How to Paint Plastic

How to Paint Plastic – A Guide on Using Paint to Cover Plastic

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The modern-day as we know it has evolved exponentially over the century. The 1960s saw a boom in the market for plastic household appliances. The demand was high because of its highly fashionable status and its affordability, which was made possible because of how cheap the material is to make. Plastic is universal in its use – from homes to businesses, it has become an essential part of our lives, whether we like it or not. Unfortunately, plastic is not friendly to the environment, where some plastics take years to decompose, and sometimes a lifetime. It is therefore necessary to upcycle your old plastic items into something else instead of throwing them away. This is your guide to learning how to paint plastic, what paint to paint on plastic, and the different methods for painting on plastic.



Why Paint on Plastic?

The most obvious reason as to why you should feel the need to paint on plastic is the fact that decomposition is out of the question. On average, it can take about twenty years to decay and break down so that our human eyes are not able to see it. However, as scientific research has informed us, although not visible, the molecules of plastic are still there. This is called microplastic, which is easily digestible to our beloved sea creatures.

This is not only tragic for our animal life but, as the circle of life continues, those microplastic particles end up being consumed by us as well.

This should be reason enough to reconsider your decision to toss out and replace your plastic patio furniture simply because it is scratched. Trust us when we say that all you need is a lick of paint! We truly understand the need for presentability and those pieces of garden furniture are often exposed to harsh weather conditions – from the sun to snow – which will have an impact over time.

To keep your home aesthetically pleasing, we recommend using a varnish of great quality to protect the material from weather wear, and a coat of paint in the color of your choice. Get creative – this is your opportunity for a DIY home make-over!

Paint on Plastic Chairs



Can All Types of Plastic Be Painted?

To fully get a grasp of this concept, let us get to know the different plastics available to us. The term plastic has been generalized and overused. Most people think the term refers to all types of plastic, when it actually refers to the level of plasticity of the material that can be deformed. Interestingly, this does not always apply to every type of plastic. Some forms of plastic have what is known as a low-energy surface, which means that paint simply refuses to stick and will chip off easily.

Not to worry! We have done the work for you and put together a list of the different types of plastic and their efficacy in being painted.

Type of PlasticCan It Be Painted?
Polypropylene (PP)Highly challenging to paint
Polyethylene (PE)Highly challenging to paint
Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)May contain plasticizers, which can cause problems with the paint adhesion. Otherwise, this is fairly easy to paint
Polyamide, Polycarbonate, and othersThe right primer makes painting on these plastics possible

What type of plastic you wish to paint is not the only thing to consider. You may not be aware, but paint struggles to stick to smooth surfaces in general, so you need to consider this if you are thinking of painting any of the following:

  • Plastic Toys
  • Vases or Planters
  • Window Frames
  • Ornaments
  • Outside Furniture

Paint for Plastic Toys


Materials Needed

As your teacher always instructed at school, it is extremely important to read the instructions before you embark on any project. This is so that you can ensure that you have all the materials needed to complete the task without any irritating interruptions. To finish what you have started with smooth sailing you will need to acquire the following:

  • Varnish or paint specialized for plastic
  • Primer for plastic
  • Paint tray or flat container
  • Sandpaper
  • Water in a bucket
  • Detergent to clean the plastic
  • Paintbrush and a paint roller
  • Cloth or a sponge



Understanding What Paint to Use on Plastic

You may have asked yourself what paint to use on plastic. The answer to this is that there are three kinds of suitable paints for covering plastic. They are the following:

  • Alkyd Resin Paint: This paint protects the plastic and is great for use both indoors and outdoors. Is also referred to as synthetic resin.
  • Two-component Paint: This paint comes in two components that must be mixed before use. It paints plastic surfaces very well.
  • Water-soluble Acrylic Paint: This paint can be thinned out with water. It is created according to plastic dispersions and is appropriate for indoor use only.

These paints can be applied in different ways depending on the form in which you purchase it. You can use a brush-on paint for plastic, or you can get one that must be sprayed on. Remember, it is always advisable to learn how to spray paint plastic before you get too excited and make a silly mistake. We will discuss this further later on.

PVC flooring, for example, can get scratched quite easily and make your home seem unkempt. So, to paint on this kind of plastic, you should take note of this next fact. Elongation at break refers to the percentage at which a material can increase in length before it breaks.

The correct paint for PVC flooring should have a minimum elongation at break of 200%, although it is more effective at 300% or 400%.

To avoid your new paint job from tarnishing too soon, it is important to remember to always consider the weather conditions that your outdoor appliances and furniture undergo. Seeing as floors made of PVC are bouncy underfoot, the different percentages will signal how much elasticity the paint has after curing. This is also something to consider when choosing the varnishing topcoat, as it should be malleable enough not to split or crack.

