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Craft Paint – Finding the Right Type

There are numerous types of craft paints – each suitable for different projects. This buying guide is geared toward selecting the right paint for the type of activity, project, and age group. Acrylic and enamels paints offer wide versatility, while poster, glitter, metallic, chalkboard, dimensional, glow in the dark, outdoor, fabric, chalky, milk, oil-based, and face paints have more specific applications. Uses for stains, mediums, and paints that add texture will also be mentioned.

Spray, oil-based, watercolor, and fabric paints will be covered in separate sections.

Acrylic vs. Enamel Craft Paint

Craft paints can be acrylic or enamel; some can be washed off of clothing and skin, and others are very permanent. They can be water or oil based. Oil based paints tend to be thicker and more permanent, while water based paints can be washed more easily and can be diluted for a thinner coat.

Ceramcoat Acrylic Paint

Acrylic Paint

Acrylic paint is a pigment mixed with an acrylic polymer. The acrylic paint can be used directly out of the bottle for an opaque effect, or diluted by mixing with water to create a lighter wash of color. Acrylic paint is created with an emulsion of water, so it is considered a "water based" paint, rather than an "oil based" paint. Acrylic paint can be bought in bottles, tubes, pots, or jugs – in either matte or glossy. It is used widely by decorative artists and for general craft use. This paint generally cleans up easily with soapy water, but it dries quickly and colors are permanent when dry.

Acrylic paint works well for: paper, poster board, paper maché, Styrofoam, primed metal, terracotta, bisque, plaster, resin, wood, canvas, and more. Acrylics are often used for tole painting and stenciling. Enamel paints work better than acrylic on glass and other non-porous surfaces. Acrylics may be used on fabric but adding a textile medium is recommended. For use outdoors, select paints suitable for exterior use.


Plaid FolkArt Enamel Paint

Enamel Paint

Enamel Paint can be water or oil based. Enamel paints for craft use are usually water- based. It takes around 24 hours for enamel paints to dry. Once dry, it creates a hard surface that is more difficult to chip and more permanent than acrylic paint. Enamel paints are used mostly on hard, non-porous surfaces such as glass, metal, tiles, or ceramics. They work well for furniture in high use areas – especially when protection is needed from hard wear, variations in temperature, moisture exposure, and grime. Some enamel paints need to be baked to harden completely or be dishwasher safe.


Krylon Chalkboard Paint

Chalkboard Paint

Use chalkboard paint on a wall, board, box, or frame to create a finish that can be written on with a piece of chalk and erased. Generally available in black or medium green colors.


Plaid FolkArt Home Decor Texture Chalk Paint

Chalky Finish Paint

Chalky finish paints have an ultra-matte finish; they work well for furniture and home décor – especially for a time-worn, shabby chic, or modern rustic look. They are multi-surface paints that can be used on decorative glass, furniture, cabinets, and walls. Primer may not be needed; read instructions for product. The chalk-like finish can be sanded and distressed. Non-toxic and cleans up with soap and water. Usually finished with a wax that is buffed to seal the paint and provide a smooth protective finish. Texture chalk paint adds dimension to the painted surface.


Scribbles Paint

Dimensional or Puffy Paint

This acrylic paint is usually squeezed from a tube, and is easily used to write words or draw pictures onto clothing, felt, fabric, or any thick material.


DecoArt Patio Paint

Exterior Paint

Exterior or outdoor paint is specially formulated weatherproof paint that you can use outdoors to spruce up terra cotta pots, lawn ornaments, rocks, bricks, and a variety of other surfaces. Very durable, and will last under all kinds of weather conditions.


Plaid Fabric Creations Fantasy Glitter Paint

Fabric Paint

Fabric paint can be used to paint a design on fabric or clothing. It can be washed, but take care to read the washing and drying instructions on the specific paint you use. Some fabric paints need to be heat set with an iron, but others can air dry. To learn more about fabric paint, visit the Fabric Dye and Fabric Paint – Kits and Types.


Handy Art Face Paint

Face Paint

A water based paint that sits on top of the skin instead of soaking in. It easily and gently washes off skin, but should be used with caution on clothing. It is a great touch for Halloween costumes and birthday parties.


Plaid FolkArt Extreme Glitter Paint

Glitter Paint

Many paints have the addition of glitter for an added sparkle. Some glitter paints have a clear base coat, while others have a base to match the color of the glitter. For opaque glitter coverage, use multiple thin coats of glitter.


DecoArt Americana Glow in the Dark Paint

Glow in the Dark Paint

This paint will illuminate at night or in a dark room. Great for Halloween costumes, safety items, or just fun designs!


DecoArt Pouring Medium


Add a specially formulated medium to a regular craft paint to change the appearance or consistency of the paint. It can be used to antique, extend drying time, or give the paint a matte effect. Fabric paint medium converts acrylics to fabric paint. Pouring medium helps a paint flow across a surface easily.


DecoArt Extreme Sheen Metallic Paint

Metallic Paint

Resembling the shiny pearlescent finish of metal, metallic paints can give you the look of gold, silver and other metallic accents inexpensively. Perfect for home decorating, faux finishing, and adding metallic accents to picture frames, lamps, vases, figurines, ornaments, candle holders and more. Many are water-based with easy soap and water cleanup but there are exceptions; read instructions before use. Most have a glossy finish but some are matte. Some of the brands listed below offer a metallic luster in non-metal colors.


