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How to Paint Metal

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How to paint metal in SIX easy steps! Tips and tricks for painting metal to ensure that your paint job doesn’t peel!

Have you ever spent a lot of time coating a metal object in layers of paint just for it to immediately begin peeling off within a few hours? Or purchased the materials but when it came time to paint, you couldn’t get it to stick? This happens to a lot of people the first time they attempt to paint metal.

It’s not as simple as grabbing any old paint and coating your surface, but painting metal isn’t as complicated as it seems! Just like painting other materials like wood, plastic, and glass, there are a few tricks to know before you pick up a paint brush and get to work. Keep reading to learn how to paint metal and get answers to all your questions.

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Please read the whole post so you don’t miss any important information!

Why Paint Metal?

There are a ton of reasons to paint metal! You may decide it’s time to break out the paintbrush to:

  • Touch up cracked, chipped, or faded paint on something you already own.
  • Customize the color, design, or finish on a metal item around your home.
  • Spruce up hardware on furniture, doors, windows, and cabinets without spending a ton of money.
  • Add a professional finish to homemade decor, toys, furniture, and other DIY crafts.

Whether you’re making something from scratch or changing the appearance of something you currently have, painting metal is a cost-effective way to personalize metal objects to suit your preferences. Plus, it’s fairly easy to do once you know how!

Is Painting Metal Difficult?

Painting metal is easier than it might seem, but the actual level of difficulty varies. The type of metal, the shape of the object you’re painting, the state of any pre-existing paint, the finish of the metal (brushed, hammered, polished, etc.) are all factors that may determine how easy or difficult it is to paint the metal surface you’re trying to cover.

Here’s the good news: once you’ve got the basic process down, it’s pretty simple to paint just about any metal surface. You may have to do some trial and error to get the exact finish you want on some trickier metals, but it’s reasonably easy to paint metal if you set your mind to it!

Types of Metal That Can Be Painted

There are a few reasons why painting metal is different from painting other surfaces. Rust is a major concern, and paint doesn’t stick as easily to metal as it does to things like wood and some types of plastic. That being said, you can absolutely paint many different types of metal! Metals like:

  • Steel
  • Iron
  • Copper
  • Aluminum
  • Tin
  • Brass
  • Bronze
  • And more!

Each of these metals may require a different type of paint, depending on their intended use, but the basic painting process is just about the same for all of them.

How to Paint Metal

  1. Pick the Primer and the Paint

Select the type and color of paint you’d like to use, as well as a compatible primer. Consider the final destination for the object you’re painting: will it be used indoors or outdoors? Will it be subject to lots of direct sunlight, rain, and ice or snow? Will it be used daily, every once in a while, or is it just for decoration and won’t be used at all?

Oil-based paints are great for metals that will be used outdoors like patio furniture or indoor items that see a lot of use. Water-based paints are good for indoor items or surfaces that won’t be used daily. Other paints like enamel or lacquer may be useful depending on the type of metal you’re painting.

You’ll also need to make sure the type of primer you’re using is compatible with the type of metal you’re painting, as some types of paints and primers don’t work together.

Another thing to consider is the application method you’ll be using. Are you going to use a brush, a roller, or opt for spray paint instead? For easy-to-paint surfaces like simple tables or chairs, applying paint by hand should be fine, but for irregular or intricately decorated surfaces, spray paint might be the best route to take.

  1. Prepare the Metal Surface

Start by removing as much rust and old paint as you can (where applicable) by using a wire brush, sandpaper, steel wool, or a grinder. Make sure you wear protective gear during this step, like gloves, safety glasses, and a respirator or other mask to protect your airway from rogue bits of rust and paint. In some cases, you may have to use acetone or another paint stripper to remove old paints.

Next, give the metal a thorough clean with soap and water to make sure it’s free of dirt, dust, grease, and other contaminants that would affect the finish.

  1. Prime

Once the metal has been prepped and dried, coat the entire surface in primer using a paint brush, roller, or spray can. Be sure to get in all crevices and corners, because they’ll be more prone to gathering moisture and rusting if they’re not covered. Wait until the primer dries completely (between 2-8 hours, depending on the type of primer you use) and apply a second coat if needed.

  1. Paint

Finally, it’s time to paint! Coat the metal in paint the same way you did with the primer, covering the entire surface and all crevices. Wait for each coat to dry completely before applying the next.

  1. Add Embellishments

Add any designs or special finishes after the base paint has dried, and wait until the extra decoration has dried or set before moving on to the top coat.

  1. Finish with a Top Coat

Cover the metal with a protective coat of clear paint to prevent chipping, peeling, and scratching. Some top coat paints may have other built-in benefits that may be useful depending on your needs, like UV resistance. Others may provide a glossy, matte, or textured finish.

Adding sealing coat to metal mailbox
Adding a top coat to the mailbox.

Learning how to paint metal is easy with these few pointers, but the biggest pointer I can give you is this: have fun with it! 

Want to see my big painted metal project? I painted our mailbox! Check out some of my other posts to learn more about painting all types of different surfaces and get some DIY inspiration for your next crafting or home project.

Please share and pin this post! If you make this project, share it in our Stuff Mama Makes Facebook Group. We have regular giveaways for gift cards to craft stores. You can also tag me on Instagram @doityourselfdanielle; I love seeing everything you make!

How to paint metal: tips and tricks for painting metal surfaces.

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