Can You Use Acrylic Paint On Metal? How To Paint It?

Acrylic paint usage is not limited to the canvas only. It can be used over a number of surfaces, and it works well. But can you use acrylic paint on metal? 

Yes, acrylic paint can be used over metal surfaces. It adheres well and lasts longer if you know how to prepare and prime the metal surface accurately for painting. In addition, a top coat of a sealant will add extra protection against various harsh elements including wear and tear.  

So if you have outdated metal furniture, ruined-out metal doors, cabinets, shelves, or rusty fences and railings, you can go for acrylic.

I remember painting backyard fences with acrylic six months ago. Although these metal structures face a lot of tough conditions every day, like moisture, sunlight, and weathering, I can see the color is still vibrant somehow. 

So it’s not a bad idea to use acrylic paint for metal as it is much more resistant and lower on the packet as compared.

In the post, I’ll provide you with comprehensive guidance on how to paint on metal with acrylic paint, recover and repaint rusty metal structures and discuss all the factors vital to successful painting and fruitful results. 

What Kind Of Paint To Use On Metal?

There are multiple paint options to be used on metal structures, like oil-based paint, enamel, latex paint, and acrylic paint. You can go for any paint, but you have to consider your requirements and the features of the paint. 

  • Oil-Based Paint On Metal

It is a good choice if you’re looking for a durable finish, especially if you wanna paint an outdoor metal project that has to face severe environments, particularly moisture. 

  • Enamel Paint On Metal

Enamel is another option to opt for among oil-based colors. Enamel sticks to metal firmly, and there may not be a need for a top coat. Moreover, the paint leaves a shiny appearance on the surface. The paint becomes hard to dry, which makes it more resistant to moisture penetration.

  • Latex Paint On Metal

Latex is water-based color. It is the same as acrylic paint, but it provides more coverage and is usually used when a large area has to be painted. It dries quickly and possesses the same features as acrylic. 

Here is more detail on Acrylic Vs. Latex if you’re confused between the two for your project.

  • Acrylic Paint On Metal

Acrylic paint is a versatile color and is mostly used for smaller projects like portraits, drawing, and canvas painting. It has a number of features that makes it a distinction among water-based paints. It can be applied over metal surfaces. 

How To Paint Metal With Acrylic Paint?

Painting on metal with acrylic paint is a straightforward procedure, but ignoring some factors may lead to chipping of the paint before time. The most common question is, “Will acrylic paint stick to metal?” 

Well, it depends on multiple elements like preparing, priming and sealing the metal surface. In addition, the quality of paint and the conditions provided, like temperature, humidity, light, and weathering, also affect stickiness. 

For example, you can’t expect the paint on an exterior metal surface facing a very harsh environment to stay as long as an interior surface facing a soothing climate.

By the way, don’t be confused and overthink. I’m at your back and gonna guide you step by step on how to paint metal the right way to get promising results. Just follow the steps below.

Supplies You’ll Need

You’ll need the following tools and agents in order to paint a metal surface.

  • Wire brush
  • Rust neutralizer 
  • Acetone/Ammonia
  • Cloth 
  • Rag 
  • Sandpapers  
  • Warm water and soap
  • Acrylic paint
  • Paintbrushes 
  • Bowl
  • Acrylic Primer 
  • Sealant 

Step 1: Prepare Metal Surface

The very first step towards a successful metal painting is preparing the surface. Without preparation, the contact between the paint molecules and metal is weak, which ultimately affects adherence and stickiness. So how do you prepare metal for acrylic paint?

First of all, remove the rust from the metal. It is quite hard to remove the rust by simply scratching with a wire brush. So I suggest you use tannic acid or oxalic acid to remove the rust. These acids have the ability to dissolve rust and make it soft, which is then easy to remove even with a cloth.  

The second thing is removing the old paint. The paint can be removed by using acetone or ammonia. Damp a cloth with chemicals and rub it over the metal surface until the paint is removed. Moreover, you can use a wire brush to scratch the paint, but it’s a time-consuming procedure. So go for acetone, alcohol, or ammonia. 

Now clean the surface with warm water and soap. Cleaning will remove all the residues and dust. Finally, wipe the surface with a rag.   

Step 2: Sand The Metal Surface 

The next step is sanding the metal surface to make it more adhering to acrylic paint. Sanding might not be one of our most fun things, but it is a really important step in getting a good final finish on our metal pieces. 

One of the most important things to know about sanding is that there are different types of sanding products for different types of materials that you might be working with. So make sure when you are purchasing your materials by paying attention to what kind of sandpaper you want to get based on the kind of metal.

There are no shortcuts with sanding, and you have to make finer and finer scratches to get that final finish, so it is important to keep your grits organized and to work from the coarsest grit to the finest grit.

