Will Spray Paint Stick to Plastic?


Last updated: June 14, 2023

Does Spray Paint Stick to Plastic and What Can I do to Make them Stick Better? Answers in this Guide

Will spray paint stick to plastic?

Plastics are popular household items because they’re cheap, easy to use, maintain, and clean. But plastics are also susceptible to wear and tear and can grow dull over time, losing their original color and appeal. When that happens, spray painting them with new fresh colors comes in handy.

But will spray paint stick to plastic? Plastic is a nonporous material known to repel most liquids, including paint. Therefore, it calls for proper surface preparation before painting and using specific spray paint to make it stick to plastic. 

In this post, we will discuss which types of plastic surfaces you can spray, the best spray paint to use on plastic, and the steps to spray paint expertly. 

Will spray paint stick to plastic?

Yes, but it depends on the plastic surface you’re painting. Most plastics repel paint and must be properly sanded and primed to make the paint stick. The kind of paint you use also influences paint adhesion. Use spray paint specifically formulated for plastics to ensure your paint sticks perfectly on such items. 

Which Plastic Surfaces Can You Spray Paint?

Plastics are available in various forms, including PVCs and PETs. Most plastics are generally made of natural-gas-based products and petroleum. Plastics are easy to maintain and make convenient storage items. 

Since they’re liquid-resistant, most plastics will not absorb regular oil- and water-based paints. Using primer, sandpaper, and specialty paints for plastic projects is best if you want durable finishes.

What Kind of Spray Paint Will Stick to Plastic?

Most professional painters can attest that spray painting plastic is tricky and delicate. Plastic, a porous material, repels paint, causing it to drip, run, and blotch. Even if you manage to spray paint without these issues, the chances are that the paint will crack after drying. 

Fortunately, there has been significant improvement in the formulation of spray paint. Today, special spray paints are developed specifically for plastic that produces smoother finishes and better bonding. They’re also more resistant to peeling than regular paint. 

That’s not to say you can’t use general-purpose spray paints on your plastic projects, rather, it means that you must follow due process in preparing the substrate for the paint. 

That said, acrylic spray paints will stick perfectly on your plastic substrate. Latex and alkyd-based paints also adhere well with most plastic surfaces, while oil-based paints are known to create a smooth glossy finish. 

Good examples of spray paint that will stick to plastic include Krylon Fusion for Plastic and Rust-Oleum Specialty Plastic Primer Spray.

However, the Krylon acrylic Paint/Primer, the Rust-Oleum Universal Spray Paint, and similar general-purpose spray paints provide better color options compared to specialty paints for plastic.

Should You Sand Plastic Before Spray Painting?

If there are chemicals or pollutants on the surface, it will resist paint, affecting adhesion. This is true even with specialty paints for plastic.

Sanding helps improve the surface area and bonding between the paint and the substrate. 

With plastics, you’ll have better results with a rougher surface than with glossy or smoother ones. So yes, you should sand plastic before spray painting, and for optimal results, use 220-grit wet and dry sandpaper. 

After sanding, thoroughly wipe the surface with a wet rag to remove any residues lingering on the object. 

How Do You Spray Paint Plastic?

To spray paint plastic, you’ll need a few tools and materials to complete the job effectively. Some of these materials include:  

  • A bucket with warm water.
  • Dish soap.
  • Rags/sponge.
  • Nylon scrub brush (optional)
  • Spray paint.
  • Fine sandpaper.
  • Mineral spirits or isopropyl alcohol.

Once everything is in place, use the following steps to spray paint your plastic pieces like a pro. 

Clean Your plastic

Add dish soap to the bucket of warm water and use a sponge or rag to scrub the plastic item. For outdoor patio furniture or vinyl fences likely to be covered in mold and mildew, you’ll need several buckets of water and dish soap as they’ll require multiple washing and heavy scrubbing. Once done, rinse the plastic model with lots of clean water to remove all suds. 


Spray paint will stick better on your plastic if it’s rougher or has a matte finish than if it’s smooth or glossy. Since plastic is typically glossy, sanding helps prepare your substrate for optimal results. 

To avoid the risk of damaging the surface or leaving scratch marks, use 180 to 220-grit sandpaper and lightly sand manually. However, a random orbital sander might be handy if you’re working on a large project.

Wipe with Mineral Spirits

Sanding produces fine dust, which may compromise your finish. You want to wipe the model with some mineral spirits or isopropyl alcohol.

This you can easily achieve by dipping a clean rag in mineral spirits or isopropyl alcohol and wiping the substrate thoroughly until it’s dust free. 

