Can You Spray Paint on Metal? – Complete Guide

When it comes to spray painting, there are a lot of misconceptions. People think you can only use spray paint on certain surfaces, like wood or plastic. But the truth is, you can also use spray paint on metal!

It’s true. Metal is porous, so you can’t use regular spray paint. But, there are particular types of paint made for use on metal. These paints can be applied directly to the metal and even over rust! If the surface of your steel or iron isn’t too rusty, then you can clean it with steel wool to prep it for painting.

This article will discuss how to spray paint metal safely and what types of results you can expect. So if you’re thinking about giving your metal pieces a makeover, keep reading!

Does Spray Paint Stick To Metal?

The short answer is yes, but it can be very challenging. Metal is brutal to adhere to anything because the material isn’t porous enough. The easiest way to paint metal is by using spray primer beforehand. Primer coats the surface with an adhesion agent that can help other paints stick better and last longer. There are a few different spray paints that can be effective on metal surfaces.

But if the primer is applied beforehand, many types of paint can work on various metals. Most craft paints designed for plastics will work fine if you’re looking for a quick project and don’t mind sacrificing the rust protection.

Spray paint does not stick to all metals. Iron and carbon steel are two very common types of metal that any type of paint will not adhere to properly. It is best to leave the surface as-is in these cases rather than attempting a paint job.

A few different types of metals are plated, but zinc provides an extremely shiny surface. If you are looking for a finish that does not require much preparation, Zinc electroplating produces a bright silver color. The paint can be applied right away without any preparation to protect against rust or durability.

Types of Paint that you can spray on metal

Oil-based Enamel Spray Paint

Oil-based enamel spray paint is the most common type on metal surfaces. It provides a great finish that is very resistant to abrasions and cracks. Because of its oil base, it also has good durability in high temperatures. If you are spraying outside, consider using opaque paint rather than a clear or transparent one since they are not UV stable.

Transparent Paints

Transparent paints are also an option for metal surfaces, but only primed beforehand. The adhesion of some transparent paints to certain types of metal can be questionable, but on any type of metal used in the automotive industry, it should adhere fine.

Primer Spray Paint

Primer spray paint is one of the best options for almost any metal surface, including iron and carbon steel. The primer creates a porous surface that makes paint adhere much better than its natural state. It is also significantly more durable, protecting metal surfaces from rusting and corrosion.

Don’t Use These Paints on Metals.

There are some points which should not be used on metal. Any paint with a glossier finish is likely to be extremely reflective and should not be used on outdoor surfaces. Similarly, paints designed for plastics are not formulated to adhere to metal surfaces.

If you are looking for a quick project and don’t mind sacrificing the rust protection, most craft paints designed for plastics will work fine.

You can spray paint metals like iron and carbon steel with opaque paints such as Zinc electroplating to get a bright silver color. A few different types of metals are plated, but zinc provides an extremely shiny surface.

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How To Spray Paint Metal step by step guide

Step 1: Prepare your workspace.

Before starting, ensure that the surface is clean and ready for painting. Remove any debris and dust and remove any existing paints or coatings that will interfere with the paint adhering correctly. Ensure that you are in a ventilated area and fix your spray can nozzle to give you an appropriate fan pattern.

Step 2: Prepare the surface.

If necessary, prime the metal with primer to be painted. Make sure to follow instructions on the primer can to ensure the best results. Using an oil-based enamel, you should apply several thin coats instead of one or two thick ones for better coverage and adhesion.

Step 3: Paint the metal

Spray paint over the metal in even strokes to cover evenly. Make sure to follow instructions on your chosen can to ensure the best results.

Step 4: Wait for the paint to dry

As a safety precaution, always give the metal an hour or two before touching it after painting to make sure that all of the solvents from the paint have evaporated and it is safe to handle. If you intend on using your metal outdoors, wait at least 24 hours for it to dry before exposing it to the elements.

Step 5: Protect your metal after painting

Whether you are using your finished surface indoors or outdoors, you should take steps to protect it from rusting and corrosion. Use a clear sealant over any paint where the metal is exposed to heavy wear or moisture such as water. You can find sealant in spray cans, pots, or brush-on formulas.

Things to consider before you Spray Paint 

There are a few things that you should take into consideration when planning your metal painting project so that the finished product will be exactly what you want it to be.

Which coating to use: 

When choosing whether to use a primer, paint, or sealant for your metal project, the answer depends on how much protection you need and how much time and money you are willing to spend. Paints provide the most long-lasting results, but primers make applying the paint evenly without streaking. Sealants protect against corrosion and rusting after painting, but they do not last as long as paints over time.

Paint marking: 

Many types of paints leave markings behind where they have been sprayed or dried that can be difficult, if not impossible, to remove. This is often true with enamel paints and varnishes used for woodworking projects and hobby crafts. Consider what will happen if these marks dry on your metal face before choosing which type of paint to use.

Paint finish: 

The reflection and color of the metal will be different depending on the type of paint you choose to use. This difference can be subtle or dramatic, but one way that it is classified is by glossiness. The most popular options are satin, matte, and iridescent for a rustic look or shiny finishes such as high gloss for a more sophisticated appearance.

Time needed: 

Some paints dry very quickly, while others take hours before they can be safely handled without residue from the solvents sticking to your skin or clothes. Your choice also depends on where you intend to apply your finished surface and how much time and money you want to invest in painting it before putting it into service.