One important trick to be able to see as you are moving through the grits and removing the scratches is to rotate the direction of the sanding.

Clean the surface with a damp cloth again to remove all kinds of contaminants or sanding residues.

Step 3: Prime Metal Surface

Now go for priming the metal surface. You can choose between brush-on primer and spray primer. I suggest you use spray primer to speed up the process.

Spray primer is a quick-drying primer for the perfect pre-treatment of metal surfaces that need to be protected from rust. It also creates greater adhesion for all paints and coatings applied. 

Best results can be achieved at temperatures between 10 to 20 degrees Celsius. Remove the safety ring by removing the nozzle and turning the can upside down, allowing the ring all out.

Shake the spray can well for 2 to 3 minutes. Apply spray primer at a distance of 20 centimeters from the substrate. Apply multiple layers minimum of 2 to 3, alternating between vertical and horizontal application.

At least 5 minutes of drying time should be provided between each layer. Leave the primer to get dried for three hours before painting with acrylic paint. 

Step 4: Apply Acrylic Paint To Metal

Once the surface is prepared and primed, it is now ready to accept and retain acrylic paint coating in a better and smoother way. The paint gonna stick to the surface for longer. 

Take out acrylic paint from the tube or container into a bowl if you have a small project to be painted. However, if you’re going to paint a larger section, you’ll need a bigger container or bowl to hold the paint.

If you feel the paint is too thick and viscous, add a paint thinner or distilled water to thin it down. But I suggest you just stir the paint to make it consistent instead of thinning. 

Now take a paintbrush and dip it into the paint and tap off the excess color. Begin applying it over the metal surface. Make sure you keep a light hand and use even strokes. 

Apply at least two layers of the paint. The layers should be applied from both angles, i.e., horizontal and vertical, for better coverage. Let the previous layer dry to the touch before going for the next one. You can lightly sand the surface if you want to make the paint look matte.

Step 5: Seal Paint On the Metal Surface

The final step is sealing acrylic paint on the metal surface. Sealant adds a top coat, which contributes to the protection of the paint from harsh elements and physical damage. So how to seal acrylic paint on metal?

Well, just like the primer, the sealant has two forms. Brush-on and spray sealer. I prefer the spray variant as it quickens the procedure and is easy to handle. Shake the spray can well, open the lid, press the piston and move over the painted surface. 

Keep the spray at a distance of 20 cm for better coverage and handling. Apply 2 to 3 layers and provide enough time for drying between the coatings. That’s all you’re done with painting and protecting acrylic paint over metal. 

How To Repaint Rusted Metal With Acrylic Paint?

I’ve painted a lot of metal objects over the years. There’s one thing for certain, which is the key to a good finish, that is surface preparation. Bad preparation will probably lead to rust again, and the paint will fall off. Good or great preparation can get you the best shot for a long-lasting finish.

Here’s how to use acrylic paint on metal doors, windows, shelves, cabinets, fences, rails, or any other rusted metal structure. 

Step 1

If you’ve got rust, treat the rust using a rust neutraliser. Some paints like Rustoleum say that they stop rust, but I don’t believe it.

The best solution is a rust Neutralizer which changes the chemical composition of rust, turns it black and can be painted the next day. 

Step 2

Remove loose chipping paint and surface rust using an orbital sander with fine-grit sandpaper. You can do this by hand, but it will probably take you an extra half hour.

Now switch to finer grit sandpaper in order to get a smoother finish and reduce the chance of seeing those minor surface scratches. 

Step 3 

Clean the entire surface using paint cleaners or mineral spirits. They are basically the same; the only difference is that mineral spirits are more refined and stink less. 

Spray or brush on a good primer on the metal surface. Some paints have a primer and paint mixed together. I guess that’s OK. I got no science to back me here, but I think separate is better. 

Before you spray, read the instructions on your can of primer. There’s good information there, maybe something specific to your application, for example, the time duration between drying and the next coat.

Step 4

Read the instructions on the acrylic spray can before spraying. For example, one of my can say that a second coat can be applied within one hour or after 24 hours. Now that’s pretty specific. I assume that for the best adhesion, I should wait 24 hours to apply a second coat.

Apply the paint from all angles carefully. Not too little paint, or it’s going to look spotty and adult; not too much paint, or it will run, especially on the vertical parts of your project. 

There are many kinds of paints you can apply on top of the primed metal surface, and they last longer and look better. But if you fail in preparation, it doesn’t matter what kind of paint you use; your project will not look good for long. 

Whether you have a metal trash can, a metal shelf, or a mailbox, giving it a fresh coat of paint with a little preparation is a story that ends well.

Can Acrylic Paint Be Used On Metal Doors? 

Acrylic paint can be used on metal doors, but there are some things you need to take into account. The very first thing is the condition of the door. If it has been eaten out by rust and has deep holes and scratches, you’ll need to fill them first. 

