How To Make Acrylic Paint Not Sticky? Our Simple Guide

Acrylic paint is one of the most popular paint types you can use for different projects. We use it very often for woodworking projects and some other materials. Acrylic paint looks cool, it forms a very smooth surface and it’s great to work with. We can name a lot of advantages of acrylic paint like fast drying, rich color, flexibility, durability, etc.

But we often get one question from our readers – how to make acrylic paint not sticky? Unfortunately, it’s impossible to answer in a short sentence, so we’ve decided to write a full article about this. We know that sticky paint can ruin the project and just waste your time and money, so let’s discuss it more seriously.

Here’s what we’ll tell you today:

  1. Why can acrylic paint be sticky after it’s applied?
  2. How long does it take for acrylic paint to dry?
  3. Quality of paint – one of the main factors.
  4. Quality of preparation work – another factor.
  5. How to get rid of the tacky feeling of your paint?

Let’s get started!

Maybe, your acrylic paint just hasn’t cured yet?

When we are talking about that tacky feeling, we will consider acrylic paint drying problems. At first, we should analyze how much time a certain coat of acrylic paint needs to completely dry. And the answer is not that simple, again.

First of all, we should understand what kind of paint we are dealing with. It can be professional acrylic or some cheap paint of an unknown brand. The average drying time for professional acrylic is 20-40 minutes for a thin coat and up to 2 hours for a thicker coat.

Cheaper acrylic paint may dry longer – sometimes up to 5 hours. Your acrylic paint is going to be ready for the next coat after this time. but people often think that after 20 minutes paint shouldn’t be tacky. It’s not true.

This paint stops being tacky after 1 day approximately. The 20-minute curing time is just applicable for the next coat. Once you’ve done with all the coats, you should leave your project in a room with optimal temperature and humidity for 24 hours. This is the optimal period for complete drying and curing. Before that, the paint may feel tacky and sticky.

Why can your acrylic paint be sticky even after 1 day?

Now, you know that if your project feels sticky after you paint it, it’s OK. You should give it some time until the paint cures completely. But what if you still can’t do anything with the project just because the paint feels tacky? This may spoil your project because the paint is prone to damage, dust sticking to it, and to other dangerous factors.

Let’s look at some reasons why this could happen.

1. Bad paint

One of the most obvious explanations is that paint was bad. Acrylic paint should only be professional because all those cheap options have unpredictable characteristics. They can stay sticky for days and weeks and your project will just be destroyed.

Also, expired paint can lead to problems with a tacky surface. You should check whether the paint is still OK and it can be used for your project. Maybe, a test use will let you make sure that everything is OK.

2. Bad thinning

Have you used optimal thinners? Have you thinned paint to make it optimal for your paint gun? If you don’t know what to use to thin paint, you should read the instructions. For example, go to the website of the paint manufacturer and see what they offer for thinning.

Preparing your paint is important. Sometimes, this is the most important factor in understanding how good your project will be.

3. Bad preparation

You should know that acrylic paint can only be applied to surfaces that don’t contain any wax or oil. If you have already used oil for staining your wood or for protecting it, you should remove it before applying.

Also, the surface should be clean. You better use something to clean and degrease the surface before you apply acrylic paint. Surface preparation is important and very often this will be the very obvious explanation of why something goes wrong with your project.

4. Thick coats

When you put a thin coat, acrylic paint forms a very smooth surface and cures quickly. But when you use a thick coat, paint can’t cure completely and can dry for 20 minutes or even an hour. It will feel tacky for much longer – up to 1 day. And you will need to wait longer between coats.

Also, if you put another coat when the previous paint coat hasn’t dried yet, you will get a sticky thick coat that will cure for 1-2 days. But after that, paint should stop being tacky and should be OK.

5. Bad conditions

You should also pay attention to the conditions of drying. Acrylic paint will not dry fast if the temperature is very low. It will dry extremely fast when the temperature is high, but it’s not good, too.

But temperatures are not as important as humidity. The humidity level should be optimal – not too humid. Otherwise, your paint will dry for days and even weeks. But never put your project with tacky paint under the sunbeams. It will destroy the color of the paint and will cause more problems.

How to fix sticky acrylic paint?

Fixing paint problems is not something that can be easily done unless you have a lot of experience in painting. Fixing sticky paint is obviously very hard. We’ve read some tips on professional forums and we were shocked by how insane these tips were. Someone even said that you should use some sandpaper to sand off the topcoat of your paint to repaint it.

Please, be careful when you are reading these tips because you can just destroy the project. Especially if you are dealing with sticky acrylic paint. It’s not about some techniques of painting, it’s always about letting the paint dry.

Here are some things you may try:

  1. Control the humidity and try to put your project into some room or camera with a lower humidity level. This will help the solvent evaporate quickly and the paint will cure soon.
  2. Control the temperature. The best temperature for quick and safe drying is the standard room temperature. Hotter temperatures are bad because the paint will dry too fast. Colder temperatures will result in slow drying.
  3. Try heating your project a little. But be careful – overheating will lead to paint damage. Take a simple hairdryer and try to heat the surface of your project a little. This will help.
  4. Leave your project for 1-2 days. Slow drying is not bad, so you can just leave the project for more time and let it dry naturally before doing anything else with it.
  5. Avoid dust. If the paint is sticky and tacky, dust will stick perfectly. So you should paint in dust-free rooms and never get your project in a room with a lot of dust before the paint cures completely.

We know that these are simple things that you may have known about. But these are the simple tips that will help you deal with long drying time and all other problems. If you want to do something else, just wait until these tips work. You will not have to do a lot of work.

But there is still a couple of options that may lead to problems. For example, if the paint is bad (expired or just of bad quality), you can still get sticky paint after all those tips are applied. Also, if you didn’t prepare the surface well, you can get problems.

How to deal with the bad problems of sticky paint?

The only thing you can do if there was a huge mistake or very bad-quality paint is to redo the work. You should just peel off that sticky layer of paint. Usually, we recommend sanding off all paint and primers to the bare wood (or whatever other material you have) and repainting the project from scratch.

This will allow you to complete all steps of the paint job like they should be completed. Of course, the result of this will be a very beautiful project and a lot of experience that you will use in all your future projects. But be careful – at first, use all options that we’ve offered to you in the first part of our article.

Final words

Unfortunately, sticky acrylic paint is something all of you can deal with. You are never guaranteed that the paint you bought in a shop is of good quality. Sometimes, you will have to deal with bad paint, expired materials, bad surface prep, and many other things that can make paint sticky in the end.

Don’t get upset – everything can be fixed. We’ve offered a lot of ways to fix this problem. If none of them worked, you will have to redo the project and check what was the reason for the problem.