Is Acrylic Paint Toxic? – We’ve Got The Scoop! (2023)

man woman painting on legs is acrylic paint toxic

Is acrylic paint toxic?

Many budding artists and concerned parents often ask this question.

Since acrylic paints are water-based and non-volatile, many people assume that they are non-toxic. For the most part, yes, acrylic paints are not toxic. However, one also needs to realize that not all acrylic paint products available in the market are created equal.  Moreover, ya sure don’t want to ingest any paint, no matter the toxicity label!

If you want a detailed answer that addresses all the related caveats, please continue reading.

Is Acrylic Paint Toxic? 4 Things to Consider

As mentioned earlier, we can’t give a definitive statement about the toxicity of acrylic paint. In many conditions, you can use acrylic paints without worry. Then, there are some instances where you need to be mindful.

In this section, we will outline all the factors that you need to consider to determine whether an acrylic paint product is toxic or not.

What the Label Says

The list of ingredients used in an acrylic paint product primarily determines whether it is toxic or non-toxic. These are the points you need to consider when you read the label of an acrylic product.

  • If the label says the paint is water-based and also bears the endorsement of the Art Safety Institute, you can safely assume that the given acrylic paint product is non-toxic.
  • Look out for any warning signs on the label. If there is any hazard symbol on the label, you should use the given acrylic paint with extreme care. Acrylic paint with toxins often contains a health warning about it carrying carcinogenic compounds.
  • An acrylic paint container/tube contains binders, carriers, and pigments. You need to know about their details to determine the toxicity of the product. For instance, if the label says the product contains metallic pigments, you need to be careful. Cadmium, chromium, manganese, lead, and cobalt are usually the metallic pigments used in acrylic paints, and they are hazardous for human health. If you see any of these elements on the label, use the acrylic paint product with caution.
  • On the other hand, if the label says that the paint contains non-metallic pigments, it will be non-toxic and safe to use.

As you can see, not all acrylic paints are manufactured the same way. Therefore, it is always important to read the label and determine if the acrylic paint you will buy is toxic, less toxic, or not toxic at all.

sunset painting on hands too is acrylic paint toxic
Acrylic paint will peel and wash off skin

The Form of Acrylic Paint

Acrylic paint comes in different forms and packaging. You can get them in ground pigments as well as in liquid tubes and tubs. If you have bought ground acrylic paint pigments and mixing them yourself, you need to use them with extreme care (use mask and gloves) even if the paint doesn’t contain metallic pigments and other carcinogenic elements.

In contrast, if you are using the paint directly from a tube or a container, there is nothing to worry about. Nonetheless, it is always better to wear gloves and a mask while using any paint.

How You Are Using the Paint

How you use your acrylic paint also determines if it is going to be toxic or not. If you are using regular, brushes, rollers, and sponges to paint, it is perfectly safe to use acrylic paints. However, if you are using it through an aerosol can or any airbrushing propellant, the paint can be hazardous. Firstly, many aerosol cans contain butane to create the perfect spraying mix. Breathing in an environment where a large amount of butane is lingering in the air is not healthy for the lungs.

Even if there is no butane in the acrylic spray, the air-based or airless system used for airbrushing produces small airborne paint particles. They might not necessarily be toxic. However, inhaling too many fine particulates of paint is not good for health anyway. A good practice is to always wear a mask while airbrushing any paint.

Do You Have Any Prior Health Condition

People allergic to any pigments and binders should avoid acrylic paint exposure just like any other paint. Similarly, people with breathing issues and chronic respiratory conditions might also experience adverse effects while using any acrylic paint irrespective of its ingredients.

In short, you must be aware of your health condition and how it responds to foreign particles before using any paint, including acrylic paints. Having this awareness is important because even non-toxic paint becomes toxic and hazardous to people with respiratory conditions. For instance, water-based, non-polymeric, and non-metallic acrylic paint can become hazardous for a person suffering from asthma.

Frequently Asked Questions about Acrylic Paint and Their Toxicity

People come up with various questions when they ask about the safety and toxicity of acrylic paints. We’ll try to answer those questions here.

Is Acrylic Paint Safe for Kids?

An acrylic paint product with no metallic pigment and the label of the Art Safety Institute’s endorsement is perfectly safe for kids (above 3).

Is Acrylic Paint Safe for Pets?

Generally, acrylic paint is safe for pets. If pets lick a little bit of acrylic paint or even ingest it in a small amount, they will be fine. Some cat or dog breeds might develop mild skin or mucous irritation. However, if your curios feline or canine fellow ingests a large amount of acrylic paint, it can result in diarrhea, vomiting, and tremors. It is better to consult your vet in any such case.

