How to Paint Styrofoam

Styrofoam is a basic element to many craft projects. It can be used with different shapes, styles, and mediums. However, because of its bland appearance, Styrofoam also often needs to be painted. This tricky item can be much more difficult to paint than it might seem.


The first rule for painting Styrofoam is to use the correct paint. Only craft paints that specifically state they work with Styrofoam can be applied to the raw item.

Every other paint, especially spray paint, can contain chemicals that will react with the foam. Regular spray paint on Styrofoam causes the foam to actually "melt", making huge craters and holes in the item, not to mention a rather unhealthy mess.

So if you have a Styrofoam friendly paint, you need to follow a few steps. Since Styrofoam has holes in it, paint does not just slide on smoothly. You must "scrub" the paint into the foam, working the color over the rough surface. This will usually mean you need to do two coats, one to get into the holes and one to smooth over the surface.

If you need to use a paint that's not Styrofoam friendly, you must first cover/seal the Styrofoam. There are many products used for this task, plaster of Paris being the most popular. However you can also use products like Mod Pod or surface textures. The best product to use is "Foam Finish". It is easy to put on and can be thin or thick depending on the look desired.

When covering Styrofoam it can be difficult to keep a smooth shape. A perfect covering is done by applying the cover/seal in a thin layer and letting it dry. Then sand off any rough spots until the surface is perfect again. Then cover with another coat, let dry, and sand again. This should give you a perfectly shaped item with a strong cover.

After the covering is dry, you can apply any paint or other decoration desired without worrying about the Styrofoam reacting and melting away.

May 19, 20100 found this helpful

hey, could it be possible to tell me the specific products that I need to buy like paints, smoothing out the raw surface before I paint onto the foam, etc. i'm from the UK but if you could tell me the specific products that I need, it will be very helpful.

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November 27, 20100 found this helpful

Aysha from Boise, Idaho:

What stores carry the "Foam Finish?"

Thank you.

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April 15, 20120 found this helpful

This is the most educational article ever! Thank you so much for posting.

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April 30, 20120 found this helpful

Smoothing and coating of Styrofoam with a mixture of 3 parts drywall joint compound and 1 part Elmer's white glue works well.. Paint it on in thin coats but thick enough to penetrate into the porous foam surface allowing to dry between coats.

I recommend at least 3 coats, if you need to smooth the surface sand lightly after the second coat. For color you can use food coloring in the coating or even powdered dye for cloth or even latex wall paint. If you must use regular spray paint use light coats and dry in a warm ventilated area with good air movement. I repaired and resurfaced a Styrofoam egg incubator this way and it looks like new.

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How to Paint Styrofoam
How to Paint Styrofoam
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