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Do You Need To Prime Plastic Before Painting?

Because of its chemical composition and smoothness, plastic can be challenging to paint. You might want to do DIY projects at home using plastic and wonder if you should apply primer to the plastic before painting. We researched this question, and here is what we've learned.

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If you're using spray paint that was made for plastic surfaces, you can skip the priming process. With other types of paint, including acrylic, you must prime the plastic first. Otherwise, the paint might not adhere properly.

Here's how to effectively paint with primer:

  • Prep your surface
  • Sand the surface
  • Clean the surface
  • Add primer 
  • Apply paint

It's important to consider that different types of paint are dedicated to various surfaces. Some paints will work on plastic surfaces without primer, and others will not. Continue reading to learn more about this topic.

Painter Worker Wearing Breathing Safety Mask and Uniform, Do You Need To Prime Plastic Before Painting?

Priming Plastic Before Painting

Without primer, paint might not adhere properly to the plastic surface. Unless you use a spray paint that has a primer and is made for painting plastic, you will need to prime the surface before painting.

When choosing a primer, you'll need to select a product made specifically for plastic to get a smooth foundation for the paint. It is preferable to use the same brand to ensure that the primer and paint are compatible. If you're unsure, it's best to read the product instructions.

What Paint Works Best On Plastic?

Still life with a large number of used colorful spray cans of aerosol paint lying on the treated wooden surface in the artist's graffiti workshop.

Whatever painting project you're working on, picking the right kind of paint is extremely important. 

The best paint option for plastic surfaces is spray paint. As we mentioned earlier, if you use spray paint created for plastic surfaces, you can skip the priming process, as most spray paints are primer-ready.

Here are some of the best paints that work on plastic:

Krylon Fusion ALL IN ONE

This multipurpose spray paint adheres to difficult surfaces like plastic and more without priming or sanding. It is primer ready, effective, and adheres well to plastic.

Click here to see this all-in-one paint on Amazon.

Rust-Oleum Universal Paint and Primer in One

Rust-Oleum Universal Paint and Primer in One is a durable and long-lasting paint that can be used on almost all surfaces. It is suitable for both interior and exterior use. It also works well on plastic surfaces.

Click here to see this universal paint on Amazon.

Rust-Oleum Specialty Spray Paint for Plastic

This spray paint is excellent when applied to plastic. It is suitable for indoor and outdoor use. It has excellent adhesion and durability and can be used directly on plastic without the need for primer.

Click here to see this paint for plastic on Amazon.

How To Paint Plastic

Painter Worker Wearing Breathing Safety Mask and Uniform, Do You Need To Prime Plastic Before Painting?

Painting on plastic can be difficult due to its surface. Follow the detailed steps below to learn more about how to paint effectively on plastic.

Tools needed:

  • Spray paint 
  • Primer
  • Fine-grit sandpaper
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Microfiber cloth
  • Cardboard or newspaper
  • Dishwashing soap
  • Face mask
  • Nitrile gloves

Paints, especially those with high VOCs (volatile organic compounds), give off strong odors. To avoid inhaling fumes, you should wear a face mask. Using a respiratory mask is recommended. 

Click here to see this respirator on Amazon.

When paint sticks to your skin, it can be challenging to remove. Wear chemical-resistant Nitrile gloves whenever you handle materials for painting for your protection.

Click here to see these gloves on Amazon.

Step 1: Prep your surface

It is essential to prep the plastic surface before painting it. Clean it using mild dishwashing soap to eliminate dirt and excess debris. Dry the surface by wiping it off with a clean cloth.

Step 2: Sand the surface

Since plastic has a slippery texture, you need to tone it down using fine-grit sandpaper. Using 180-200 grit sandpaper will eliminate that glossy texture and help you avoid damaging the surface.

Plastic should be sanded lightly with sandpaper. Because it is made of soft material, it is best to scuff it by hand. Make sure to go over the edges too. Plastic can be brittle, so be careful when sanding it down.

Click here to see this sandpaper on Amazon.

Step 3: Clean the surface

After sanding, clean the surface with rubbing alcohol and wipe the surface using a microfiber cloth. It will help eliminate the dust produced in the sanding process.

Step 4: Apply primer

Because plastic is nonporous, applying primer to it before painting will help the paint adhere better to the surface. The primer will stick to the surface, and the paint will stick to the primer, so applying primer first is necessary.

Click here to see this plastic primer on Amazon.

Shake the can of primer well. To apply it, hold the can 12 to 18 inches away from the surface of your project. Spray in a sweeping motion. Cover the edges, as paint gets chipped easily, especially in the corners.

Let the primer dry for 20-30 minutes before spraying paint. Note that drying times may vary depending on the type of primer used.

The drying and recoating times will be based on temperature and humidity conditions. High humidity and cool temperatures can prolong drying times. It may take 24 hours for the primer to dry completely. 

Step 5: Apply paint

Prepare your work area. Before spray painting, lay out some cardboard or newspaper to protect the floor and surrounding surfaces. If the weather is sunny, you could paint outside. 

You should shake the can of spray paint for about 15 seconds and test it before applying it to your project. Get a good grip on the nozzle and spray the paint on a bit of cardboard. Then go ahead and apply the paint.

For the best results, hold the can between six and eight inches away from the surface you are painting, and spray in an even motion.

How Long Does It Take For Paint To Dry On Plastic?

Men's hands hold the brush with white paint and analogue clock.

On plastic surfaces, spray paint may take 20 to 30 minutes to feel dry to the touch. The quality of your spray paint will affect how quickly it will dry on the surface.

Higher humidity levels may prolong drying time. Allow 24 hours for the paint to dry on plastic items before using them.

Can You Paint Plastic With A Brush?

Rollers of different sizes for painting the walls and ceiling

You can use a brush to paint plastic surfaces with the correct type of paint. However, applying the paint by hand with a brush will take longer. Moreover, painting a plastic exterior with a brush can produce an inconsistent appearance.

How Do You Clean Spray Paint Off Plastic?

When painting a project, you might suddenly change your mind about your color preference or make a mistake while painting and wish you could start over from scratch. 

To clean up paint spills on plastic surfaces, use rubbing alcohol. It is best to use in removing paint because it does not melt plastic, unlike harsh paint thinners. Wipe the surface using a cloth. 

Wrapping Things Up

Painting on plastic surfaces can be challenging. However, with proper preparation, you can paint and design plastic materials however you want. Prepping your surface by priming and sanding is important for the best results. 

Remember to practice safety before handling painting materials, as they can produce harmful chemicals.

Want to learn more? Check out these related posts below:

How Long Does Spray Paint Take To Dry On Plastic? [And How To Make It Dry Faster]

How To Touch Up Paint That Was Sprayed On