Can You Put Polyurethane Over Acrylic Paint?

Randy Charles
Professional Painter

Randy Charles is the owner of, a website dedicated to providing information, tips, tricks, and news about all things paint. With over 10 years...Read more

Painting? Got options! Acrylic paint and polyurethane. But what’s the difference? Pros and cons? Here’s an overview. When to use which one? Read on!

What is Polyurethane?

Polyurethane is a synthetic material with many bright colors. It is extremely durable, making it perfect for interior and exterior paints. It has high adhesive properties, which enables it to stick to any surface. It is also resistant to outside elements, so it’s ideal for outdoor projects, like deck refinishing.


When painting indoors, it’s important to have proper ventilation because of the hazardous vapors released during application and drying.

Plus, polyurethane can serve as a clear protective finish over acrylic paints. It will shield the surface from humidity and UV rays, while showing off the vibrant color underneath. It keeps dirt and other particles away, plus seals any chipping or flaking that may happen over time.

What is Acrylic Paint?

Acrylic paint is a popular choice for artists, crafters, and DIYers. It is easy to use and provides a variety of finishes. It also has great coverage, quick drying time, and adheres well to many surfaces. However, this type of paint is water-soluble and fades more than oil or alkyd paints over time.

Clean up requires warm, soapy water to remove residue before it dries; otherwise, it will become hard to remove.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Polyurethane and Acrylic Paint

Protecting surfaces? Polyurethane and acrylic paint are popular choices. Polyurethane is a two-part resin. It creates a strong, resilient covering. Acrylic paint offers great coverage and is water-resistant. Both have benefits and drawbacks. Let’s look at the pros and cons of each:

  • Polyurethane
    • Pros: Strong and resilient.
    • Cons: Can be difficult to apply.
  • Acrylic paint
    • Pros: Great coverage and water-resistant.
    • Cons: Can be prone to cracking and fading.

Advantages of Polyurethane

Polyurethane makes wood projects and furniture look great! It is a superior finish that protects from elements, scratches and abrasions. Its layer adds a smooth surface. Polyurethane does not crack or become brittle when exposed to UV light or weather. It resists fading, so colors stay vibrant for years. Applying it is easy with a brush or spray, and it can be wiped clean with a damp cloth. Plus, it enhances the grain and color of the wood, giving it an attractive finish.

Can You Put Polyurethane Over Acrylic Paint

Disadvantages of Polyurethane

Polyurethane is a type of paint or sealer often used as a topcoat on acrylic paint. It provides great protection from stains, dirt, and wear and tear. However, there are some disadvantages.

  • Its drying process can be unpredictable due to environmental factors. Care must be taken to prevent bubbles or clumping. Fumes during application may cause irritation or danger for people sensitive to chemicals. Protective gear should be worn – long sleeves, glasses, safety goggles – and the area should be well-ventilated when done.
  • Applying polyurethane properly on larger surfaces is difficult and time-consuming due to its long drying process. Full coverage must be ensured; otherwise, areas might be unprotected or overcoat spots may result in subtle unevenness.
  • Lastly, an improperly applied sealing layer may yellow and fade pigments and color over time.

Advantages of Acrylic Paint

Acrylic paint is a great choice for any project! It’s easy to clean, can be applied to a variety of surfaces and dries quickly. No extra prep is needed – it can even be applied to untreated materials. Plus, it comes in a wide range of colors.

The lightweight nature of acrylics makes them perfect for indoor projects, like painting walls, ceilings, and furniture. They can also be used outdoors on patios, decks, and fences. Acrylics are water-resistant once dry, so they stand up to harsh weather conditions like sun and rain. And when you’re done, cleanup is a breeze – just use soap and water or an all purpose cleaner.

Disadvantages of Acrylic Paint

Acrylic paint is known for its vivid colors. However, when exposed to sunlight or UV light, the paint may darken over time. Also, since it is water-based, it can be washed off. It must be sealed for protection and long-lasting results.

Acrylic paint may present a challenge to novices since it dries quickly. If the project isn’t completed in one session, the paint may dry and a fresh start must be attempted. Lastly, acrylics cannot be used in humid conditions as droplets in the air make even application difficult.

Polyurethane is a coating that helps safeguard surfaces from decay. It is usually utilized for wood, but can it be put over acrylic paint? Let’s check out the positive and negative aspects of applying polyurethane over acrylic paint:

  • Positive aspects
  • Negative aspects

Preparation of the Surface

Before you use polyurethane on acrylic paint, it’s important to get the surface ready. Start by wiping the area with a damp cloth, then dry it with a dry cloth to get rid of any moisture or debris. In some cases, you may need to sand the area with extra fine grit sandpaper. Be careful not to damage or chip the finish.

Once it’s clean and dry, you can apply one coat of polyurethane over the acrylic paint.

Application of the Polyurethane

Before polyurethane is applied to the painted surface, make sure it’s dry and free from dust or debris. Wipe down the surface with a dry cloth, always in one direction. Use a brush made for water-based coatings like polyurethane.

  • Put a thin layer in 3-foot squares.
  • Lookout for air bubbles. If there are any, tap them with the brush or poke them with a needle and pull up quickly to pop them. Don’t move on until all the bubbles are gone.
  • When done, if more coverage or sheen is needed, add more layers – let the previous layer dry completely for 24 hours before adding a new one, to avoid damage or discoloration from trapped moisture.

Cleaning Up

Before applying polyurethane, clean the surface. Remove dirt, dust, grease, and oil. Wipe with a damp cloth. Let it dry.

For water-based polyurethane, use a damp cloth to sand lightly and remove loose pigment. For oil-based, use fine grit sandpaper or steel wool to smooth the painted area. Vacuum up all of the dust before continuing.


To conclude, you can put polyurethane over acrylic paint. But you need the right prepping and application techniques.

  • Firstly, make sure to clean off dust, dirt and oil from your project.
  • Secondly, lightly sand after priming the surface with a sealer.
  • Lastly, use a high-quality brush or roller to apply a thin coat of polyurethane. Let each layer cure before adding a new one.

Following these steps will help get the best results!

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it necessary to sand between coats of polyurethane?

Yes, sanding between coats of polyurethane is important to ensure that the coats adhere properly. Also, the sanding helps to create a smooth finish.

How long does it take for polyurethane to dry?

The drying time of polyurethane can vary depending on the type of polyurethane and the environmental conditions. Generally, it takes about two to four hours for polyurethane to dry completely.

Randy CharlesProfessional Painter

Randy Charles is the owner of, a website dedicated to providing information, tips, tricks, and news about all things paint. With over 10 years of experience in the painting industry, Randy has become an expert in the field and is passionate about helping others learn more about painting. He has written numerous articles on the subject and is committed to providing accurate and up-to-date information to his readers.

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