Can you Paint Stainless Steel? (Here’s How) – Complete Guide

There’s a lot of debate on whether or not you can paint stainless steel. Some people say it’s a waste of time, while others claim it’s the only way to go. So which is the truth? Can you paint over stainless steel?

Many people think that painting stainless steel means you’ll need an entirely new bumper. The answer is yes. You can paint stainless steel. However, if you’ve never painted before and want to try it out for your stainless steel bumper, we’d recommend buying a cheap piece of sheet metal to practice on first. While the process may seem complicated, it doesn’t need to be. 

In this article, we’ll look at both sides of the issue and see what the experts have to say. We’ll also provide some tips on how to get the best results if you decide to give it a try. Stay tuned!

Should you paint stainless steel?

The answer to this question largely depends on your personal preferences. You can paint stainless steel, and chances are you already have something in your home that has received the same treatment. Many manufacturers use powder-coated stainless steel parts in refrigerators and ovens.

Since some people prefer it unpainted while others are dead set against it, the only way to find out which one you are is to try it yourself. We’ll talk about what this entails in a bit.

How to Paint Stainless Steel step by step

Step 1:

The first step in painting stainless steel is to prepare it for the new paint job. This includes removing anything already on the surface and cleaning the piece thoroughly.

You’ll also want to use a polishing wheel to remove any rust spots or imperfections before you begin painting. If there are any minor scratches, you should remove them using fine-grit sandpaper.

Surface Preparation

Remove any rust spots or imperfections with a polishing wheel. If your stainless steel bumper has received an acid bath, you won’t need to do anything since this will have removed all flaking paint and another residue.

But if there are any remnants still on the surface, then it might be best to give that area another pass with the polishing wheel. It is done to ensure that everything is nice and smooth before applying new paint. You can also use fine-grit sandpaper to get rid of small scratches on the metal’s surface.

You can clean stainless steel using hot soapy water and a thorough rinse after removing all the dirt and grease. Once the surface is clean, you should let it dry completely before continuing.

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Step 2:

By choosing a quality stainless steel primer and enamel paint, you’ll be able to get the job done right the first time. To get the best results, ensure that you follow all of the manufacturer’s instructions when applying for your new paint job.

Your overall success will depend on how well you prepare the metal for painting. If your stainless steel bumper has been removed from your vehicle, then this step isn’t necessary since there won’t be any existing paint to remove.

Step 3:

Before you begin painting, make sure that the metal is completely dry. Moisture can cause problems when applying new paint, so give it at least 24 hours to air out after getting rid of excess moisture.

Step 4:

Once everything has dried out, you can begin applying your primer. If you’re painting a large surface area like a bumper or hood, then we’d recommend using an airbrush as it’ll provide the evenest coverage. Otherwise, any other paintbrush will work just as well.

You’ll want to apply several layers of paint until the depth of color you desire has been reached. You may want to use a semi-gloss or gloss black paint for the best results.

Step 5:

To get the most from your painting session, you’ll need to give plenty of time to dry between coats your new paint job. After giving it some time, you can apply fresh enamel paint for even better results.

The best way to apply new paint is to use an airbrush, but you can also use a paintbrush if you don’t have access to one of these. If this is your first time painting stainless steel, it may take some practice before getting the perfect finish.

If done correctly, you should have a brilliant new paint job on your hands. It’s also important to note that the color of the metal will affect how well the paint sticks to it. The darker or glossier a surface is, the easier time you’ll have painted it. 

Why do people choose not to paint stainless steel?

When deciding whether or not to paint your stainless steel bumper, there are several things you should take into account first. Stainless steel comprises chromium, iron, carbon, and nickel. Because it is made with carbon and nickel, the steel can resist rusting or corroding.

Since its introduction into the market in the 1930s, stainless steel has been lauded for its ease of use and durability. It distinguishes itself from other metals by eliminating corrosion problems and looking great for years without rusting or wearing away.

Many people prefer to leave their stainless steel bumpers unpainted because they like how it looks. You’ll often hear two specific points mentioned when discussing this issue. The “raw” look and how painting doesn’t allow you to see the metal’s natural pattern.

Paint vs. Stainless Steel

Painting stainless steel is a tricky process that—as we’ll discuss in a bit—requires some work to get right. On the other hand, keeping it unpainted saves you all the hassle of painting and allows you to see any untreated rust or corrosion spots before they worsen.

The “raw” look refers to the fact that you can see all of the stainless steel’s natural beauty without any paint interfering. This is why so many refrigerators and other appliances use this type of metal. Several terms are used to describe this concept, including “surgical stainless steel” and “refrigerator grade.”

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There’s also the argument that painting stainless steel will require you to get a new bumper. Since it is not made with paintable metal, the entire thing needs to be sandblasted and repainted to get a clean result.

