How to Paint Rubber Without Cracking

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Last updated: May 2, 2023

A Detailed Guide on Spray Painting Rubber Without Cracking.

How to paint rubber without cracking

How to paint rubber without cracking is one of the frequently asked questions we receive from our readers. Often you’ll end up with a cracked rubber surface because of painting the wrong type of rubber using the wrong spray paint.

It is important to know that not every rubber can be painted, and not every paint is compatible with rubber. You only need to remember to work with the right type of rubber vis-à-vis the kind of paint used.

In this article, I’ll dive into the nature of rubber, which paint is suitable for each rubber type, what supplies you need to spray paint rubber surfaces, and finally, how to paint rubber without cracking. 

Can You Paint Rubber

Yes, you can paint rubber with the right type of paint specific to the type of rubber. Some rubber types are not compatible with regular paint unless you use a special paint specifically for that rubber and unless you follow the correct preparations and methods.

What Are the Different Types of Rubber?

There are two different rubber categories: natural rubber and synthetic rubber. Natural rubber is commonly made from the milky liquid (latex) of the Hevea Brasiliensis tree.

This type of rubber is often used in making tires, gloves, and insulation. 

On the other hand, synthetic rubber is an artificial or manufactured variation. While it has different properties from natural rubber, it has the same quality and comes in several different types, including: 

  • Polyurethane Rubber (PUR or PU)
  • Silicone Rubber (Q)
  • Nitrile Rubber (NBR)
  • Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer (EPDM)
  • Butyl Rubber (IIR) or Isobutylene-isoprene
  • Neoprene Rubber (CR)
  • Styrene – Butadiene Rubber (SBR)

What Are the Differences Between Natural Rubber And Synthetic Rubber?

Before we understand the difference between these rubber types, let’s look at their similarities. Both rubber types have an adjustable temperature which is relatively low.

They also have high tensile strength and abrasion.

The significant difference is that natural rubber has a much higher tensile strength than synthetic rubber. It’s also highly resistant to tear and chipping, making it more suitable for use in steel cords or vehicle tires. 

Synthetic rubber comes in different varieties, is highly adaptable, and can be made with whatever properties suit the application. Unlike natural rubber, synthetic rubber has a strong odor and is more resilient.

So which spray paint can you use on natural or synthetic rubber?

Which Paints Can You Apply on Rubber Surfaces?

Depending on the application, the following paint formulations should inform your decision on the right paint to use on rubber. 

For Durability: Exterior Paint for Rubber 

Durability is a critical factor when you want to spray paint rubber, especially for exterior applications.

If you wish to paint outdoor rubber items, you need something that will withstand the elements. That’s when you should go for exterior paint for rubber. 

The rubber material should have an exterior primer coat before you apply the paint on it if you want to enhance its adhesion and durability.  

You can opt to spray paint or brush roll the material, but spray painting is often the easiest and most recommended for rubber items. 

Commercial-grade Marine Paint

One thing that makes marine paint an excellent choice for rubber painting is its weather-resistant properties. It’s one of the best paints to use on rubber if you want to avoid cracking or peeling. 

Since this paint is used in water-based projects like swimming pools and rubber parts of boats, it can withstand water and sunlight. 

Removable Rubber Coating

If you wish to apply a temporary coating on the rubber items, the best approach is to work with a removable coating.

This type of paint is suitable for short-term projects, just as it is durable and doesn’t chip or crack. It’s available in spray bottles which is another plus if convenience and flexibility are your things. What’s more, it is easy to remove it from rubber surfaces like tires.

Acrylic Paint

This goes to those indoor house rubber items and craft pieces that you want to dry faster after spray painting. Acrylic can withstand wear and tear but is generally suitable for indoor painting projects. 

How Can You Paint Rubber Without Cracking?

You now have an idea of what types of rubber can be spray painted and which paint types are recommended. Now all you need are the steps for painting rubber without cracking. Let’s go over these steps:

Step 1: Preparation

Begin by wiping away all the dirt and debris on the rubber surface. If the substrate is dirty, the paint won’t adhere firmly to it. So you want to ensure that your rubber item is cleaned and dry before you start painting.  

Step 2: Pick a Suitable Paint

Which paint would you like to use? Acrylic? Commercial-grade Marine Paint? Or removable rubber coating? You can even use exterior paint for rubber, the choice is yours. 

