Can you use acrylic paint on metal?

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Canvas is not the only surface used to display brilliant acrylic artwork. For a more dynamic way to display your art, consider branching out beyond your canvas to wood, walls, windows, or even acrylic paint on metal. This article will outline everything you need to know to create a metal masterpiece. 

Can you use acrylic paint on metal?

Can you use acrylic paint on metal?

Acrylic Paint can be used on metal as well. Just like with most surfaces, painting acrylic on metal requires preparation. Pick your metal surface, sand it, clean it, prime it, paint your design, and then seal it for lasting quality. The main difference between metal and other painting surfaces is that you want to use stronger cleaning tools and a rust-resistant primer when painting on metal. 

Each new surface you paint on comes with its own unique set of nuances to consider before you achieve the best paint job possible. Read on to see the specific considerations for acrylic paint on metal surfaces and what you can do to make your piece last a lifetime.

Can You Use Acrylic Paint on Metal?

Using acrylic paint on metal is possible, and there are a variety of projects you can use it for. These range from DIY home projects to mixed media art pieces and beyond. Whatever you are painting, the process of a successful paint job begins long before you touch Painting brush.

Can You Use Acrylic Paint on Metal?

How to Prepare Metal Before Painting with Acrylic?

The amount of preparation you have to do depends on the state of your metal piece. If you are working with a rusty piece of outdoor furniture, then you will need to clean it more than a fresh metal sheet from the art store. 

Any piece that is overly rusty or dirty should be brushed off with a wire brush. This also removes any old paint on the object. Wipe off the dirt pieces with a wet rag as you go. Once you have gotten off as much dirt, paint, or rust as you can with the wire brush, use a piece of sandpaper to ensure every inch of the surface has been properly cleaned and scratched up. This will allow the paint to stick well.

Use acetone or mineral spirits to wipe the piece clean before you continue. Always make sure you are in a well-ventilated area when using chemical cleaners like mineral spirits.

Do I Need to Prime Metal before Painting It? 

Primer is always a good idea if you want to protect the medium underneath the paint and have your paint stick better. The only reason you may not want to prime is if you want your design to appear directly on the surface of the metal or if you want the effects of aging and time to appear on your piece. 

Use a rust-inhibiting and/or anti-corrosive metal primer to protect your piece from oxidization, which metal is very prone to. Primers come in a variety of colors, even clear, so pick the shade that is most helpful for your project. Usually white primer provides the best base for your acrylic colors to appear most vibrant. 

Primers also come in either spray-on or brush-on types. Typically spray-on primers are the easiest to use for painting metal.

How Do I Paint on Metal with Acrylic?

Step 1: Prep the Area

Collect all your materials and have them ready, cleaned, and at hand. This includes drop cloths, wire brushes, sand paper, cleaners, multiple rags, paints, brushes, and maybe a fan to help with the drying process. Go through a dry run of the painting process to make sure you have all the materials you need before you start. This will also help build muscle memory, so it will feel more natural when you begin.  

Step 2: Clean

First, you need to clean any dirt, dust, or rust off of your metal. Use a wire brush to scrape off as much rust and old paint as you can. You can then use sandpaper to scratch up and clean the smaller nooks and crannies. 

Use a chemical cleaner like mineral spirits (in a well-ventilated area) to wipe everything down and make sure there is no residue left that could prevent the paint from sticking. Let everything dry for at least an hour.

Step 3: Prime

Use a rust-resistant primer to ensure your paint adheres to the metal surface. At least two coats will provide the best coverage. Then, give the primer at least 24-48 hours to dry depending on the heat, humidity, and airflow of your workspace.

Step 4: Paint

Decide whether you want to spray paint an even coat of the same color, brush on a more detailed design, or use a combination of both. Collect an outdoor and/or rust-resistant set of paints and create your masterpiece.

How Do I Paint on Metal with Acrylic?

If you choose to use spray paint, it is important to make sure your workspace is well-ventilated. Start your spray a little bit before you are above the piece and then spray evenly and continuously to the end of that section. It is important to start and stop the spray of paint off of the piece; otherwise, the paint will collect and may cause drips.

