Can You Wood Burn Over Acrylic Paint? Possibilities

Yes, you can wood burn over acrylic paint, but it’s not recommended. Some acrylic paints contain heavy metals that create toxic fumes when burnt. As a result, it can make you sick.

Therefore, it’s better to burn the wood and create your preferred shapes and patterns first, then apply acrylic paint to finish the artwork. However, if you insist on wood burning over acrylic paint, you can do it with the necessary precautions.

That was a short answer to can you wood burn over acrylic paint? Let’s get into the details and find out how you can do it and what difficulties you might face while doing so.

Difficulties You’ll Face While Wood Burning Over Acrylic 

Most artists who use the wood burning or pyrography method apply stain over an already burnt and designed wooden piece. This is the easier and safer way of doing wood-burning. Here are the issues you may face while wood burning over paint and some easy solutions- 

1. Toxic Fume Emission 

This is the reason why experts suggest avoiding burning any kind of paint. Be it watercolors, oil paints, or acrylics, all types of paints emit toxic fumes when burnt. Some cheap quality acrylic paint contains harmful heavy metals like lead and other toxic chemicals.

Even good-quality acrylics contain additives and binders that might create harmful smoke upon burning. Acrylic paints contain ingredients like formaldehyde, spirits, ammonia, vinyl chloride, benzene derivatives, etc.

Although these chemicals aren’t harmful to the touch, the burnt gas coming from these chemicals can go into your lungs and cause discomfort.

What’s the Solution? 

You must wear a protective gas mask while burning acrylic paints. The mask will prevent the toxic fume from going into your body. Also, work in a well-ventilated area so that the smoke can pass quickly.

2. Difficulties While Applying 

Acrylic paints are thicker than watercolors which makes them difficult to penetrate. If you apply a thick layer of acrylic paint on the wooden surface, the pyrography tool (typically a heated pen) might not be able to penetrate it.

As a result, you’ll need to put more effort and run the tool over an area several times to create the perfect shape you want.

What’s the Solution?

To solve this problem, you need to thin out the paint consistency before you apply the acrylic paint on the wooden surface. 

Use about 30%-50% water to dilute the acrylic paint, depending on your needs. The ratio of paint and water should be 1:3 or 1:2. You should apply thin layers of paint so that the pyrography pen can easily penetrate them.

Be careful when thinning out the paint at low temperatures because acrylic paint can freeze at a specific temperature.

3. Bad Finish 

As you have to run over an area multiple times, the finished product will have uneven lines and unwanted burns here and there. Also, the paint might peel off upon burning. This will create a mess and might ruin your whole project.

What’s the Solution?

There’s no better way except applying acrylic paint after you’ve burnt the wood, sorry. Or, you have to reapply the paint over the damaged areas, which will take some time and a lot of patience.


To safely burn over acrylic paint, you must wear a gas mask that covers your eyes too. If your paint is too thick, apply thin layers and mix a solvent to achieve a thinner consistency that’s easier to penetrate. 

How to Wood Burn Over Acrylic Paint?

If you have decided to wood burn over acrylic, you need to be careful about certain things. Also, you’ll need a proper guide to follow. Here’s a step-by-step guide to wood burning with acrylics:

Step One – Get the Necessary Tools 

Wood burning is a complicated process that requires several tools. For the process, you need to collect the following items:

  • One wooden piece of your preferred size 
  • Face mask and hand gloves
  • Sandpaper 
  • A bowl and water 
  • Rag 
  • Pencil
  • Graphite Paper
  • Paint Brush 
  • Pyrography pen
  • Acrylic paints
  • A sealant 

Step Two – Prepare the Wood 

First, you need to choose a suitable wooden piece. Birch, poplar, and basswood are the most popular choices. Besides, a 12″x12″ square wooden piece will look good on your walls.

However, for better results, you need to sand the wooden surface with sandpaper. After that, you can wet the wood with a soaked rag to clean the surface and let it dry.

Step Three – Trace Your Design 

Now, select your preferred design and print it. You can choose any template from the internet and edit the size according to your need.

Place the printed design over the wood and use graphite paper to copy it. You can use a pencil to trace the design. When done, check the wood to see if you’ve missed any part.

