If you want a protective coating over acrylic paint, polyurethane can be the best option. But not everyone knows whether you can use polyurethane over acrylic paint. Since several polyurethane versions are available, you need additional information to select the best one.

Using polyurethane over acrylic paint is very much possible if you ensure the acrylic is fully cured first. 

Let us discuss how to use polyurethane over acrylic paint. We’ll look at the choices and how best to use them one over the other.

What Is Polyurethane

Polyurethane is a petroleum-based liquid from plastic products that you can use for coating and adhesion to add durability to your woodwork. There are two forms of it; water-based, and oil-based.

Each one of these forms has its particular purpose. However, you can use them for the same purpose: to provide an extra layer of protection to a surface.

Oil-based polyurethane leaves off amber coloring when you apply it to paint, which takes longer to dry and harden. When it dries, it can give a slight odor. On another side, water-based poly dries quickly and doesn’t give any amber coloring.

The layer of polyurethane can provide additional toughness against abrasion, and it doesn’t absorb water. It dries clear, and it helps to prevent heat damage to your surface. 

While polyurethane isn’t particularly fragile, it may still break or chip if you use extreme temperatures or harsh ones. 

The most common material that is used to create polyurethanes is Ethylene. Because of its molecular weight, you can only use it in certain mixtures. Other polyurethane ingredients are Cement Si, Propylene, and Butyl Methacrylate.

What Is Acrylic Paint

Acrylic paint is a fast-drying paint made of pigment suspended in acrylic polymer emulsion and silicon oils, metal soaps, plasticizers, stabilizers, or defoamers. Acrylic paint dries quickly, unlike most painting materials. It doesn’t demand a long drying time. 

This paint’s physical and optical properties make it ideal for applying to a wide range of painted surfaces.

However, you must use high-quality oil-based paint and latex primer to use this paint on your painted surfaces. If you don’t use a good quality oil-based or latex primer, the paint may flake off and look terrible.

Acrylic paints can give a softer exterior when they dry. Therefore, they attract dust and dirt easily.

 AdvantagesDisadvantagesDry TimePerfect for
PolyurethaneHigh abrasion resistance, good low-temperature capabilityPoor weather ability, attacked by most solvents, utilizes toxic isocyanatesAbout 24 to 48 hoursFurniture, bedding, and carpet underlay
Acrylic paintAcrylic paints are water-based, which means they can be thinned with just water, you can clean them with just soap and waterAcrylic paints contain toxins within their pigments, just like some oil paints do20 minutes to half an hourPaper and cardboard, wood, glass, metal, fabric, and leather

Can You Use Polyurethane Over Acrylic Paint

You may use polyurethane over acrylic paint; however, you must choose the correct version. Oil-based polyurethane has a gold tint. It may change the hue of the acrylic paint, mainly white or pastel paint. The water-based type dries clear, which makes it a better match for most acrylic paint.

You need to select the appropriate finish. Polyurethane is available in multiple sheens, while acrylic paint is typically glossy when dry. As polyurethane acts as a topcoat, its finish determines the final look.

Finally, follow the manufacturer’s directions for subsequent coats. Let the coat dry for a specific amount before applying the next. Lightly sanding the surface between coats is typically essential, too. However, each manufacturer may advise a different process, so review the instructions before you begin.

Oil-based polyurethane over acrylic paint

You may use oil-based polyurethane over acrylic paint. But, oil-based polyurethanes can yellow the paint over time.

So, it can be good to use a clear coat if you are using an oil-based poly. Water-based poly will not yellow the color; you can use it without a clear coat. However, they could cause the paint to dull slightly.

Water-Based Polyurethane Over Acrylic Paint

You can use water-based polyurethane over acrylic because it remains clear and dries quickly. The average fast-drying water-based finish is ready for a second coat in just two hours.

In 24 hours, it is ready for light use and can cure in as little as three days. However, like with paint, many factors may slow the drying time. You should wait at least 21 days for the water-based to cure fully.

Will Polyurethane Ruin Acrylic Paint

If you use polyurethane correctly, it will not ruin acrylic paint. When you finish painting, you should let the paint dry thoroughly. The time for acrylic paint to dry may differ depending on what you are painting it on and how thick each coat is. When the acrylic paint is dry, choose the type of polyurethane that will work best.

The reason for using polyurethane over acrylic paint is to protect the paint. You can protect the wood using the primer, but the color will welcome the protection the poly may provide. It dries to a complex and durable film coat of plastic, and the paint will thank you.

However, it is good to use water-based polyurethane.  The clear, glossy coat can let the paint color shine through. The water-based version will not discolor over time like the amber tone that an oil-based poly will develop.  The water-based poly dries faster, too.

Can I Use Polyurethane Finish Over Acrylic Paint

You can apply polyurethane to any paint, including semi-gloss, high gloss, chalk, latex, water, oil-based, or even acrylic paint. It also helps achieve a durable finish that is easy to apply and remove. Prepare the painted surface and apply the polyurethane finish according to the directions.

You can put a polyurethane finish over acrylic paint. However, I recommend not using an oil-based polyurethane finish to avoid creating a yellow coloring to the color. Putting a polyurethane finish over the stain will restore its brightness. And it offers a glossy finish.

