Can You Paint Plastic?

Dull and unappealing plastic is inevitable over time if you deal with or use polymer materials. However, going deep in your pockets when your unit has only lost its aesthetic value but is still handy can be costly. You do not want to dispose of your plastic material and spend hundreds of dollars purchasing a new one when you could improve its look for as low as $10.

You probably think about whether you could restore your plastic’s old look and make it look new again. But can you paint plastic? Fortunately, it is possible to paint your plastic materials if you improve the paint adhesion. Painting the materials with fresh colors and smooth finishes will restore your unit’s original look.

If anything, when you paint and reuse your plastic materials, you become an environmental champion by enhancing their sustainability. Besides preserving your favorite item, you keep the plastics from the landfill.

Read on to equip yourself with the tips and establish an efficient workaround to paint your plastic materials and maintain their aesthetic values.

How to Paint Plastic

You must first set up your work area to paint your plastic material. Ensure this section is protected to prevent the overspray from spraying paints into other materials. In addition, you must consider the type of board to work on. Cardboard would be preferred to sheet plastic since the paints can smear on the sheet plastic. The cardboards, however, absorb the stains.

What You Will Need

  • Nylon Scrub brush
  • Bucket
  • Rags
  • Soap Dish
  • Sandpaper
  • Spray Paint, Mineral Spirits

Procedure to Follow;

Preliminary Step: Safety Considerations

Ensure you work in a ventilated space and wear protective gear such as nose masks to avoid breathing in the vapors. Besides, keep away from the sources of heat. Within the painting area, ensure there are no food materials. Do not drink or eat in these areas since some paints are poisonous.

Step One: Clean the Plastic’s Surface

The surface of the plastic you want to paint must be clean. The cleaning should be done using warm water and soap detergent. Using a sponge or a rag, scrub the surface of the plastic material until it is spontaneously clean.

However, you should note that the cleaning frequency or duration will vary with the type of plastic items. For instance, cleaning the vinyl fences or the patio chairs will need more than one way and heavy scrubbing using a scrub brush. Scrubbing alone does not remove the remaining suds. Ensure that you rinse the scrubbed surface with cool, clean water.

Step Two: Sanding

The next step is to sand the glossy surfaces. Perhaps, plastics are the most complex surfaces to sand due to their chemical composition and glossiness. Glossy surfaces do not promote good paint adhesion. So, you need to sand the plastic surfaces to promote paint adherence.

You need to sand the whole plastic surface using 200-grit sandpaper lightly. You do not need a machine to sand since the plastics have a soft surface. Instead, you only need to use your hands unless you have a large area to sand. In that case, we recommend the use of a random orbital sander.

Remember, plastics melt under intense heat. Thus, when sanding, please do not do it vigorously to create friction. When using an electric sander on the plastic, ensure you have set it to the right speed that will not cause friction and melt the plastic. The best way to sand plastic is by using your hands.

Step Three: Wipe Down the Plastic

You must wipe down the sanded plastic surface using mineral spirits as part of the cleaning process. The process effectively eliminates the fine plastic dust produced in the sanding process.

Once you clean with the mineral spirits, transfer the materials to a protected section. Ensure the room is well-ventilated. You can also do this outdoors on a dry, calm day with no wind blowing the paint spray.

Step Four: Apply the First Coat

As we mentioned earlier, plastics form one of the hardest materials to paint, requiring your utmost patience to execute the process effectively.

First, their surfaces do not promote efficient paint adhesion. Also, most plastic materials expand and contract at more excellent rates than paints, leaving them vulnerable to flaking even when you may think your paints have securely adhered to the surface.

As such, try and lay the work material horizontally or flat. Ensure you thoroughly shake the can (paint) before application on the plastic surface. You also need to test the spray using a piece of scrap material until the paint sprays finely, freely, and uniformly.

To apply the paint, ensure you have held the can between 10 to 12 inches from the application surface and tilt the can at a 45-degree angle. First, spray lightly across the surface. At this point, you need not worry about the total color coverage, as you may cause drips.

Step Five: Apply Subsequent Coats

After applying the first coat, allow the plastic to dry for 2-3 hours in a calm and dry environment. Ensure the first paint feels solid and dry before applying the second coat. In addition, be keen and check whether there are dried-on drips or drops. This should be sanded down to ensure a smoother finish.

Apply the second coat but ensure you do not lay a thick coat. Like with the first application, ensure you are at least 10 inches away and can be tilted at a 45-degree angle.