Paint to Cover Plastic PVC Flooring


Painting Plastic with Acrylic Paint

Acrylic paint is probably the most common type of paint available. While it is suited for a large variety of materials, the question is, will acrylic paint stick to plastic? In general, acrylic paint has not been celebrated as the best paint for plastic, but you can use it to cover plastic provided you perform the correct preparatory steps.

Please note that acrylic paint will eventually chip off the plastic, but you can stretch that time further by covering the paint with a sealant.

You will first need to get the plastic object you wish to paint. Preparation begins with cleaning the surface and making sure that no mold, dust, dirt, or grime from fingers are left behind. Once that is complete, you can proceed with painting a base coat with an oil or enamel paint, or you can use a primer. In case you were wondering, you can ask your local painting supply shop for the most suitable paints and primers for plastic.

You must make sure that you read the instructions on the paint or primer product you choose so that you can ensure it has dried or cured for the correct length of time. Once it has dried completely, you can go on and paint your acrylic paint on plastic. We recommend painting a few layers of acrylic paint on plastic.

Best Paint for Plastic



Instructions for Painting on Plastic

The importance of preparing the plastic surface you wish to paint before you begin is dire. Most of the time, if your paint chips or flakes off, it is because of preparation negligence. There is no need to worry, however, because we will cover all you need to know about how to paint on plastic right here.

  1. Firstly, you have to be sure to clean the plastic of any grime or dust particles that could get stuck in the paint and cause it to flake. Ensure that you brush it clean and then clean it again with a sponge.
  2. Get out some fine-grit sandpaper and lightly roughen up the surface so that the paint or primer can stick properly.
  3. Clean the plastic surface again as mentioned in the first step. This will remove the dust caused by the sanding.
  4. Apply the primer using either a paintbrush, roller, or sprayer.
  5. Make sure that you have read the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure the appropriate drying or curing time.
  6. Once dry, clean the surface, sand it down lightly, and then clean once again! Once this is complete, your painting may commence.

Sanding Before Painting Plastic


The result is not as expected? Check out our guide to remove paint from plastic.


Instructions for Painting Plastic Windows

Inclusive of the materials mentioned above, you will also require masking tape or masking film for painting a window. As we have mentioned many times, surface preparation is needed before you begin painting. Clean the plastic window, sand it down to make it rougher, and then clean it again. You need to make sure that the surface is appropriately cleaned, being sure to get rid of all fingerprints and residues as well.

You can use any cleaning detergent you find at your local supermarket – just be sure to wear gloves, a protective mask, and goggles to protect you from any fumes your cleaning supplies might give off.

  1. Make the plastic surface slightly rougher by using sandpaper of 240 grit, ensuring that you press lightly so as to avoid any damages.
  2. As you would with any window, stick the masking tape down over the areas you do not wish to paint. This includes the windowpane, the hinges, handles, and latches.
  3. Once you have applied your primer with either a brush-on or a spray paint, make sure that you allow it to dry for the appropriate amount of time, which is stated on the label of the product you choose.
  4. Once the primer has fully dried, the plastic surface must be sanded down once again to roughen it up. You can use the same 240-grit sandpaper.
  5. Finally, you can apply the paint of your choice, doing so in vertical motions. As logic suggests, bigger areas require a roller spray can and smaller ones a paint brush. Sprayers are also useful for odd angles and hard-to-reach spots.


All good things come with time and patience, and this project comes with many layers and levels before you can appreciate the result. After each lick of primer or paint, you must wait for it to dry before you apply the next coat. This will promise an optimally smooth surface as a result.


Painting Plastic PVC Floors

Polyvinyl Chloride, or PVC, comes in a similar form to wallpaper – rolled up and waiting to be rolled out. There are many options to choose from, making it a versatile plastic suitable to all tastes! But, regardless of these positive and convenient traits, the very nature of PVC flooring is that it wears out over time, being quite prone to scratches. This can make your home look tacky, which is not ideal. However, you are fortunate to learn that PVC flooring can be painted with just a bit of effort. Before you begin, you must acquire the following materials:

  • Cleaner for plastic
  • Cleaning supplies: cloth, mop, and a towel to dry the floor
  • Specially designed cleaning fleece
  • Water in a bucket
  • Primer (similar color paint)
  • 240-grit sandpaper
  • Hardener
  • Paint tray
  • Paint roller and a paintbrush

