Best Wood to Use for Acrylic Painting

When you decide to begin painting, you must familiarize yourself with the best types of materials to paint on. Typically, when you think of acrylic painting, you think of canvas, but wood is also a viable option for acrylic painting.

If you decide to paint on wood, any wood will do. However, some types of wood are better suited to hold acrylic paint than others. The best wood to paint with acrylic paint are hardwood, hardboard, and MDF Panels. 

In this article, you will learn about the best types of wood to paint on and prepare the wood to accept the paint properly. 


Hardwood is a popular option when it comes to using acrylic paint. There are different types of hardwood, and each may accept paint differently, so you need to be sure you properly prepare the surface before beginning. 

Types of Hardwood

There are many types of hardwood. The most well-known and common types of hardwood are oak, mahogany, walnut, and birch. When using hardwood with acrylic paint, several pros and cons need to be considered. 


  • Hardwood is durable and difficult to destroy.
  • Hardwood will last for a long time. 
  • Hardwood is considered a high-quality option. 


  • Hardwood is expensive to buy.
  • Hardwood is extremely heavy.
  • Hardwood can crack or warp if it isn’t properly seasoned. 

When choosing to use hardwood of any type for an art project, it is important to keep both the pros and cons in mind. 

Keeping these things in mind will help ensure that you are happy with your completed project, and it will also preserve your project. Hardwood is an excellent option if you want a material that will stand the test of time. 

Preparing Hardwood

If you choose to use hardwood for your acrylic painting, you will need to make sure it is properly prepared to ensure the longevity of your artwork. 

The good news is that it is straightforward to get hardwood ready to accept paint, but it will take some time to do. 

Seal the panel:  If you have purchased a raw and seasoned hardwood panel, there is a good chance that it hasn’t yet been sealed. 

This step is crucial because it keeps moisture from seeping through the wood into your final painting. Wood can attract moisture over time, and the sealant will protect your painting. 

Prime the panel:  You will want to invest in a primer that can be added to the wooden panel after the sealant has had a chance to dry. A layer of primer is critical before you begin your painting project. 

The primer application will help the acrylic paint adhere to the wood panel. Skipping this step will likely make it more difficult for you to get a good layer of paint on the wood. 

You can easily paint a hardwood panel without sealant and primer, but the result will not be the same as it would on a carefully prepared hardwood panel. Not to mention it will help prevent your painting from deteriorating over time. 

Hardboard (Masonite)

Another viable option when it comes to acrylic painting is hardboard panels. You may also hear these panels referred to as Masonite because of their composition.

However, this is another popular option, with some pros and cons to consider before using it. 


  • Hardboard is inexpensive.
  • Hardboard is a durable option.
  • You can use either side of the board to paint on. 


  • Hardboard can begin to bend or warp over time.
  • The hardboard is not ready to use from the package.

Hardboard is a popular option for beginning artists because the price is lower than that of a canvas, and it has a similar durability to hardwood, without the weight. 

While this is a good option for beginning work, it may not be the best for an experienced artist to create a piece that is meant to be lasting. It would be best if you also prepared your hardboard before using it. 

Preparing Hardboard

Much like hardwood, you need to go through a process of preparation when you begin to use the hardboard. Hardboard is a manufactured product that is made of compressed wood fibers. 

Because of the wood component, you will need to prime the cardboard before you begin painting.

Priming the hardboard: There are a couple of different ways you can choose to prime the hardboard. You can either use a specific paint primer or add Gesso to the board. 

Gesso provides a layer of protection to the board and allows the paint to adhere more easily to the wood.  

If you are lucky, you may also be able to find pre-primed hardwood panels that can help save you time when it comes to preparing to paint. 

If you purchase a pre-primed hardwood board, you will not have to worry about preparation and can begin painting right away. 

The hardboard has Two Sides.

Choosing to use a hardboard gives you two options for using the hardboard panel. One side of the panel is rough, and the other is smoother.

Using the rough side of the board will help the paint adhere, but it could be a bit rough on your brushes.  

If you decide to use the smooth side, you may find the paint does not adhere. To help increase the ability of the paint to stick to the board, you will want to use a sander or fine sandpaper to break up the smoothness. 

You don’t want to use excessive pressure when sanding, or you will ruin the panel. 

Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF)

MDF is another manufactured painting panel that is quite popular among novice artists. While MDF panels are like hardboard, they are not just made with compressed wood fibers. 

