Acrylic paint has gained massive popularity and is now the preferred choice of paint for many painters. And it has every reason to be on-trend. Apart from entering the market with lucrative prices that are hard to beat, it is also water-based with no toxic fumes and, therefore, eco-friendly and safe for its users.
The application of acrylic paint is pretty straightforward. You can pull off a beautiful top coat even without prior experience with paints. It goes straight from the bottle to your canvas and dries very quickly.
The versatility of acrylic paints is unmatched, as it goes on smoothly on a broad range of surfaces. But when it comes to metal, many folks are unsure of its compatibility with acrylic paints.
So, can you use acrylic paint on metal? Yes, you can use acrylic paint on metal. It will stay but only after thorough preparation of the surface and also using the correct paint designed for metal.
This post provides the guidance you need on how to paint metal with acrylic paint and the suitable types of acrylic paint to use. It also answers other pertinent questions surrounding painting metals with acrylic paint.
How Do You Paint Metal With Acrylic Paint?
Wood, paper, canvas, walls, and other porous surfaces are all easy targets for acrylic painters. However, if you wanted to cover a smooth, non-porous surface like metal, you probably will be very skeptical about the paint even staying.
Furthermore, being water-based, acrylic paint is likely to be associated with rusting of metals. This is a myth. Although the wet acrylic paint contains a water-based binder, once it dries, all the water molecules evaporate, leaving behind only polymer pigments.
Therefore, there is no way acrylic paint can cause your metal to rust. Moreover, there’s always a primer coating in between, acting as a barrier just in case.
And will the acrylic paint stay on metal? Yes, the acrylic paint will stay on metal only if applied correctly. We must admit that painting on metal with anything other than oil-based paints is a grueling mission. Metal tends to be very slippery in nature and doesn’t naturally accommodate acrylic paint.
At least not without some persuasion from sanding and priming. This involves following the 3 P’s that are prepping, priming, and then painting.
If you’ve been holding back reworking your rail fence, the mailbox, your garage door, or your old bike, this is the time to get out your paintbrush, grab that acrylic paint, and give them a new brilliant face. We will guide you on how to use acrylic paint on metal.
Choosing The Best Acrylic Paint For Metal
The first step before painting metal with acrylic paint is to determine the paint. Not every type of acrylic paint will adhere to metal. Some are specific for canvas painting, others for wood, fabric, and so on. Therefore it is best to go with a product precisely formulated for metal bodies.
There are a lot of acrylic paints which are great for metal. But your ultimate choice will depend on what exactly you would like to paint.
Is it a metal sheet roof, garage door, or interior decor crafts? If you are painting items that will be outdoors, like a fence or backyard furniture, then you need robust protection acrylic paints that offer moisture, rust, and UV protection.
These are items that will face the full wrath of rain, sunlight, snow, and other environmental conditions. These elements rapidly destroy the topcoat, and if the paint is not resilient enough, the metal underneath will be exposed and damaged.
Perhaps you want to paint something that will encounter extremely high temperatures. In this case, you need paint with intense heat resistance to prevent blistering and peeling. A good example is painting vents, barbecue grills, stoves, and other metals around the fireplace. Avoid using flammable paints.
However, for indoor objects that will rarely be moved, touched, or abused, you do not need that much protection. These are items like bedposts, indoor frames, metal decor, etc.
Here are a few suggestions for the best paint for metal:
1. Dupli-Color Gunmetal Premium Acrylic Enamel Spray Paint
For another spray option, we suggest going with the Duplicolor Premium Acrylic Enamel Spray Paint. It is a paint plus primer, eliminating the need to buy primer and painting it separately. Consequently, it saves you both time and money.
The paint plus primer spray paint is engineered with a tough high-tech fusion bond that ensures the paint stays fused on the metal.
Because it is blended with primer, it has all the protective properties like rust and corrosion resistance. Your metal will be safe and pristine underneath the coat of this acrylic enamel paint.
The rapid drying formula dries to touch in just 25 minutes, but you’ll have to wait for about 2 hours for the entire dry time to handle it.
You’ll be impressed by its wide variety of color selections, and you’re sure to find a tone you love. It is designed for automotive and general metal painting projects in the home.
2. FolkArt Multi Surface Paint
FolkArt multi-surface acrylic paint is worth mentioning in this article because crafting is not just about paper. There are many DIY crafts one can make with metal, and FolkArt multi-surface acrylic paint will be the perfect option for such application.
It is a multi-surface acrylic paint made to be weather-resistant, making it great for indoor and outdoor use. The fact that it is dishwasher safe manifests the incredible bonding strength to slick non-porous surfaces like metal.
It doesn’t come off even after all the abrasion and heat in the dishwasher. This only means it can put up a real fight against wear and tear from everyday abuse.
