Can You Use Spray Paint On Styrofoam? Detailed Guide

Styrofoam is a popular insulation material, but it can also create sculptures or props. Unfortunately, the surface is not smooth, and the paint doesn’t always adhere well. So, can you use spray paint on styrofoam?

The short answer is that spray paint can be used on Styrofoam. However, you should take some precautions to ensure the best possible results.

We’ll show you how to spray paint on Styrofoam and get good results in this post.

What Is Styrofoam?

Styrofoam is a brand name for extruded polystyrene foam (XPS), which consists of about 90% air, making it very lightweight. It’s often used as packaging material or for thermal insulation in homes. XPS insulation is available in several different densities, the most popular being DOW blue board and pink board.

It can also be shaped into shapes like balls, blocks, sheets, or even sculptures by using hot wire cutters to make cuts along specific lines that you’ve drawn on the finished surface.

Once the styrofoam has cooled down, these shaped pieces are glued together with adhesives like hot glue or white glues; sometimes, they’re simply stacked one on top of another without glue to create wall art or decorative sculptures.

Styrofoam is also used in cosplay to create prosthetics, helmets, armor detailing, and more. It’s usually painted with acrylic paints after being cut into the desired shape.

Is There a Preferred Paint for Painting Styrofoam?

The short answer is no. Acrylic paints that are made by spray paint manufacturers and those you can buy at craft or art supply stores for about a dollar per bottle. They are formulated to adhere to many different surfaces, including Styrofoam.

How to Paint Styrofoam step by step

Step 1: Clean the surface

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to disassemble and clean your styrofoam piece(s). You can also use a wet rag or cloth to remove any dust from the surface.

Step 2:Get rid of textured patches.

If you notice any textured patches on the surface, use a flat head screwdriver to scrape these off. Be careful not to scratch the surface too much; you’re only trying to remove the textured patches, not gouge out bits of foam. A little gentle scraping usually does it without damaging the styrofoam underneath.

Step 3: Mask off areas that shouldn’t be spray painted

Cover it with masking or painter’s tape once your piece is clean and textured patches are removed. The aim is to prevent any paint from getting onto the parts of your piece that you don’t want to be painted.

See also  How Long Does It Take for Spray Paint to Dry? [Solved]

Step 4: Prepare your spray paint equipment.

Shake the can for several minutes before spraying, as per manufacturer instructions. Also, put a sheet or other backing underneath the piece you’re going to spray paint, as this will prevent drips from creating a mess on your surface.

Step 5: Apply several thin coats of spray paint rather than one heavy coat

Spray paint doesn’t adhere well to Styrofoam because of its porous nature. If you apply too much paint at once, it will bleed and seep into the material. To avoid this, start with a thin first coat. After that dries completely, apply several additional thin coats to build up the coverage you want.

Step 6: Wait for each layer of spray paint to dry before applying subsequent layers.

It’s best to wait about 30 minutes between the first coat of paint and subsequent coats. This will ensure that previous layers are dry, preventing them from being soaked by new layers of paint.

Step 7: Add some final details by hand with acrylic paints.

Once you’re happy with the coverage of your spray paint, use acrylic paints to add final touches or highlight areas. For example, you could use the same acrylic paint as your spray paint or a different one to add shading.

Painting Various Types of Styrofoam

Styrofoam Lamps

If you’ve ever bought a lamp with a glass shade, you probably noticed that it’s made from some type of Styrofoam. You can paint this material in the same way as regular styrofoam, but it may be easier to simply glue your cut-out shapes to the lamps rather than paint them.

Styrofoam heads/faces

To paint a styrofoam head or face, you’ll have to draw the design onto the surface, then cut out each shape with a hot wire cutter. Once you’re finished cutting, use a hot glue gun to attach these foam shapes. Note that your styrofoam head will probably still be unpainted at this stage. For painting tips, move on to the next section of this article!

Styrofoam props

If you need to paint styrofoam pieces that are already attached (e.g., a prop like a helmet), you’ll need to take several steps: 1) Apply masking tape to the areas you don’t want to be painted. 2) Use acrylic paints to add extra detailing or texture. 3) Apply spray paint, applying several thin coats rather than one heavy coat.

Pro tip: If desired, use a high-gloss sealer spray after painting your styrofoam prop to achieve a glossy finish.

Styrofoam faux flowers

These are made from styrofoam balls, which you can paint in practically the same way as regular styrofoam. The only difference is that you’ll need to add a stem and leaves, which can be crafted from wire or other materials.

Styrofoam vases/containers

To paint a styrofoam vase, container, or box, you’ll need to cut holes in the shape of your design and glue the pieces in place. For example, if you want a heart-shaped pattern on your vase, you’ll need to cut out several hearts from scrap card stock then glue them onto the surface of your styrofoam.

Styrofoam animals

These are made from styrofoam balls or other materials, which can be painted by hand with acrylic paints as per the instructions in the previous section of this article.

