Have you ever looked at your mailbox, garage door, or good old bike and thought, this could use a makeover. A fresh coat of paint is all it takes to give these a dazzling brand new look.
Does that sound like something you could do yourself? We know that painting aluminum parts is seemingly troublesome but is in fact much easier than most people think.
That’s no reason to shy away from aluminum metal crafts or household renovations that involve painting it.
Normally, not preparing the surface adequately is what sets people up for DIY painting flops. It is difficult for paint to adhere to aluminum, or any other metal, because the material is not porous. That means there’s no grip; there’s simply nothing for the paint to hold on to.
However, preparing the surface and/or using the right paints can solve those problems.
What are the best paints for aluminum? The best paints to use on aluminum surfaces should be oil-based paints that are formulated for use on metal or on a variety of surfaces. These are often sprays. Heavy-duty paints with full coverage and pre-fused with a primer included are a good idea.
Painting aluminum can be tough if you don’t do it right. The good news is, you can turn that around by just reading on. Here, you will find easy to follow step by step instructions on how to prep aluminum for paint. We will also recommend a few brands with the best paint for aluminum.
5 Best Paints For Aluminum Surfaces
Now that you know what to look for – oil-based spray paints formulated for metals, fused with a primer, and offering full-coverage and resistance to scraping and weather conditions (“exterior grade”) – let’s look at some of the best paints and brands out there:
|Rust-Oleum American Accents Spray Paint
|Good coverage, multi-surface indoor/outdoor use, gloss finish
|Krylon ColorMaster Paint + Primer
|Good coverage, multi-surface indoor/outdoor
use, fast-drying, choose finish
|Rust-Oleum High Performance Enamel Spray Paint
|Commercial formula, made for metal, durable, semi-gloss finish
|Krylon Fusion All-In-One Spray Paint
|Indoor/outdoor multi-suface use, strong adhesion, choose finish
|Apple Barrel Acrylic Craft Paint Set
|For hobby/children's use, non-toxic, matte finish
As you can see, Rust-Oleum and Krylon are master brands that are great for home and even professional use. Still, other brands can serve you just fine for hobby and low-importance craft uses.
Let’s take a closer look at the individual options, shall we?
1. Rust-Oleum American Accents Spray Paint
The American Accents from Rust-Oleum is high-performance spray paint for both indoor and outdoor purposes.
The two-in-one primer + paint formula bonds well to aluminum creating a smooth coat free of blemishes, bubbles, and dimples. The formula is resistant to UV yellowing, corrosion, and abrasion for a long-lasting seal.
This “double,” ultra coverage paint is true to its advertising, providing up to 12 square feet of coverage. It also boasts of a quick dry-to-the-touch time of just 20 minutes. That will make it easy to apply multiple coats back to back, without having to devote the entire day to waiting and spraying.
You’ll also love that your hand won’t get easily fatigued as the can is ergonomic and can be sprayed from any angle. The colors are so vivid with a shiny gloss finish. It is no doubt one of the best spray paints for professional performance.
2. Krylon ColorMaster Paint + Primer
For a smooth, even coat that will last for a long time, we recommend the ColorMaster. It is a two-in-one paint plus primer which seals your aluminum surface effectively.
This paint and primer combination boasts an even faster drying time than most, drying to the touch in an impressive 10 minutes or less.
Krylon’s formulations enhance durability and resist the yellowing effects of weathering from UV rays, making your paint job last longer. It comes in a variety of colors and finishes ranging from flat to gloss and some semi-gloss in betweens.
It is definitely worthy of a spot among your options for the best paint for aluminum outdoor furniture and structures.
3. Rust-Oleum High-Performance Enamel Spray Paint
You can expect nothing short of excellence with this high-quality oil-based enamel spray paint.
The paint dries pretty fast, 15 minutes or so till it’s dry to the touch, although you should wait 1 hour to re-coat for best results and 24 hours for the full dry time. Still, it’s fast enough that you don’t need to worry about pesky bugs landing on your fresh lacquer and ruining it.
It comes in an ergonomic spray can for a comfy grip. No more sour finger joint regardless of how big the project is. Also, it offers a high output of 12 square feet.
There are 23 color options and 3 sizes to choose from for whatever your capacity needs: 15oz, quart, and even a gallon for heavy-duty work. It comes in a semi-gloss finish, which is a useful in between (neither too glossy nor too flat for most uses).
4. Krylon Fusion All-In-One Spray Paint
With Krylon fusion, you can forget about repainting your aluminum stuff again. It bonds exceptionally well and the coat stays incredibly tough years on.
The primer + paint formula needs no special primer application or aggressive sanding before painting. It will adhere without issues. The coating is so thin, smooth and blemishes free. No runny, mess, or bubbles even when you overdo one place. It evens out pretty nicely.