Unlike other craft paints with a low pigment to binder ratio, this product is bursting with color. It provides excellent coverage in fewer coats, and the colors are vivid and opaque.
The paint produces a faint odor that dissipates quickly. It is water-based, so any smell is still non-toxic as there is no harmful VOCs present. The consistency is fantastic, and the paint goes on very smoothly and dries fast. There are over 50 colors to choose from.
3. Rust-Oleum Painter’s Touch Latex Paint, Quart, Flat Black
While this product isn’t acrylic paint, Rust-Oleum is your best bet for painting metal that will be outdoors.
It is the industry standard for metal paints that combat rusting. If you’ve had a chance to use their products before and loved them, you’ll like this one too.
The painter’s touch latex paint is one of the best paints for metal. It produces incredible results on metals for both indoor and outdoor use, at home and industrially.
It is a multi-surface formula and will work on a variety of surfaces, including metal. This is great if you are working on projects that incorporate metal together with other materials. Being latex paint, it only produces a slight odor that is not offensive when inhaled.
A layer of painter’s touch offers lasting protection from harsh elements. It is also fast-drying, and you’ll be able to touch the surface within 30 minutes, but the total dry time is about 3 hours.
The paint goes on really smoothly and provides even coverage. It is available in several other colors as well as in 12oz spray cans.
2. Prepping The Metal
After choosing the paint, you want to prepare your metal surfaces to take it. So the first thing you want to do is seal off areas or any fixtures on the object you will not want to paint on.
Depending on the size and shape of the item, you can use painter’s tape, masking tape, or old newspapers. This ensures the paint goes only where it is wanted. Scotch Blue Painter’s tape offers ultimate edge protection if you are serious about taping off paint and controlling the edges.
It lays down really tight thanks to advanced lock technology. Nothing seeps in the boundary. And you can take your time because removal is easy peasy weeks after painting without leaving any sticky residual traces.
Before you begin, you must take the necessary precautions, such as wearing an apron, gloves, and a respiratory mask. The following job produces dust that can potentially cause life-threatening conditions when inhaled.
Next is to clean the surface. Acrylic paint will only adhere to a spotless surface free of dust, dirt, oil, grime, fingerprints, and anything else other than the metal itself.
For new metals, you will start by thoroughly cleaning them with warm soapy water and a sponge or cloth. If it is old metal, there are other steps before cleaning it.
For old painted metal, you begin by stripping off the old paint coat. You can utilize sandpaper or a wire brush to scrub it out. Any rusty patches must also be taken care of by sanding them away.
3M 220 grit sandpapers are perfect for executing this job. They are built from silicon carbide and designed for stripping paint, rust, and dents from automotive bodies, making them excellent for your metal.
The 220 grit is the ideal grade sandpaper to get your metal surface smooth and even for painting without being too abrasive.
For longer-lasting wire brushes you can utilize even in the future; we suggest going with the Maxman brand of wire brushes. They are constructed of carbon steel and stainless steel wires to handle the most demanding welding jobs and will strip any paint, rust, corrosion, or limescale in a jiffy.
After all the initial paint is out, you can clean with water and detergent, rinse well and dry the metal.
Next, you want to sand the surface all over with the fine-grit sandpaper to give the metal surface some tooth. Wipe it with a damp cloth and give another round of sanding. Wipe it clean again with a wet cloth or degreaser and let dry.
For small metal items such as jewelry or tags, you can skip the soapy water and scrubbing. Wipe down the object with a soft cloth, and acetone, alcohol, or alcohol wipes will get them clean faster. These items must be sanded too.
No matter how clean the metal looks to your eyes, even if new, do not skip the cleaning step. Some dirt and residue cannot be seen by merely looking. And if left, that may compromise acrylic paint adhesion on the metal.
3. Priming The Metal
When choosing acrylic paint for metal, you also have to select a primer to go with it. A primer acts as a shield. It is usually applied before painting to enhance the staying power of the paints. It also protects the metal surface from oxidation and corrosion from exposure to the paint or other chemical elements.
You can opt to buy a two-in-one paint plus primer or purchase a primer separately from the paint. Just ensure that it is compatible with both metal and acrylic paints.
The best way to go about this is to match the acrylic paint and primer brand. You’ll save yourself the hassle of doing a lot of research or guesswork as to whether a particular combination is suitable or not.
Most importantly, it must be an oil-based primer. Acrylic paint will only adhere to the metal with an oil-based primer. Once you have a primer, apply the first coat to the completely dry metal. Wait for the primer to dry before following up with a second coat.
The allowed drying time is what the manufacturer recommends, and you should stick to it. Please do not attempt to use your sight or touch to gauge whether it is already dry. When the double coats of primer are dry, the metal is now ready to accept the paint.
For primer, we recommend Rust-Oleum Flat White Clean Metal Primer. It is an oil-based formula that will prevent your metal from rusting.
