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Paint plastic or plastic

Painting plastic or plastic: This must be taken into account when painting various plastics

Furniture, planters, skateboards, collectible figures, wall panels ... many plastic objects can be embellished, personalized, upgraded, renovated or saved from the garbage can with a new paint job. Read here what to consider when painting plastics and which paint you can use to achieve the best result.

Which plastic do you want to paint?

The terms plastic, plastic or plastics are largely used synonymously. This is not entirely correct, because not every plastic is also plastic (deformable), but it has become so natural. What all plastics have in common is that they are polymers. Put simply, this means that the plastic is a single, huge molecule made up of individual building blocks, the monomers.

There are many different types of plastics, and if you are not a chemist, engineer or other expert, you can only tell them apart by the labeling. However, when painting plastic, it is important to know what type of plastic it is. This is the only way you can be sure to choose the right paint and avoid unpleasant surprises when painting.

Fortunately, you can usually use the commercially available paints that are suitable for plastic for a large number of types of plastic. After all, these paints are often also largely made of plastics, e.g. B. synthetic resins. Nevertheless, it is ideal if you know what type of plastic your workpiece is made of before painting. This not only facilitates the choice of paint, but also helps to identify or avoid any hazardous substances and health risks that can arise not only from the paint, but also from the plastic part itself.

Numerous plastic products have markings by which you can recognize the plastic even as a layperson. You do not have to become a chemist or carry out risky experiments at home, such as burn or smoldering samples to determine materials.

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This allows you to identify plastics before painting

The easiest and safest way to determine plastic is to use the plastic abbreviation itself. The abbreviation can be embossed directly on the product, on the label or on the packaging or as information in the instructions for use, the technical data sheet or other accompanying or descriptive text. The recycling codes (letters and numbers next to the recycling symbol) also contain the plastic abbreviation and thus provide information about the material used. Even the recycling code 07 or O (= "other" for "other plastics") is valuable information. Because then you can already exclude seven of the most frequently used plastics that have their own codes. However, specifying a recycling code is voluntary; So you can't count on finding one.

Basically, plastics can be divided into thermosets, thermoplastics and elastomers. Duroplasts are hard and cannot be plastically deformed; even when heated, they do not become soft, but at most break, for example by decomposing. Thermoplastic plastics become soft (softer) when heated and can be deformed when heated. Plastics are called elastomers that cannot be melted, but are extremely flexible and elastic even at normal room temperature. A plastic can also be both at the same time, for example a thermoplastic elastomer.

The following table lists many common types of plastic with their abbreviations, some examples of use and properties, and the associated recycling codes.

Differentiation between plastics and types of plastic

AbbreviationName (s)Use (examples from everyday life and household)Properties, worth knowingRecycling code


High-density polyethylene;



Plastic pipes, bottles, rubbish bins, imitation wood (synthetic wood), polyrattan furniture thermoplastic;

PE is the most widely used plastic today



Low-density polyethylene; Polyethylene;


Buckets, plastic bags, plastic bags, soap dispensers, tubes, foils, packaging thermoplastic, less dense than PE-HD04


Polyethylene terephthalatePlastic bottles, microwave dishes, foilsthermoplastic;

also known as textile fiber (polyester)

PApolyamideDowels, gears, cable ties, strings, fishing lines, tights, tires for forklift trucksthermoplastic07 or O

(= Other,


PcPolycarbonate Laptop and cell phone cases, drinking bottles, water dispensers, kitchen appliances, microwave dishes, glasses thermosetting,

the classic plastic baby drinking bottles were made of PC until 2011

PSPolystyreneBallpoint pens, yoghurt cups, documents, bowls for fruit, vegetables or meat in the supermarketthermoplastic, styrofoam is foamed PS 06
PVCPolyvinyl chlorideRigid PVC: records, drainage pipes, credit cards, window profiles

Soft PVC: floor coverings, vinyl wallpapers, wall foils


Soft PVC is created by adding plasticizers



Containers (e.g. measuring cups, plastic boxes, planters), bicycle helmets, dashboards, garden furniturethermoplastic05
PMMAPolymethyl methacrylate;


Acrylic glass

Plastic rulers, greenhouses, glasses, contact lenses duroplastic, food-safe, excellent optical properties 07 or O
PUPolyurethanesSurfboards, skateboards, skisDepending on their composition, PU can be thermoplastics, thermosets or elastomers07
MFMelamine formaldehyde resin;

Melamine resin

Dishes and cooking utensils (e.g. spatulas, wooden spoons), storage and transport boxes (e.g. euro boxes), kitchen frontsthermosetting,

consists of melamine and formaldehyde; often also contained in "bamboo" cups and plates


best known trade name: Bakelite

Handles and housings (e.g. for radios, kitchen appliances and old telephones), skittles and billiard balls thermosetting,

was also used for the plastic body of the Trabant

SECTIONAcrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene copolymer;

ABS plastics;

also as ABS-PC

Electrical devices, toys, motorcycle helmets, LEGO bricks, products from the 3D printerthermoplastic;

99% of ABS can be recycled according to type

GRPFiberglass reinforced plastic;


Molded parts and cladding in car, aircraft and shipbuilding, slides, shower trays and bathtubs, gates, facades, sports equipmentFiber-plastic composite; is made from thermoplastic or thermosetting plastics and fiberglass07

Which plastics can be painted well?