Let your paint dry about a week before you apply your top coat. 

Step 5: Seal

As with all materials, you should seal your art to make sure it will last forever. You need to check first, your surface is clean and dry before you apply a sealant to protect your piece from any rain or sunshine.

A glossy sealant will also make it easier to wipe down your piece for any future cleaning you may do. A spray-on, glossy, and clear sealant is typically the best choice to protect your piece.

Let the final coat dry about a week before the painted object experiences any heavy touching or use. Wipe it down with a damp cloth when necessary to remove dust and other particles.

What is the Best Type of Acrylic Paint for Metal?

Since metal painting projects are usually for outdoor use, you will want a primer that protects them from rust. Rust-Oleum offers a range of anti-rust products like their Universal Bonding Primer Spray Paint:

Rust-Oleum 285011 Stops Rust Universal Bonding Primer, 12 oz, White
  • Exterior/interior use, great for galvanized steel, wrought iron, railings, furniture, laminate, PVC, porcelain, masonry, glazed brick and more
  • Low odor, low VOC water-based formula has excellent wet adhesion in moist or humid environments
  • Dries to the touch in 30 minutes and covers up to 10-12 sq. ft.
  • Prevents rust and corrosion for enhanced durability
  • White finish creates a strong bond to prepare surface for any topcoat

When it comes to the best acrylic paint for your final layer or design, use an outdoor acrylic paint. Rust-oleum offers a variety of spray paint colors that resist rust:

Rust-Oleum 250702 Stops Rust Spray Paint, 12-Ounce, Gloss Pure White
  • Weather and corrosion resistant coating protects exterior/interior surfaces like wood, metal, concrete, masonry and more
  • Oil-based formula provides a durable protective coating with excellent rust prevention
  • Dries to touch in 2-4 hours and covers up to 15 sq. ft
  • Excellent resistance to abrasion, fading and chipping
  • Glossy finish provides a fresh shine to surfaces

If you want something you can brush on, try an outdoor acrylic paint set like this one from DecoArt:

DecoArt, Wrought Iron Black Patio Paint, 2-Ounce, 2 Fl Oz (Pack of 1)
  • Easy-to-use, one-step
  • No sealing or varnishing needed
  • Weather-resistant
  • Scuff-resistant.Easy clean-up while wet
  • Water-based and non-toxic

Which Brush Should I Use?

When I paint with Acrylics on metal I use in 99% Different type sprays. Some of you may still want to discover alternative options.

So If you choose to use a brush instead of spray paint, choose one relative to the size and type of your project. If you are painting a garage door, use a large paintbrush. If you are painting a design on the surface of a metal chair or maybe car, you may want to use smaller, more detailed brush. 

How Do You Seal Acrylic Paint on Metal?

Depending on the strength and durability of the acrylic paint you have already used, a top coat may not be necessary. That being said, a top coat is usually a good idea if you are not sure whether to use one or not. It will protect from water, UV rays, and even rust.

Use a waterproof or outdoor top coat. Typically, a glossy finish makes for the easiest cleaning and a crystal-clear tint will allow your designs and colors to shine through. A spray can will allow for the easiest application, but there are paint-on options, as well. 

Related Questions: 

How Long Does It Take for Acrylic Paint to Dry on Metal?

Wait at least 24-48 hours between coats of primer, paint, and sealant, and wait at least a week for your acrylic paint to dry completely. Drying time always depends on the airflow, temperature, and humidity of the area where you are working.

How Do I Maintain or Clean My Metal Painted with Acrylic?

Typically, you can simply wipe down your piece with a damp rag. Water works fine, but you can also use a basic household cleaner if you want to disinfect the item.

Can I Paint Rusty Metal?

Yes, you can paint rusty metal as long as you clean the rust off with a wire brush first. You can buy industrial cleaners if there is a lot to clean. If the rust has eaten a hole in the item, you may want to use a metal patch.

Can I use Modge Podge to Seal Acrylic Paint on Metal?

Modge Podge is not recommended for sealing metal projects, especially if they are outdoors. It can be used on indoor projects that will not be handled very much. For any high-use or outdoor projects, use a waterproof and rust-proof sealant.

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