The Secret To Painting Acrylic, Plastic, & Glass

Looking to paint acrylic, glass, or a clear plastic? We’ve got some must-know tips to get you started!

Secrets to Painting Plastic Acrylic and Glass

I have a love affair with all things see-through. Well, no, that’s not true… just when it comes to home decor. Especially sleek acrylic storage bins.

I think if you have nice things, you should show them off! Even better, if you keep your nice things nicely organized inside their separate bins, you really want to show them off! Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of items I safely hide behind a well fortified wall of wicker or some other closed up storage, but occasionally there are those pretty items you want to be able to store and see!

Painted acrylic magazine file holders

That being said, I usually prefer a “window” you can see through as opposed to an entirely clear piece. I’ve added that wow factor to many an acrylic, glass, and plastic storage piece using spray paint. The question I’m always asked is how to paint it for the sturdiest results, so here are a few tips for spray painting acrylic, plastic, or glass…

custom stylize magazine holder - materials

 

Here are a few tips for spray painting acrylic, plastic, or glass…

 

number 1

 

Start With Stellar Tape

For the cleanest possible lines be sure to use a really good painters tape. I prefer the Frog Tape brand, thus far it is the best I’ve tried. If you don’t use a good tape, the lines will be very choppy. Of course, be sure you take your time and press down on the tape edges really well so no paint seeps through. Additionally, be sure to remove the tape immediately after painting. Yes, you need to remove the tape before the paint dries, or you’ll peel bits of dried spray paint off when you remove the tape.

Clean lines

number 2

A Nifty Little Trick To Save Your Tape!

A good tape isn’t cheap, so I use it sparingly. Tape off the first line that will be the dividing line between paint and product. Next tape on paper bag or newspaper to cover the rest of the product. Do a good job covering non-paint areas, spray paint hangs in the air and a certain radius will end up with microscopic paint droplets.

Magazine holder - white spray paint

 

number 3

Start With The Right Paint, Dispense With the Primer

Primer is usually a good idea (especially important for spraying metal), however in the case of clear plastic, acrylic, or glass, if you can complete the task in a single coat it is better. The problem with more than one coat is allowing paint to dry without immediately removing the tape…once you remove tape off dried spray paint it is likely to peel the paint along with the tape. So choose a high performing acrylic enamel spray paint, or simply look for a paint designed to bond with plastic. Then spray paint in even sweeps across your surface. Be careful not to allow any pooling, and take the time to make sure there are no uneven areas…you only get one chance. Remove the tape right away (yes, while the paint is still tacky)!

Wondering when to use a primer? Well if something is going to get a lot of wear-and-tear you shouldn’t risk going without it. Especially if you can’t sand the surface (for example, you don’t want to scratch your acrylic or glass). Just keep it light and even…it’s better to err on a light coat than overdo it with too many layers or heavy coats that will be liable to peel.

Acrylic magazine file

 

number 4

The Protective Coat

Finish with a coat of triple coat clear glaze spray paint. However, don’t spray it on until after you have removed the tape. Be sure to allow the initial coat to dry completely. You want to seal those raw edges where the paint and the product meet.

Magazine files

And presto! You have a stunning, customized end product. Something you would have to pay premium cost to buy, and you’ve just up-cycled existing jars, or taken cheap plastic products to a whole new levels of chic!

shop-tools-and-materials

 

See other amazing things you can make-over with spray paint here>>


35 Comments on The Secret To Painting Acrylic, Plastic, & Glass

  1. Millie
    September 14, 2019 at 11:43 pm (1 month ago)

    Hi, I just found you, glad to be here. I am an artist interested in painting on acrylic, however I wanted to sue non-aerosol paint. Is it possible to get good adhesion?

    Reply
  2. Nick
    March 16, 2019 at 6:58 pm (7 months ago)

    Tips are nice, but if I started paintings things like this, I’d very likely get sidetracked and never actually finish them :)

    Reply
  3. Jen
    February 9, 2019 at 4:43 pm (8 months ago)

    Hi Ursula,
    Your projects are awesome and thank you for sharing all this valuable information. I have am working on an auction project for my son’s school that involves painting on a clear acrylic table. I had envisioned getting some type of paint that would adhere to the acrylic, pouring it into those plastic squeezable ketchup bottles so the kids can squeeze the paint from the bottles, leaving a colorful dripping painted effect on the the table.

    Is there a preferred brand that makes canned acrylic friendly paint, rather than spray paint?–Giving these kids control over spray paint could be a night mare and I thought if they squeezed the plastic bottles of paint it could be much more controlled.

    You have recommended sanding the acrylic first. Do you think that it would be necessary to sand first in this case or just prime and then seal after the paint dries?