They are made with wood fibers as well as resin and wax. There are pros and cons to using MDF panels. 


  • MDF is low density.
  • MDF can be thicker than other hardboards.
  • MDF is inexpensive.
  • It is easy to get paint to adhere to MDF panels.


  • MDF can release formaldehyde if it is cut into.

When working with MDF, you must take the proper precautions. While the MDF is ready to be painted on as soon as you take it out of the package, you need to make sure that you prime all sides of the panel so fumes cannot be released. 

If you plan to cut the board, make sure you protect your lungs with a mask. 

Are Wood Panels Expensive?

When preparing to purchase materials for your art project, you may be wondering what the cost is for wood panels. The cost of wood panels can vary depending on the type you choose. 

As described above, hardwood are the most expensive, with MDF’s being the least expensive.

There are many options when it comes to purchasing wood panels. You can purchase each wood option in multi-packs to help get the most value out of your purchase. Here are some of the best to look at. 

A quick search will provide you with many more options in size and number of panels. When determining which option is best, you need to consider the number of projects you intend to do and the best surface for your painting. 

What is the Best Sealant?

Preparing your wood panel for your art project is one of the most critical steps. If you don’t properly prepare the board, you will not have the proper surface to work with, which will impact your work of art.

Because of this, you want to make sure that you are using the best products. Some top sealants are:

Sealing the wood panel is an important step that should not be skipped. Once you have put the sealant on the board, you must let it dry thoroughly before applying the primer. If you don’t’ allow it to dry properly, the paint will not adhere to the wood. 

What is the Best Primer?

Once you have applied the sealant to the wood and set it, you must apply a proper primer. This layer is essential to allow the paint to stick to the wood properly. Some of the best primers are:

These are some of the top-rated primers, but many other options on the market may be suitable primers for your artwork. 

Can I paint Wood with Acrylic?

Most people are used to applying acrylic paint to canvas or even paper, but it is also acceptable and highly possible to paint wood with acrylic paint. It is important to know that all wood is not created equally and will not all accept paint differently.  

Before you can begin painting on wood, you will likely need to prime the wood to help the paint adhere to the surface. 

You can paint without priming, but the paint won’t lay as neatly on the wood. You also run the risk of the wood seeping moisture under the layer of paint and impacting the durability. 

What Wood Should You Not Use Acrylic Paint on?

Many types of wood can be used for acrylic paint, but you should avoid some at all costs. Plywood is highly porous and is nearly impossible to seal. It would help if you never used plywood to create a piece of artwork.  

While most wood types require a layer of sealant and primer to accept acrylic paint effectively, plywood is an exception because all the spaces need to be sealed. 

No matter how many layers of sealant and primer you put on the wood, the paint will still be challenging to adhere to the board. 

Can You Paint Right on The Primer?

Once you have prepared your wood for painting, you may be wondering if you can paint directly on the primer layer. It is recommended that you not paint directly on the primer without adding a base coat or background. 

Applying an all-over basecoat to the panel will allow you to add your detailed work to the top. This added layer will allow the paint to stick to the panel even better than just the primer. (Source: Cowling and Wilcox)

Do You Need to Add a Protective Layer?

Once you have spent hours working on a piece of artwork, the last thing you want to do is watch it get destroyed from moisture or by natural aging. 

To help prevent this deterioration, you will want to add a sealant layer to the finished painting. To do this, you will want to use a sealant or varnish made explicitly for acrylic paint. This will ensure the paint is protected and not destroyed. (Source: The Creative Folk)

Why is Acrylic Paint on Wood Preferred?

When speaking with artists, you will likely find that acrylic paint is preferred for canvas and wood painting. There are many reasons acrylic paint is the preferred option.

  • Acrylic paint is inexpensive.
  • Acrylic paint is water-based, so it is easy to clean up.
  • Acrylic paint doesn’t have the harmful chemicals that other paints do.

Because acrylic paint is virtually harmless, it is most often used in schools and art projects with children. Just because children use it does not mean it isn’t a medium used by professional artists. 

(Source: Paint Topics)

Final Thoughts

Using acrylic paint on wood is a great option when you want to create a piece of art that will be lasting and durable. While this option is viable and provides an excellent base, it must be prepared correctly. 

It is also vital that you choose an option that will fit your needs and where you plan to display the art piece.  

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