Can You Sand Acrylic Paint? [All You Need to Know]

Sandpaper, one of the most useful things in your toolkit; can be used for making a surface smoother, removing a layer of old paints, or making a surface rougher.

You might also want to put it on the toilet paper holder just to check how Newton’s first law of motion (‘an object will not change its motion unless a force acts on it’) works on your family member who spends too much time on the toilet! That’s highly not recommended though.

can you sand acrylic paint
Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash

But we are not going to that discussion. Our topic at hand is can you sand acrylic paint? So, let’s stick to our topic and go through some other relevant questions to give you a clear overview of the topic. Let’s begin.

Important Read: Can You Wash Acrylic Paint?

Can You Sand Acrylic Paint?

To answer the question in a pretty straight forward way: yes, you can sand and can sand acrylic paint. In fact, you can use sandpaper on acrylic paints for different reasons such as cleaning up some areas, adding some effects and textures, or just fixing some mistakes here and there.

Are you determined that you are going to sand acrylic paint? Always remember the following three pieces of advice from the “wise old man” so that your work-piece doesn’t get messed up entirely.

  • Always use sandpaper with the right grit.
  • Check the quality of the paint you are working with.
  • Never try sanding before you master the right technique.

That’s pretty much everything from the “wise old man”. Now let’s move on and check out if sanding acrylic paint is safe or not.

Also Read: Water Dipping Painting with Acrylic Paint

Is It Safe to Sand Acrylic Paint?

Yes, it is safe to sand acrylic paints as long as you are using the sandpaper with the right grit and you apply the proper sanding techniques, just like I said before.

If you start to sand your art piece without choosing the sandpaper with the right grit your art piece could end up getting completely ruined.

Another thing is you should always be careful about your fingers when sanding, it doesn’t matter if you are an amateur or a professional. You may get badly injured. So, take precautions, better safe than sorry.

What Sandpaper Do You Use for Acrylic?

There are tons of sandpapers out there in the market. Different sandpapers come with different grits. And for your information: grit is basically the size of the particles of abrading materials used on the sandpaper. Sandpapers with higher grit make smooth finishes and lower grits make the scraping of material easier.

So, which sandpaper is ideal for sanding on acrylic paints? Which one should I buy?

Well, in our case we are sanding on acrylic paint to create some effect or something like that. So, we don’t need sandpapers with higher grits, they might damage your work if you vigorously use it. So, you need to go for sandpapers with low grit, like 100 to 120. But don’t go higher than that.

Which Surfaces Are Ideal for Sanding?

Before we answer this question, let’s check out which surfaces are good for acrylic paints. The answer would be glass, metal, or wood. So, if you choose any of these materials for painting acrylic, sometimes it’s better to make the surface smooth first. It helps to achieve a nice and even paint finish.

Now, to answer which surfaces are ideal for sanding would be the same; glass, metal, and wood. You can sand the surface first if you are working with any of these materials. And after your artwork dries, this time you can sand on the paint itself for adding textures and effects if you want.

Next Read: Does Acrylic Paint Create Flame?

Can You Sand Down Paint on Canvas?

Ever thought of sanding the paint down directly from the canvas? Some people might. And this section is dedicated to them.

Definitely you can sand down the paint on canvas if you find the paint too bumpy after it is completely dried. You should pick sandpaper with a fine grit and sand it carefully on the paint. But be careful, don’t apply too much pressure or don’t overdo it. Trust me; you don’t want to ruin your artwork by sanding the canvas itself.

Can You Sand Acrylic Paint on Wood?

Yes, you can sand acrylic paint on wood. In fact, wood goes perfectly with acrylic paints. To achieve the best results when working with wood and acrylic paints, you need to prepare it first.

How to prepare wood for painting? Well, it’s easy just sand the areas gently that you want to paint. Sanding the wood will make it much easier for the paint to adhere to your painting surface and give a dazzling look after it is completely dried.

Is It Vital to Dry Acrylic Paint before Sanding?

It is necessary to give some time to make sure that your artwork is completely dried. You must give the artwork enough time to dry all the layers, not just the surface layer. Because if you sand down the artwork without ensuring that all layers are perfectly dried, you might end up messing up all that hard work.

So, if you want to add some effects, textures, or just cover up some mistakes you should always give the art piece enough time to dry. After you feel it’s dried, you may use any fine sandpaper and sand down the desired areas of your artwork.

How to Sand an Acrylic Paint?

Okay, it’s time to sand an acrylic paint practically. But before we get started you need to collect some materials to start sanding the acrylic paint. So, here are the things that you need to collect:

  • Acrylic paints
  • Sandpaper
  • Canvas
  • Wood

After collecting the materials we are ready to go. Now, let’s check out the steps that you should follow.

Step 1: Sanding the Surface

The first step to sand acrylic paint is sanding the surface. You may also call it as a prerequisite for sanding an acrylic paint.

If you are working on surfaces like wood, metal or some substances like the acrylic gesso primer, you should sand these surfaces first.

For your information: acrylic gesso primer is a substance similar to paint and it is used in the canvas for preventing acrylic paints and oils from getting soaked through the canvas fabric.

Okay, back to our topic. If you have applied the gesso primer, you will notice that it not only sealed the canvas but also changed the texture of it. So, to make it smooth and ready for applying coats, use sandpaper with a good grit.

Step 2: Sanding the Acrylic Paint

Ever heard of impasto technique? Yeah, just like Van Gogh’s “The starry night”. If you use impasto technique there is a possibility of creating some rough textures. So, the second step will be removing those unwanted rough textures using sandpaper with a fine grit.

Wet the acrylic first because sanding acrylic causes dust and the dust might cause health problems if you inhale it. You can also do it the other way by soaking the sandpaper itself, this will work the same.

And finally, use the sandpaper in a gentle motion and even out those rough, unwanted textures.

Step 3: Sanding for Final Decorations

It’s like the opposite of step 2. In this step you can add rough texture to your artwork. If you want to give your finished artwork a satin like appearance you can sand down the paint gently. This will remove the shine and give you a nice rough acrylic paint.

The other benefit of sanding is that it allows you to make some special effects on your artwork. You can easily make an artwork that looks like an aged masterpiece by sanding on it.

To make your artwork look time-worn and rusty, first you need to drip or spray multiple layers of paint on the canvas. And then after the last layer is completely dried, sand down your desired coats of that paint using fine sandpaper. This will reveal the color beneath and give you a nice distressed look.

Learn how to sand an acrylic paint


Sanding down acrylic paints can be very useful in various ways, from fixing some spots here and there to adding mind blowing effects and textures.

Perfect sanding requires patience and proper techniques. You may not have the skills now and you can’t develop skills in just a day or two. That’s why keep experimenting on your artworks to master the techniques to achieve your desired finish.

But don’t experiment on Newton’s first law of motion using sandpapers; this might make someone say ‘you guys sit, standing is fine for me for a couple of days’!

About the Author

Ivan McCloud