Spray the First Coat of Paint

Plastic is a nonporous material that does not absorb paint like wood or cardboard. Therefore spray painting plastic calls for utmost patience. It’s best also to approach the process cautiously. 

Start by placing the substrate flat or horizontally on the substrate. To see if the paint will spray evenly, shake the can, then test it on scrap material before moving to the object. 

Maintain a distance of 8 to 12 inches from the substrate, with the can slightly tilted to a 45-degree angle. Apply a thin coat across the surface, focusing on the consistency of layers instead of total color coverage to prevent drips.

Apply Additional Coats of Paint

Most spray paint manufacturers recommend leaving paint on the substrate after the first light coat for at least 2 hours. That’s enough time for the paint you harden in readiness for a second coat. 

However, this is not a standard process. It’s best to read the specifications on the spray paint can to ascertain how long the first coat will take to dry to touch before you can recoat. 

As you work, resist the urge to make the layers thicker. A good rule of thumb when spray painting is to apply thin layers, and when it comes to tricky substrates like plastic, this rule is highly crucial. 

Always keep the angle of the can tilted to 45 degrees and hold it about 12 inches from the object. After the second coat, wait again for a few hours before wrapping up with a final coat of spray paint. 

Should You Use a Primer to Spray Paint Plastic?

Yes, priming is essential to maximizing adhesion. Most primers, especially those from Krylon and Rust-Oleum, are of premium quality and will stick better on bare plastic. 

However, sanding is also a great idea if you want the primer to adhere better to your object. Fortunately, some plastic-specific paints like Rust-Oleum Specialty Plastic Primers Spray come with paint and primer in one spray can. 

Such all-in-one options are convenient if you want an affordable project. Refer to the same rules of spray paint when applying a primer.

Maintain the recommended distance while holding the can to a specific angle. It would be best to wait for the first coat of primer to dry to the touch before you add another coat. 

Spray Painting Plastic Surface: Best Practices

If you want to master the art of spray painting within a short time and make fewer mistakes with each project, take a look at the following best practices for painting plastic models: 

1. Always Shake the Can

Always shake the can thoroughly before use when working with aerosol cans, whether it’s a primer or spray paint. An aerosol can typically include paint, propellants, and thinners. These solutions tend to separate inside the can, and the paint will settle to the base of the metal. 

By shaking the can thoroughly, the chemicals will mix up again to form a uniformly blended solution with consistent colors.  

2. Work on a Clean Plastic Surface 

Keep your surface clean and dust-free. Wipe down the substrate with mineral spirits to remove fine dust after sanding.  

3. Mask Up

Spray paint contains toxic fumes that may affect your health. Since inhaling these fumes is inevitable, always wear a safety mask and ensure your workplace has a good air supply.

4. Work on a Raised Object 

If spraying small objects, you want to keep them raised off the ground or your workspace. Otherwise, you can spread protective sheeting on the ground supported with a piece of wood and place your substrate on top to prevent the painted object from sticking to the protective rags.

What Paint Lasts the Longest on Plastic?

Below is our list of the best spray paints that will last longest on plastic. 

1. Krylon Crystal Clear Spray paint

Krylon Crystal Clear Spray Paint tops our list of the best sticking spray paint for plastic. It’s best known for offering maximum protection on any surface, including plastic. 

This spray paint is capable of withstanding any condition thanks to its highly durable gloss coating that prevents peels, cracks, and the effects of aging. It’s an effective waterproof and smudge-proof product that can survive highly humid conditions.

This plastic spray paint dries to the touch in less than 20 minutes and cures in two hours. You can use it on anything, including plastic, ceramics, paper, plaster, wood, etc. 

What We Liked 👍

  • Highly moisture resistant.
  • Retains the original color.
  • Dries.

What Could Change 👎

  • It does not resist rust.

2. Rustoleum American Accent 2X Ultra Cover Spray paint

Rust-Oleum is another leading paint brand on our list. Like Krylon, this manufacturer specializes in premium coating solutions for various surfaces and projects. 

When it comes to plastics, the Rust-Oleum American Accent 2X Ultra Cover is an ideal choice for indoor and outdoor projects thanks to its long-lasting properties. 

This premium spray paint for plastic can be used on any surface, like wicker, ceramics, wood, and plastic. This product features a spray comfort tip that helps relieve finger fatigue and improve efficiency.

Like Krylon Crystal Clear Spray Paint, it dries to the touch in under 20 minutes, and a single spray can can cover up to 12 square feet. Its other features include a glossy finish, fresh shine, vivid colors, and superior durability. 

