How To Apply Polycrylic [Step By Step Guide]

Getting a smooth and glossy finish over your furniture is the ultimate goal of every woodworker. If you are a professional or a DIYer, you always need something to make your work durable and ever-lasting. So, what can be better than applying a protective coat over it?

This coat will shine out the best look of your furniture and make it permanent. Not just that, it will protect it from all the external hazards like moisture, light, and other elements. You can find a lot of topcoats for this.

But what is the best one for your work?

Everyone has their own opinions, but in my viewpoint, polyacrylic is the most reliable option in the market.

Though you can have issues applying it as it needs a lot of consideration, it is still the most effective.

Here we have got you a detailed step-by-step guide on how to apply polycrylic.

But before that, let’s have a quick look at what really polycrylic is.

What is Polycrylic?

Polycrylic is a topcoat you can use over wood for protection. But technically speaking, it is a water-based protective coat and finish, manufactured by Minwax.

It acts as a protective layer against all the dirt, moisture, light, oil, and grease on your wood.

Besides protecting your wood, polycrylic gives your paint a fresh and glossy look. You can even get the texture and color you desire.

If you are going for a clear look, its water-based ability will never disappoint. It will give your wood a glassy look that most woodworkers appreciate.

And other than that, for getting a tinted appearance, you can have a satin glaze.

Where can we use Polycrylic?

Before applying a polyacrylic coat, you should know where you can use it. Because the thing is, you cannot use it everywhere. So, let’s get into the things where it is usable.

  • It is better to use it on indoor projects than on outdoor projects.
  • It will give a clear finish to light-colored woods and milky touch too dark woods.
  • It is much better to use on smaller projects like decorative tables, vanity tables, or side tables as it dries out quickly.
  • It is hard to apply on vertical surfaces because of its runny consistency. So better use it on horizontal tables.
  • Avoid using it on furniture with extra exposure to water.

If they have restrictions for use, then how can we say it is the best topcoat? 

Why is Polycrylic Better than Other Topcoats?

There are numerous reasons to write why polycrylic is better to use. If you are a professional woodworker, you must have used many topcoats over your work experience. Right?

And if you have already applied a polycrylic, and from it, I mean proper application, then you know how clear and consistent it is. As compared to other protective layers on the market, it doesn’t stink or stain.

Let’s have a look at some of its distinctive traits.

  • As it is water-based, it gives a clear and glassy finish.
  • Due to the absence of any oil element, you can easily remove it with water and soap. There is no need for any spirit to wash it.
  • It gives an added protective layer over your paint. 
  • It does not take a lot of time to dry.
  • It will not turn into yellowish color over time.
  • You can apply numerous coats.

Types of Polycrylic:

You can find polycrylics in various forms and textures, depending on the material you want to use.

  • Semi-Gloss Polycrylic: You can use it to get a semi-matte finish
  • Full Gloss Polycrylic: You can use it for glassy texture.
  • Matte Finish Polycrylic: You can use it to get a matte finish.
  • Clear Gloss Polycrylic: You can use it for tabletops.
  • Satin Polycrylic: You can use it to get a sandy look.

Every woodworker needs a different type of finish for every other project. So to make it easy, you can use different textures of polycrylics for each requirement. 

Types of Polycrylic Applications:

Like the types of textures you get with polycrylic, you can get various ways of applications. So, according to your budget and ease, let’s find different ways of applying polycrylic.

  • Spray-on or Aerosol Polycrylic:

If you want to apply a thin layer in a go, then going for this application method is best. You can spray polycrylic from a bottle, and it will spread out evenly in no time. You can do your work with minimum effort and time.

But it has a downside. With the aerosol application, you can get pressure marks on that thin layer. Other than that, aerosol sprays are not even good for the environment.  of it.

  • Roll-on Polycrylic:

If you want to work on large projects, then choosing a roll-on method is a better option. It comes in a big can, suitable for excessive use. Just pour it into some jar and work it with a brush. It is safe for the environment. 

But like the former type, it has a downside. It is very troublesome to get rid of the brush strokes you get when using it. And as it dries pretty quickly, you have to work your way as fast as you can.

Things to Need Before Applying Polycrylic:

You must know what things you should need in applying, so collecting them beforehand is essential. We got you a list of items you will need when you layer polycrylic to your piece of furniture.

  • First, you need a Minwax polycrylic topcoat.
  • Then, a Polycrylic Brush for strokes.
  • Sandpaper to sand in between layers.
  • Tack Cloth for cleaning the piece after every coat.
  • At last, use a liquid cleaner to get a neat board.

