How To Prime Wood For Acrylic Painting

“Understanding the proper techniques to prime wood for acrylic painting can greatly enhance your artwork’s longevity and finish. In the article “How To Prime Wood For Acrylic Painting,” you learn step-by-step, comprehensive guidelines designed to equip you with necessary knowledge and skills to prepare any wooden surface for acrylic paints. From material selection to application techniques, this detailed guide ensures that your artistic efforts aren’t wasted but instead contribute to creating a piece of art that will stand the test of time.”

How To Prime Wood For Acrylic Painting

Choose the Right Wood

When beginning any painting project, the first step is to select the appropriate type of wood. The wood you choose plays a significant role in determining the outcome of your artwork. It is therefore crucial to understand the different types of wood available and what each offers. Generally, hardwoods such as oak, ash, and maple are recommended as they offer a durable, smooth surface that’s perfect for painting. Keep in mind the grain, knots, and imperfections of the wood, as these can affect how the paint lays on the surface.

Selecting the Wood Type

Various types of wood can be utilized; however, your choice will highly influence the final appearance of your painting. Consider the surface smoothness, durability, and grain prominence when selecting the wood type. Hardwoods like oak and beech offer a smooth, hard surface that can handle more robust painting techniques.

Preparing the Wood Surface

Preparing the wood surface is a critical step to ensure a smooth painting process. This includes cleaning the surface to remove any dirt, oils, or loose fibres that could interfere with your painting. Additionally, this stage involves smoothing out the surface to remove scratches, dents or irregularities on the wood that could affect the final product.

Gather the Necessary Materials

Before you start, it is essential to gather all the materials you will need to make the process smoother and more efficient. The primary material you need is acrylic gesso, a type of primer that prepares the wood surface for painting.

Acrylic Gesso

Acrylic gesso is a white paint mixture used as a ground for acrylic painting. It provides a barrier between the wood and paint which prevents the paint from soaking into the wood and gives the paint a smooth surface to adhere to.


Sandpaper is used to create a smooth surface by removing any rough areas or imperfections on the wood. It is recommended to have various grits of sandpaper, from coarse to fine, to ensure the surface is as smooth as possible.

Clean Cloth

A clean cloth is necessary to wipe away any dust or debris left after sanding the wood.


Opt for a paintbrush appropriate for applying the gesso. Typically, a wide, flat brush is used as it allows for even application over a large surface area.


Water is needed to thin the gesso if required and to clean brushes.

Prepare the Wood Surface

Proper preparation of the wood surface is crucial to ensure the best possible outcome. This sets the foundation for your painting and can dramatically influence the final result.

Cleaning the Wood

Start by cleaning the wood to remove any dirt, oil, or other contaminants. Use a mild soapy solution and a sponge or cloth to gently scrub the surface. Rinse with clean water and then dry thoroughly.

Sanding the Wood

Once the wood is clean, you’ll need to sand it to create a smooth surface. Start with coarse-grit sandpaper to remove any significant imperfections, then progress to a finer grit sandpaper to smooth the surface further.

Removing Dust

After sanding, dust and debris will be left on the surface of the wood. Use a clean, damp cloth to remove this dust, ensuring the surface is as clean as possible before you begin applying the gesso.

Apply the Acrylic Gesso

Acrylic gesso forms a barrier between the wood and the paint, ensuring the paint remains on the surface and doesn’t seep into the wood.

Mixing the Gesso

Before application, the gesso may need to be stirred or shaken to ensure it’s properly mixed. If it’s too thick, it can be thinned with a small amount of water.

Applying the First Coat

Using a wide, flat brush, apply the first coat of gesso to the wood. The brush should be loaded fully, but not overly saturated. Apply the gesso in a criss-cross pattern to ensure full and even coverage.

Sanding Between Coats

To create the smoothest possible surface, allow the gesso to dry completely, then sand the surface lightly using fine-grit sandpaper. This process will help to further smooth the surface and remove any brush strokes or imperfections.

Applying Additional Coats

After sanding, apply additional coats of gesso, allowing each coat to dry completely and sanding between each. Three to four coats are typically sufficient.

How To Prime Wood For Acrylic Painting

Allow Proper Drying Time

Allowing the gesso to dry completely is crucial to achieving a smooth, solid surface for painting.

Checking the Drying Time

The drying time for gesso can vary depending on the brand, the thickness of the layers, and the environmental conditions. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and allow for additional drying time if necessary.

Avoiding Premature Painting

Resist the temptation to start painting before the gesso is fully dry. This can result in a compromised surface and negatively affect the longevity and look of your finished painting.

Inspect and Correct Imperfections

Once the gesso is dry, it’s time to inspect the surface and correct any imperfections before you start painting.

Examining the Primed Surface

Examine the surface closely for any imperfections such as brush strokes, drips, or uneven areas. Use a good light source to help identify any issues.

Repairing Blemishes

If you find any imperfections, these can be corrected by sanding lightly with fine-grit sandpaper until the surface is smooth. If necessary, you can apply an additional layer of gesso, then sand again once dry.

Optional: Toning the Wood

Toning the wood is an optional process that can give a depth of color to your final painting. This process involves applying a thin layer of colored paint over the gesso.

Choosing a Toning Technique

Choose a toning technique that suits your desired outcome. This can be as simple as applying a thin layer of a single color, or as complex as a multi-layered, textured effect.

Preparing the Toning Solution

Prepare your toning paint by mixing the selected color with water until it reaches a thin, watery consistency. This allows the color to soak into the gesso, creating a depth of color.

Applying the Toning Solution

The toning solution should be applied using a large, flat brush in a similar manner to the gesso. Allow the toning solution to dry fully before proceeding.

Seal the Wood (Optional)

Sealing the wood is an optional step that can provide additional protection to your painting.

Selecting a Sealer

Choose a sealer that is compatible with acrylic paints. The sealer should be clear and non-yellowing to ensure it doesn’t alter the colors of your painting.

Applying the Sealer

Like the gesso and toning solution, the sealer should be applied using a large, flat brush. Allow the sealer to dry thoroughly before proceeding with painting.

Sanding and Smoothing (Optional)

This step is optional but recommended for those who want an ultra-smooth surface.

Sanding the Primed Wood

Once the sealer is dry, lightly sand the wood using a fine-grit sandpaper. This will smooth the surface to perfection and help ensure the paint applies evenly.

Smoothing Out any Uneven Areas

Check and smooth out any uneven areas after sanding. Repeat the process as necessary until the surface is free of imperfections.

Final Preparations

Now that the wood has been fully prepped, it’s time to make the final preparations before painting.

Cleaning the Workspace

Clean your workspace thoroughly. This helps to prevent dust or debris from contaminating your painting surface.

Organizing Painting Supplies

Before you start painting, ensure all your painting supplies are organized and within reach. This includes your paints, brushes, water, and any other tools you may need. This will make the painting process smoother and more enjoyable.

In conclusion, preparing wood for acrylic painting may seem tedious, but taking the time to do it right is crucial. With the correct preparation, you’ll have a durable, smooth canvas that will ensure your painting process goes smoothly and your final piece of art lasts a lifetime.

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