Spray painting styrofoam can be a tricky task. In fact, I vividly remember the first time I tried to spray paint styrofoam, and I ended up with a melted mess and a ruined project for my seventh-grade project. Yeah, I still blame you somehow, Mrs. Pepper!
You can paint styrofoam if you choose a water-based, acrylic spray paint that has been specifically designed to paint foam and other sensitive materials. Putting down a base coat of mod podge, craft paste, or other barrier will help prevent the spray paint from melting your styrofoam and provide a more even surface in the final product.
In this blog post, we’ll discuss why most types of spray paint should not be used on styrofoam, what kind you should use instead, how to prepare your styrofoam for spraying as well as the actual process itself and some alternatives that might work better than using sprays cans in certain situations.
So if you’ve been wondering, “can you spray paint Styrofoam?” keep reading for all the information needed to make sure your DIY projects look their best!
Can you spray paint styrofoam?
Styrofoam is a lightweight, rigid foam material made from polystyrene. You can find it anywhere and because it is super lightweight and easy to sculpt, it is a favorite among crafters and creative types. Unfortunately, it is difficult to spray paint because many types of paint, especially spray paints, will melt it, causing it to become brittle and break apart.
The reason why you can’t spray paint Styrofoam is due to its chemical makeup.
Polystyrene has a low melting point, which means that it begins to break down and soften when exposed to heat or certain chemicals. When this happens with spray paint, the solvents in the paint react with the polystyrene molecules causing them to expand and deform, resulting in an uneven surface finish or, worse yet – crumbling pieces of Styrofoam.
Another issue with spraying paint on Styrofoam is that most paints contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are harmful to both people and the environment if inhaled or ingested over time. These VOCs can also cause further damage by softening up already softened polystyrene molecules even more, leading to the complete disintegration of your project piece.
To get the best results when painting Styrofoam, it’s important to use styrofoam-safe spray paint. Let’s take a look at what types of spray paint are suitable for Styrofoam projects.
What type of spray paint should you use on styrofoam?
Spray painting styrofoam is a great way to add color and texture to your projects. However, it’s important to use the right type of paint for the job so you don’t melt all your hard work.
When spray painting styrofoam, you should always use water-based acrylic paints or special types of spray paint designed specifically for styrofoam surfaces. Acrylic paints are designed to adhere well without melting the foam material and provide good coverage with multiple coats if needed. Specialty sprays such as Plasti Dip or Rustoleum Universal Spray Paint also work well on styrofoam surfaces but may require more coats than regular acrylic paints do.
It’s important to note that oil-based enamel paints should never be used on Styrofoam because they will melt it instead of adhering properly like water-based acrylics do. It’s also best not to use any aerosol cans containing solvents such as lacquer thinner since these could potentially damage the surface too much by softening it up before drying completely.
When it comes to spray painting styrofoam, using the right type of paint is essential for a successful result. Let’s take a look at which paint you should choose.
What to Look for in the Best Paint for Styrofoam?
When it comes to painting styrofoam, there are a few key factors to consider.
- Type of paint: Acrylic and latex paints (water-based) are best for styrofoam as they provide a good bond with the surface without eating through it like polyurethane or enamel paints can do.
- Coverage rate: how much area does one coat cover? Generally speaking, water-based acrylics will give you the best coverage rate per coat compared to other types of paint, so if you’re looking for an economical option, this might be the way to go.
The best kind of spray paint to use on styrofoam
As I mentioned before, the best spray paint to use on styrofoam is water-based and doesn’t contain solvents or propellants that will melt the foam material.
Typically, we’ll need to look in the craft section for this kind of paint rather than the home improvement section because water-based acrylic paints aren’t something you would want to use for a heavy-duty outdoor project. These paints are for more delicate projects.
Based on my research and experience, here are three great brands of water-based spray paint that you can use on styrofoam:
- Montana MTN
Liquitex spray paints
Liquitex spray paints come in a WIDE array of colors (more than 100) and, for what you get, represent a pretty good value.
These spray paints are meant to be used for indoor craft projects so they feature a low-odor formula that doesn’t produce a ton of irritating fumes. Once dry, they offer an opaque, permanent, long-lasting finish under the right conditions.
Plus, because of the way the paints are made, you can even mix these colors by layering and blending them on the surface of your project and they will dry into a unique color combination.
Check out Liquitex Professional spray paints on Amazon.
Montana MTN water-based spray paints
These cans are small but mighty!
Typically found in multi-color packs of 3, Montana MTN spray paints are specifically designed to be used on styrofoam and other sensitive foam crafting materials.
Just be careful, as some reviewers noted that the nozzles can get clogged fairly easily. To prevent this, simply remove the nozzle after each use and soak it in a bit of warm water or mild paint thinner before replacing.
If you still have trouble, checking out my comprehensive guide on unclogging spray paint cans!
Check out the Montana MTN spray paints on Amazon.