With these things on board, you can start your process of applying. For further application, stay here for the extensive tutorial.

Tips before Applying a Polycrylic Topcoat:

To help you in this process, we got you some helpful tips. With the help of these tips, you can have a perfect layer of polycrylic over your furniture piece.

  • Always try to use it in a well-ventilated area to help you with the strong fumes.
  • Slowly stir you can and never shake it, as it will help prevent bubbles.
  • Don’t overwork with your layers, as you can get a streaky effect on it.
  • Using a synthetic brush of high quality will help with the application process.
  • Give your polycrylic an extra time to cure than mentioned on the label.
  • Wear a mask when using an aerosol polycrylic to prevent you from inhaling the fumes.
  • Make sure you have warm water and soap nearby to help you before drying when something goes wrong. 
  • Try to use polycrylic in a moisture-free and cold environment. It will help in the drying process.
  • Never use a wet brush for applying as it will disturb the consistency of your polycrylic.
  • Make sure you use it as the last layer as it is ineffective when used in the middle.

Curing period of Polycrylic:

To know about the curing period of your polycrylic is essential before applying it. The reason is that you can end up destroying your piece by neglecting it. So here are some pointers to help you get knowledge about the curing process.

  • It has a faster drying rate than other topcoats, but you should know it won’t dry immediately.
  • You should apply many layers, at least three. Only 1 or 2 will give an unfinished look. 
  • You can touch your first layer after 30 minutes of administering.
  • That layer will be ready to handle after 1 hour.
  • You can then apply the second coat after 2 hours of application.
  • And after layering all the Coats, you should wait for at least 24 hours to work with them. 

It shows that, although it dries with ease in no time, it still needs a minimum of 24 hours to cure properly.

Step By Step Application Process of Polycrylic:

Just go through the points below and follow them step by step by keeping the mentioned tips in mind. It will for sure help you get the best finish of your workpiece, so let’s get into these points in detail.

  • Setting up of Workplace
  • Preparation of your Surface
  • Application with an Aerosol Spray
  • Application of a Roll-on Polycrylic
  • Preparation of your Polycrylic
  • Application of Polycrylic without streaks
  • Use of Sandpaper between polycrylic Coats

Setting Up of Workplace:

Selecting the workplace for applying polycrylic is of great importance. The thing is, many factors in the environment can affect your work. So making sure you choose the right place will help you.

  • Ventilated Area: One of the things is choosing a well-ventilated area for your application process. It has a slight odor but doesn’t worry, as you are safe from all the stinky fumes like polyurethane.
  • Dust Free: Dust particles can get stuck on your layer and then deteriorate the look of your polycrylic. For this, then you have to sand frequently.
  • Humidity Free: As a woodworker, you should know that humidity reduces the drying process of any topcoat. So when you place your workpiece in a humid environment, it will adversely affect the curing of polycrylic.

Preparation of your Surface:

The most vital step in the application process is, without any doubt, the preparation of your surface. If your piece is not clean or has cracks, it is hard for anyone to get a neat finish. You will get streaks if dust gets stuck under the layer. So, let’s look at the pointers to assist you in How to prepare your surface.

  • Fixing of Dents and Cracks: If your surface has dents, you should try to fix it with the help of sandpaper (220 grits). You can never have a perfect finish on a cracky surface. Or, if the cracks are large enough to sand, using DIY fillers is the best option. 
  • Clean the Surface: It is better to clean the surface after sanding to remove the dust. And if you didn’t do it, you still need to clean the external debris. For this, use a cleansing liquid and a tack cloth. You can also use an air compressor for this purpose. 

Application with an Aerosol Spray:

The application of aerosol spray is extraordinarily efficient and straightforward. But make sure to cover the points mentioned above, as it is no different than a regular application. 

  • Instructional Manual: One thing to remember is that every product comes with a slight change in the application process. So make sure you read the instructional manual accurately before using the polycrylic.
  • Minimal Distance: Always make sure to have a minimum distance of 1 foot when spraying polycrylic from an aerosol spray. This way you can have an even finish. 
  • Airflow: Never keep your airflow with maximum pressure. It will leave pressure marks on your project.

Application with a Roll-on Polycrylic:

The application process on roll-on is substantially different from the aerosol method. But the above two points you used in the aerosol application are essential for this method too. So, to get the further steps, read the passages below.