Again, let your plastic material dry for 2 to 3 hours and follow the same application process to paint the last coat. Allow it to dry, and enjoy the aesthetic value that the paints give you. You would have restored the original look of your plastic material.

How to Paint Plastic Lawn Furniture

Like other plastic materials, the first process of painting plastic lawn furniture is washing and sanding the surface. Wash the lawn furniture using a mild detergent solution and leave it to dry for 1-2 hours.

Once it is dry, lightly scrub its surface using 200-grit sandpaper. As the final step in cleaning, wipe off the dust using mineral spirits.

The next step in the process is priming and painting. You will need a spray primer and a topcoat formulated for plastics—Prime your plastic surface. Again, let it dry for about one hour before applying the paint.

Begin by applying light coats on the first coat. Then, let it dry completely before applying the second and subsequent coats.

Why Is My Spray Paint Bubbling?

If you are a painter, you most definitely love spray paint. The paint type provides an aesthetic value as it is sold in a wide variety of colors, is affordable, and its application is straightforward. You will also not need complex preparation for the surface to be painted when spraying.

However, one of the primary issues most painters have faced, especially amateurs, is the development of bubbles on the painted surface. However, do not fret; remain calm and paint like a pro when this happens.

Here are some of the reasons for the development of bubbles on your freshly painted surface;

When it is too cold outside, if your working surface is made of metals, you must ensure that your outside temperatures are between 50 and 90 Fahrenheit. However, we would not encourage using metals as the working surfaces. Instead, choose a cardboard that will absorb the stray paint. If you are using a metal surface, ensure you carry out the process in a warmer condition.

When it is too wet outside, paints can take longer than usual to dry at a too-damp temperature. Do not be tempted to put a second coat before the first one dries, as this will cause bubbling. If you are a mechanic or painting in your garage, ensure you give the surfaces enough time to dry when painting in humid conditions to avoid bubbling.

Tips for Painting Plastics

  • The paints can splatter if not held in an upright position. So, ensure the can is held at a 45-degree angle when applying the paints.
  • Ensure your sprays are light. That is, apply light paints to avoid drips.
  • If you experience a drip, you should wipe it immediately and put a fresh spray over it.
  • When you apply paint on a plastic material that is not sticking, you must sand the surface and reapply the paint. The problem could be that the surface is too glossy.


What Kind of Paint Will Stick to Plastic?

Regular surface gloss paint may make a fine sheen for plastic with the right primer and undercoat. Several hues of acrylic or oil-based gloss are at your disposal. Brush, roller, and spray are common tools for applying paint. Brushing, rolling, or spraying are common approaches to application.

Can You Paint Hard Plastic?

Yes, you can paint hard plastic. The best method is Priming the object, allowing it to dry, and then painting it with a spray primer and top coat made specifically for plastics. Use several thin coats of paint and wait for each one to dry before applying the subsequent coats.

Can You Paint Plastic with a Brush?

Yes, you can paint plastic with a brush. However, for successful painting, use a primer specifically made for plastics. If you don’t want to see brush marks on your plastic objects, I recommend you use spray paint.

How Long Does Plastic Paint Last?

Plastic paints last for 2-3 years. This means you will save some bucks using a sheen plastic object.

Will Oil Paint Stick to Plastic?

Yes, oil paint will stick to plastic. Oils are versatile and may be applied to a wide variety of materials. Do not let your inexperience scare you. Recognize that mastering this stunning medium will take time and practice.

Is Oil-Based or Water-Based Paint Better for Plastic?

Oil-based paints are better. Unlike oil-based paints, water-based paint often flakes off plastic once the paint has dried. Further, water-based paints can easily be washed away with mere water making them susceptible to extreme winter conditions. In contrast, oil-based paints are stronger because only thinner or mineral spirits weaken them.

Bottom Line

Plastic painting forms one of the most exclusive approaches to giving your material a new look and improving its aesthetic value. However, due to their glossy surfaces, you may be discouraged by failures who have attempted the process and failed. However, this should not be your biggest worry. Instead, you should paint like a pro.

The secret lies in making the plastic surface rough through sanding. Glossy surfaces do not improve the adhesive forces between the paints and the surfaces. However, if you cautiously sand the plastic surfaces, you can efficiently paint them and realize your most desirable outcomes.

With the right paint in place and plenty of time for preparation, you can accomplish a smooth painted surface on your favorite plastic items. You will give the item a new life from the paints and improve its longevity.