Hard and stable plastic parts with a surface that is not too smooth can be painted very well in almost all cases. This includes plastic furniture, door and window frames, sturdy containers such as garbage cans, plastic vases or planters, synthetic wood panels as well as figures and other decorative items. However, the plastic must be properly prepared before painting, i.e. cleaned, sanded if necessary and / or given a special primer, such as an adhesion promoter or primer. Damage and unevenness can be leveled out with plastic or plastic spatulas or suitable fillers.

If you know which plastic it is, you can specifically buy the right plastic primer and the optimal paint for it. The best thing to do is to choose a paint manufacturer and then buy all the products for the paint system from their range. So you can be sure that everything you use is compatible with each other and together ensures an optimal painting result - primer, adhesion promoter, primer, filler, spatula and the colored lacquer, effect lacquer or clear lacquer of your choice. There are plenty of colors; since October 2010 also RAL Plastics, a color collection especially for plastics.

Of course, it is not always necessary to open the whole pallet. Many plastic surfaces can be painted with the right paint without a primer. In addition, not every surface has to be perfectly smooth or high-gloss, and not every plastic coating has to be weatherproof, scratch-resistant, impact-resistant or food-safe. And the multi-layer application is not always necessary or desirable - it is often sufficient to clean the part with soapy water, sand a little with 120 paper and then paint it in the desired color with the spray can. You know best what exactly you want - choose the right one from the huge range and do not hesitate to seek advice from the specialist staff.

Which plastics are problematic when painting?

Plastic parts or surfaces made of PP and PE - i.e. polypropylene and polyethylene - are generally more difficult to paint because many paints do not adhere properly to them. However, the right pre-treatment can help: Before painting, apply a special primer for the corresponding plastic, then you can coat it with almost any paint afterwards.

But be careful: There are also special plastic bases that are suitable for all plastics except PE. A look at the manufacturer's information brings clarity. If you do not know whether your workpiece is made of PE, treat a test site and check the result after it has dried.

Soft PVC and other soft plastics as well as foams are also problematic. Here both the plasticizers contained in it cause adhesion problems as well as the consistency itself. Because even a lacquer that is basically suitable for this type of plastic and that adheres well will not stick so well or permanently on a soft, elastic, flexible or movable surface. The risk of it cracking or becoming detached is significantly higher compared to hard surfaces. With adhesion promoters, plastic spatulas or special fillers that contain elasticizers, you can strengthen the surface or improve the adhesion.

Tip: Flexible and movable plastic parts that do not hold paint can be covered with foil instead, if the shape allows it.

Which paint for which plastic?

To paint plastic, you can use a 2K paint (two-component paint), water-soluble acrylic paint or alkyd resin / synthetic resin paint, which the manufacturer also provides for this type of plastic. You will find information on suitable materials and substrates on the container and in the technical data sheet for the paint.

Paints, primers and other pretreatment products are offered for painting with a brush and roller as well as for spraying. If the type of plastic is unknown, apply a modern high-tech primer or primer for plastics and test the paint adhesion on an inconspicuous area before painting the entire surface.

For melamine resin-coated kitchen fronts, on which most lacquers do not adhere, there is so-called kitchen lacquer. B. repaint or redesign the cabinet doors and drawer fronts in the kitchen.

Laminated chipboard can be pretreated with a 2K primer with epoxy resin and then coated with alkyd resin paint or acrylic paint.

With so-called 2-in-1 products, many plastics can be coated without a separate primer. In the case of extremely smooth surfaces, however, at least sanding with fine-grain sandpaper is recommended to improve the paint adhesion.

Volatile organic compounds and solvents, e.g. B. alcohol, acetone, chlorinated hydrocarbons, benzene or nitro thinner attack some plastic surfaces. If you don't know the type of plastic, don't take any risks and avoid solvent-based primers and synthetic resin paints. With a 2-component water-based acrylic varnish and, if necessary, a water-based primer, you get a beautiful and durable plastic finish with minimal use of solvents. You can also use it to paint sensitive surfaces such as acrylic glass.

PUR lacquers (polyurethane lacquer, polyurethane-reinforced lacquer) result in particularly durable and resistant surfaces. These paints are, inter alia. They are used for painting furniture and are also available as water-based paints.

Painting plastic: sequence of work steps

  1. Remove coarse soiling.
  2. Roughening the surface: First sand away grooves and scratches, then sand the entire surface with emery paper.
  3. Clean plastic with soapy water, wipe with water, allow to dry. The surface must be free of dust and grease.
  4. Apply adhesion promoter / special primer, allow to dry according to the manufacturer's instructions.
  5. Apply varnish / spray paint and allow to dry.
  6. In the case of multi-layer structures, sanding is often also carried out between jobs. One possible sequence is roughly: priming - intermediate sanding - first coat of paint - intermediate sanding - second coat of paint.

    Priming is carried out before the paint is applied, but depending on the condition and use of the surface, it can also be primed before and after filling, for example in this order: priming - filling - sanding / polishing filler - priming - painting in one or more layers.

    Always adhere to the specified drying times between the work steps and allow the workpiece to ventilate well. Make sure there is a sufficient supply of fresh air and the correct processing temperature when painting and wear protective gloves and breathing protection so as not to inhale solvent vapors, sanding dust or flying paint particles.

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