Pintyplus Aqua spray paint
Another ‘mini’ spray paint can form factor, the Pintyplus Aqua line of paints features an ultra-matte finish with a water-based formula that is perfect for styrofoam.
With this 8-pack of Pintyplus spray paint, you’ll get one each of the pink, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet, black, and white colors to use on your next project!
Note that with this type of paint, drying times will be a bit longer than you would expect from spray paint because they are water-based and don’t have the same solvents that speed up drying time.
How Do You Prepare Styrofoam for Painting?
Styrofoam is a popular material for many DIY projects, but it can be difficult to paint. Before you begin painting, it’s important to prepare the surface of the styrofoam correctly in order to ensure that your paint will adhere properly and last longer.
- Cleaning: The first step in preparing styrofoam for painting is cleaning the surface with a damp cloth or sponge. This will remove any dirt or dust that may have accumulated on the surface over time. Allow the styrofoam to dry completely before applying any paint.
- Sanding (Optional): Once the styrofoam has dried, you could lightly sand its surface with fine-grit sandpaper to create a better bond between the paint and the styrofoam. This is more important if you’ve done some sculpting on the foam and need to smooth out the surface.
- Surface primer: While primers are usually recommended for spray painting things are a bit different for styrofoam. Instead of a typical solvent-based primer, opt for a thin coating of mod podge or crafting paste to provide a nice, smooth surface for your spray paint.
- Taping: If you are looking for clean lines or want to avoid getting paint onto other surfaces while spray painting, taping off areas around where you plan on spraying can help keep everything neat and tidy during this process. Use painter’s tape along edges or corners where needed. Make sure not to leave it on too long as this could cause damage if left there permanently.
Remember – Work in well-ventilated areas away from open flames or heat sources and never point cans directly at yourself or others while spraying.
How Do You Spray Paint Styrofoam?
Here are some tips on how to properly spray paint styrofoam:
- Holding The Can: When applying paint, hold the can approximately 8 inches away from the surface and use short bursts of spray in an even motion across the entire area you wish to cover. Make sure not to overlap too much when spraying so that each coat dries evenly without leaving behind streaks or clumps of paint in one spot.
- Drying Time: Allow each coat of paint to dry completely before applying additional coats as needed until you achieve your desired result – usually, two or three coats should be enough, depending on what kind of coverage you need. Keep in mind that these water-based paints will usually take a LOT longer to dry compared to regular spray paint!
- Add Texture: If you want to add some texture or dimensionality to your painted Styrofoam pieces, consider using different types of brushes or sponges while applying layers of paint to achieve various effects such as stippling or dry brushing techniques, which can give depth and interest to otherwise flat surfaces like those found on most foam projects!
- Seal It Up: Once all layers have been applied and dried completely, seal up everything with a layer of clear varnish or lacquer. This will protect against scratches, fading from sunlight exposure, and other potential damage caused by handling over time.
Spray painting styrofoam is a great way to add color and texture to your project, but other alternatives may be more suitable for certain projects.
Let’s take a look at some of these alternatives in the next section.
Alternatives To Spray Painting Styrofoam
When it comes to painting styrofoam, many people immediately think of spray paint. However, other alternatives can be used for a variety of projects.
Brush-on Acrylic Paints
Acrylic paints are water-based and come in many colors. They adhere well to styrofoam surfaces and provide excellent coverage with minimal effort. When using acrylics on styrofoam, it is important to use multiple thin coats rather than one thick coat, as this will help prevent the paint from cracking or flaking off over time. You should seal your project with a clear topcoat once you have finished painting for added protection against wear and tear.
Markers easily add color and detail to any styrofoam project without worrying about the mess associated with traditional paints or sprays. There are special markers designed specifically for foam materials, making them ideal for creating intricate designs or patterns on your piece without worrying about smudging or fading over time.
Airbrushing is another great option for painting styrofoam projects, as it allows you to create smooth even layers of color quickly and easily while still providing plenty of control over how much coverage you want in each area. Y
ou’ll need an airbrush kit along with some specialized paints designed specifically for use on foam materials, but the results can be stunning if done correctly.
For more creative projects such as making sculptures out of Styrofoam, hot glue guns combined with fabric dyes can be used together to create unique pieces that stand out from the crowd.
Simply apply small amounts of dye directly onto your project using a brush or sponge before sealing everything in place by running hot glue around all edges.
What kind of paint is best for styrofoam?
Water-based acrylic paints work best for paint styrofoam because they won’t melt the foam or cause other issues.
How do you seal styrofoam for spray painting?
Once your styrofoam is painted with several coats, you can seal it with a coat of clear spray paint in whatever finish you want.
Is Krylon spray paint safe for styrofoam?
Some Krylon spray paints are safe for styrofoam but be sure that it is labeled for use with foam. Typically, any paint categorized as water-based acrylic, craft paint will work!