You may use a polyurethane finish over acrylic paint. However, you have to choose the correct version. Oil-based polyurethane finish has a gold tint. It’ll change the hue of the acrylic paint, mainly white or pastel paint. The water-based type dries clear, which makes it a better match for most acrylic paint.

How To Use Polyurethane Over Acrylic Paint

Using polyurethane over acrylic paint is the same as applying the sealer and primer that came before the color.  Of course, you should wait until the acrylic paint is fully dry before beginning with the poly top coats. Below, you can read the instructions:

  1. Firstly, you should clean the surface. Greasy surfaces can prevent polyurethane from adhering well. Make sure to clean the painted surface well. You can use a degreasing agent on newer paint jobs. Trisodium phosphate (TSP) will also work well on older paint jobs.  It’s commonly known as a food additive but also an effective cleaner. If you use TSP, you should wear goggles and gloves. 
  2. Make sure to sand the surface. Try to use light sandpaper, a 220-grit, to remove any surface irregularity on the paint and to give a texture for the polyurethane to adhere to when applied. 
  3. You should vacuum and wipe the surface. 
  4. Then apply a thin coat of polyurethane to the paint surface. It would be best if you allowed it to dry thoroughly. You may use a brush, a roller, a foam brush, or even a spray can apply.  Just make sure to let it dry thoroughly.
  5. It would be best if you sanded and again.  Another light touch with 220-grit sandpaper removes dust dots and brush marks.
  6. It would be best if you cleaned again. Vacuum and wipe again, removing all dust from the surface—second application. Furthermore, a thin coat allows it to dry entirely before considering a third coat. 

Additional coats may not be necessary if the second coat can give you the smooth finish you were looking for. You should always use two coats, and a 3rd wouldn’t hurt. Simply follow the same procedure as before – sanding, cleaning, applying – for each additional coat you use.

How Soon Can You Use Polyurethane Over Acrylic Paint?

You should ensure the paint is fully cured before using polyurethane over any paint. This way, the color is completely dry, and the polyurethane will go smoothly.

You must wait 24 to 72 hours before applying polyurethane over acrylic paint.

Acrylic paint can cure in less than 24 hours if you live in a warm and dry climate. But waiting at least a full day before using polyurethane is usually good.

The paint’s surface could dry incredibly quickly in arid, hot climates. However, that doesn’t refer to it drying thoroughly. You’re reducing the odds of applying polyurethane that seems dry but isn’t fully cured by giving the paint at least 24 hours.

Cleaning is another reason for needing the paint to dry thoroughly. Before applying polyurethane, you should clean the surface to remove dust, dirt, or other impurities. Otherwise, the polyurethane won’t stick correctly.

Will Polyurethane Affect The Color And Finish Of Acrylic Paint

Oil-based polyurethane has a yellow or amber tint. A yellowish hue may influence the look of the acrylic paint when you use oil-based polyurethane to essentially any color. The color will take on a golden tint that makes the shade warmer.

The yellow tint from oil-based polyurethane may dramatically change the look of the acrylic paint with incredibly light colors. For instance, pale blues could look green, and pastel purples could seem brownish.

Water-based polyurethane may not impact the color of the acrylic paint. Instead of a noticeable yellow tint, water-based polyurethane is far closer to clear. As a consequence, most hues of acrylic paint may maintain their previous look after using water-based polyurethane.

However, there is one exception. A slight yellow tint may occur with white acrylic, even with water-based polyurethane. As a result, you should apply polyurethane to white acrylic paint, regardless of the type.

Polyurethane is available in various finishes: flat, matte, satin, semi-gloss, and gloss. As soon as you use polyurethane over acrylic paint, the acrylic paint may appear to have the same finish as the polyurethane. For instance, if you apply satin polyurethane over glossy acrylic paint, the final look is satin.

can you use polyurathane over acrylic paint


As I mentioned earlier in the article, using polyurethane over acrylic paint is very much possible. Also, using a water-based substance might be your best bet. since it is less likely to leave a yellow tint.


Can you use polyurethane over acrylic paint?

The best option for you will depend on the specific project you’re working on. For example, a polyurethane clear coat would be a good option if you’re looking for a clear coat that will provide a high level of protection against scratches and wear.

However, an acrylic urethane clear coat would be a better choice if you’re looking for a clear coat that will give your project a glossy finish. Ultimately, it’s essential to experiment with different types of clear coats to see what works best for your particular project.

What paint can you polyurethane over?

You can use polyurethane over a few types of paint, such as latex paint, enamel paint, and oil-based paint.

If the paint is dry, your finger will not leave a mark.

Can you use polyurethane over acrylic paint on glass

Yes, you can!

Polyurethane is a type of varnish often used to protect wood surfaces. It can also be used over acrylic paint to provide a durable and protective finish.

When applied to glass, polyurethane can help to resist scratching and wear.

Can you put oil-based polyurethane over acrylic paint?

Yes, you can put oil-based polyurethane over acrylic paint.

However, you must be careful about the type of paint you use. Some acrylics can be incompatible with oil-based polyurethane, so it’s always best to check with the manufacturer before applying it.

Also, make sure the paint is fully cured before applying the polyurethane. If not, the polyurethane could cause the paint to bubble and peel.