How To Paint Polystyrene or Styrofoam Balls

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Styrofoam balls are a popular shape for sweet trees, baubles and other craft projects. Have you tried painting your Styrofoam ball and ended up with a lunar landscape look? Or are you going to attempt it and want a few tips? Here's where we're going to give a few hints on painting Styrofoam balls.

There is a real knack to painting any Styrofoam or polystyrene craft shape and making sure you get complete coverage. Obviously the paint is often just the base of the craft embellishment but it is, nonetheless, an important base and is often still very visible when the project is completed.

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How to Make It
  1. Water based paints or acrylic craft paints are the best to use on Styrofoam. Water based paints, specifically poster paints, work well with younger kids as they can get a really good and thick coverage of paint on the polystyrene shape. They will need a little longer to dry though. However, older kids and adults would be best using acrylic craft paint on their Styrofoam as this will give a tidier finish.
  2. If you want to stick anything to your shape after painting, we suggest that you do not use metallic paint (particularly gold) as the pigment in these stops many adhesives working. If you do use metallic paints, a cool melt glue will stick buttons, jewels etc.
  3. Whether you decide to you acrylic paint or water based paints you will almost definitely need to apply one coat, wait for it to dry and then apply another coat. This will give you good even coverage.
  4. Solvent based paints, spray paints and many other types of paint will melt the Styrofoam - probably not the look you are after! If in doubt test it first but we would suggest sticking to water based and acrylic paint on all Styrofoam and polystyrene craft projects. Styrofoam shapes are relatively cheap but you still won't want to waste them...
  5. The difficulty with painting Styrofoam is getting the paint to fully cover the Styrofoam, as it does not have a smooth surface. The best way to do this is to paint the first layer using a stenciling brush. These have short bristles, which enable you to scrub the paint into the nooks and crannies of the Styrofoam. After allowing the paint to dry, which is just a few moments, you then need to apply a second coat. You could do this using the stenciling brush again, which is fine for younger kids. However, for older kids and adults, we would suggest that you use a standard paint brush on this second coat to get the best finish.
  6. If you have ever painted any 3D craft base before you will be immediately familiar with the problem of painting the item without ending up with most of the paint on your hands and finger prints all over your Styrofoam. The solution to this is to use either wire or a small round wooden dowel or wooden stick to push the shape onto. You can then hold the stick whilst painting all over. Obviously, you will need to make sure that the hole will be somewhere where it's not going to be noticed. Perhaps where the shape will be hung from or stood up on.
  7. When painting your ball, you may find it easier to use cut up toilet rolls to make little stands. You can paint one half of the shape in the stand, let it dry and then turn it over and paint the other half. This is brilliant as it also stop the shape form rolling about when wet and covering everything in paint!
  8. If your Styrofoam ball is too small for a toilet roll, use a small section of card, roll it up and tape it shut. We ahve alod found that the middle of an old sticky tape roll works quite well for this.

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