Can You Paint Enamel Over Acrylic?

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Have you ever wondered whether you can paint enamel over acrylic, and considered trying this to see what happens? It’s often tempting to mix two kinds of paint if you don’t happen to have the correct kind available, because it cuts down on the number of materials that you need to buy and speeds a project up, but you need to be cautious of doing this because it may not result in a smooth layer of paint. Having a well prepared and suitable surface is critical to getting the finish you want to see.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to know whether you can successfully paint enamel over acrylic or not, because there are many kinds of acrylic paint, and the answer will depend on the kind of paint you have. Sometimes, the chemicals in the enamel will react with the acrylic and cause the acrylic to peel off the surface it was applied to, or the enamel simply won’t adhere well to the acrylic, and will peel off itself. It may also cause bubbling and other issues.

If you want to paint over acrylic paint with enamel, it is generally best to do a test first, especially if you don’t know what kind of acrylic has already been applied. If possible, try a small amount of the enamel paint in a localized area, and allow it to dry so you can see the results before painting a large area. If you can’t do this, be aware that painting enamel over acrylic will not always work well.

Can You Paint Enamel Over Acrylic?

There is no straightforward answer to whether you can or cannot put enamel on top of acrylic paint, because there are so many paint variations that there’s simply no guaranteeing it one way or the other. Sometimes it will work and sometimes it won’t, and many people report getting mixed results when attempting this. You may find that it produces a good effect often, but not all the time, so be wary if you see advice saying that it will always work as long as you take the right approach.

In general, it tends to be better not to mix enamel and acrylic paints, and when you have the option, it is best to use all enamel or all acrylic, because there should then be no risk of the two paints interacting and causing a bad effect. This isn’t always possible, but if you are able to opt for one kind or the other, you should do so; this is the best way to minimize the risk of problems and ensure that your paintwork looks professional.

In theory, you can paint some kinds of enamel over acrylic without any problems arising, but you will need to test your paints before you try it. If it doesn’t produce good results, swap your paints so you don’t waste materials and time on an incompatible mix.

Should You Try To Remove Enamel Paint Before Painting Over It With Acrylic Paint?

If you are going to paint over enamel with acrylic (instead of the other way around), you may want to try to remove the enamel before you start adding acrylic, as this will let you use an acrylic primer that should be completely compatible with the acrylic paint. It’s important to note that even if you initially seem to have success with your acrylic paint, you may see a reaction occur months afterward. It takes a long time for enamel paints to fully cure, and it’s possible that the paint will end up peeling months down the line.

It can be difficult to remove enamel paint, especially if you have used it on plastic, so there are situations in which it may be better to try painting over the top, rather than trying to remove the enamel. Removal processes can be long and challenging, and may even damage the surface beneath the paint. However, if you can remove the enamel reasonably easily, it’s probably best to do so.

Once you have got rid of the enamel paint, you can safely apply a coat of acrylic primer and then the acrylic paint, and this should work well. If you cannot remove the enamel, it may be worth trying to paint over it, but make sure you test this first if you can, and check the enamel is absolutely dry.

What Is The Best Way To Paint Enamel Over Acrylic?

If you are going to try painting enamel over acrylic, you should start by making sure that the acrylic is completely dry; this will take a minimum of 48 hours from the last coat, and possibly longer, especially in cold conditions. Next, you should check what thinners have been used in the enamel, and find out whether these are likely to interact with the acrylic or not; some kinds contain strong solvents that may ruin the adherence to the painted surface. It is also worth looking up the specific paints that you plan to use to see if you can get further information about their compatibility.

It’s best not to use a brush if you are going to apply an enamel paint over an acrylic, because the friction caused by the bristles may increase the chances of the acrylic peeling off. If you can use an airbrush instead, you might get a better result, and reduce the risk of the undercoat flaking. If you have to use a brush, be careful not to press down with it. Instead, lightly stroke it across the surface and use multiple coats to get good coverage.

You will need to give each coat a good amount of time to dry and apply only thin layers of paint. Trying to rush the drying time or applying a lot of paint at once massively increases the risk of it going wrong. Patience does not guarantee success, but it will improve your chances.

Can Painting Enamel Over Acrylic Give Bad Results?

Yes, painting enamel over acrylic can give bad results, although certainly not always – it depends on the kinds of paint being used and your drying and curing times. If you don’t get a good paint combination or you rush the painting, you will likely find that the upper layer of paint cracks and bubbles, and it may shrink and become textured. You must take the right approach if you are going to have this work well.

Some people find that the paint looks fine for a few weeks or months, and then starts to take on a crackle effect as the paints react and the upper layer contracts or peels. If this happens, you will generally have to strip all of the paintwork off and start from scratch, including re-priming the item. Depending on how hard the paint is to remove, this can involve a lot of work, so it needs to be avoided where possible.

Unfortunately, it can be very hard to know in advance if the enamel is likely to create a bad result when used on top of acrylic. Testing the combination on some scrap material will help you to figure this out, but because it can take a long time for the reaction to show up, it’s not a guarantee that your finished product won’t crackle eventually. No matter what precautions you take or how carefully you approach this, you may still get a bad result.

Does Enamel React With Acrylic?

Some enamel paints will interact with some kinds of acrylic paints, but it is hard to know which, even if you have a good understanding of paints. In theory, as long as the undercoat of acrylic has thoroughly dried, the reaction should be minimal or non-existent – but things can still go wrong.

Some people say that you can paint enamel over acrylic as long as the acrylic has had at least 48 hours to dry, but this may not be the case. Certain enamel paints contain chemicals that will interact with the acrylic and spoil its adherence to the painted surface. Dry acrylic is much less likely to react, but it may still do so in some situations, and you may not be able to prevent this.

If the enamel you are using contains certain kinds of thinners, it is more likely to react with the acrylic, especially if you are using multiple thick layers of enamel paint. Check what kind of thinner has been used, and determine whether this is likely to lift the acrylic before adding the enamel layer.


The question about whether you can paint enamel over acrylic doesn’t have an easy answer – it will often work and many people do it, but it isn’t ideal and it can cause problems. Wherever possible, you should avoid mixing the two different kinds of paints, as enamel solvents may cause the acrylic to break down, bubble, and pull away from the painted surface. This may happen immediately or several months down the line, so it’s best to stick with either enamel paints or acrylic paints, and not use a combination of the two on any surface.