Our Top 10 Favorite Craft Paints + How to Use Them

Harness the power of paint to transform the appearance of fabric, wood, ceramic, plastic and even glass with our editors' tried and true paint tips and product picks.

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June 27, 2019

Photo By: Sarah Busby

Photo By: Sarah Busby

Photo By: Sarah Busby

Photo By: Sarah Busby

Photo By: Sarah Busby

Photo By: Sarah Busby

Photo By: Marian Parsons

Photo By: Sarah Busby

Photo By: Sarah Busby

Photo By: Sarah Busby

Photo By: Sarah Busby

Photo By: Sarah Busby, Styled by Jill Tennant

Photo By: Sarah Busby

Photo By: Sarah Busby

Photo By: Sarah Busby, Styled by Jill Tennant

Photo By: Julie Paisley Photography

Photo By: Sarah Busby

Photo By: Sarah Busby

But First, the Basics

As you can imagine, we go through a lot of paint here at HGTV. But even for us, choosing the perfect paint can sometimes feel overwhelming. Before you embark on your next craft adventure, it's important to know what type of paint you need and why. Skim the next few slides for a quick and dirty paint primer 101.

Which One is For You?

When it comes down to it, paint is either oil-based or water-based, the main difference being the agent that binds them to the surfaces they cover. The primary ingredient of oil-based paint is usually alkyd or linseed oil while the main ingredient of water-based paint is, well, water. We'll cover the pros and cons of each in the next two slides.

Oil-Based Paint

Oil-based paint is often more affordable than water-based and is more durable, making it a great choice for high-traffic areas like bathrooms and kitchens. It also leaves a nice, smooth finish. Cons? It's slow to dry, requires chemicals to clean up (i.e. mineral spirits) and the fumes tend to be strong, which usually means the paint is higher in VOCs. To limit your exposure to VOCs, choose an oil-based paint that's made from linseed oil.

Water-Based Paint

Water-based paint is more commonly used and easier to find in stores because it dries quickly, has lower VOCs and can be cleaned up easily with soap and water. However, it isn't quite as durable as oil-based paint, is a little more expensive and, although it dries quickly, takes weeks to actually cure. Not sure if your paint is water-based? Wet a cloth with rubbing alcohol and rub it in an inconspicuous spot. If the paint transfers to the cloth, it's water-based. If it does not, it's oil-based.

For Everyday Crafts: Delta Ceramcoat Acrylic

Delta Ceramcoat acrylic paint is our go-to for small projects. The water-based paint dries in about 30 minutes, cleans up easily and is available in almost every color imaginable. Plus, it's super affordable and easy to find at most craft stores.

Buy It: Amazon, $23.84, Pack of 16

Try It: Inside-Out Painted Jars

Now before you say "What's so special about a painted vase?," look closer. These mason jars are painted on the inside with a mixture of acrylic paint and non-acetone nail polish remover, then baked in the oven to set. The finished result is a high-end look that lasts.

MAKE IT: DIY Gold-Leaf Vases

For Wood: Annie Sloan Chalk Paint

Annie Sloan chalk paint is our all-around favorite for painting wood. It’s low-VOC, water-based and creates a soft, matte finish. The thick consistency is less likely to drip, and it doesn’t require a primer or extensive sanding — you just need to rough up smooth surfaces a little to help it stick. Beyond wood, chalk paint bonds to almost any material, including metal and plastic. Although it's pricier than other paints, a little goes a long way, making it a great choice for furniture projects. Don't forget to seal with chalk paint wax to protect your finished product and keep it looking good as new.

Buy It: Annie Sloan

Try It: A New Old Look

When giving an old piece of furniture a fresh coat of paint, it’s fitting to distress it a bit, so the new paint feels natural on the vintage or antique piece. The look can be subtle or dramatic, depending on the techniques and paints used. Flat, matte paints (like chalk paint) tend to distress better and look more authentic than glossy varieties.

LEARN MORE: Distress Furniture Like a Pro

For Fabric: Tulip Color Shot

Spray paint for fabric? Yes, please. Tulip's Color Shot comes in a variety of vibrant, saturated colors, is soft to the touch when dry and ultra-easy to use. And the best part? It's machine washable.

Buy It: Amazon, $7.86

Try It: DIY Summer Tote

It doesn't get much easier than this quick DIY. Tape a geometric design onto an inexpensive canvas tote (we found ours at the craft store). Once dry, peel back the tape to reveal your brand new summer bag! We love the idea of making them in bulk to give as bridesmaid gifts or to haul your stuff back and forth to the beach.

For a Mirror Finish: Krylon Looking Glass

If you're looking to turn a project window or old picture frame into a vintage-inspired mirror, Krylon looking glass is our top pick. While we haven't found a mirror spray paint that can turn glass into a true, clear mirror, this Krylon product leaves an even, antique-looking crackle along the surface while being decently reflective. Important to note: you apply the paint to the back of the glass and, when dry, turn it over to reveal the mirror. Follow application instructions on the can for more tips.

