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Can I paint acrylic over oil-based enamel?

I am often asked if you can apply acrylic paint over oil-based enamel, and while the answer is no, there are ways to get around this.


I received an enquiry from a Home-Dzine fan wanting to paint door frames. The door frames had originally been painted with oil-based enamel and there were layers and layers of paint applied over the years. The problem was that she didn't have time to wait for oil-based enamel paint to dry and wanted a quick way to paint over the oil-based enamel paint.

As most of you know, oil and water don't mix - and the same applies to acrylic (water-based) paint and oil-based enamel paint. While you can apply oil-based enamel directly on top of acrylic paint - you can't apply water-based paint on top of oil-based enamel paint. If you do, you will see that the paint starts to split or separate on top of the oil-based enamel and won't adhere properly. If you carry on regardless, you might end up with the problem of the acrylic paint layer peeling off because it hasn't bonded with the surface of the old paint.





Over the last 20 odd years, oil-based enamel paint has been a popular choice for windows, doors and trim, and you're either going to want to continue using the same product or spend some time sanding away layers of gloss to better prepare the surface for applying acrylic paint. If you sand back the glossy layer of the oil-based enamel paint it is possible to paint over, but be sure to remove ALL the gloss before you paint.

For the perfectionist decorator, the best way to proceed is to remove all the layers of paint and start from scratch. You can do this using paint stripper, or use a sander and varying grits of sandpaper to strip back the paint. At our DIY Divas workshops we discuss the best, most economical and time-saving way to sand:

If you're painting a ceiling and you know oil-based enamel was previously applied, it's a difficult surface to sand and you might be better off sticking with oil-based enamel. There are now plenty of options for choosing a non-yellowing (white) enamel paint that is perfect for white ceilings. Check out the various brands at your local Builders store.



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