Can You Wet Or Dry Sand Acrylic Paint? (How To Guide)

Acrylic paint is incredibly durable and easy to work with but becomes almost permanent once dry. So, can acrylic paint be sanded? Or what if the acrylic paint texture isn’t to your liking? 

Can you sand acrylic paint? The simple answer is yes, you can sand acrylic paint! But you need the right technique and use fine sandpaper to learn how to sand acrylic paint.

Although sanding acrylic paint isn’t a necessity. Sand acrylic paint can help you reach a certain quality in your project if you’re looking for that. 

If you sand acrylic paint carefully, you can fix mistakes on your project, control the project's texture, or add effects to the paint without affecting the entire piece. 

Let me first distinguish between dry sanding and wet sanding. Although both achieve the same results (giving your paint a smoother finish), they reach different finish qualities. Depending on the finish you want your project to have, you will be better off using one method over the other. 

Dry sanding is just how it sounds. You take fine grit sandpaper and directly apply it to the spray paint until you reach the finish that you want. It gives you a smooth finish and takes less time than wet sanding, but it also removes more spray paint than wet sanding. Aside from the finish, the most significant difference between dry and wet sanding is how much mess it makes. 

Acrylic paint produces a lot of acrylic dust when you sand acrylic paint down and releases harmful chemicals into the air. Wet sanding, where you put lubricant (usually water) on sandpaper before sanding, generates far less paint dust. 

Although acrylic paint takes more time and patience than dry sanding, I recommend wet sanding to avoid as much mess as possible. Wet sanding also removes less acrylic paint to get you a super smooth finish. It will, however, take more time to do since you have to sand by hand. 

acrylic paint

How Long Should Acrylic Paint Dry Before Sanding? 

It should go without saying that you must wait for your acrylic paint to dry before you start sanding it.  

To be safe, wait at least 30 minutes before testing the area to see if it’s dry. If the paint still feels soft, you should continue to wait until revive dried acrylic paint is complete.

Your acrylic paint must be totally dry before you start wet or dry sanding. Wet sanding is ideal for acrylic paints since it’s safer and will get you a smoother finish than dry sanding.

The smoother you want your paint’s texture to be, the more sanding you have to do. In this case, I recommend sanding between acrylic coats. This takes more time and requires more patience, but the finish will be super smooth surface and clean. 

It’s entirely subjective whether you want to apply a clear coat before or after sanding. When you sand a clear coat, you run the risk of sanding away the paint beneath it.

When you apply a clear coat over sanded paint, you risk losing that smooth finish you had achieved. If you decide to sand over a clear coat, you still need to wait until the coat is entirely dry before sanding. 

Step By Step Guide To Wet Sanding Acrylic Paints

Can you wet sand acrylic painting? Yes, you can wet sand the acrylic painting! Read on to learn how. 

Step 1. Check The Material You Are Sanding 

Before sanding the acrylic painting on wood it is always recommended to first lightly sand the areas that will be painted on. This includes lightly sanding the areas where the thin paint-like substance will be applied. This helps the paint adhere to the wood and also gives it a much smoother look and finish once it dries.

Sanding the wood's surface helps the paint adhere to the painted surface and gives a smoother look and finish after the paint has dried. 

The painting surface you sand might be hard to work with even though you can sand acrylic paintings. Can you sand acrylic paint on wood? Yes, you can sand your acrylic painting on wood surfaces! 

Sanding acrylic paint on wood and other hard painting surface like metal surfaces and glass is safe. A canvas will give you some trouble, but if you primed with a primer like acrylic gesso prime, it should be safe to sand on metal surface. To be safe, I recommend putting a hand opposite the spot you're sanding to support the canvas. 

Step 2. Gather Your Materials 

Because wet sanding needs to be done by hand, you need fine grit sandpaper. The ultra fine grit sandpaper you need is highly dependent on what you want to do with the paint. 

You can use acrylic pouring medium grit sandpaper to fix big mistakes, but I don't recommend using it for anything other than that. 

Fine or very fine grit sandpaper (from 180 grit and above) is ideal. You can use it to eliminate unwanted textures, create texture, repair bumps, and ultimately get a very smooth finish. 

When painting with acrylics, especially if you're using an impasto method, there is a risk of creating unwanted textures in your painting that later have to be worked out.

You will also need a mask or respirator. Although wet sanding doesn’t make as much of a mess as dry sanding, you will still be exposing yourself to toxic materials when inhaled. 

Step 3. Wet Your Materials 

I would recommend wetting your medium grit sandpaper rather than the paint. You get more control over the areas you want to sand and prevent your high gloss paints from getting rubbed off accidentally. 

You don’t want the coarse sandpaper to be soaked. You want it just wet enough to prevent too much dust from gathering on your canvas material. 

Step 4. Sand 

Dab some water onto the painting surface before you begin sanding, as acrylic dust may be dangerous if inhaled. Don’t apply too much pressure when sanding.  Lightly sand, and use soft circular motions until you get the finish with acrylic paints you want. This will take a while, so be patient and don’t be afraid to take your time. 

Step 5. Seal Your Work 

Don’t worry about seeing the luster fade in your paint. As dust accumulates, it takes away the paint's high gloss varnish look.

You can take a damp cloth, wipe it across the acrylic paints, and finish the project off with a clear coat. 

This keeps your project protected from being chipped or scratched and brings back the shine and glossy finish in your paint. 

Some streaks and blotches might stem from uneven distribution of pigment versus gloss medium.

acrylic paint

Tips And Tricks For DIYers

Although I mention them earlier, here are tricks I use to keep sanding as stress-free as possible: 

  • Use wet sanding for oil or acrylic paint unless you’re correcting big mistakes 
  • Fill in deep grooves in your oil or acrylic paint to keep from sanding too much acrylic paint away 
  • Start with grit 200 coarse fine sandpaper and work your way up until the acrylic paint reaches the smoothness you want 
  • Use a mask or respirator to ensure you’re not inhaling toxic materials 
  • Seal your work with a clear coat to bring back your paint’s luster after sanding 

Sanding Acrylic Paint FAQs 

Does sanding acrylic paint remove streaks and textures in the paint? 

Yes. Removing streaks and texture are some of the most common reasons for sanding acrylic. It’s best to use fine sandpaper for this to ensure the smoothest results. 

Can you sand acrylic paint off canvas? 

Yes. When sanding acrylic off canvas, make sure to hold the bottom side of the canvas for extra stability, and, ideally, the canvas should be primed.  

How do you polish acrylic after wet sanding? 

After you’re done wet sanding, go over the actual paint surface with a buffing tool that has polishing wax. Alternatively, you can go over the actual paint surface by hand with a cotton cloth and some polishing paste. There are other methods like diamond or flame polishing, but these require some skill, and aren’t so well-suited to at-home projects. 


You can sand acrylic paint easily, and it helps you get the result you want in your project. Though you should handle it delicately, don't be afraid to try it when it feels appropriate.