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Can you paint on rubber? Yes, you can! Painting on rubber is easy! However, there are a few factors you need to consider before slapping on any old goop. Not all types of rubber will accept paint and not all paint is ideal for painting rubber. In this article, we will take a deep dive into the nature of rubber and the best paints for rubber. We will also take a look at how to successfully apply paint on rubber and what supplies you will need to do so. Stick around to find out the answers to the questions most frequently asked on how to paint rubber!
Table of Contents
The Nature of Rubber
Rubber comes in many forms. From footwear to car tires to hoses and floor mats – rubber is an extremely versatile material. This is because it is easy to form into different shapes and it is very tough. Rubber can be extruded, injection-molded, or rolled into sheets. Rubber is a broad term. There are two main variants of rubber. Natural and synthetic rubber. Before we take a look at how to paint rubber and the best paints for painting rubber, let us take a deep dive into the world of rubber!
Rubber can be traced back to around 1000 B.C.E. when central and southern Americans used this type of rubber daily. It was harvested from rubber trees and used to make waterproof clothing and tools. In the early 1800s, a French explorer by the name of Charles Marie de la Condamine sent a sample back to Europe which stirred up a lot of interest. Thereafter there were many developments of this raw material and with it, a proliferation of products followed suit.
In 1910 a Russian scientist named Sergei Vasiljevic Lebedev developed the first synthetic rubber. From then on, rubber production grew in popularity as synthetic rubber became much cheaper than natural rubber. Today one of the largest consumers of rubber is that of car tire manufacturing!
Natural rubber comes from a South American indigenous tree. A milky sap-like liquid of this tree can be tapped from cuts in the tree’s trunk. When it dies, it forms natural latex rubber. Trees can be tapped often and can yield about a cup of latex rubber every two days.
The latex rubber is processed and compacted into brick and shipped. Sometimes the rubber rolled into sheets and smoked to prevent mold growth. This smoke contains natural fungicides. Natural rubber is used to make a wide range of products such as surgical gloves, pacifiers, children’s toys, and car tires!
Synthetic rubber is made from crude oil and comes in many different forms. The type of rubber is defined by chemical manufacturing processes. The most common types of rubber are butyl, acrylic, ethylene-propylene, styrene-butadiene, and silicone rubbers. Each of these has its pros and cons.
Over 30 million tons of both synthetic and natural rubber are produced every year in the U.S.A. More than two-thirds of this is synthetic. Thankfully, rubber is recyclable. Choosing to reuse and upcycle old rubber products is a great way to reduce waste!
Rubber can have many different properties depending on how it is manufactured and what additives are used. Rubber can be resistant to extreme temperatures, abrasion-resistant as well as chemical and oil resistant. It is very tough and can be very stretchy! Rubber can be as hard as wood or soft as a kitchen sponge. It is the wide array of properties that make rubber incredibly versatile.
It is important to note that while you can paint rubber, painting very flexible rubber such as a swimming cap or latex gloves will not work well at all. However, choosing to paint hard rubber like a car tire or shoe soles is possible. Read on to learn more about what the ideal paints are for rubber!
Types of Paint for Rubber
Now that we have covered the nature of rubber, we can take a look at the best paints for rubber. Only a few paints will adhere to rubber. This can be attributed to rubber’s flexibility. Some paints will not offer enough flex which will result in premature chipping or peeling. In this section, we will cover the types of paint best suited for rubber and in the following section, we will present our top picks! Keep reading to find out more!
Acrylic paint is a popular type of craft paint and bonds well to a wide variety of surfaces. While it may not be the most durable option, acrylic paint is ideal for indoor use and on items that are not going to be subjected to much handling. Acrylic paint is perfect for items such as indoor decorations. For best results, aim to apply at least two coats and consider applying a clear sealer. This will increase the durability. Acrylic paint comes in a wide variety of colors so you will have a lot to choose from!
Removable Rubber Paint
If you are looking for a temporary coat of paint that still offers a level of durability then removable paint is a great choice! This paint is usually available in a can of spray paint. Once dry it can easily be removed by peeling it from the surface of your rubber. It is a flexible paint for rubber and stands up well to the rigors of use. Removable paint is ideal for festive decorations. This type of paint allows you to change your mind and try out a few shades before settling on the ideal color for the occasion!
If you are looking for durability, you will need to opt for exterior paint. These types of paints stand up well to wind, rain, UV rays, and fluctuating temperatures. Exterior paint can be painted with a paintbrush, roller, or sprayer. For the best results, it is advised that you apply a primer before applying an exterior paint to rubber. This will increase the adhesion and the durability of your exterior paint on rubber. Exterior paint is ideal for painting everything from old car tires to rubber boots!