Plaid FolkArt Milk Paint

Milk Paint

Milk paints are casein based paints similar to those used in colonial America. They work well for the restoration of vintage or reproduction furniture and for a shabby chic or modern rustic look. Milk paints brush on smoothly and dry quickly to a dead flat finish. They are non-toxic, durable, and water based for easy clean-up. The Milk Paint Bonding Primer & Sealer enable milk paint to adhere to metal and previously painted, varnished, and lacquered surfaces.


Plaid FolkArt Brush Lettering Paint

Oil Paints

Oil paints for art work are pigment suspended in an oil, such as linseed oil. They offer vibrant colors, dry slowly for increased working time, and blend easily. Painters may thin oil paints and alter the drying time with the addition of solvents and other oils. Canvases for oil painting are usually pre-primed with white gesso. Oil paints require adequate ventilation and skin protection. Oil paints are usually are in tubes, but may be in the form of oil pastel sticks which work well on textured paper like watercolor paper.


Handy Art Tempera Paint

Poster or Tempera Paint

Poster paints, also known as tempera paints, work well with kids’ crafts because they are easy to wash off of hands and most fabrics. These paints are used on paper for painting signs, finger painting, and a variety of crafts.  


American Crafts Color Pour Pre-Mixed Pouring Paint

Pouring Paint

Pour art usually requires mixing acrylic paints with a pouring medium and perhaps silicone oil. Pouring medium is added to acrylic paint to enable smooth pouring across a surface and cell creation. Convenient pre-mixed pouring paints are the correct consistency for pour art – will pour and spread over a canvas or other surface and dry to a water resistant finish. Embellishments such as metallic foils, pearl powder, mica flakes, gold flakes, and glitter may be added for special effects. The paints are available in sets of complementary colors. Color Pour Cell Magic adds cells with or without a torch and Prism Varnish seals artwork with an iridescent finish.


Krylon Craft Foam Primer


Primers prepare surfaces for painting or other purposes. Paint primers ready a surface such as wood, masonry, metal, rod iron, wicker, and plaster for painting. A prep sealer acts as a primer for porous surfaces and decreases the number of coats needed. Stain blockers are used to cover raw, unfinished woods so stains and natural wood tannins do not bleed through paint. Foam primer cover foam for painting. Magnetic primer provides a topcoat that will hold magnets. Dry erase paint primer enables a surface to be writeable/erasable. Different primers will work on some surfaces and not others; read instructions for appropriate use.


Plaid Patricia Nimocks Clear Acrylic Sealer


Sealers protect painted surfaces by enhancing durability and color adhesion. Surface sealers and acrylic paint sealers may protect smooth and non-porous surface; read instructions for specific use. They usually offer a choice of matte or gloss finish – and even glitter! Milk Paint Bonding Primer and Sealer may be used to seal milk paints and acrylics. Pottery sealer protect against water seepage and staining. Glazes also may used as sealers for various surfaces but generally are not intended for outdoor use.


Design Master Colortool Spray Paint

Spray Paint

Paints and tints that come in an aerosol can coat an object with an even and thin coat. Usually, the color becomes more opaque with multiple coats. Spray paints work well for painting items with corners and crevices that cannot be easily painted with a brush. Most need to be used in well ventilated areas. Some translucent spray paints/tints may be used on fresh or faux flowers.


Plaid Gallery Glass Window Color

Stained Glass Window Effect

These paints create a cathedral stained glass window effect on glass, mirrors, Plexiglass, and more. The colors may be separated by faux leading in liquid or strips to enhance the stained glass look.


DecoArt Americana Decor Color Stain


Enhance the look of wood by painting it with a stain. This semi-opaque paint will deepen the color of the wood, but still allow the grain to show through. Stains are usually the colors of wood (oak, cherry, walnut, maple, etc.) but some color stains are available.


DecoArt Americana Decor Texture

Textured Paint Finishes

Some paints offer textured finishes. Crackle finish is a texturizer painted on top of a color layer that breaks apart when dry, creating an aged crackle effect over an undercoat of paint. Heavy-bodied paints may add dimensional texture. Stone and other paints add the fine, gritty textured feel of stone for indoor/outdoor use.


Ken Oliver Liquid Watercolor

Watercolor Paints

Watercolor paints are water based paints that offer transparency and tinting. They may be brushed with water for a color wash effect and work best on watercolor paper, board, or canvas. Paints sets offer a variety of colors; they may be geared to children or adults.  Watercolors in powder form are water based, non-toxic, intense paint powders which may be used on wood, fabric, paper, and canvas. The powder may used in different ways for varied effects: applying wet-on-wet, sprinkling powder on a wet surface, and mixing the powder with water and spritzing it.


Design Master Crystal Frost

Window Frosting

These products create ice and snow patterns on windows, mirrors, and other glass surfaces. They are mainly used for holiday and winter decoration.


DecoArt Glass Paint Marker

Window Paint Writers

Decorate windows with bright, vibrant writing – without the mess of jar paint.


Ideas and Inspiration with Craft Paint

  • Mix an acryllic paint with resin to form a bubbly effect. Make sure to wear a mask and work in a well ventilated area when resin painting.
  • Paint rocks with glow in the dark paint and line your garden path for extra illumination at night. They will charge with sunlight throughout the day.
  • Paint the top of an old desk with chalkboard paint for a homework station.
  • Use a medium to antique painted furniture
  • Spray Paint random toys and objects bright colors for fun and unique decor


Projects Using Craft Paint

Sandy Seashore Painting 

Valentine Painted Birds

Painted Bear

Painted Pine Cones

Puffy Paint Window Clings

DIY Craft Paint Storage

Christmas Tree Farm Truck Painting

 Sandy Seashore Painting   Sandy Seashore Painting  

Check out the Think Crafts blog for more projects that use craft paint.

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