is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

Why is My Acrylic Paint Cracking?

why is my acrylic paint cracking

Why is my acrylic paint cracking? You may be asking this because the painting that you spent dozens of hours creating is getting undone. Why is this happening? Is there something that you can do to stop it? Could you have prevented this from happening?

This article will discuss the reasons why acrylic paints crack and peel after drying. Hopefully, you will still be able to salvage your work and prevent it from happening again.

Top Reasons Behind Cracking Acrylic Paint

Cracking usually happens in acrylic pour paintings but it may also occur in traditional acrylic paintings. Here are some of the most common reasons why acrylic paint cracks.

The Paint Layer is Too Thick

Why is my Acrylic Paint Pracking?

Acrylic paint will crack if the topmost layer of the paint dries faster than the underlying layers. The reason why this is a common problem with acrylic paintings is that the paint layers are quite thick. This can also happen when making acrylic paintings if you lay the paint on too thick.

When the top layer dries first, it creates a thin film over the rest of the paint. The problem is that when acrylic paint dries it expands. Although acrylic paints are flexible, they can only stretch to a certain degree.

If the already dried top layer of paint can no longer handle the amount of expansion underneath, it will start to split and then eventually crack. To prevent this from happening, you should paint using thin layers.

Wait until the previous layers are dry before laying the next coat. Stop once you reached the intended vibrancy of the color.

The Paint is Too Thin

Another reason why acrylic paint tends to crack is thinning it too much. Many beginners tend to use a bit too much water to thin out their acrylic paints. When this happens, there will not be enough acrylic medium to hold the paint together when it dries. This results in cracks on the surface.

As a rule, you can only thin out paint by using no more than a third of its volume in water. Thinning the paint will also thin out the binders in the paint. This means the paint will be unable to hold itself together.

Using Low-Quality White Paint

If you used low-quality white paint to lighten the acrylic paints that you used, that might be the reason for the cracking. Cheap white acrylic paint contains a lot of chalky material, which is the main pigment that gives the paint its color.

These cheap paints contain a lot of extenders but not enough binders and pigments. If you thin them out with even a bit of water, they will not hold together well.

When the cheap white paint dries up, it tends to crack. The reason is that the paint mixed with it does not have enough binder to hold it together. This is why you should use good-quality white acrylic paint instead of cheap white craft paint.

Environmental Factors

If you live in an area where the air gets a bit too dry and the temperature quite hot, it can cause the acrylic paint to dry unevenly. Even if the acrylic paint layer is relatively thin, if the ambient temperature is too hot, the top layer will dry faster than the one underneath.

Conversely, if the ambient temperature gets too cold, the paint will lose its flexibility, thus making it prone to cracking. If the air in your home gets a bit too dry, consider using a humidifier in the room where you store your paintings to keep them flexible.

Physical Force

Did something accidentally poke the back of the canvas? Or did you remove the canvas temporarily to transfer it to a new frame? Any kind of physical force can cause the acrylic to crack.

Even though acrylic has a certain degree of flexibility, it will still crack if you put too much pressure on it. If you will need to remove the canvas off its frame, make sure that you apply a sealant over the painting so the paint would not easily chip off the surface.

Cracking Can Be Good

In some cases, the accidental cracking can add a bit of beauty to a painting. Sometimes, the added texture of the cracked paint improves the composition, especially if you are doing modern art pieces. However, that is not usually the case when you are more of a classical-style artist.

Some artists purposely make their paints crack, and then overlay over the cracks using a contrasting color. This means that even if your acrylics crack, you can make them work for you. As Bob Ross said, “there are no mistakes, only happy accidents”.

How Do You Prevent Acrylic Paint from Cracking?

why is my acrylic paint cracking when it dries

Although you can fix cracked acrylic paint, it is always better to prevent it from cracking in the first place. Here are some tips that you can use to keep your acrylic paintings looking pristine:

  • Do not thin the acrylic paint too much – Many people don’t like using acrylic paint straight from the tube because they are too thick. You can thin the paint using a bit of water but avoid using too much
  • If you mix too much water in the acrylic paint, not only will the colors get muted but the binders will also get too thin. This results in the paint not being able to keep itself together when it dries
  • Choose good-quality paints – The reason why a specific set of acrylic paints is so cheap is that they contain a lot of fillers and not enough binders. Even if you use the cheap paints properly, they will still crack once they dry
  • Store your paintings properly – Store your finished acrylic paintings in a place where they do not get exposed to direct sunlight. There should also be enough humidity in the air

These are only some of the ways for you to prevent acrylic paint from cracking.


Are you looking for answers to the question “why is my acrylic paint cracking?”. If you are a beginner at using acrylic paints, you might have run into problems with your paints cracking. This usually happens when you get too eager with the paints. With a bit of practice, and using the right products, this will not be much of a problem.

You can still somehow salvage cracked acrylic paintings but it can be a tedious task, and the results are not that consistent. It is much easier to just do it right the first time to prevent the acrylic paint from cracking.