Why Acrylic Paint Not Sticking to Canvas?− Solutions and Tips

The most common reason is that the canvas is not perfectly prepared for painting. For acrylic paint to adhere to the canvas, the canvas must be sanded and primed with an quality primer.

Having suitable materials and tools is essential when it comes to painting. But what happens when your acrylic paint not sticking to canvas

In this blog, we’ll explore the various reasons why your acrylic paint might not be sticking to your canvas and discuss ways to fix the problem.

Reasons Why Acrylic Paint Is Not Sticking to Canvas

Here are the most common reasons why acrylic paint may not be sticking to your canvas.

Inadequate Humidity

If there’s not enough humidity in the air where you’re applying the paint, the paint-filled pores can dry out and peel. For this, the optimum humidity level needs to be ensured. The recommended range of humidity is from 40% to 60%.

Not Using Priming

Lack of priming can often be a significant reason for acrylic paint not sticking to the canvas.

Priming is crucial on this part; if you don’t prime the surface of the canvas, it will mix and sink in the canvas and thus leaving more colorless patches on the surface of the painting. 

Priming the canvas with an acrylic gesso will ensure that the canvas is adequately prepared for the acrylic paint and will act as a barrier for the paint to bond to.

Oil and Dust

Oil and dust can create a barrier between the paint and the canvas, resulting in the paint not having enough adhesion. 

To avoid this, gently wipe down the canvas with a damp cloth until it is spotless and allow it to dry.

Using Wrong Paint

Often, artists mistakenly use student-grade paints instead of professional-grade across different painting projects. 

Professional-grade paints are formulated differently from student-grade paints and typically have higher binders, making them adhere better to the canvas.

Applying Thick Layers of Paint

Do not apply thick layers of paint on the canvas. The heavy layer doesn’t adhere to the surface and begins to peel away. For this, use several thin layers instead of a single thick layer of the paint.

Too Much Acrylic Medium

Too much acrylic medium can cause a weak bond between the canvas and the paint, resulting in flaking and eventually leading to the paint peeling away from the canvas.

Not Sanding the Canvas

Sanding the canvas lightly before painting can help to create a better surface for the paint to bond to. 

You could use sandpaper for this, or for more extensive areas, you can use a foam sanding block or sponge.


Acrylic paint not sticking to canvas can be attributed to humidity, lack of priming, oil/dust, incorrect paint-to-canvas ratio, and wrong paint. 

Professional-grade paints should be used with adequate water added to increase adhesion.

How to Prepare The Surface for Applying Acrylic Paint?

The canvas must be adequately prepared to ensure the colors remain vibrant and the paint has a long-lasting finish. 

Here are some steps to follow to ensure the best outcome −

Removing Gesso from The Canvas 

The canvas should be free of any existing gesso layers to ensure the colors from the acrylic paint show true. 

A sander can be used to remove existing gesso if present. Before sanding, tape off areas that do not need to be sanded, such as the canvas’s edge. 

Applying Primer 

Once the existing gesso is removed, or if none is applied in the first place, a primer should be applied. The primer helps the acrylic paint adhere to the canvas and enhances the colors. 

Depending on the paint you are applying and the desired final product, the primer should be either an acrylic primer or a gesso primer. 

These primers are suitable for painting because they dry faster and are solid, making the surface stiffer. Therefore, it gets ready and prepared to accept the acrylic paint, making the exterior more balanced.

If we talk about gesso, it has a great and smooth matte finish. That is why painters use this and make their painting look perfectly good. Thus gesso protects and enhances the outer exterior of the canvas etc.

Apply Acrylic Paint and Let It Dry 

Once the primer is dry, apply the acrylic paint. Make sure to blend colors, as needed, as you paint. 

When the painting is complete, the canvas should be allowed to dry. Usually, the paint will take around 6-8 hours to dry, depending on the paint used.


Before painting with acrylic on canvas, any existing gesso layers should be removed, and a primer should be applied. 

Once the primer is dry, the acrylic paint can be applied. The canvas should then be allowed to dry for 6-8 hours.

What to Do When Acrylic Paint Not Sticking to Canvas

Have you ever encountered this infuriating situation where the acrylic paint not sticking to the canvas? It’s so frustrating, and it almost feels like a waste of time. 

We can understand how annoying and disheartening it can be, but there are a few simple tricks you can use to fix this problem and get your desired result.

  • Clean and Dry the Fabric − This is important if you want the paint to stick correctly. Dirt and debris can easily interfere with the paint, and it won’t stick to the canvas if it’s not smooth and clean. Visit the linked source to know everything about using acrylic paint on fabric.

Use lint-free clothes to wipe the canvas and ensure no dust or dirt.

