here is how to fix sticky acrylic paint: 

  1. Use the Right Paint Consistency

Acrylic paint can become sticky if it’s too thick. In order to get your paint with perfect consistency, imagine the texture of melted ice cream. If your paint is too thick, it’s like frozen ice cream, and if it’s too watery, it’s like milk. 

What you want is the ideal “melted ice cream” texture! To achieve this, add small amounts of water to your paint while mixing it until it flows smoothly and evenly.

  1. Choose Quality Paints

The quality of your acrylic paint can make a significant difference in its performance. Cheaper paints might contain lower-quality binders, which can lead to stickiness and uneven drying. 

I recommend you Invest in artist-grade acrylic paints that have higher-quality ingredients, ensuring a more stable and consistent finish.

  1. Avoid Painting in Humid Conditions

Acrylic paint can be sensitive to humidity. High humidity levels slow down the drying process and may result in sticky paint. To create an ideal painting environment, try to work in a space with controlled humidity levels. 

For this purpose, you can use a dehumidifier or air conditioner to help maintain a dry environment which will assist your paint to dry smoothly.

  1. Use Acrylic Mediums

Acrylic mediums are wonderful tools that not only enhance the properties of acrylic paint but can also help prevent stickiness. Matte or gloss acrylic mediums can be mixed with your paint to improve its flow, increase transparency, and reduce stickiness. 

Additionally, using an acrylic retarder medium will slow down the drying time and help you to work longer without the paint becoming tacky.

  1. Apply Thin Layers

When painting with acrylics, it’s usually better to apply several thin layers rather than one thick layer. Thick applications take longer to dry and also result in a sticky surface. 

With thin layers, each coat will dry more quickly and evenly. Not only does this prevent stickiness in your paint, but it also gives your artwork more depth and dimension.

  1. Properly Seal Your Finished Artwork

Once your acrylic painting is complete and thoroughly dry, it is recommended to protect it with a varnish. Varnishing acrylic paint not only improves the impression of your artwork but also provides a protective layer that prevents stickiness in the long run. 

Use a high-quality acrylic varnish that is compatible with your paints and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for application.


How do you remove stickiness from paint?

To remove stickiness from the paint, lightly sand the affected area and wipe it clean. Apply a fresh coat of paint, ensuring proper drying time between coats. Using low-quality or expired paint may cause stickiness, so use good-quality paint and store it properly.

What caused the paint to stay sticky?

Paint can stay sticky due to various reasons, such as high humidity during painting, using low-quality paint, applying thick coats, or insufficient drying time between coats. Proper ventilation, quality paint, and suitable drying conditions can prevent stickiness.

Why is my acrylic paint sticky after drying?

Acrylic paint can remain sticky after drying if it’s applied too thickly or in humid conditions. Improper ventilation or using a lower-quality acrylic paint might also contribute. Use thinner layers, maintain suitable humidity levels, and ensure proper drying time.

Why is acrylic paint sticky on polymer clay?

Acrylic paint can be sticky on polymer clay due to incompatibility between the paint and the clay’s surface. Some paints contain chemicals that react with the clay, causing stickiness. Use paints that are made for polymer clay or seal the clay before painting.

Will tacky paint eventually dry?

Yes, tacky paint will eventually dry if given enough time. Factors like humidity, paint thickness, and ventilation influence drying speed. Wait patiently for the paint to dry completely, or try speeding up the process by improving the drying conditions.

Why is my acrylic paint not drying on plastic?

Acrylic paint may not dry well on plastic due to the smooth, non-porous surface that prevents proper adhesion. Clean the plastic surface thoroughly, apply a suitable primer, and use acrylic paints designed for plastic surfaces to achieve better results.


Learning techniques on how to make acrylic paint not sticky can set you aside from the situation where your hardly painted artwork will not go to waste. 

Jose Scott

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