What We Liked 👍

  • Highly durable.
  • Features a spray comfort tip.
  • Provides multiple color options.

What Could Change 👎

  • Emits toxic fumes.

3. Colorbond 1970 BMW Plastic Refinisher Spray Paint

Colorbond may not stack up against industry giants like Rust-Oleum or Krylon, but they have something in their line of products that we find impressive. The 1970 BMW Plastic Refinisher Spray Paint for Plastic has earned its place on our list thanks to its long-lasting finish and versatility. 

You can spray this formula on various materials, including plastic, vinyl, and leather. It produces a unique supple feel and a deep molecular bond that permanently binds to the substrate. 

As an outdoor spray paint, you can use it on your patio furniture, vinyl fences, and poolside tables. 

What We Liked 👍

  • Creates a lasting bond.
  • Sticks to plastic within 10 minutes.
  • No flaking and peeling guarantee.
  • Unique supple feel.

What Could Change 👎

  • Expensive spray paint 

Why is My Spray Paint Not Sticking to Plastic?

If you notice your spray paint does not stick to plastic, the problem could be due to a few reasons:

  • The surface is dirty: Paint rarely sticks to dirty surfaces. If you skipped the cleaning process, it could be the reason adhesion is becoming tricky. 

  • Previous old coating: If the surface was previously painted with oil-based paint or has a glossy finish, consider sanding to create a rough base for the paint to stick on. 

  • Surface not primed: Plastic is nonporous and liquid-resistant. It doesn’t absorb the paint, so priming is crucial to help the paint stick better. 

  • Wrong choice of paint: Conventional spray paints, especially latex paint, can be tricky. Such paint requires tiny pores or a bumpy surface to adhere better. Again consider sanding before you paint.

How Long Does it Take for Spray Paint to Bond to Plastic?

Ideally, most spray paints, especially Krylon and Rust-Oleum, take 20-30 minutes to bond and dry on plastic. Plastic surfaces are generally smooth and dry faster, thanks to their consistent texture. 

Temperature also determines how long your paint will dry. Warmer and windy conditions naturally accelerate drying, while the paint would take longer to dry in wet or humid weather. 

If painting under humid conditions above 85%, using a fan is a smart idea to speed up drying. Opening windows and doors will also help increase the airflow in your workspace and reduce drying time. 

FAQS: Spray Paint Sticking to Plastic Surfaces?

How do you get spray paint to stick to plastic?

First, ensure the surface is clean and clear of dust and other pollutants. Use fine-grit sandpaper to roughen it to a matte finish, significantly improving adhesion. You should also prime the surface effectively or use all-in-one spray paint and primer. Finally, use premium spray paint with guaranteed quality, especially plastic-compatible ones. 

Does water-based spray paint stick to plastic?

Water-based spray paint doesn’t easily stick to plastic unless the surface is adequately prepared for the paint. You should sand your item well to create a bumpy, rough surface for the paint to seep better into the material. Priming is also required to support adhesion for water-based spray paint. 

What kind of spray paint will stick to plastic?

Specialty spray paints will stick to plastic better than general-purpose spray paint. Such paints are specifically made for use on plastic and similar nonporous materials. Examples include Krylon Fusion for Plastic and Rust-Oleum Specialty Plastic Primer Spray. However, regulars like Krylon Paint + Primer and the Rust-Oleum Universal Spray Paint are also good options. 

Will spray paint peel off plastic?

Regular spray paint will peel off plastic, especially if sprayed on a glossy finish without sanding or priming. Even if you used a good spray paint that bonded well with your plastic model, chances are it won’t be long before it starts to crack, flake or peel. If you must use regular paint on plastic, it’s best to take the recommended steps to improve adhesion and prevent peeling.

Will Rustoleum spray paint stick to plastic?

Yes. Rustoleum is an industry leader known for its finest paints and coating solutions. Rust-Oleum spray paints are made to offer maximum adhesion and durable finishes on most surfaces, including tricky ones like plastic. You can use Rust-Oleum regular spray paint and primer to paint plastic or Rust-Oleum plastic-specific paints with guaranteed higher adhesion. 

Final Thoughts: Spray Paint Sticking to Plastic

Spray painting plastic can be tricky. Getting the paint to adhere to the substrate takes more effort than painting other surfaces, such as wood or cardboard. But as we have seen, making spray paint stick to plastic is not entirely impossible.

Following professional guidelines in preparing your plastic model to using the right spray paint is key to achieving the best possible results. Are you working on a project involving plastic? This article covers everything you need to know, so feel free to implement the tips shared here for a successful project. 

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