If you are looking for maximum durability, marine paint is what you should be after! These types of paints resist the elements extremely well and are often used on swimming pools and seaside structures. A good quality commercial-grade marine paint will bond well to rubber and provide a coating that will last a long time. There is no need to use a primer with these types of paint, nor is there any need to apply a sealer. Marine paint resists peeling, chipping, and fading and is an ideal choice for painting exterior rubber surfaces.
Best Paint for Rubber
You may be feeling a little overwhelmed with the array of options available. You may not be sure which paints are ideal for painting rubber. To help you to narrow down your search we have created a shortlist of the best paints for rubber. Be sure to consider the environment that your rubber item is going to be subjected to. If the item is going to be indoors and not handled much then you can opt for acrylic paint.
These paints are listed in order of durability. If your item is going to be outside you should choose exterior or marine paint. If you are looking to get the job done quickly opt for spray paint with a built-in primer. Stick around to find out more about the best paint for rubber. Later in this article, we will show you how to paint on rubber.
Best Acrylic Paint for Rubber Art & Crafts: APPLE BARREL Acrylic Paint
If you are looking for the ideal paint for painting rubber arts and crafts, the Apple Barrel 18-Piece acrylic paint set is ideal! This kit contains a wide array of colors from fuchsia, to melted chocolate brown. This paint is ideal for painting interior rubber surfaces that are not intended to be handled. Applying this acrylic paint on rubber is easy to do with a paintbrush or sponge. Colors can be mixed and matched. These vibrate acrylic paint colors are ideal for festive decorations and it dries to a matte finish.
Best Spray Paint for Rubber: KRYLON Color Master Paint and Primer
The quickest and most convenient to paint on rubber is to use spray paint! Spray painting rubber is easy with Krylon’s Master Paint and Primer. As the name suggests it contains a built-in primer which makes the process of painting that much simpler. This paint is durable and comes in an array of different colors.
The quick-drying formula offers great coverage and is ideal for both indoors and outdoors. Spray paint for rubber is easy to apply but be aware that you should spray paint firm rubber. Rubber that is too flexible such as stretchy rubber gloves or a swimming cap will readily accept spray paint.
Best Marine paint for Rubber: TOTALBOAT Wet Edge Paint for Boats
Marine paint offers the highest durability. Totalboat is a trusted brand in the world of marine paint and it bonds well to rubber! This paint resists wind, rain, UV rays, and temperature fluctuations. This one-part polyurethane is easy to apply with a brush or roller but can also be applied with a roller. Totalboat Wet Edge provides durable and flexible paint for rubber that will not peel, crack or fade. This paint is ideal for painting exterior rubber surfaces that will be used frequently. Paint your tire swing or the soles of your shoes but choose durability. Choose Totalboat Wet Edge!
How to Paint Rubber Tires
Upcycling car tires is a great way to reduce waste! Car tires make great garden swings and planters. Painting old rubber tires is a wonderful way to liven things up! Rubber tires are not very flexible which makes them ideal for painting. You will need to select high-quality exterior paint for painting rubber tires. And it is always a good idea to apply a primer before applying the paint.
Cleaning the Tires
Be sure that the tires are free from dirt, grease, and grime. Warm soapy water should help you to remove most impurities from the surface. If you are looking for a more extreme clean you can try some trisodium phosphate (TSP) soap. Use a coarse bristle brush to get into cracks and tread. If you are planning to cut or drill holes in the tires you will want to get this out of the way first. Take care when cutting rubber. Blades can get stuck in the rubber so it is best to use dish soap as a lubricant.
Priming and Painting
To increase the adhesion of the primer and the paint you can use coarse grit sandpaper to roughen the surface of the tire. This will create a surface profile that the primer can bite into. A tack cloth will remove any grit or dust. Your tire should be completely dry before you apply the primer. Primer will further increase the adhesion of the paint. Applying with a brush, roller, or sprayer. A sprayer will help you to cover tricky areas like tread patterns and cracks.
Let the primer dry before applying your paint. The drying time will vary between manufacturers. When the primer is dry you can begin painting the tires in the same way that you did with the primer. If you are painting a light color onto tires, you have a difficult time covering up the black. This may require multiple coats of paint.
Take your time and allow each coat of paint to dry before applying the next. Once you have completed painting you will need to allow for the paint to cure before use. Read the information on the packaging of the paint to find out the drying times. Bear in mind that these times will be affected by the weather and overall climate. Applying a clear polyurethane sealer to the painted tires will make your coating even more durable!
