Can You Paint Rubber? DIY Guide & Best Paints for Rubber!

Author: Pat Freling | Updated: | Affiliate links may be present.

Rubber is everywhere, and its durability makes it a popular fixture in many hobbies. From cars to boating, to home improvement and decor. And because you may want a personal touch to your items, you may be wondering if it’s even possible to paint rubber.

Believe it or not, you are able to paint rubber and there are several options on the market for getting the job done.

So, can you paint rubber? Absolutely! You have several choices when it comes to painting rubber. There are acrylic paints and removable paints, specifically for indoor options. For outdoor projects, you can choose from exterior rubber paints or commercial marine paint.

By researching the potential choices, you can easily find the best paint for your rubber project.

What Paint Will Stick to Rubber?

Since rubber is a flexible material, you will need a flexible paint to properly adhere to it.

The most common problem with painting rubber is peeling. Soft rubber will need highly flexible paint to prevent bubbling and peeling. Hard rubber will need a highly durable paint to prevent chipping.

Depending on the type of project you are looking to take on and the type of rubber you are painting, you may need a specific type of paint.

Best Paints for Rubber

It’s important to choose the correct option for your project so that it comes out exactly as you want it to and will last a long time without needing touch-ups. First, consider what you are painting and where it will be placed – indoors or outdoors?

Acrylic Paint

This is the simplest and most cost-effective way to paint on rubber. While acrylic is very popular for a wide variety of crafts, its versatility makes it a great choice for painting rubber.

Acrylic paint is a popular choice for rubber projects, especially if it’s indoors and will not receive a lot of wear and tear. It’s a great choice for craft items or decorations. Avoid using acrylic paint if the item will be outdoors or will get a lot of use, like tools, carpet or shoes.

Apple Barrel is a highly rated brand offering acrylic paint that can be used on a wide variety of surfaces. It also boasts a wide range of color options so you’re sure to find the perfect shade to fit your needs.

Removable Paint

Removable paint is a great option if you aren’t fully committed to your project or if you need a temporary paint job. If you end up using removable paint and you don’t like the color, you can simply peel it off and apply a different one.

It also offers the benefit of being a spray paint for rubber, so you can apply it more evenly than you could with a brush. This type of paint is common for cars and car accessories because it can be applied and removed easily, giving the opportunity to change up the appearance as often as you want!

Plasti Dip is one of the most popular and highest-rated spray paints for rubber and comes in a variety of colors. It’s essentially liquid rubber and is often used on high-use items like tool handles and car rims.

Rust-Oleum also makes a brand of paint called Flexidip that has similar qualities to Plasti Dip, usually at a more affordable price.

Exterior Paint

These types of paints are made specifically for outdoor projects. Items such as decorative rubber tire planters or other kinds of decor should be painted with exterior paint. Also, because the paint is formulated for outdoor use, it can withstand sun, heat, and water fairly well.

Exterior paints often need a primer before application, although some of them come as a primer/paint duo. Krylon offers multiple color options for outdoor decor use and comes in both satin and gloss finishes. And the spray can allows for more even coverage.

Commercial Grade Marine Paint

This is by far the most durable paint option available. You have probably seen it used before on boats and in swimming pools, but it can be used on rubber as well. It’s extremely water-resistant and holds up well to heat, cold, sun, and other elements.

It is an oil-based paint which lends to its durability, but it also has a longer dry time than most other options.

Durabak is a top-quality commercial-grade marine paint for use outdoors. With more than 18 color options, you’re sure to find one that is the perfect fit for your project.

Spray Paint for Rubber

As mentioned previously, some of these paints come with the option to be sprayed instead of brushed on. Paints that come in aerosolized cans are usually ready to use right off the shelf, just pay close attention to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Other brands, both oil and latex-based paints, will need to be transferred into a spray gun for proper application. Latex paint is especially useful for painting on rubber because there is little prep needed.

Oil-based paints may require the surface to be roughed up via sanding before application. Also, keep in mind that using spray paints will make it harder to get into tight areas and corners, so disassemble your item if possible.

How to Paint Rubber

Painting your rubber project is fairly straightforward. Once you’ve decided on the type of paint you will use, you just need to make the right preparations and get crafty! While some types of paint may require specific directions, there are a few things you should do to prepare for all types of projects:

  • Thoroughly wash the item with soap and allow it to dry completely. You want to remove any kind of dirt and residue to ensure your paint sticks properly.
  • Lay down newspaper or painter’s cloth to avoid any transfer.
  • If you are painting just one portion of an object, tape off the perimeter.
  • Always make sure to paint in a well-ventilated area.

Painting with Acrylic Paint

After you have prepared your item, paint your first layer and allow it to dry completely. Examine your item and touch up as needed. Then apply a second complete layer.

After both layers have completely dried, you will want to apply the appropriate sealant to prevent chips.

Painting with Removable Paint

The process for using removable paint is similar to using acrylic, except that you will not need a sealant afterwards! Simply apply two complete layers of paint and display your item once it’s completely dry.

Painting with Exterior Paint

It is recommended that prior to painting with exterior paint, you first apply a layer of primer to your object. This will help the paint adhere to your item easier and lessen the chance of peeling or chipping. But just as will removable paint, exterior paint rarely needs a sealant afterwards.

Simply apply your primer and allow it to dry completely. Then add the necessary two coats of paint and display your new piece!

Painting with Commercial Grade Marine Paint

The process for applying marine paint takes quite a bit longer than the other paints listed, but because it’s the most durable of all of the options, the work will be worth it.

You will need to apply a primer beforehand and allow it to dry completely, a minimum of 4 hours. Larger items may need a second coat of primer with a second round of dry time. After the primer has dried, you can continue on with your two coats of paint.

You need to be sure to let the paint cure for a minimum of 48 hours after the last coast. But on the bright side, there is no sealant needed for this paint type!

Cleanup and Touch-ups

After your project is finished, remove any tape around the perimeter, taking care not to rip too fast or too aggressively. It’s a good idea to take a razor or X-acto knife and run it along the tape edge before peeling to avoid any drips or prevent dried areas from peeling away from your finished product.

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the removal of paint in unwanted areas. For removable or latex-based paints, taking a razor or X-acto to peel off the mistakes is a viable option. For oil-based paints, you may need a combination of warm water, soap, and an abrasive rag.

Use small brushes to touch up spots you may have missed or spots that the tape may have taken up. Be sure to use the correct sealant afterwards if you are touching up acrylic paint.

Some Things to Consider

Even though all of these options are suitable for rubber, consider the texture of the surface you are painting on. Smoother surfaces will have a hard time gripping paint than rough surfaces, so a primer or some sanding may be necessary.

While most paint can be applied in a thin enough layer to avoid drips, you should paint your item on a flat surface if possible. Due of its viscosity, paint is self-leveling.

Final Thoughts

Painting rubber can seem like an arduous or difficult task. But as long as you choose the right type of paint and make the correct preparations, it can actually be a fairly easy and satisfying project.

About Pat Freling

Pat has been into DIY painting since he was 14 years old. He's painted interior walls, decks, patio, and even the first car that he'd purchased at 18.

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