If you’re working on an outdoor painting project, we recommend using something that will adhere to the rubber surface and endure the elements without cracking.

Therefore use an exterior paint primer and ensure it dries completely before you apply another layer and, finally, the paint. 

If you opt for exterior or commercial-grade marine paint, you’ll need to use a paintbrush since the two products don’t come in spray form. Apply a maximum of two coats taking care to allow sufficient drying time between coats. 

Once you’re done painting, and the paint has cured, you can add a sealant as a final touch to ensure protection against cracking and peeling, which is inevitable if the item is left outside to the elements.

Does Paint Adhere to Rubber?

Yes, paint can adhere firmly to rubber, but it depends on how well it was applied. Improper application and wrong choice of paint can result in the paint coming off, so ensure you follow the application process correctly.

Most importantly, always use a primer. But if you still need help with this, here’s a better way to make the paint stick to rubber.

What Is The Best Way To Make Paint Stick To Rubber?

  • Use a spray can: Spraying is more effective than brushing if you want it to adhere better. 

  • Use rubber coatings: Do you want to avoid inevitable leaks, cracks, and small holes in your painted rubber items? Rubber coatings will do the trick. 

  • Follow instructions: There’s a reason why paint products come with labels and instructions on usage. Just take a few minutes to read them, they’re expert recommendations that will help you avoid unnecessary mistakes and have a successful painting project. 

  • Use a primer: A primer is essential. It helps the paint stick better on the surface and gives it a smooth, beautiful finish. Some paint brands contain a primer so you can apply the two products simultaneously. Otherwise, just buy good quality primer along with your paint. You’ll be glad you did.

How to Paint Rubber Tires

Rubber tires are the most common item used in many spray painting projects. From garden swings to planters, there’s nothing as beautiful as having your yard decorated with spray-painted rubber tires in different colors. 

How to paint rubber without cracking.

It creates a unique multicolored aesthetic appeal that anyone would want to have in their compound. Not to mention the environmental benefits of recycling old tires and reducing waste. 

So how do you paint rubber tires without cracking? Begin by choosing the highest quality exterior paint for rubber tires and again ensure you have an equally high-quality primer. With that done, here are the steps. 

  • Clean the Rubber Tires: Remove the dirt, grime, and debris from the rubber tires. Wash the entire rubber using warm soapy water and a coarse bristle brush to remove all the oil and impurities. If you want to go a notch higher to ensure s spotless surface, trisodium phosphate (TSP) soap will do the trick. If you plan to drill some holes in the tire, be sure to do that before you get to the cleaning part, and be careful while at it. Rubber is flexible and stretches easily. Any slight mistake while cutting it and you might damage the whole item. 

  • Priming: Do you want to increase primer adhesion? Use coarse grit sandpaper to roughen the tire surface and create a better profile for the primer to stick firmly. After sanding, wipe the dust and grit with a tack cloth. Leave the tire to dry before applying the primer, which ultimately helps to boost paint adhesion. It’s best to apply the primer with a sprayer to ensure you cover even the most tricky spots like cracks and tread patterns. 

  • Spray Paint: Once the primer is completely dry, apply the paint. The time it takes for the primer to dry depends on the time specified by the manufacturer. Please check the instructions label on the product again. Got it? Thank you. Now it’s time to paint your rubber item. Do it the same way you did with the primer, allowing each coat to dry before applying another until you achieve a uniform coat. It’s as easy as that and fun. 

How to Paint Rubber Boots

Rubber boots are the most practical and convenient type of footwear, especially if the weather is wet and cold. You could be thinking of revamping your old pair lying somewhere in the garage to give them a new facelift. 

Fortunately, spray painting rubber boots is as fun as spray painting rubber tires. Just make sure your choice of paint contains a primer to provide the perfect bond and better flexibility.

With that said, the steps to painting rubber boots are as follows:

Clean and prepare the rubber boots

Cleaning should be done before anything else. A clean surface determines the outcome of your paint project, and since our focus is on spray painting rubber without cracking or peeling, we must pay attention to this vital step.

Any impurities on your pair of boots will cause adhesion problems, which is a perfect recipe for cracking. 

Just get soapy water and a coarse bristle brush to wash the surface clean. Next, ensure you remove any gloss on the surface using coarse-grit sandpaper.

The paint should adhere to your boots after all that cleaning. 

Spray Paint the Rubber Boots

Did you know that shaking the spray paint can help make it even and improve its overall texture? You’ll have an easier time working with spray paint if you shake it thoroughly before use.