How to Spray Paint Rubber Boots
Rubber boots are a very practical choice in footwear, especially in wet weather! You may be considering adding a splash of color to an old pair that you have lying about. This is a fun project and very easy to do! To get the job done fast you should opt for spray paint with a built-in primer. This type of paint will offer a decent bond to the rubber boot and offer a good level of flexibility too!
Clean and Prep the Rubber Boots
Clean the rubber boots before doing anything. Any dirt or oil will prevent the adhesion of the paint. Use soapy water and a coarse bristle brush to scrub your rubber boots and allow them to dry. Use coarse-grit sandpaper to scuff the surface of the rubber and remove the gloss. This will ensure your paint bonds to the rubber.
Use a tack cloth to strip the surface of any grit and dust. If you are planning to paint the uppers only, you may want to cover up the sole with painter’s tape. This will prevent annoying overspray. Cover any areas that you do not wish to paint with painter’s tape.
Spray Painting Rubber Boots
Shake your spray can until the metal agitator is moving freely within the can. You should continue to shake the can for 2 to 3 minutes. This will ensure that the spray paint and propellant have been mixed sufficiently. Stand your rubber boots a few feet apart on some old newspaper, preferably outdoors. If you are forced to work indoors you should wear a respirator and open all the doors and windows.
Hold the can about 8 inches from the surface of your rubber boot and spray in short controlled bursts while moving the can in short controlled strokes. This will prevent any drips from forming. It is better to apply multiple thin coats than a single thick coat. This will create a more professional look and even finish. Wait for the previous coat of paint to dry before applying the next. Drying time will be mentioned on the spray can.
Tips and Tricks
- Before painting rubber, be sure that the rubber is clean and free from any oils or dirt. Soap and water should do the trick. The rubber should be completely dry before applying your paint.
- When painting firm rubber-like a car tire, use sandpaper to roughen up the surface and remove any gloss from the tire. This will improve the bond of the paint to the tire. And remember applying a primer first is always a good idea!
- Using spray paint on rubber is a great way to speed up the process. However, selecting the correct paint will make or break your project. For best results, choose a high-quality spray paint that contains a primer.
- If you are planning to paint car tires it is best to do any cutting and drilling beforehand. Choosing to cut and drill after the fact may lead to damaging your new coat of paint. When cutting a tough car tire try lubricating the blade with dish soap to help it glide freely.
- When painting on rubber use painter’s tape to hide any surfaces that you do not wish to paint. You can also create interesting patterns on rubber tires using painter’s tape. Simply lay down the painter’s tape in an interesting pattern. Spray over the design. Allow the paint to dry, remove the painter’s tape. Voilà!
Painting rubber is easy! However, selecting the correct paint is important. It is best to select flexible paint for rubber. Bear in mind that painting super flexible rubber such as a swimming cap will not work. The paint will simply crack and peel off when the material is stretched. That being said, painting firm rubber-like car tires or rubber footwear is possible! Apply a primer before applying an exterior paint or for a more convenient option use spray paint with a built-in primer. For the most durable coating on rubber try marine paint!
View our How To Paint Rubber web story here.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can You Paint Rubber?
Yes. Painting rubber is possible. You should select a durable paint that offers a good amount of flex. Exterior paint is a great choice. Use it in conjunction with a primer for the best results. This type of paint is great for rubber tires and rubber shoe soles.
Can I Use Rubber Seal Paint on Rubber?
Rubber seal paint is specifically made for sealing roofs, gutters, and other exterior fixtures. It may not be the best for painting rubber. Instead, use exterior paint and primer. For the most durable coating opt for marine paint.
Can I Apply Acrylic Paint on Rubber?
Once dry acrylic paint offers a decent amount of flex which makes it ideal for rubber. Acrylic paint is ideal for rubber items that will be kept indoors and items that will not be handled too much. It may not be the most durable paint but it will work well for rubber interior decorations.
How to Prevent Paint Cracking on Rubber?
Avoid painting stretchy latex such as rubber gloves or swimming caps. While paint may bond to the surface, once dry, there is a good chance that the paint will crack and peel from the surface of the item. However, painting firm rubber is possible!
What Is the Best Paint for Rubber Crafts?
Acrylic paint is an ideal paint for small rubber arts and crafts. It may not be ideal for exteriors but will hold up well indoors, especially if it will not be handled too much. Another option is removable paint. It is a temporary option and is ideal for holiday decorations.