Can You Sand Acrylic Paint?

Yes, you can sand acrylic paint. Sanding is good when you must smoothen rough surfaces (such as wood, walls, ceiling, etc.) before painting. Sanding can also help you remove imperfections and erase mistakes if you want to redo an area.

There are just a couple of things you should keep in mind before you start sanding acrylic paint. 

You need to give the paint enough time to dry before you begin sanding, and use fine-grit sandpaper as it will allow you to adjust the pressure based on your need.

Keep reading to find out more as we go through the details.

How Does Sanding Work?

Acrylic is a water-based paint. The thickness of acrylic makes it different from watercolors. When acrylic paint dries, it can leave rough and bumpy surfaces on your canvas which can look rather messy.

The sandpaper’s abrasive nature helps remove any unwanted bumps or imperfections in the paint, creating a smooth finish.

Sandpaper is made of tiny and abrasive particles of sand which are held together by the paper. When you use the paper to rub an uneven surface, small chunks of the materials keep loosening and lastly they fall apart. 

Can You Sand Acrylic Paint?

Yes, you can. In fact, sanding is the most effective way to remove paint from different surfaces. Now the real question is which acrylic painted surfaces are you allowed to sand? Let us walk you through. 

Acrylic Paint on Different SurfacesCan You Sand It?
Acrylic paint on woodYes
Acrylic paint on canvasYes
Acrylic paint on glassYes
Acrylic paint on metalYes

Apart from the mentioned surfaces, if you use acrylic paint as nail polish, you still need to use a sanding band as a crucial step of the process.

Why Should You Sand Acrylic Paint?

The benefits of sanding acrylic paint go way beyond just smoothing out rough bumps. 

Here are some ways you can use sandpaper to better your art −

Erasing Droplets

As a water-based paint, acrylic can quite easily drip and run through your painting in unwanted places and ruin the final product. Fortunately, you can use sanding to get rid of those stains without having to completely destroy your work. However, go with wet sanding for creating a proper ground for the droplets. 

Smoothing out the Surface

Maybe you have lumps of acrylic paint clotted up in one place, or you’re just using a rough wooden surface as a canvas. In either case, grab that handy sandpaper and even out the bumps.

Sanding acrylic paint on wood will make the colors stick to the canvas more easily and give off a cleaner finish.

Adding Extra Layers of Paint

If you want to paint over pre-existing coats of paint, sanding can help create a suitable surface for that. Sanding will eliminate the accumulated dust and improve the newer coat of paint stick.

Make Colors More Consistent

You can only sometimes use the paintbrush to have the desired effect on colors. Sanding is a tool that can help you achieve a uniform and consistent look across the canvas.

The reason behind this would be fine touch to the surface. Sanding makes most of the surfaces acrylic friendly. The colors not only sit properly but also stay over years while looking vibrant and cheerful. 


Sanding acrylic paint is good for maintaining a smooth surface and removing imperfections. Moreover, it helps you add extra coats of paint to let the paint stick better. That’s not all; it can even aid you in making the colors stay more consistent. Consequently, your painting outcomes get the best edge. 

How to Prepare Things for Sanding Acrylic Paint

Here are the things you’ll need −

  • Fine grit sandpaper (preferably between 100-120 grit)
  • Face mask
  • Water
  • Clean dry cloth
  • Duster
  • Eye-protection glasses


You need to wear a face mask and eye-protection glasses to prevent harmful particles from entering your system. 

Acrylic paints are considered to be safe. But if somehow the chemical fumes in this paint enter your body while sanding, the consequences would be hazardous and in some cases (lungs or kidney) can be life threatening. 

The chemical fumes can damage your skin and hair, which isn’t acceptable at all and is hard to treat. 

A fine-grit sandpaper will smooth out the rough edges more easily, whereas a coarse one might remove too much paint. Nevertheless, you still need to be gentle with it.

And finally, you’ll need the clean dried cloth and the duster to clean off any dirt or debris that the sandpaper has removed.

How to Sand Acrylic Paint?

When you have got all your things ready, go through the following steps as we teach you to sand the canvas and how smooth out dried acrylic paint −

Prepare the Canvas

Depending on the surface you are painting, adjust the grit of your sandpaper. If it’s a hard and rough surface like wood, then use coarse sandpaper (60-70 grit). 

