What Paints Are Food Safe? Complete Guide & Painting Tips

Two ladies working in a pottery studio painting designs on white dishes.

There is a bewildering array of different paints on the market and food-safe paints are no exception.

Food-safe paints are designed for a variety of different uses from nontoxic acrylic and ceramic paints for children to paint plates with, all the way to food/drink surface protection in silos.

Finding the right paint can seem daunting at first, especially when young children are involved. 

What paints are food safe? Milk paint is all natural and considered food safe. Most ceramic and nontoxic acrylic paints are also thought to be food safe, but if left unsealed they may impart a bad taste or will chip away with use. For best results, seal with a shellac or other food-safe finish before using with food. 

So, what’s the bottom line? In this guide we will break down which paints to use for which surfaces and help you to make an informed decision. 

Food-Safe Paints

Food-Safe Paint for Ceramic

The best paint to use for ceramics is an oil-based enamel. Enamel paint comes in a wide variety of colors, like this tranquil light blue craft paint, and is known for its clean and smooth finish.

When the enamel paint has dried completely, the colors will be dishwasher safe and won’t fade over time. It is also widely available. 

Food-Safe Paints for Glass

Most dishes that have been painted are normally glazed.

The glaze forms a permanent barrier between the paint and the food, making it food safe and dishwasher safe. The glaze will also protect the paint from fading over time.

Glass paint is not designated as “food safe” and should only be used for decorative purposes unless it is sealed with shellac or other food-grade sealer.

When used in the kitchen, care must be taken to keep any unsealed painted surfaces away from food intended for consumption.

Nontoxic acrylic paints can be used on glass, but before coming into contact with food, they must be sealed properly with a shellac.

For painting things like wine glasses, an enamel craft paint can be used, but to be on the safe side, keep any part that will come into contact with the mouth free of paint, and only paint the outside of the glass.

Food-Safe Paints for Wood

Depending on the intended usage of the item you are painting, you have a few choices.

For cutting boards and similar wooden items you could use acrylic, tempera, enamel, or gouache paints, or you could even try your hand at resin art (learn how here).

However, a food-safe sealant will be necessary if the item will be in contact with food.

For children’s toys and furniture you would want to use a 100% natural milk paint, sealed with a natural oil or shellac resin for protection.

Food-Safe Paints for Dishes/Plates

For surfaces that will be coming into contact with food, you need to make sure you have the right type of paint.

A water-based ceramic paint that is suitable for contact with food will have a label that says “nontoxic.”

Ceramic paint pens, like this colorful set, are great for detailed work and generally last longer than acrylics.

Just remember that the dishes should be sealed appropriately before coming into contact with any food.

Tips for Painting Surfaces That Will Be in Contact With Food

A woman hand-painting a bird design onto a small ceramic cup.

Take care when choosing your paint. Be sure to pick the right paint for the job.

Check the labels and make sure you have a paint that will be suitable and safe for its intended purpose. Look specifically for the term “food safe.”

It’s always a good idea to seal painted items that will be in direct contact with food.

This will not only preserve your design but will also prevent any unwanted flavors from transferring to the food.

Shellac is generally considered the best choice, but any other food-grade sealant can be used.

Practice painting on an item that isn’t highly valued, like a few inexpensive dishes from a thrift store, before beginning to paint your planned project.

This way you’ll develop a feel for the work, improve your skills without ruining your project, and have an idea of what your final result will look like.

Lastly, depending on the item you wish to paint and the paint you choose to use, it may be necessary to bake your project after painting but before sealing.

Read the paint instructions carefully to avoid breaking your project in the oven.

Is There A Food-Grade Paint?

Yes. Food-grade paints and coatings come in a wide range of choices and are designed for many different applications.

Food-grade paints are used to protect surfaces in food and drink silos, on printed food packaging, in fish farms, in tanks, in pipes, and on many more items.

Is Acrylic Paint Safe To Eat Off Of?

A lot of acrylic paints are nontoxic and therefore safe to eat off of once fully cured.

However, with continuous use, acrylic paint will wear or wash off, breaking down and contaminating any food it comes into contact with, possibly ruining the taste of your food.

Is Enamel Paint Safe for Food?

Yes, enamel paint is considered safe for food. You can get a food-contact enamel that is certified for direct and indirect contact with food.

It is commonly used in the food industry on wood, floors, ceilings, and many other items.

Is Milk Paint Food Safe?

Milk paint is an organic paint made using all natural ingredients. It is food safe, environmentally friendly, and nontoxic, and it has a low odor and contains no chemicals or preservatives.

Milk paint is safe to use on children’s furniture and toys and is also used in interiors for people who are allergic to modern paints.

What Sealant/Clear Coat Is Food Safe?

Shellac is a commonly used sealant that gives a food-safe finish, makes it highly water resistant, and adds a nice layer of protection.

It is normally sold in a ready-to-use liquid and is easy to apply.

Other natural sealants and clear coats you can use are linseed oil, tung oil, walnut oil, or beeswax.

The drying and curing time can vary across the different products, so make sure to follow the instructions for each one before bringing into contact with food.

Related Questions:

What Glues Are Food Safe?

A two-part epoxy glue is the most common type of food-safe glue used. It consists of two separate parts, a resin and a hardener, that need to be mixed before application.

It dries to form an extremely tight bond and is nontoxic. These glues are made from materials considered food-safe by the FDA.

They have a high tensile strength and a good shear strength, are resistant to moisture, oil and solvents, and work in a wide range of environments.

What Is the Best Food Safe Epoxy?

There are many on the market, but the best food-safe epoxy products will be approved by the FDA.

Double check that the approval is genuine before purchasing, and make sure to use the epoxy exactly as instructed, allowing for proper curing times before contact with food.

Can You Put Hand Painted Plates In the Dishwasher?

Technically, hand-painted plates can be washed in a dishwasher, but it is wise to avoid doing so.

Over time, the heat, water pressure, detergent and all the scrapes and scratches will inevitably fade and wash away your hand painted designs.

To prolong the life of your paints, hand washing is recommended. 


With so many paints available for so many different jobs, knowing exactly what you want to use the paint for should be your first consideration.

Then narrow it down further from there to the surface type and level of food-grade protection you need.

No matter the job you are bound to find suitable food-safe paints and coatings as long as you know exactly what you need it for.

Remember to double check approvals and verifications for paints that will be coming into close contact with food. Better to be safe than sorry.

And remember, don’t use super glue to repair your kitchen utensils. Use a two-part epoxy resin for a safer and longer lasting fix.

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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.