Buy It: Amazon, $18.98

Try It: Faux Mercury Glass

Get this chic, vintage look without spending hours scouring the thrift stores. All you need is looking glass spray paint, vinegar, water and our handy tutorial linked below.

LEARN HOW: Create Your Own Mercury Glass in Three Easy Steps

For Terra Cotta: DecoArt Patio Paint

While you can use any acrylic paint on terra cotta, DecoArt's Patio Paint is our top choice for outdoor use because it's durable, self-sealing and water-resistant. It's also extremely inexpensive — we snagged an 18-pack of assorted colors for less than $30.

Buy It: Amazon, $28.32, Pack of 18

Try It: Jazz Up Your Terra Cotta

Don't toss those old terra cotta pots! Give them new life with a sunny, Southwestern-inspired paint job. Cover the entire pot with two coats of turquoise Patio Paint and let dry. Because terra cotta is so porous, the paint dries within 5-10 minutes. Using a wide foam brush, brush a single long stroke of white paint across the top, then make subsequent shorter strokes below to create a simple ziggurat pattern. Go over with a second coat of white and, once dry, repeat the process with gold and hot pink Patio Paint, leaving a 1/2-inch reveal of each color. This whole project takes about 30 minutes start to finish!

For Plastic: Valspar Outdoor Plastic Primer

Painting plastic can be a pain — especially if you've invested money in a paint/primer combo that doesn't live up to the hype. Before giving your plastic outdoor furniture a much-needed makeover, give it a once-over with Valspar's outdoor plastic primer. As the online reviews will tell you, this stuff keeps paint in place much longer than spray paint alone and holds up to harsh conditions.

Buy It: Lowe's, In-Store Only

Try It: Don't Toss Those Old Chairs

This cheap, outdoor chair was a dull, sun-faded brown. We coated it in Valspar outdoor plastic primer, let it dry, then applied two coats of coral multipurpose enamel spray paint for a new, poolside-chic look.

For Metal: Rust-Oleum Painters' Touch Ultra Cover

For any of your general metal-painting needs, we recommend Rust-Oleum Painters' Touch spray paint. Because it's an enamel-based spray paint, it will help prevent rust and holds fast to most surfaces. It also comes in a variety of bright, trendy colors. We've even seen people paint their cars with this stuff! (Not recommended, but still pretty cool).

Buy It: Amazon, $11.02

Try It: DIY Drink Bucket

Entertain on the cheap by turning an inexpensive galvanized bucket into a bright, chic drink receptacle, perfect for summer parties. Just tape off the areas you don't want to paint and use large stickers to spell out the word 'drink' across the front. Give the entire bucket a couple of coats of spray paint (we used the color Gloss Seaside), let dry and peel back the tape and stickers to reveal your party-worthy new beverage chiller.

For Writing: DecoArt Glass Paint Marker

Pre-made, lettered decor can get expensive. But if you're willing to try your hand (pun intended) at hand-lettering, you can easily make your own. We love DecoArt's glass paint markers for writing on ceramic or glass. The colors are saturated and the pen's tip writes like a permanent marker with no bleeding.

Buy It: Walmart, $3.17

Try It: Hand-Lettered Menu Board

You don't have to be a skilled calligrapher to make this easy menu board. Simply print out the words you want to display on regular computer paper and tape to the back of a piece of acrylic or framed glass. (We use Canva.com for beautiful, free, hand-lettered fonts). Once all the words are taped and aligned, simply trace over them with a paint marker, then remove the paper to reveal your gorgeous, handmade work of art. Get more detailed instructions over at Something Turquoise.

For Ceramic: Hand Made Modern Satin Acrylic Paint

Most acrylic paints will work on ceramic, but we love Hand Made Modern's satin line because it's heavy-bodied, comes in beautiful retro-inspired colors and you can find it at Target!

Buy It: Target, $1.99

Try It: Hand-Drawn Ceramic Mugs

Aren't these DIY garden-inspired mugs so cute? We used our favorite DecoArt glass paint markers to sketch out the details and Hand Made Modern acrylic paint for a punch of color. Once dry, we baked them in the oven to make the paint permanent and dishwasher-safe. Grab the full instructions below.

MAKE IT: Customize Coffee Mugs With Hand-Drawn Flowers

Faux Etching: Rust-Oleum Specialty Frosted Glass

This "frost in a can" gives you the look of custom etching without having to go to through the time-consuming process of actually etching glass. Brilliant.

Buy It: Amazon, $11.20

Try It: Polka-Dot "Etching"

Quickly and easily turn any glass jar into a cute, giftable piece of decor. Randomly place yard sale price stickers all over your jar, then spray with frosted glass spray paint. Once dry, remove the stickers with a razor blade to reveal a cute, etched polka-dot look — no etching required! You could also try this method with a monogram sticker for a sweet, personalized gift.