Once you have a smoother canvas, remove any dust particles using the clean-dried cloth and duster. 

First, dust the surface off for any heavy chunks. Once done, use the clean dried cloth to ensure no small particles remain carefully.

You can start painting after you have made sure the surface is completely clean and without dust.

Wait for the Paint to Dry

Depending on the number of layers and thickness, the paint can take between 20 minutes to 2 hours to completely dry. 

Sanding the paint while it’s still wet will simply smear the paint around. Consequently, you’ll never be able to achieve a smooth finish.

Sprinkle Water on the Painting 

As water-based paint, acrylic colors aren’t toxic. However, using the paint can cause irritation, gastric, burning sensation in the throat and mouth, and stomach ache.

Sprinkling on a bit of water before sanding will dampen the paint and prevent acrylic dust from being inhaled. Also, don’t forget to wear a face mask and eye-protection glasses.

In case, you need to preserve specific areas of white paper or canvas while applying acrylic paint on it, using masking fluid with acrylic paint will be a good idea.

Use Circular Motion to Sand

A back-and-forth motion can leave visible streaks and scratches. On the other hand, a circular round motion will keep the colors uniform and leave no visible marks. 

Use fine-grit sandpaper on the painting (100-120 grit). If the sandpaper is too coarse, it can damage the paint and canvas.

Apply Minimal Pressure

Sand lightly. Acrylic colors are much softer and more sensitive than oil-based paint. So, applying too much pressure can remove too much paint.

Wipe Away the Dust 

Once done, use a clean, dry cloth to wipe away the dust and debris. Particle remains can create weird bumps on your painting, and you’ll have to sand it again to get rid of them unless you do it the first time.


Use coarse sandpaper to smooth out the canvas first. Wear safety equipment so as not to ingest any acrylic dust. 

Sand the paint after it has dried using round motion and gentle pressure. Clean off with a dry cloth when sanding.

What Grit Sandpaper to Use Between Coats?

320 to 400 Grit Sandpaper since it’s a light sandpaper and makes the surface really smooth and textured for the next layer of paint. Let us break down the information in the case of different sandpapers. 

  • Medium-  180 – 220 Grit
  • Fine– 150- 220 Grit
  • Very Fine- 320 to 400 Grit 

What Are The Risks of Sanding Acrylic Paint?

Sanding acrylic paint isn’t all about the ins. There are some drawbacks that might keep you from sanding acrylic paint. Check these out:

  • If your paint isn’t completely dry before sanding, the process will entirely ruin the surface
  • Often sanding leads you to uneven finish and undesired outcomes if it’s not done properly. Especially when you don’t clean off the dust it creates
  • Sanding roughly can damage the surface severely. 

Suitability of Sanding on Different Types of Surfaces 

Sanding’s results vary depending on the surfaces. Actually, paints determine the requirements of sanding as well. For instance, chalk paint doesn’t need any kind of sanding to smoothen the surface additionally. Just painting would be more than enough. 

However, now we’re about to discuss the suitability of sanding for different types of surfaces. 

Wall Sanding

This is a nice step. Sanding the walls makes them flat, and smoother, and helps the paint to sit more accurately. You’ll get the nicest finish and desired painting outcomes. 

However, consider using a low-grade element for wall sanding since the spackle and primer will be sanded quite effortlessly. There’s no need to buy expensive tools for this.  

Wood Sanding 

Sanding has been proven to be the best option when it comes to wood sanding. It makes the wood flawless, and you get a spotless finish once you’re done painting. Thus, many artists believe wood sanding should always be included. 

Ceiling Sanding 

Ceiling sanding is quite a difficult task and beginners might need help with it. But we can’t help but admit that this will make the ceiling even, and the paint will sit smoothly. Hiring a professional for the ceiling sanding would be the best idea.

Bottom Line

So, can you sand acrylic paint off the canvas? The answer is an obvious YES, as sanding can sometimes become a necessary part of the art process. 

Acrylic paint dries quickly compared to oil-based paints and can leave air bubbles and lumps. Sanding helps to eliminate these defects on your masterpiece to that you can have a smooth finish.

Besides just fixing mistakes, sanding can also help you add different textures and cool effects to your painting. If you plan to add additional paint layers, sanding helps it adhere to the surface better.

All you need is fine grit sandpaper, some safety equipment, a dry cloth, and some water, and you’re good to go!

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