Can You Paint Rubber? Best Paint To Use & How-To Guide

Tire tread painted yellow viewed from above against a black background.

If you’ve ever considered repurposing old car tires as planters or creating hip purses out of old bike tires, you may have found yourself wondering how to change the color of the rubber.

Paint is the tool of choice when it comes to transforming the color of materials of all kinds, but does it work on rubber?

Can you paint rubber? Rubber can be painted, but the type of paint depends on the specific project. For indoor rubber items, paint with an acrylic paint and apply sealant once dry. Use removable paint for items you’ll want to change color later. For durability, use exterior or marine paint for outdoor projects.

When it comes to painting on rubber, not all paints are created equal. It’s crucial to not only pick the right paint for the job, but to understand how to effectively apply it.

In this article you will learn the best paints to use on rubber and how to properly apply them.

Best Paints To Use on Rubber

There are a multitude of paints to choose from when it comes to painting projects, but painting on rubber requires certain specifications that not all paints carry.

Acrylic Paint

If you’re planning on painting rubber that will remain indoors and won’t see a lot of use, acrylic paint is the paint for you.

  • Best for: When using acrylic paint on rubber, it works best on indoor projects and decorative items.
  • How Many Layers To Apply: Apply at least two layers of acrylic paint to the rubber, and be sure to allow each layer to completely dry before applying the next coat.
  • Drying Time: Acrylic paint applied to rubber can take 2-24 hours depending on thickness of coats.
  • How To Seal: To seal your acrylic paint, you can apply an acrylic varnish. Varnishes can be brushed on, or they also come in a spray version.

Exterior Paint

Exterior paint is perfect for any outdoor rubber projects, as it is durable and holds up well against the elements. Exterior paint can be applied via brush, roller, or spray. 

  • Best for: Exterior paint is best for outdoor projects.
  • How Many Layers To Apply: Apply at least two coats of exterior paint to the rubber, making sure to apply even coats and to fill all cracks.
  • Drying Time: When painting outdoors, allow at least six hours for the paint to dry. Exterior paint may not be completely dry for 24 hours, and even then it can require several days of curing time depending on weather conditions.
  • How To Seal: Exterior paint is extremely durable and designed to withstand the elements. For this reason, it is not necessary to apply any sealant over exterior paint.

Removable Paint

Removable paint is a good choice if you think you may want to take the paint off of the rubber at some point in the future.

Removable paint can be applied as a spray paint, which is great for covering large areas.

  • Best for: Removable paint is best for temporary projects or projects that you plan on redecorating in the future.
  • How Many Layers To Apply: Apply at least two layers of removable paint.
  • Drying Time: Wait at least an hour but preferably one day to test the dryness of the removable paint.
  • How To Seal: When it comes to removable paint on rubber, you should skip sealing. Adding sealant to a removable paint project will make the paint more difficult to remove.

Marine Paint

Marine paint is incredibly durable and is used for materials that are subject to lots of water exposure, such as boats, pools, and the exteriors of houses.

  • Best for: Any outdoor projects that will see high levels of moisture or extreme weather conditions.
  • How Many Layers To Apply: Apply 2-3 coats of marine paint to your rubber project.
  • Drying Time: Marine paint typically takes about 2-6 hours to dry. To be on the safe side, wait at least 24 hours before touching or moving the painted material.
  • How To Seal: Marine paint is weatherproof and does not require a sealant.

3 Steps for Painting Rubber

A pyramid of cheerfully painted tires in a children's play area.

  1. Clean the entire surface of the rubber item that you intend to paint. You can use a washcloth or sponge and soap and warm water to cleanse the rubber. Be sure to thoroughly rinse the soap and allow the item to dry before moving on to the next step.
  2. Apply the first layer of paint. Make sure you let the layer dry completely before applying the next coat.
  3. Once you have sufficiently coated the rubber with a sufficient amount of paint and allowed it to dry, you can add a sealant if necessary. You will want to seal the entire painted surface, even areas that won’t be visible.

Caveats for Different Paints:

  • Remove reusable paint by carefully peeling it from the rubber with a razor blade.
  • When using an exterior paint, be sure to use an exterior primer and allow it to completely dry before applying paint.
  • Use an acrylic primer before applying acrylic paints.
  • Removable, exterior, and marine paints do not require a sealant.


To clean up wet paint, use soap and water. Rubbing alcohol can be used to remove dried acrylic or removable paint.

Paint thinners or solvents may be required to remove dried exterior and marine paint.

How To Seal Paint on Rubber

To seal acrylic paint, brush on 1-3 coats of sealant, allowing each coat to dry before applying the next.

I recommend this spray sealant because it can be used on indoor and outdoor projects and it resists yellowing. It’s super easy to use and produces consistently good results.

Is Painting Rubber Bad for It?

Paint will not damage rubber, but if you’re looking to keep the rubber in its best possible condition, you might consider surface etching before applying paint. 

Does Fabric Paint Work on Rubber?

Fabric paint is not an effective choice when it comes to rubber, although you can use fabric dye to change the color of certain rubber objects.

Does Latex Stick to Rubber?

Latex paint is best for smooth surfaces. Choosing a paint that is specifically designed to bond to a variety of surfaces is a better option.

Related Question:

How Do You Paint Rubber Shoe Soles?

To paint rubber shoe soles, first clean the area with rubbing alcohol. Then use exterior paint to complete your design. Allow shoes to completely dry before wearing them. 

(You can learn more about shoe painting here.)

That’s a Wrap!

When it comes to painting on rubber, deciding between acrylic, removable, exterior, and marine paint is critical.

With the right kind of paint and proper preparation, painting on rubber can be a fun and interesting project with impressive results. 


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I am a writer and an artist taking opportunities every day to transform my dreams into reality. I love learning new things and am always creating and innovating. I worked as an Art Instructor, teaching painting and art techniques to artists of all levels and ages. I have hosted countless paint parties and taught children’s art classes both in my home as well as an art teacher at a Montessori school.