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Can you wood burn over acrylic paint?

Wood burning, also known as pyrography, is a popular crafting technique that involves using a heated metal tip to burn designs into wood. Many crafters enjoy enhancing their wood burnings by first painting the wood with acrylic paint. However, some wonder if it is safe and effective to wood burn over acrylic paint. In this article, we’ll explore the process of wood burning over acrylic paint and provide tips for success.

The Short Answer

Yes, you can safely wood burn over acrylic paint. When done correctly, wood burning over acrylic paint allows you to add fine details and shading to painted designs on wood. The key is using high-quality paints designed for wood, allowing adequate drying time, burning at lower temperatures, and sealing properly afterwards.

Can You Technically Wood Burn Over Acrylic Paint?

Technically, you can wood burn over any acrylic paint as long as it’s completely dry. Acrylic paint is a water-based medium that dries through evaporation. Once the water has fully evaporated from the paint, it leaves behind a durable plastic resin. This resin can withstand the heat of wood burning without melting or releasing toxic fumes.

So technically, wood burning over dry acrylic paint is safe and possible. However, that doesn’t mean you’ll get great results with any acrylic paint. The quality of the paint matters a great deal when it comes to performance and final appearance.

Choosing the Right Acrylic Paint

For best results wood burning over acrylic paint, choose a high-quality acrylic paint formulated specifically for wood. Here’s what to look for:

  • Paint labeled for wood – Avoid craft acrylics not specifically made for wood projects.
  • Thick, heavy body paint – Thin paint absorbs more heat and may boil or blister.
  • Matte finish – Matte paint won’t become shiny when heated.
  • Lightfast pigments – They’ll resist fading over time.

Top-quality acrylic paint brands like Golden and Liquitex offer paints designed for wood that meet the above criteria. Choosing the right paint prevents issues like bubbling, discoloration, and unwanted shininess when wood burning over the top.

Preparing the Wood and Paint

Proper preparation is key to achieving a smooth, professional result. Here are some tips:

– Sand the wood surface – This helps the paint adhere evenly.

– Apply primer if needed – Bare wood may require a primer coat first.

– Clean between coats – Gently sand and wipe away dust between paint layers.

– Allow proper drying time – Follow the paint manufacturer’s instructions, but generally 24-48 hours between coats and another 24 hours before burning is recommended.

– Start with thin paint layers – Thick paint may bubble when burned over. Build up thickness gradually.

– Burn within 1-2 weeks – Burning over fresh paint adheres and burns better.

With the right prep work, you’ll have a perfectly prepped painted wood surface ready for wood burning.

Wood Burning Temperatures

When wood burning over paint, use lower heat settings on your wood burning tool. Acrylic paint scorches at lower temperatures compared to bare wood.

Follow these temperature guidelines:

  • Fine detail burning – Use low temps around 300-450°F.
  • Light shading – Go up to medium temps around 500-600°F.
  • Avoid high settings above 650°F.

Burn in light layers, allowing the paint to cool slightly between passes. If scorching occurs, allow the paint to fully cool before continuing. Using lower heat settings gives you more control and helps prevent damage to the painted surface.

Wood Burning Techniques

Certain wood burning techniques work especially well over painted backgrounds:

  • Detail burning – Adding fine lines, textures, and small patterns.
  • Stippling – Light, dotting motions to build up depth.
  • Feathering – Quick, wispy motions to blend colors.
  • Shading – Gradual build up of light to dark tones.
  • Avoid heavy pressure and dwelling in one spot.

Wood burning over acrylic paint allows for tons of artistic possibilities. Blend paint colors together, add lifelike shading, incorporate fine details, and create unique textured effects. Use an extra-fine tip for the best control.

Sealing the Final Piece

The final step after burning over paint is applying a sealer. Sealers protect and preserve the finished art piece.

Choose a clear acrylic sealer or wood finish formulated for pyrography. Brush or spray multiple thin coats, allowing drying time between layers. Sealers prevent future paint fading and minimize odor from wood burning.

And that’s it! Follow these tips to safely and beautifully wood burn over acrylic paint for professional-looking results. With the right materials and techniques, you can create detailed works of art on wood.

Tips for Wood Burning Over Acrylic Paint

Here is a summary of the key tips covered:

Steps Tips
Choosing Paint – Use high-quality paint formulated for wood
– Pick thick, matte paint with lightfast pigments
Prepping the Surface – Sand and prime wood as needed
– Allow adequate drying time between coats
Setting Temperature – Burn at lower heat around 300-600°F
– Avoid high temperatures above 650°F
Techniques to Use – Detail burning
– Stippling
– Feathering
– Shading
Finishing – Seal with a clear acrylic sealer or wood finish

Frequently Asked Questions

Many crafters have additional questions about successfully wood burning over acrylic paint. Here are answers to some of the most common queries.

What problems can occur when wood burning over acrylic paint?

Potential issues to avoid include:

– Bubbling or blistering of the paint
– Discoloration or darkening of paint colors
– Paint fading over time if not properly sealed
– Paint melting, dripping, or becoming shiny in appearance
– The paint lifting or flaking off the wood surface

Using proper materials and techniques helps prevent these issues during the wood burning process.

Can you wood burn over any acrylic paint?

You can technically burn over any dried acrylic paint, but poor quality paint may bubble, discolor, or damage. Specialty wood paints provide the best results when wood burning.

Does the paint have to be completely dry before wood burning?

Yes, the paint should be allowed to fully cure before wood burning, generally for 24-48 hours. Burning over partially dry paint can expose wet areas to heat, causing bubbling or lifting.

Can you wood burn over painted wood signs?

It is possible to wood burn over painted wood signs, as long as the sign is coated in a high-quality acrylic paint suitable for wood. Allow ample drying time before burning. Wood signs painted with enamels or oil-based paints are not suitable for burning over.

What’s the best way to seal wood after burning over acrylic paint?

An acrylic sealer or wood finish designed for use over pyrography is ideal. Apply multiple thin layers with a brush or sprayer. Polyurethane can also be used but is not required. Avoid sealers containing petroleum distillates.


Wood burning over properly prepared acrylic paint is an excellent way to add details and special effects to painted wood art. Follow the techniques outlined for selecting quality paints, allowing drying time, burning at lower temperatures, and sealing the finished piece. With some practice, you’ll be able to safely and beautifully combine painting and pyrography on wood. Explore all the creative possibilities!