See also  Can You Spray Paint on Metal? - Complete Guide

Pro tip: Some crafting stores sell pre-made animal figurines that you can paint and use to decorate your home!

Styrofoam ornaments

These are made from small styrofoam balls that you can paint the same way as regular styrofoam. If desired, you can use different acrylic paints to add highlights and definitions to your design.

Styrofoam garden statues

These are typically made from polystyrene foam blocks that can be painted the same way as regular styrofoam (see the previous section), except sealing your finished piece with a sealant spray if desired.

Styrofoam pool toys

They are shaped like cartoon characters or other familiar objects and made from styrofoam. You can paint styrofoam pool toys by hand with acrylic paints as per the instructions in the previous section of this article, but you’ll need to use a sealant spray if desired since water could damage your painted design.

Styrofoam mannequin

To paint a styrofoam mannequin, you’ll need to carve the shape of your design into styrofoam blocks then paint it. When painting, use acrylic paints for extra durability.

Styrofoam masks

They are made from styrofoam balls or other materials that can be painted with acrylic paints as per the instructions in the previous section of this article.

Styrofoam cutouts

These are made from styrofoam sheets and can be painted the same way as regular styrofoam (see the previous section). But since the paint may not stick well on glossy surfaces, you might need to seal it with a spray sealant if desired.

Where Not to use spray paint for Styrofoam?

Spray painting may not be suitable for some types of styrofoam, especially in cases where the paint is likely to seep into cracks or crevices. For example, spray painting may not work well with styrofoam sculpted into detailed shapes because the paint will seep inside.

In these cases, you could try using acrylic paints in these cases instead – they are thin enough to penetrate tiny pores in the styrofoam but thick enough to stick in place once they dry.

Is It Safe To Spray Paint Styrofoam?

Most spray paints are not toxic to humans. However, since there is always a slight risk when using chemicals, it may be best to use spray paint for styrofoam outdoors or in a well-ventilated area.

If this isn’t possible, you could try wearing protective gloves and goggles since the ingredients in some types of spray paint could irritate your skin or eyes.

Dispose of used spray paint responsibly, following the instructions on the label. Never pour it down a drain because this could contaminate local water supplies.

Most types of spray paint can be disposed of in your regular rubbish bin, but make sure you check with the manufacturer if you’re unsure since some brands may require different disposal methods.

If you want to try spray painting Styrofoam but aren’t sure which types of paint are safe to use, you could always research your specific product or find out more about the ingredients.

If it’s not labeled as “low-toxic,” there is probably some form of toxicity, but it will be labeled as such if it’s low-toxic.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can You Paint Styrofoam?

Yes, you can paint styrofoam. You just need to choose the right type of paint or use acrylic paints instead.

See also  Can You Spray Paint On Glass? - Complete Guide

What Spray Paint Works On Foam Board?

For foam board, you can use acrylic paint or regular spray paint. Acrylic lets the paper still breathe so it doesn’t wrinkle as much as regular spray paint might. Test on a scrap piece to see if your particular paint will work or not.

How Do You Seal Styrofoam For Spray Painting?

Most spray paints are made from plastic that will protect styrofoam from damage. However, if desired, you might want to use a sealant spray since the ingredients in some types of paint could cause damage over time – acrylic paint is an example of this type of “toxic” paint.

If you’re using regular spray paint, you should be safe to use it directly on styrofoam.

Can you use Rustoleum spray paint on styrofoam?

Yes, you can use Rustoleum spray paint on styrofoam. Make sure the paint is designed for covering foam before using it, though.

Is there a way to spray paint and seal Styrofoam, so it has a glossy finish?

You can use acrylic paints or special gloss/matte sprays to achieve this effect.

How do you paint styrofoam without melting it?

Most spray paints are made from plastic that will protect styrofoam from damage. However, if you’re using regular spray paint, you should be safe to use it directly on styrofoam.

Can you paint over styrofoam insulation?

Yes, you can paint over styrofoam insulation. Acrylic paints are a good choice since they let the foam breathe, so it doesn’t wrinkle as much when drying, but regular spraypaint will do just fine if this is what you want to use.

How long does it take for spray paint to dry on Styrofoam?

It can take up to an hour for spraypaint on styrofoam to dry, so you’ll need to give it some time before moving on to the next step. If it’s still wet, then you’ll run the risk of wrinkling up your design or damaging your paint job if you peel off the tape.

Can expandable foam be painted?

Yes, expandable foam can be painted. However, this may damage the sponge so use care when painting it.


As you can see, there is a lot of useful information in this article. If you want to paint styrofoam but don’t know how or what to use, then now you have a few ideas and the information needed to make an informed decision on which type of spray paint may work best for your styrofoam art project.

As with any type of spray paint, make sure you cover or mask off your work area in case of overspray and follow the safety precautions to reduce the risk of injury when handling spray paint.

This concludes our article on “Can You Paint Styrofoam?”. Thank you for reading this article. Please like it or share it if you have found it helpful.

Related Articles