Are Acrylic Paints Flammable?

No, acrylic paints are not flammable. They are free of any combustible carrier.

What Are Acrylic Paint Toxins?

Cobalt, cadmium, manganese, chromium, and lead are considered acrylic paint toxins.

Is Acrylic Paint Harmful when Swallowed?

Accidentally swallowing a small amount of acrylic paint is not a cause of concern. Thoroughly wash your mouth, gargle, and drink a lot of water if you have accidentally ingested some acrylic paint.

Can Acrylic Paint Cause Cancer?

Acrylic paints that are labeled hazardous might contain carcinogenic elements. However, using them with caution rules out your exposure to their cancer-causing ingredients.

Can Acrylic Paint Be Used for Face Painting?

Even if the paint is of the non-toxic, acrylic type, it is better to not use it on the face. No non-toxic acrylic paint is rated for skin use. Therefore, using these paints for skin painting can cause irritation and allergic reactions.

hand and palette paint is acrylic paint toxic

5 Reasons Acrylic Paints Are Better than Oil Ones

Since we discuss whether acrylic paints are toxic or non-toxic, it will be fitting to discuss why so many people prefer them over oil paints.

1.      They Are Less Hazardous and Toxic

Acrylic paints are considered non-toxic universally because they are less hazardous than oil paints in every sense of the word. They don’t use mineral spirits, turpentine, and other harmful solvents like oil paints. Unlike oil paints, they are non-volatile and hence don’t continue to emit VOC fumes even many days after the application. Also, accidentally ingesting acrylic paint is less consequential than accidentally consuming any amount of oil paint.

2.      Softer on the Skin

You don’t have to rush to apply the remover if your skin is exposed to acrylic paint. On the other hand, oil paint becomes a hassle to remove if it dries on the skin. Also, it can cause skin irritation and redness. Acrylic paints are soft on the skin and are also easily removable. Due to this reason, schools use acrylic paints in their drawing/painting classes.

3.      Don’t Need Ventilated Space

When you work with oil paints, you need an amply ventilated space to avoid inhaling the VOC fumes. However, that’s not the case with acrylic paints. No matter how small your studio is, you can work with acrylic paints without worrying about consuming chemicals.

4.      These Paints Dry Quickly

Acrylic paints dry faster. Many painters use acrylic paints solely for that reason. The fast drying time with a matte finish lets you layer bright shades together without muddying the hues. Moreover, you can paint the glazed surface more conveniently with acrylic paints. Glazing is a painting technique where an artist builds up colors and texture over one another in subsequent layers.

5.      Boast Great Adaptability

Another impressive thing about acrylic paints is their adaptability. We all know that every paint comes with its own set of unique properties. Acrylic paints also have their peculiar characteristics. However, you can also modify them with different mediums to mimic other paints’ properties.

For instance, you can slow down the drying time of acrylic paints just like oil-based paint by adding a retarder to them. Similarly, you can use different mediums with acrylic paints to add different properties to them. Acrylic paint can exhibit shimmering, crackling, or quick drying due to its adaptable nature.

Good Introductory Brand Set For Crafts

This is a great price for a ton of craft acrylic paint!  I use this brand when painting with kids or when i want an inexpensive paint for decor projects.

>Check Price On Amazon<<


For fine art paintings, I much prefer to use professional quality paints.  They are made from premium ingredients that give a big pigment color pay-out that I can rely on.  They are lightfast and available in liquid, heavy-body and ink-like consistencies.

Golden is my go-to preferred brand for Artist Acrylics.  All the products are created in the USA by Golden master chemists and artists.

>Check Price On Amazon<<

and the more liquid version:

>>Check Price On Amazon<<

More Of Our Great Articles About Acrylic Paint

Here are some tutorials:

Landscape Painting in Acrylic

Acrylic Portrait Painting

Useful information:

Best Brand of Acrylic Paint Brushes

How To Remove Acrylic Paint



We hope that you got the answer to your question, “is acrylic paint toxic” from the detailed discussion above. To sum it up, acrylic paints with no metallic compounds are non-toxic.  Moreover, the way you use acrylic paint also determines if it is hazardous or not.  Generally, water-based acrylic paints are safe to use in most conditions.


Anita HC

I hope you are enjoying this article! I love helping creators learn. My goal is to help you find the knowledge and inspiration you need. Check out our library of articles and visit often...I'm adding articles every week! Thank you again for reading!

Recent Posts