If you already have stubborn rust pits that cannot be removed by sanding or a rust dissolver, they have no chance with this primer. It offers complete coverage that stops the rust from spreading any further.
The Rust-oleum primer is made to be weather and corrosion-resistant, so it keeps your metal protected from chemicals and other deteriorative environmental conditions.
It comes in a flat white finish which enhances the brilliance of any colored top coat of acrylic paint that follows it. The primer application is a simple procedure and does not need any thinning because the consistency is right.
You may opt for the convenient spray can, which is 8oz or 12oz. But if you want to brush it on or use a spray gun, they also have a 32oz tin for larger areas. The drying time is roughly 2-4 hours before you can apply your acrylic paints.
It is a high-quality primer designed explicitly for metals from a brand you can trust in metal paint and priming products.
4. Painting The Metal
Just like painting wood and other materials, the rules for painting metal are the same. Opt for several thin coats as opposed to one thick film. The paint will adhere better, plus thicker layers slow drying time.
Permit ample drying time between these coats of paint. It would be best to refer to the manufacturer’s instructions on the full drying time needed before adding subsequent coats.
The charm of acrylic paint is that it generally dries so much faster, so it won’t be a very long wait, usually 24_48 hours. However, drying time can be extended by certain conditions such as humidity and the temperature of the day you are painting.
Can You Use A Brush To Paint Acrylic Paint On Metal?
Absolutely. You can use a regular brush, airbrush, spray can, or roller. It is your choice. That is how versatile acrylic paint is. For small metal items or objects with irregular shapes, tight corners, and curves, we recommend going with acrylic spray paint for metal.
That’s because there are a lot of hard-to-reach spots. It can be challenging to tackle those with a traditional paintbrush, especially if you’re not skilled at it.
Spray paint also saves you from brush stroke marks on your items, plus it dries super fast and gets the job completed quickly. If this stuff matter to you, then, by all means, spray paint your metal.
Using a paintbrush is beneficial for covering vast areas with flat surfaces or linear planes. It is also more cost-effective to buy a tin of acrylic paint for such large-scale jobs than an equal number of aerosol cans.
Should You Seal Your Acrylic Paint On Metal?
It is recommended to seal your acrylic paint. It is especially desirable for objects that undergo moderate to heavy abuse and are not painted using exterior acrylic paint.
The best thing about exterior acrylic paint or acrylic paint formulated outdoors is that it already embodies sealants in its composition. This makes its coat tough, waterproof, anti-UV fading, and resistant to many other chemicals and environmental elements.
However, general-purpose acrylic paints or acrylic paints for indoor use do not have a sealer incorporated into the paint.
Spraying a layer or two of sealer over the paint, such as a clear varnish or urethane, gives it a protection boost and prevents it from chipping, flaking scuffing, UV, and moisture deterioration. You might also want a sealer to achieve a particular finish such as matte, satin, gloss, or high gloss.
Our favorite light sealer is the Krylon clear varnish spray with UV resistance. It is compatible with acrylic paint and forms a permanent coat over it. This coat is watertight and also blocks UV rays from damaging and fading the paint.
Is Acrylic Paint On Metal Waterproof?
Acrylic paint is not waterproof on metal. It offers a degree of water resistance but is not entirely non-porous.
What this means is that if the object gets occasional water splashes or an accidental dunk in water, it will still be fine and the metal below safe. It takes a bit of hard work for the water molecules to penetrate the polymer layer.
However, if placed outside during a rainy season or in a bathroom where it receives a daily dose of wetness, then it will give in and eventually give way to the water.
Therefore, for metal objects in constant contact with moisture, they are better sealed or painted with outdoor acrylic paint.
And that is how you use acrylic paint on metal. Let’s quickly recap on the main points.
- You can use acrylic paint on metal; only if the paint is designed for use with metals.
- The metal surface should also be appropriately equipped to accept acrylic paint. For old metals, preparing involves getting rid of initial worn-out paint and rust by sanding with sandpaper and using a wire brush.
- The bare metal surface (old and new) must now be washed and degreased, then sanded with fine-grit sandpaper till smooth, then thoroughly cleaned again. Alcohol and acetone do the trick too.
- Any debris left behind will interfere with the adhesion of acrylic paint on the metal. It would help if you were meticulous with cleaning.
- Apply a thin coat of oil-based metal primer after the metal has completely dried. We insist that it must be oil-based, or else the acrylic paint won’t stay fixed to the metal.
- Apply two coats of acrylic paint, drying sufficiently between coats. You can use a paintbrush to paint acrylic paint on metal for brush-on paint, or you can spray paint.
- General-purpose or indoor acrylic paint is not waterproof on metal but water-resistant. You might want to finish it off with a clear sealer to improve water resistance, give it UV protection, resistance to scratching, and a gloss, matte, or other finish. Exterior acrylic paints already have sealers, so you do not need it.