The drying time is also quite fast. You can reapply the second and third coats in a minute each! To get it dry to the touch, you only need to wait about 25 minutes.
We absolutely loved its special colors and dramatic finishes and you will too. You can choose between glossy, matte, clear hammered, flat, satin, and textured.
5. Apple Barrel Acrylic Craft Paint Set
For the perfect finer detailed artwork on your small aluminum crafts using recycled cans or tins, spray painting is not always an option.
Apple Barrel acrylic paints will get the job done. When painted after an enamel primer coat, this paint will stick to your aluminum metal crafts nicely.
It comes in a mix of 18 bold, sweet, and neutral colors. You can brush, stamp, and even stencil the desired patterns on your aluminum.
The made in the U.S brand is water-based and 100% nontoxic which is good for the environment and you too. We wouldn’t recommend it for outdoor items but it is indeed the best paint for aluminum crafts and small indoor decor items. It’s also a great choice if younger crafters are going to be involved.
How to Prep Aluminum For Paint
Your success is dependent on how well you get the surface ready to receive the paint.
Here are the steps for getting your aluminum items optimized for paint adhesion:
- Using a sharp pull scraper, get rid of the old paint by scraping. You can remove all of it for small items or just the parts with peels and blisters. Skip this step if you are working on fresh aluminum.
- Now take sandpaper and buff away any remaining traces of paint (a power sander may be necessary for large surfaces). This will entirely remove any traces of the remaining undesired paint on your aluminum.
- Clean the metal thoroughly using a piece of cloth dipped in a solution of warm water and a degreasing cleaner. You may use acetone or alcohol in place of the degreaser.
- If there are oxidized parts, clear the debris using a soft nylon-bristled brush and clean the area using an etching cleaner. Let the aluminum dry completely.
- Sand the surface for a second time with a finer grit (320 or higher) sandpaper. This is practical for manageable sized items. Have access to a power sander? Even better. You’ll achieve the best results faster with less physical demands.
- To completely remove dust due to the sanding process, cleanse the surface again with warm water and a degreasing cleaner then rinse with clean water. Allow the aluminum pieces to air dry.
- Coat (spray) the aluminum thinly with a self-etching primer. It has specific chemicals that micro-etch the aluminum surface for a stronger bond with the paint. Add a second coat when the first one dries. For beginners, the best paint for aluminum is that already fused with primer to make your work easier.
- Lightly sand to remove any imperfections of the coating with fine sandpaper (400 grit). Use a piece of cloth to wipe the dust caused by the sanding process.
Your aluminum is now paint ready!
Note: Wear protective gear and find a well-ventilated area to do this procedure.
The Best Way to Paint Aluminum
Is this your first aluminum painting project? Do not worry! With a few tips and tricks, it is something you can actually master.
Here are some of the best practices for painting your aluminum:
- Make sure that all the parts you don’t want to paint are concealed with masking tape.
- The best paint for aluminum is oil-based paint. Most oil-based paints are sprays.
- Spraying is the best way to paint aluminum for an even and smooth coat. Plus, It is much simpler doing corners and hard to paint places this way. Spray paint the aluminum surface going in one direction back and forth to obtain an even coat. The strokes should be overlapping and straight keeping a good distance between the nozzle and surface.
- Apply three coats of paint with an in-between drying time of 15-30 minutes. Make sure each coat is completely dry before applying the subsequent one.
- Let it dry for about 24 hours (or as per the product instructions) before applying enamel. Apply 2-3 coats again in the same way you did with paint giving breaks for drying between coats.
For a visual tutorial on painting aluminum parts, check out this video by Bill Owen.
Is it Necessary to Apply Multiple Coats of Paint on Aluminum?
Yes, it is. Applying two or three coats allows the paint to withstand expansion and contraction when temperatures change due to weather.
Can You Use Water-Based Acrylic Paint on Aluminum?
Yes, you can use water-based acrylics for aluminum, but you should ideally only use them for small indoor, stationery items like decor. This paint is usually simple hobby paint and doesn’t hold up well to everyday abuse.
If you are after serious durability or higher quality, the best paint for aluminum would be oil-based paint.
Which Finish is Best: Matte, Satin or High Gloss?
It really depends on your taste and preference. High gloss paint is shiny. However, it highlights any flaws in the metal. Satin is in between and matte is a bit low profile or flat with regards to a sheen.
Which finish is best depends on how you want your piece to look. You can sometimes change the finish later, however, such as by making shinier metal look matte.
By following these guidelines and getting the best paint for aluminum from our expert-approved recommendations, you can successfully do a five-star job even as an amateur painter. Good luck on your next painting project!
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