Preparation of your Polycrylic:

Before using polycrylic, you must need to prepare your product. For some people, it is not an essential step, and they often skip it.

They prefer to use it fresh out of the can. But let me tell you one thing, doing so will affect the consistency and color of your whole topcoat.

So how can you properly prepare your polycrylic without disturbing the polycrylic? 

Go through the points below;

  • First, stir the polycrylic slowly with a stick, and gently continue until you are sure.
  • Before anything, make sure you never shake or violently stir the mixture, as it will create bubbles. These bubbles will affect the neatness of your application.
  • Pour the topcoat into a disposable jar or cup so that you can work with your brush with ease.

Application of Polycrylic without Streaks:

Now comes the step that everyone has been waiting for since the start. How can we apply the polycrylic without getting brush streaks? With the help of these points, you can learn the tricks to get a neat finish.

  • The first and foremost step is to use a high-quality brush with extra fine bristles. A cheap brush will adverse the streaks on your project.
  • The next thing to keep in mind is applying the polycrylic in a single direction. Never go back and forth, as it will simply destroy your layering because of its quick drying. 
  • One more thing about applying is that apply it in the direction of the grain of your wood. This way, you can have a clear finish. 
  • When an application, make sure you don’t put enough pressure and spread a thin layer. 
  • A quick trick is to put many thin layers instead of just one thick layer. It will give your piece a clean, glossy look.
  • After the application, wait for the recommended period and then check the layering of your polycrylic. If you need some more, then sand the surface and apply another one.

Use of Sandpaper between Polycrylic Coats;

One step that we woodworkers often miss is the sanding of the surface between each layer. Sanding between layers is equally necessary as it is before application. Use sandpaper with 220 grits and then clean it with a tack cloth.

Make sure you wait to work on each layer after finishing the curing period. Or else you’ll end up losing your whole work.

These steps, if done accurately, will help you get a clean finish of polycrylic without any streaks. Other than that, we discussed polycrylic is better than its oil-based cousins.

But let’s have a quick look at why it is better. For this, we get you a brief comparison between Polycrylic and Polyurethane topcoats.

Polycrylic VS Polyurethane

When reading about topcoats, you must have encountered the term polyurethane many times, Right? It is because polyurethane is a simple topcoat that most people use in place of polycrylic. You can find this topcoat in two forms; either water-based or oil-based.

If it has a lot of versatility and is commonly used, then why should I go for polycrylic? To answer your question, we got this comparison.  


When talking about application, Polycrylic has a thinner consistency than polyurethane which helps it spread sheer layers. You don’t have to work hard with your pressure to get to the right level. 

Secondly, polycrylic is better for small and flat surfaces, unlike polyurethane that experts in large ones. 

The issue with Usage:

Both polyurethane and polycrylic are non-toxic and have zero to little effect on us. But here, polyurethane loses a number as;

  • In the liquid state, polyurethane is highly flammable, making it dangerous to use in compact spaces.
  • You can use masks or protections when applying polyurethane, as it can cause some long-lasting respiratory problems.

Wash Ability:

As said earlier, polycrylic is water-based and comes with a thin consistency, so we can say it is easy to wash. Just take some warm water and soap and clear that coat off of your hands. 

On the other hand, polyurethane has a thicker consistency, so it takes effort and time to get off of your hands. 

This way, we can say polycrylic is easy to use as a topcoat.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How many shades are available with Minwax polycrylic?
A Minwax polycrylic comes in 5 different textures; ultra-flat, matte, satin, semi-gloss, gloss.
Can you see your polycrylic turning yellow over time?
As polycrylic is water-based, it is unlikely for it to turn yellow over time
Can I apply polycrylic of chalk-type paints?
Yes, chalk-type paints support the layer of polycrylic and dry in a regular curing period.
Can I fix streaks over my polycrylic?
Yes, you can fix streaks over your polycrylic with the help of sanding and reapplying.
Can I use steel wool to sand between layers of polyacrylic?
No, you should not use it as polycrylic is water-based. And it can cause the steel wool to rust over time.

Application of polycrylic is for sure a daunting task because of its thin consistency and curing period. With these qualities, you can for sure have a clean and glossy look, but the applying process can get crazily tough. And as a woodworker, learning to do all that stuff is essential. As polycrylic is gaining demand every day, it has also become a necessity now.

In this article, from step-by-step application tutorials to helpful tips, you can find everything. Even if you are unsure about its importance, go through the essay and solve all your queries. Now stop worrying and make the application process a walk in the park!!