We recommend shaking it for at least 2-3 minutes to mix the paint and propellants thoroughly and sufficiently.   

Next, bring your rubber boots outdoors and place them upright on old newspapers, keeping them a few feet apart. If you must paint indoors, wear a respiratory mask and open the doors and windows to ensure ventilation.

Holding the spray can at least eight inches from the surface of the rubber boots, begin to spray in short, deliberate strokes to prevent drips and the formation of blotches.

Apply multiple thin coats instead of one thick coat to create a smooth, professional look. Allow one coat of paint to dry before applying another until you achieve your desired finish.  

Best Paint for Rubber

Many paint options are available, and it can be overwhelming to determine which one to choose for your next rubber project.

To help make things easier for you, we have identified a few paint options specifically suitable for rubber.

These options are listed below to help you narrow down your search. 

One point to remember is the environment you will spray paint in. Most of the paint options listed here are suitable for outdoor rubber projects. 

If you want something for indoor rubber items, we suggest you use acrylic. If you want something that will dry faster, paint made with primer is your best choice. Otherwise, here are the best paints for rubber. 

1. TOTALBOAT Wet Edge Paint for Boats

Totalboat Wet Edge Paint for Boats is a marine paint popular among painters for its durability. It’s one of the best paints that not only bonds well with rubber but is also resistant to wind, rain, UV rays, temperature fluctuations, and other natural elements. 

The paint is suitable for frequently used exterior rubber surfaces like tires, shoe soles, or swings since it doesn’t peel or crack. 

2. KRYLON Color Master Paint and Primer

Krylon’s Master Paint and Primer is another ideal choice for rubber surfaces that are susceptible to wear and tear. This paint’s popularity can be pegged on its versatile and durable nature. 

It has a built-in primer which simplifies the painting process, not to mention it comes in a wide variety of colors and dries faster than other popular paint options. 

You should, however, take note of the kind of rubber you can paint with Krylon’s Master Paint and Primer. It’s more suitable for firm rubber than flexible and stretchy ones. 

3. APPLE BARREL Acrylic Paint

If you’re an artist and a crafts enthusiast,  you’ll fall in love with Apple Barrel 18-Piece acrylic paint: it’s flexible, it’s perfect for indoor painting, it bonds perfectly on rubber, and it comes in a wide selection of colors, including melted chocolate brown and fuchsia. 

You can mix and match these colors however you want to meet your desired color theme, which will eventually dry to create a beautiful matte finish.

As long as you are comfortable using a paintbrush or sponge with Apple Barrel 18-Piece acrylic paint, you’ll love the outcome.

FAQs – How to Paint Rubber

Can you paint rubber with any kind of paint?

No, you cannot paint any rubber with any kind of paint. You have to choose the right paint for the type of rubber you want to spray paint. Acrylic is a flexible option that can be applied on different rubber surfaces before sealing with a sealant. But for the majority of outdoor projects, use exterior or marine paint for durability.

How do you apply acrylic paint to rubber? 

Acrylic is ideal for indoor rubber painting. The application depends on the number of coats required. Before application, cleaning should be done, followed by priming.

When using acrylic, take time between coats to allow them to dry sufficiently before applying the next coat. You can apply a sealant as a last protective finish though this is optional.

What is the best primer for rubber?

Some of the best primers for rubber include Liquid Rubber EPDM Primer, Liquid Rubber, Multiple Epoxy Primer, and Krylon Color Master Paint and Primer. Since rubber is flexible, it should be painted with the highest quality paint that doesn’t crack. A good choice should contain a built-in primer.

Conclusion On Spray Paint For Rubber

You’ve undoubtedly seen those beautiful tire planters, swings, or seats. What’s unique about them is that they’re painted in various colors, making them breathtakingly attractive. 

You’ve fantasized about having something like that in your yard, patio, poolside, or garden. But you didn’t know you could spray paint rubber.

You thought you’d need to hire a professional until you bumped into this guide. What can be more reassuring than knowing that, just like any other spray painting project, you can DIY and create unique pieces of rubber art? 

You just need to work with the right paint, such as Totalboat Wet Edge Paint for Boats, Krylon Master Paint and Primer, or even Apple Barrel 18-Piece acrylic paint. And if you follow this detailed step-by-step guide, you can be sure to paint rubber without cracking. 

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