Tools for Painting Plastic



  1. Firstly, clean the surface area intended to be painted. You can do this with a good cleaner suitable for plastic paired with your choice of floor cleaning utensil.
  2. Next, you must sand down the newly cleaned PVC floor with the 240-grit sandpaper listed above. The best way to get this done is with what is known as the cross-sanding method, which is a mixture of both a circular motion and a vertical, up-down motion. Once you have sanded it down, sweep up the dust and hoover it up.
  3. This is where that special fleece comes in handy – once the hoovering is complete, wipe the floor down with it.
  4. Next, you must carefully and lightly apply a thin layer of the primer you have chosen. Do this either with the brush-on method or a spray-on primer.
  5. A 24-hour waiting period is necessary to ensure that the primer has dried fully. Take note that the more humidity in the air, the longer the drying time will take. Read the instructions on the product’s label for more specific directions.
  6. And now for the paint! If you are painting a large floor space, we advise that you use a spray can or a roller. You can use a brush for those trickier, small spaces, as well as a spray gun for the more difficult-to-reach areas.
  7. Ensure that the layer of varnish or paint has dried before applying another coat, and understood that painting a floor requires a minimum of two layers, although three to four layers will give the best result.


How to Paint on Plastic Furniture

Plastic furniture can be worn out over time by getting knocked around as it is moved over the years or simply from being left out in the sun. Therefore, a lick of paint is sometimes needed to bring life back into their appearance. Read on for further instructions.

Paint to Cover Plastic

  1. Clean the furniture sufficiently of any fingerprints, grime, stains, and dust, whilst also ensuring that the cleaning product does not damage the plastic.
  2. Wait for the piece of furniture to dry fully and then sand it down so as to make the plastic surface rougher. You need to target the areas that have been worn out by the sun or the areas that have chipped.
  3. Once you have completed the sanding process, you must clean off any leftover dust particles from this process.
  4. The next step is applying the primer. Use a paintbrush spray gun for the smaller, harder-to-reach areas and a spray paint can or a roller for the larger areas to save time. Be sure to read the instructions on the product you have chosen to make sure that it has enough time to dry before you start painting.
  5. Once again, lightly sand down the freshly primed plastic surface to provide a rougher texture.
  6. Finally, you can then add your lick of paint, using either the spray method or by brushing it on. As with the primer, read the instructions of the paint to make sure that you give it enough time to dry.


This process requires patience and two bouts of sanding down. Be sure to leave enough time for the drying part before you sand anything and start priming or painting.



What to Remember When Painting on Plastic

It is necessary to use a primer that is of great quality. This will make the painting process much easier for you, as plastic has what is known as a low-energy surface, and a primer will not only give you a better and longer-lasting result, but it will also save you time.

There are some exceptions for spray- or brush-on paints that also act as a primer in one product. There is also always the option to use an adhesion promoter, which will make the paint last longer, such as this one by Kilz. To avoid your paint chipping or flaking off, you need to remember that plastic has a high elasticity, so you will also need to keep this in mind when choosing your paint.

How to Spray Paint Plastic


Tips and Tricks for Painting on Plastic

  • Make sure that you buy a fresh paintbrush or a roller when you start your priming or painting mission, as the bristles can fall off the brushes quite easily. There are, however, specially designed paint brushes that prevent their bristles from falling out so easily.
  • Apply the paint in thinner layers for a smoother finish and quicker drying time in-between coats.
  • Be sure to read all the instructions and safety hazards before you begin.
  • Use protective gloves, safety goggles, and a face mask in order to protect yourself from any fumes.
  • Try to work outdoors if you can. Alternatively, if you are working indoors, leave the windows open and put on a fan to create airflow and increase ventilation.


There are a few tricks to the trade of painting on plastic, but with some knowledge up your sleeve you will be well on your way to painting plastic with success. This is a task that everyone can do, even if you are not an expert!



Frequently Asked Questions


What Paint Can I Use on Plastic?

There are a few options to choose from when painting plastic surfaces. First, be sure to prepare the surface of what you wish to paint before you begin by cleaning, sanding, and priming. An alkyd resin paint or acrylic paint are good options to paint plastic.


Can You Paint on Plastic PET Bottles?

It all depends on the reason for painting the PET bottle and what it will be used for after. Water-based paints are good to use, especially when it comes to working with children. To paint a PET bottle, you can use either an alkyd resin or an acrylic varnish.


Can I Cover Kitchen Fronts with Paint?

Yes, but first you need to prepare the surface. Clean it, then sand it down, then clean it again. Then apply the layer of primer. Use the same method that you would if painting outside furniture.


How Can I Paint Styrofoam?

Acrylic varnishes are your best option to avoid the Styrofoam from eroding with the paint. Make sure there are zero solvents in the paint you choose.


Can You Paint on Plastic Polystyrene?

The same principle goes for polystyrene as it does for Styrofoam, as they are such similar products. You should never use enamel paint, as it will dissolve the plastic and damage it further.


Is It Possible to Paint PP Plastic?

It is almost impossible to paint this type of plastic, but it can be made possible with intense surface preparation.


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