  • Prime the Canvas and Allow it to Dry Once the canvas is clean and dry, you should prime it before applying any acrylic paint. 

Use a quality primer and let it dry before you start painting. It’ll help the paint to adhere well to the canvas.

  • Pre-Test the Paint Combination Once the primer has dried, you should use a pre-test to determine if the paint and canvas combination will work properly. 

You can apply a small amount of paint to a poster board and then place it over the canvas. You’re good to go if the paint is sticking to the canvas.


First, clean and dry the fabric thoroughly to ensure the acrylic paint sticks to the canvas. 
Prime it, then pre-test the paint combination and let it dry completely. All this will ensure a successful painting.

Tips and Tricks for Acrylic Paint on Canvas

Getting the most out of your artwork requires knowing the right tips and tricks for using acrylic paints on a canvas. Here are some of the best ones to help you out.

Use Additives to Increase Adhesion

To ensure the paint holds in place and doesn’t crack prematurely, try adding adhesion solutions such as Tri-Art’s GAC 900 acrylic medium and Golden Acrylic Retarder. 

This helps to improve the strength of the paint when it’s applied to your canvas, giving it greater longevity.

Work Quickly and Utilize Gel Mediums

As the paint is solvent-based, it dries after it’s applied, meaning you have to hustle if attempting to create a detailed image. Here you’ll find whether acrylic paint is water-soluble or not (in case you needed it!). 

On the other hand, gel mediums can help keep your work fluid for a more extended period, giving you precious extra minutes to work your painting into what you envisioned.

Utilize Multiple Layering Techniques

A great technique to explore when creating artwork on a canvas is layering. Layering paints can create textures and hues that can be hard to achieve with a single shade. 

For example, start with a light layer of orange or yellow, followed by a darker layer of red, and finish it off with a thick layer of black for a unique effect.


Using additives to ensure paint adhesion, working quickly, and utilizing multiple layering techniques are key tips and tricks for acrylic paint on canvas. Gel mediums can also be helpful, allowing for more detailed artwork.

Alternatives to Acrylic Paint for Canvas

Depending on the types of effects you want, several alternatives to acrylic paint might be more suitable for your project.

Watercolor Paints

Watercolor paints are often used for soothing effects and softer colors. The art of watercolor painting is a great way to bring a unique, fine art feel to your canvas pieces. 

With careful brush strokes that softly blend, this type of paint looks impressive when used on light-colored backgrounds. Watercolor painting could be the right choice if you want a more ethereal effect. 

Water paints combine a few ingredients, such as glycerin and preserve the color viscosity and pigment. Most of the watercolors binders are natural, but you can mix anything glycol that acts as a binder. The painters can choose water colors, whether transparent or more extreme or semi transparent. 

It dries faster, 5-10 minutes, but sometimes it is changeable and may rely on the humidity and the amount of water the painters use. Thus cleaning will be very easy since it is water-based, and on the other hand, you can easily wipe off the painting with a wet cloth or something. 

Oil Paints

Oil paint is thicker and more durable than watercolor and acrylic and can be used to layer beautiful textures onto the canvas. You can also mix and blend colors easily with oil paint, creating even more striking looks. 

Plus, oil paint has a longer shelf life, meaning your paintings can stay vibrant for longer.

Air-Dry Clay

Another option for your canvas works is air-dry clay. This type of clay is different from the kind you might use during pottery classes, as air-dry clay is specially formulated to stay intact after exposure to air. 

It makes it perfect for creating dimensional, exciting work on canvas. Since air-dry clay dries quickly, it’s also great for those who don’t have much time for painting or sculpting.

Clay is a natural substance; it has no mix of anything regarding painting things. They are free of toxic ingredients and are recyclable.

Unique designs can be easily made, and it is also dry and a good alternative for a painting. Clay is healthy, environmentally friendly, and can be decorative; clay is not harmful like painting colors. Clays can be easily shaped like you want and can repair damaged walls and many more.   


Watercolor, oil, and air-dry clay are all great alternatives to acrylic paint for canvas art. Watercolor paints offer softer colors. 

Oil paints can create beautiful textures and blend colors easily. And air-dry clay is specially formulated to stay intact after exposure to air.

Final Thoughts   

When it comes to acrylic paint not sticking to canvas, persistence and patience can often be essential if your painting isn’t sticking at first. 

Following these tips, experimenting with different painting techniques, and even receiving professional advice from experienced artists can help ensure success. 

With some patience, persistence, and practice, you can learn to master the art of painting with acrylics on canvas. Feel free to experiment, have fun, and get advice from experienced artists to help you with acrylic painting on canvas.

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