    Thank you so much

    Reply
    • Ursula Carmona
      February 9, 2019 at 8:04 pm (8 months ago)

      How creative! Ooooo, I’m afraid I have never looked into whether there is a canned version. But if you find one, I would definitely prime (not sand, because you wouldn’t want to scratch the acrylic on such a huge project), and seal with a triple thick clear glaze (Rustoleum and Krylon both have one). Good luck!

      Reply
  4. Tee
    February 8, 2019 at 1:28 pm (8 months ago)

    Hi Ursula , Us girls love your site . We are going to start doing some diy christmas decorations and yard decorations this year. We want to paint on the reverse side of glass and plexiglass what paint do you recommend we use on them and would we use a clear spray paint to coat the back to preserve it .

    Reply
    • Ursula Carmona
      February 9, 2019 at 8:00 pm (8 months ago)

      Sounds like fun!! Over the years I have discovered that most name brand spray paints are pretty comparable and each has a specialty spray paint that works on glass…plexiglass should be easy enough since it has a rough surface. I would pick up one of the specialty acrylic spray paints (Krylon or Rustoleum are great) from a hardware store. I also love Rustoleum’s clear triple glaze spray to seal it.

      Reply
  5. ray
    October 11, 2018 at 12:47 am (1 year ago)

    what krylon paint will stick to a acrylic covette top

    Reply
  6. Ursula
    April 14, 2018 at 11:15 am (2 years ago)

    Hi Ursula. I am restoring a ‘75 camper. The dividers to the bed part have orange plexi glass in it that I would like to paint. It is not smooth, but has a pattern pressed into it. I also can’t take the panels out, i would have to paint them in an upright position. Any tips on that? Would there be any pooling? Thank you, I would appreciate any tips!

    Reply
    • Ursula Carmona
      April 15, 2018 at 10:07 am (2 years ago)

      Oh how fun! What an amazing project. There shouldn’t be any pooling, but that wholly depends on how careful you are with your spray painting technique. Lol! I have made mistakes in my impatient haste before that caused a couple drips. Just be sure you keep even sweeps from a distance, and clear the nozzle before each use by spraying away from the plexi glass first… also make sure the spray is ‘normal’ (sometimes a new can of paint is defective with a weird texture, so check it first!). Good luck!

      Reply
  7. Charley Stone
    April 11, 2018 at 2:14 pm (2 years ago)

    Hi Ursula! Thank you for posting this DIY. I’ve had the most difficult time trying to find something related to what I want to do, but I finally came across your website. I’m hoping you can give me some advice on re-painting a pair of 100% acrylic resin earrings. I love them, however they were only sold in a yellow/green color and I would like to spray paint them gold. The finish on them is glossy/shiny, so I want to be sure I get the correct materials and see if I need to sand them down or anything. Any advice on primers or spray paints? Any of your guidance would help immensely and be greatly appreciated!

    Thanks!!!

    Reply
    • Ursula Carmona
      April 15, 2018 at 10:13 am (2 years ago)

      If you decide to go with a primer I would consider KILZ spray primer. Even more important is that you use a protective spray paint AFTER your gold paint dries completely. I would use a clear enamel or glaze spray paint over top. I like this one for my acrylic based projects: (this is an affiliate link) https://rstyle.me/n/c3dirtb5v3f

      Reply
  8. Mayra
    February 21, 2018 at 8:04 am (2 years ago)

    I love your diy. Thank you so much for sharing. I have an acrylic chair from Ikea. I wonder if I could use this technique on it… Im tryin to get rid of some scratches. Wouldnt need to be water proof, but i wonder if the spray paint would come off easily from sitting on the chair… Thank you!

    Reply
    • Ursula Carmona
      February 23, 2018 at 8:33 am (2 years ago)

      There are fantastic spray paints designed specifically for plastic furniture, so you should be fine if applied correctly. 😉 Just remember, with enough wear and tear over time (especially with a high use item like furniture) you always have the risk of it scratching off with time.

      Reply
  9. Bradford Snelson
    April 10, 2017 at 6:36 pm (3 years ago)

    You made a good point about how having a “window” that you can see through would be a good way to make your piece stand out. It would definitely make sense when working with something clear like acrylic, plastic and glass. I bet that getting a piece custom made by a fabricator could be a good way to make sure you had that window design factored in.

    Reply
  10. Lucy
    January 19, 2017 at 2:43 am (3 years ago)

    Hey Ursula

    Great Stuff!!! Please advise what paint can be used to paint over perspex.

    Thanx Lucy

    Reply
  11. Victoria
    October 6, 2016 at 5:39 pm (3 years ago)

    Hi! Lovely tutorial. Could you tell me the brand of clear spray paint you used to seal these?

