Why Use Acrylic House Paints for Toys

Water Cleanup

For me the greatest advantage to using the acrylics to paint wooden toys is the use of water for a solvent. About as non toxic as you can get and nearly free. Where you really see the cost savings is in the cleanup. Other paint thinners cost $10 to $20 a gallon and all of them are toxic.

 Wooden Toy Car Hot Rod Freaky Ford Deuce Coupe Body Painted With Behr House Paint - Axle Hubs with Metalice Craft Paint - Wheels With Amber Shellac
Wooden Toy Car Hot Rod Freaky Ford Deuce Coupe Body Painted With Behr House Paint - Axle Hubs with Metallic Craft Paint - Wheels With Amber Shellac

Oops Paints Are The Winner

Oops paint is the hands-down winner for cost $0.50 US for 12-16 oz, although the colors are limited to what you can find. "Oops Paint" is a term only used when referring to incorrectly mixed paint purchased at Home Depot. I make it a practice to walk through the paint department whenever I'm in Home Depot and see what they have. I usually buy only brighter colors. So far, I like the satin finish exterior paint/primer the best. 

One coat coverage is possible using house paint. However, In practice, wood toys will always need at least two coats of paint. The first coat seals the wood and stiffens up the fuzzy wood fibers so they can be sanded smooth. I sometimes use shellac for the first/primer coat. It seals the wood. Amber shellac also enhances the grain, so I get one that looks too nice for painting once in a while.



 Wooden Toy  Truck Trailer Painted with Blue Behr Oops Paint from Home Depot
Wooden Toy  Truck Trailer Painted with Blue Behr Oops Paint from Home Depot

House Paint vs. Craft Paint

House paint is an excellent choice for wood toys. It's durable, nontoxic, and easy to apply. The color choice is just about anything you could want, and they will mix what you want. I have found that they don't have metallic, candy, black, and high gloss paints. 

Once for once, house paint costs about the same as craft paint when buying craft paint at my local Wal-Mart vs. buying house paint sample cans at Home Depot. I've seen 2 oz bottles of craft paint selling for $2 or more in some cases. So it depends on your needs. I use metallic craft paint for the axle hubs. It's more expensive than house paint, but house paint doesn't come in metallic colors. It only takes a drop of paint to paint an axle hub. One of those 2 oz bottles will paint a lot of axle hubs. Cost-wise, house paint and craft paint are about the same, depending on your needs. 

The lower-cost craft paints are all flat. If you want flat paint for your toys, this can be very inexpensive. Apple Barrel brand paints are $0.50 for a 2 oz bottle at Wal-Mart. I get mixed results using craft paint; some of it covers very well and is quite durable. Others are not so good. The ones I don't like are all the more expensive ones. I have stopped using uncoated black craft paint because of its tendency to leave black marks on other colors. 

If flat isn't your thing, you can always topcoat acrylic flat paints. I have used clear shellac, polyurethane, or any of the clear Krylon rattle can paints. Clear coating adds extra steps and cost, but you can get pretty much any look you want. I like to keep it simple, so I use satin finish house paint if I have the color I want. 

Orange Play Pal Wooden Toy Truck Trailers Painted with  Acrylic Craft Paint
Orange Play Pal Wooden Toy Truck Trailers Painted with  Acrylic Craft Paint


I don't have any objective scientific evidence to back this up, just my limited experience. House paints, especially exterior paints, should be much more durable than craft paints. After all, they are designed to hold up to sun and weather, not to mention pressure washers and cleaning chemicals. Well, at least the better ones are. Craft paint is not designed for this. However, this doesn't mean that they are not durable. There are toys in my grandson's toy box painted with craft paint that has been in play for a couple of years. There are a good many dings and dents, but the paint hasn't failed.

If I have the colors I need, I'm going to prefer acrylic house paint. If I need to buy the colors, I want to go with what makes sense. For example, painting an axle hub takes about a drop of paint. A 2 oz bottle of acrylic paint may spoil before I use it all. 

I think the acrylic house paint is more durable, but not where this makes the decision. The exception would be for outdoor toys, which I would probably choose house paints. 

Color Availability

You can't walk into a craft store and get them to mix up some paint to match the color of your cat. Some paint companies have apps that let you pick colors to mix from photos. Sherwin Williams has one of these apps. I met a young lady that works in the paint department at Home Depot who asked what I did with all the Oops paint. When I told her, she got pretty excited about it and wanted to see some toys. She says she can mix me some very hot pink paint. When I can catch her at the paint desk, I will take her up on it. When it comes to color choices, house paint is the clear winner.


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