How To Paint Metal

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Painting metal is difficult. It’s hard to get a smooth finish, and it can be tricky getting the paint to stick at all. Before painting, you have to know how to prep your paint metal furniture, what kind of primer you need, and which will work best for your metal furniture.

Metal paint also comes in two versions which are oil-based paint and water-based paints. Working with oil-based paint is a bit trickier, but the results are better; this is because oil-based paint has two parts; a resin and a thinner. 

Below are some tips on how to paint metal and achieve the home decor that you deserve.

Identify the Type of Metal Surface You are Painting

It’s important to identify the type of metal surface because certain paints are designed to adhere better to some surfaces than others. Understanding the type of object you are painting, and its qualities will help you choose the best paint for that specific job. Is it ferrous or nonferrous?

Nonferrous metals include aluminum, copper, stainless steel, and zinc. Ferrous metals include steel, cast iron, and wrought iron. Inspect if there are any imperfections on the metal, and if there are, use a wire brush attachment to remove them. You can also remove any paint from the metal so you can apply the new paint easily. If you want to be safer, use a dust mask when working.

Prepare Metal for Painting

Preparing metal is very important as it helps with adhesion and long-lasting protection. Most metal surfaces contain contaminants such as surface rust, old paint, and oil. These contaminants can cause adhesion; therefore, you need to remove them before painting.

Prepare Metal for Painting
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The most common contaminant found on most metal surfaces is oil. Make sure you use a cloth, a detergent, and a solvent like alcohol to clean your galvanized metal before painting and priming. 

Wipe the metal surface thoroughly, and in case there is still residue, then rinse with water. Rust and corrosion are very common in metals. So use a wire brush to remove rust and a damp cloth to remove dust. This way, you’ll be done with the prep work.

Sand Metal Before Painting

For a smooth surface, the best way to prepare metal is by sanding it. A wire brush will do if you want to remove small dents or scratches. For larger areas, use 60-grit on an electric sander to easily remove rust, paint, and other contaminants.

It’s also important to wear a dust mask and protective glasses when sanding. After sanding, use a moistened cotton cloth to wipe it down. This cloth will help remove dust, debris, and residue that are left behind by sanding. Before you proceed to the next step, leave your metal to dry completely.

Apply Primer to the Metal

After you have cleaned the metal, it’s time to coat it with primer. This will seal in all dirt and contaminants while providing an excellent base for applying paint later on. Choose a rust-resistant primer that’s appropriate for the kind of metal you are working with.

Apply Primer
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Sealer and primer will come in a spray or brush on the canister. Make sure you apply a zinc chromate primer that is formulated. Use a scuffing pad to prepare the surfaces for better primer and paint. If you’re painting a rough surface, opt for spray primer, but for a smooth surface, use a brush or a roller. After coating with a special primer, proceed and apply a coat of self-etching primer.

Make sure the primer is specifically designed for metal and has a self-etching component. Read all the instructions on the label and follow them carefully. Ensure your primer is compatible with the paint you are going to use.

How to Paint Metal in Several Layers

Painting metal doesn’t require you to follow any specific method. But there are some things you should keep in mind while doing it, so if you want the best result possible, apply primer first. If you don’t feel like using primer, it’s possible to apply base coats directly.

How to Paint Metal in Different Layers
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To paint metal, you’ll need several kinds of paints. An oil-based primer that will create a strong base for further layers is particularly useful if the surface you are going to paint is not perfectly clean or has many imperfections. It works better than other primers since it adds a layer of protection against rust.

Painting can be done in two methods: Spray paint method and using a paintbrush to paint. To use spray paint, shake the can several times to mix the paint. After that, prevent the paint from pooling back by holding the can 6 to 12 inches away from the metal. Use long, sweeping motions to spray your metal surface. In case of excessive dripping, wipe clean, back up, and then start the process again.

To get the best results, apply three coats of paint and then paint dry before applying another paint layer. You can also paint using a paintbrush to make your paint metal more durable. Consider the manufacturer’s instructions when mixing the paint. If the paint feels too thick, cut it with some mineral spirits. After reaching your desired consistency, paint a thin layer using a high-quality bristle brush.

Allow the Paint to Cure

Lastly, don’t touch the painted metal surface until it has healed. The paint must be able to dry by itself first before you can use it. Place your object in a well-ventilated area where it cannot be affected by extreme temperature and direct sunlight. You can also protect your paint job by applying sealers to give your object a shiny look.

Remember that the metal needs 36 to 48 hours to cure completely, so ensure your paint object dries up before moving it. If you want to coat your metal objects with a glossy finish, spray them with a clear lacquer that can be easily found in hardware stores. You could also opt for oil or enamel paints instead of spray paint. If you can’t tolerate paint smell, learn how to get rid of paint smell before you can move your newly painted and beautiful furniture indoors. 

Final Thoughts on How to Paint Metal

As you can see, the process of painting metal is quite easy. It’s among the DIY projects you can do at home without involving an expert. So give your home that renewed attention by applying a fresh coat of color. You can also consider professional finish by contacting a painting contractor to help restore your rusty metal while carrying out the paint job.


Kristina Perrin

Kristina Perrin

Kristina is an expert DIY home remodeler and mom to three. When she's not cooking or experimenting with new recipes, you can find her working on new home improvement projects or writing about her favorite kitchen appliances or DIY projects on Kitchen Infinity blog.

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