The second thing is choosing the right type of primer for the door. A brush-on primer will provide a thick base coat as compared to a spray primer. I suggest you use the brush-on variant to get an even bottom. 

A top coat of polyurethane over the door is recommended for a longer lifespan of the paint. Finally, make sure the paint is completely cured before you handle the door. 

Can You Use Acrylic Paint On Tin?

Yes, acrylic paint can be used over a tin. Most people do it as a hobby and keep decorating different things and evaluate their art skills. 

Tin has a shiny surface and a very fine texture. It makes it difficult for you to make the paint stick to its surface, so there is a need to sand the surface or use a clear acrylic base coat. 

What paint to use on metal tin? The simplest and straightforward solution is getting an aerosol paint source, like acrylic spray paints. Read the instructions and go for its practical application over the tin. 

Can You Use Acrylic Paint On Metal Without Primer?

Yes, acrylic paint can be used on metal without applying the primer, but you can’t expect the paint to adhere and retain on the surface for a long. Using acrylic paint on metal paint without primer will lead to peel, crack, and chip in no time. 

The main reason is the weak clinging between the metal atoms and the paint molecules. Moreover, without primer, the paint is susceptible to getting warm-up easily due to the direct contact between metal and paint. The heat can affect the paint bonding, and it will end up flaking off the surface. You can learn more about if acrylic paint is heat resistant.

So I never recommend you paint the surface without a primer. Many paint manufacturers mix primer with the paint to prevent you from the inconvenience of doing both things separately, i.e., painting and priming. 

How To Paint Metal Gate And Garden Furniture With Acrylic?

You can paint metal gates and garden structures like furniture and ornaments using acrylic. Here’s what you will need. 

Gloves, goggles, paint brushes, scrapers, wire brushes, rags, alcohol, exterior metal primer, and paint. And if you are going to be kneeling down, some knee pads are a good idea too. Put a sheet of cardboard or polythene under the metal structure to avoid stains and spills.

Put goggles and gloves on, and using a stiff wire brush, go over the whole gate, removing as much of the flaking paint and rust as possible. For difficult areas where the brush won’t fit, you can use a scraper. Next, rub over the surface with a degreaser, including areas that look OK.

Damp a cloth with alcohol and wipe over the gate to remove any remaining grease or dirt. Any heavily corroded areas should be painted with a rust treatment stain. Make sure it’s completely dry before continuing.

Prime the surface and apply even coats, not overloading the brush. Otherwise, you will end up with loads of trips and paint runs. For longer-lasting protection, apply a second coat of primer. Two coats should be OK, but check the manufacturers’ instructions for advice. 

Now begin applying the acrylic paint from chosen colour and use smooth, even strokes. Depending on the paint brand type, you may need more than one coat but again, check the manufacturer’s instructions. Once painted, allow the surface to dry.

Can You Paint Metal Wires?

Acrylic paint can be used on metal wires, but it is necessary to understand the electrical conduction of the paint. It will help you decide better.


Is there any acrylic metal paint?

Well, there are no specialized types of metal paint. However, oil-based and water-based paints are considered very effective for usage over metal objects.

Is acrylic or oil paint better for metal?

Both the paints have their own pros and cons. Acrylic is water-based and dries quickly on metal, providing a time-saving opportunity. On the other hand, oil-based paint takes time to dry but provides a durable finish and minimizes the usage of primer and sealer. 

Can you paint metal with acrylic?

Yes, acrylic paint is suitable for metal as long as you know how to apply it. Moreover, an excellent prepared surface is crucial to stick the paint to the smooth metal surface successfully. However, the paint may not be suitable for larger metal objects as it is costly. 

Is acrylic paint waterproof on metal?

Yes, acrylic paint becomes water-resistant once dried on a metal surface. But exposing it to too much moisture may ruin the paint texture. For example, if you’re going to paint metal basins and bathroom structures, the paint will not sustain as the paint will face a continuously damp environment.  

What can you use to seal acrylic paint on metal?

Sealing acrylic paint on metal is crucial in order to make the paint last longer. Clear acrylic sealant is the primary option to get a glossy and protective finish. However, you may go for lawyer-based sealing products as well. 

Does acrylic paint stick to metal?

Yes, acrylic paint can stick to metal. However, you have to sand down the surface and apply a coat of primer for better adhesion.

Final Words

So can you use acrylic paint on metal? The secret to painting any surface is knowing the right, proper and professional ways to prepare the surface. 

Acrylic paint can ideally stick to any surface, but how far it remains on the surface and survive depends on various factors, which are already discussed in detail. 

I tried my best to deliver every single point and make you all clear about painting metal with acrylic paint, but still, if you have queries, you’re welcome in the comment box.  

Thank you! 

Jose Scott

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