This leads many people (including us) to believe that painting stainless steel bumpers is simply more trouble than it’s worth.

Pros and Cons of Painting Stainless Steel

Now that you have a better idea of what painting your stainless steel bumper entails, let’s talk about why some people are dead set against it. If you’re interested in keeping your bumpers unpainted, there are several pros and cons to think about before making a decision.

Here’s an example of an unpainted stainless steel bumper that still shows signs of rust. While it is not the end of the world, you can see how it’s already taken a toll on the chassis.

We’ve touched on this topic briefly above, but here are some specifics regarding why people prefer to leave their bumpers unpainted.

Not meant to be Painted

Stainless steel is not known for being paintable. This means that when you take it to a body shop to paint your bumpers, they’re most likely going to strip everything down and start over. Since the entire bumper needs to be repainted, this often ends up costing more—and taking much longer—than simply painting the parts individually. The result is usually a less-than-perfect paint job.

Rust-resistant paint for stainless steel is Costly

Rust-resistant paint for stainless steel is tough to find and very expensive, so you’ll likely need to take it somewhere to have it professionally done. While we don’t recommend it, you can probably get away with painting some stainless steel parts (like grilles) on your own if you’re willing to put in the time and effort required for sanding and priming. However, this still doesn’t guarantee that the results will be perfect.

Stainless Steel is less Prone to Rust

You can expect your stainless steel bumper (if left unpainted) to maintain its original appearance over the years without rusting or corroding like other metals might. The amount of rust that starts to appear under the surface of your bumper can vary, though. If you live in an area that snows frequently or gets humid, you might see more rust than someone who lives in a drier climate.

Natural Look

Stainless steel is one of the most attractive types of metal on the market today. Many people simply want to show off the natural beauty of the metal without any paint getting in the way.

Painting stainless steel bumpers are tough to get right. Since it’s not made with paintable metal, sandblasting and repainting are usually required to get a clean result. This often ends up costing more time and money than simply painting your parts individually.

How To Get A Stainless Steel Painted Effect Finish

Hard Hat 2116 Stainless Steel Coating is a good product used on both stainless steel and aluminum surfaces. This coating will give you a nice, even finish that is rust and corrosion-resistant.

Getting this type of paint-like finish on your bumpers is easy, thanks to the HS2116 cleaner/primer. Simply spray it on your bumper before applying the metal paint. After removing the masking tape, your bumper will be primed and ready for a topcoat.

Frequently Asked Questions

What kind of paint will stick to stainless steel?

You can use paint made for stainless steel or auto paint on your bumpers. If you’d like, you can even get creative and design something custom to match your vehicle’s color scheme.

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Can you paint stainless steel in high heat?

You can paint stainless steel in all climates, including high heat. Just be sure that your bumper is thoroughly cleaned and primed before applying the new coat of paint.

How long does it take to paint stainless steel bumpers?

The length of time it takes to get a finished product varies depending on what kind of coating you use and how much time you’re willing to spend applying multiple layers. A good top coat will need between three and five coats before it starts looking smooth and pristine, so be prepared for this if you want a truly professional result.

What kind of paint will last on stainless steel?

Any paint made specifically for metal can be used on your bumpers, though rust-resistant products will help you avoid the typical wear and tear that stainless steel bumpers often face.

Can you paint stainless steel with spray paint?

If you’re looking for a quick and dirty solution, though, spray paint might be all you need. It’s best to use a brush or roller on your stainless steel bumper so you can see exactly where the paint is going. Remember that the results won’t last as long as other types of paint because it’s designed to dry quickly.

How do I get the old paint off my stainless steel bumper?

Sandblasting is usually required to get the old paint off your bumpers. Whether you want to do the work yourself or have it done at a shop, this is usually necessary for getting clean results.

Will stainless steel rust?

Yes, stainless steel will rust if exposed to moisture and humidity for too long. Using a rust-resistant product when you clean and paint your bumpers can help prevent this from happening.

Can you paint stainless steel muffler?

You can paint stainless steel mufflers, but it is recommended that you use a good adhesive. If not, the paint will eventually come off in some areas with more heat and humidity.


So, what’s the final verdict? Should you leave your bumpers unpainted or paint them to make them look like stainless steel?

We know this can be a tough decision. The solution comes down to personal preference. We will say that painting any metal is an art form in and of itself because you need to know how to sand and prepare the metal before you can apply the paint. This means that, unless you’re a professional and know what you’re doing, it’s probably best to leave your bumpers unpainted. If this is not an option for any reason, choose stainless steel paint over rust-resistant paint for better results.

The durability of stainless steel also makes it a good choice for your bumpers. It will easily resist rust and corrosion, which means you won’t have to worry about it looking dull and dirty over time.

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