Step Four – Apply Acrylic Paint 

Although it’s better to apply paint after you’ve embossed the design on the wood, applying paint beforehand will also work. You can wear hand gloves at this point to avoid getting paint on your hands.

Spray paints are easier to apply if you’re not making any intricate artwork. Use a brush for painting patterns and creating highlights. As acrylic paints are pretty thick, you must thin out the paint with water before applying it on the wooden surface.

Wait for an hour or a half to let the paint dry completely. Never work on wet acrylic paint, as it will ruin the paint and the surface.

If you’d like to know about the suitable paint finishes for acrylic paint, you can use polyurethane over acrylic paint.

Step Five – Pyrography Preparation

Before you start, wear a gas mask to save your lungs from toxic fumes. Choose an open area with sufficient airflow, and the fume can easily pass through. Working outdoors is a better option in this case.

A pyrography pen is an affordable and useful option for wood burning. The pen comes with different tips (flat, pointed, round, etc.) for easy application. Use the flat one to cover a large area, while the pointed ones help create intricate designs.

Choose a tip as per your requirements and plug the pyrography pen into a power source. You can also make your own DIY pyrography pen with a soldering iron and wires. 

Let the pen heat up for about five to seven minutes. You can test how the pen works on acrylic paint by using it on scrap wood.

Step Six – Wood Burning 

Take the heated pen and trace the design you created—no need to press it too hard, as it doesn’t make any difference. Instead, you should hold the pen longer on the spot for better results.

To fill larger areas, place the flat tip on the wood for a moment. While tracing curves, use a pointed tip. Keep the pen plugged in throughout the process.

Step Seven – Seal Your Artwork

To preserve the burned wood and paint for a long time, you should seal it well. Lacquer, Mod Podge, Polyurethane, Tung oil, Shellac, etc., are some sealants you can use. However, we recommend using Lacquer as it’s tough, durable, resists smudging, and dries very fast.

Besides, you can thin the Lacquer sealer and polish the sealed surface when it’s dried. Use acetone or a Lacquer thinner recommended by the paint manufacturer to change its consistency. By thinning the Lacquer, you can make it dry faster. It also helps to evenly spread the sealer on the wood surface.

Lacquer comes in both spray and liquid form, as it’s easier to apply. Place the spray canister about 6 to 12 inches away from the wood and apply the product evenly on its surface. Apply at least three coats of the sealant for a durable seal. 

Let the first layer of sealant completely dry before you apply another layer. If you choose the liquid form, don’t use your regular brush to use the sealant. The product clogs the bristles making it difficult to use for later application. So, use one of your old brushes and spread the sealant thinly on the wood.

Frequently Asked Questions 

What is the best paint for wood burning?

Acrylic paints and watercolors are the best options for wood burning. As these paints are water-based, the colors sit well on the wooden surface. Besides, both these paints dry fast, taking about half an hour only.
Acrylics have a thick consistency which makes them suitable for more versatile uses. On the other hand, oil-based paints don’t stick to the wooden surface and take a long time to dry. 
Remember, no matter which type of paint you choose, make sure it doesn’t contain any additives or binders that might damage the wood.

What is the difference between pyrography and wood burning?

The difference between pyrography and wood burning lies in the surface that is being burned. In woodburning, the artist uses a heated tool to create designs, images, and patterns on wood.
Pyrography refers to the art of writing with fire. Here, the burning surface can be anything, including wood, plastic, or metal. As the differences are small, the terms are often used interchangeably.

What wood is not used for pyrography?

Greenwood and toxic wood aren’t typically used for pyrography or wood burning. Freshly cut wood contains higher amounts of water and sap, which create a lot of smoke when burned.
Oleander, Mexican Elder, and Mexican Pepper contain natural poison. If you use them for pyrography, they will create toxic fumes. Chemically treated woods are also not used in pyrography as they create a lot of smoke upon burning.

Is acrylic paint toxic?

No, acrylic paints aren’t considered toxic as they have a water base and are safe to use on all kinds of surfaces. However, you must not consume or burn acrylic paint as it’s harmful to health and creates toxic fumes.

Final Words 

So, can you wood burn over acrylic paint? Now you know it all. As painting over acrylic paint creates a lot of hassles, painting the wood after burning it is the best option. However, if you have chosen the other way, be sure to follow our guide and take the necessary safety measures.

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