    Reply
  12. Roy
    August 8, 2016 at 6:07 am (3 years ago)

    I’m trying to get the back painted glass effect with plastic. The painted side of the plastic will be the back and I’ll be looking at the paint through the plastic from the opposite side. Will your technique give me the same smooth look as back painted glass?

    Reply
    • Ursula Carmona
      August 8, 2016 at 8:08 am (3 years ago)

      Hi Roy, spray paint is a smooth application as long as you are even with your distribution…so smooth is no problem. As a matter of fact, painting the back side of plastic is a great way to go to ensure there will be no possibility of scratches! :) I don’t know what you are making, but I think you are on the right track!

      Reply
  13. Chet Skibinski
    July 16, 2016 at 7:55 am (3 years ago)

    I’m restoring the clarity to the plastic lens of my car headlights. I’ve done multiple sandings, finishing with a 2000 fine grit. It’s ready for protection. But it demands a clear coat finish to fill in the remaining minute scratches. This clear coat must be right for plastics, offer UV protection, non-yellowing, and a fine spray. Does your Krylon recommendation match all these needs?

    Reply
    • Ursula Carmona
      July 17, 2016 at 9:02 am (3 years ago)

      Hi,
      Since your project is on a car, and will be outdoors at all times, I would recommend taking a look at the Krylon website to see if it will stand up to those particular needs. You have to remember, anything I have used it on has been indoor projects and furniture. Typically if a project is an outdoor it is furniture related and often sealed with a non-yellowing polyurethane or a glazing spray paint. 😉

      Reply
  14. Joy Black
    June 2, 2016 at 3:08 pm (3 years ago)

    I enjoyed your comments. I would like to have an acrylic sheet behind my fish pond,
    in my entry, with a light behind it and have fish painted on the acrylic. Do you have any ideas. Thank you.

    Reply
  15. Hannah Morgan
    March 29, 2016 at 2:48 pm (4 years ago)

    Hi! I was wandering what brand of spray paint you use on acrylic?

    Reply
    • Ursula Carmona
      March 29, 2016 at 8:52 pm (4 years ago)

      I personally prefer Krylon brand. They have quite the array of choices! :)

      Reply
  16. GOOLAM MAHOMED CHOHAN
    February 21, 2016 at 12:27 pm (4 years ago)

    i applied vinyl to glass and sprayed over it.but as i peel off the vinyl the paint along the edges of the vinyl peel off leaving an uneven line.how do i avoid this?please help me on this.

    Reply
    • Ursula Carmona
      February 21, 2016 at 7:10 pm (4 years ago)

      You definitely want to peel back the tape/vinyl while the paint is still wet. It prevents it from pulling the paint off along with it. 😉 Good luck!

      Reply
  17. linda scott
    February 9, 2016 at 12:50 pm (4 years ago)

    Thanks! This looks great. Can these items be washed or will the paint come off? If so, is there any method to paint plastic/acrylic so that it’s wash-proof?

    Reply
    • Ursula Carmona
      February 9, 2016 at 9:20 pm (4 years ago)

      No, they are not washable. The closest you can get (that I know of currently), is using a gilding paint (for example a gold liquid gilding). Water washes right over it, but I don’t know if it is truly wash/scrub proof. I have gently washed/rinsed it by hand however!

      Reply
  18. Vic
    February 8, 2016 at 5:50 pm (4 years ago)

    My problem is drips! On plastic or glass the paint slides down it it seems. Even when I use it sparingly – any tips and will sealing it prevent it from scratching off? Every time I paint plastic it scrapes right off and looks icky

    Reply
    • Ursula Carmona
      February 9, 2016 at 9:16 pm (4 years ago)

      To prevent drips you need to keep the proper distance when spraying, and keep the spray bottle moving so it doesn’t pool in any one spot. When it comes to this, practice makes perfect! :)
      I seal it with a clear polyurethane spray.
      If I paint something gold or copper that will be handled regularly I use a liquid gold/copper. It doesn’t scrape off, and almost seems water/wash proof.

      Reply
    • Ursula Carmona
      November 4, 2015 at 10:19 pm (4 years ago)

      Perfectly stunning! The project, the magazine holders, and the photography! Thanks for sharing! <3

      Reply
  19. Amy Ehmann
    April 11, 2015 at 3:06 pm (5 years ago)

    Love this DIY. I was wondering where the clear magazines were from? Thanks!

    Reply
    • Ursula Carmona
      April 12, 2015 at 7:33 pm (5 years ago)

      Thank you! They clear magazine files are from Target. They are part of Target’s “Room Essentials” line.

      Reply
      • Amy Ehmann
        April 12, 2015 at 10:43 pm (5 years ago)

        Thanks! I can’t wait to try this!

        Reply

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