Application method: 

Consider using an airbrush instead of a spray can for more precise results if you want to paint insignia or other designs on your metal project. If you would prefer not to hand-paint those areas, stickers and decals are available that will adhere to the surface, so they don’t need to be painted. If possible, apply these before painting the rest of your project to avoid accidentally painting over them.

Color options: 

Your choice will largely depend on what you intend to use your finished product for and how much prep time and money you are willing to invest in it. You can find paints that change colors or glow in the dark, as well as metallic finishes, mimic golds and silvers.

Availability of colors: 

It is important to consider which colors of paint and sealant are available in the type you intend to use for your project. This includes the opacity factor, such as if a metallic or iridescent paint will be semi-transparent, translucent, or opaque with light shining through it. It might also impact the look of your finished product depending on what color it is mixed with.

Cost to make: 

Your choice should depend not only on how much money you are willing to spend but also on whether you prefer quality over quantity or vice versa. A large amount of spray paint will cost less than jars of acrylic enamel paints, but one can last longer than enough cans to cover an entire car.

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Project Ideas for Metal Painting

If you have plans to create metal artwork for commercial sale, your work must comply with copyright laws. This includes original designs and reproducing images of famous artworks or characters from books or movies. Even if you are only planning to paint an electrical box in the corner of your home, make sure it does not violate any copyright protections before applying a clear sealant over the finished surface. Below are some ideas for projects that can be done without infringing on copyrights:

If you prefer to create different types of metal craft projects instead of painting them, then consider this list for inspiration:

Flowers – A galvanized steel bucket will look new after being painted and decorated with fresh flowers that won’t wilt with the moisture from the steel.

Fence – Decorate a fence near your front door with large letters that spell out a message or holiday greeting during certain times of the year.

Garden art – Make a metal scarecrow, animal, or another item that can be securely attached to a post in your garden with bolts and painted to blend into its surroundings.

Notebooks – Fashion an old set of tools such as screwdrivers and pliers into different shapes for practical use and decoration around the house.

Tables – Use paint or stencils to create cast iron, stainless steel, or copper tables and coasters that can then be used outside without fear of rusting where they were mixed with moisture.

How Long Does Spray Paint Last On Metal?

Your choice of spray paint should depend on the type of metal you want to cover and what conditions your project will be exposed to. Whether indoor or outdoor use, standing up to harsh weather like rain, sleet or snow may affect the quality of the finish depending on how long ago it was applied. If you need protection that can stand up to regular moisture, you should consider using clear enamel instead of regular spray paint.

It is important to note that the longevity of any kind of metal spray painting project will depend on how often it is used or touched since this can cause cracks in the sealant over time if it isn’t applied properly. Over time, even with a quality spray paint sealant, your project can begin to rust where it was applied by spray painting.

On average, most metal surfaces will hold up for about one year, depending on the type of paint and sealant used. That is why it is important to weigh how much time and money you want to invest in a specific project before determining the best way to prepare the metal for painting.

How To Avoid Blisters When Spray Painting Metal?

When painting metal with spray paint, you should consider avoiding getting blisters. Most people will only notice the pain after their project is done and they have peeled off the tape or protective covering from their fingers.

Depending on what type of metal you are working with, you may find it easier to sandblast instead of sanding by hand. This can be done after the metal is fully cleaned and your paint colors are selected. If not, look for spray paint that has primer included as this may be easier to work with than simply using a clear coat on its own.

consider wearing gloves since this can help keep the paint off your skin if you are spraying multiple coats of spray paint onto your project instead of brushing it on. If you do get blisters or notice discoloration, make sure to wash the affected area thoroughly with soap and water as soon as possible.

Will Spray Paint Chip Off Metal?

If you’re asking yourself, “will spray paint chip off metal?” then you should be aware that all kinds of spray paint create a thin layer on the surface, not an actual coating like liquid paints. That means there is no way to make it last forever or withstand harsh weather conditions for more than several years when used indoors.

That’s why it is important to weigh the benefits of getting your project done faster with spray paint against the longevity of how long it will last before making a final decision. You may also want to consider using other types of protective measures like clear coat or lacquer to make your paint job more durable.

Can You Spray Paint Over A Painted Metal?

If you’re asking yourself, “can you spray paint over a painted metal?” then know that most paints will not stick to an existing layer of paint, especially latex. If there is no way to strip or sand down the old paint and get it smooth without damaging the metal surface, your best option may be to cover it with plastic and tape off the edges.

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You may remove old paint with a chemical stripper, but most of these products will leave a residue that you won’t want to spray paint over. If you’re working with an older piece of metal furniture and you want to update its color, it is usually easier and cheaper to repaint it instead of buying a new one.

How To Remove Spray Paint From Metal?

One of the most common questions people have when spray painting metal is how to remove paint from metal. You can go about these several ways depending on the kind of finish you want to have afterward and what type of tools or chemicals you have available.

For example, if you’re using spray paint, you can try using a commercial deglosser to remove the finish without damaging the metal underneath. If you want to use lacquer or other protective finishes after painting with spray paint, you must tape off all of your surfaces and wear gloves to avoid chemical burns.

Frequently Asked Questions

How To Remove Spray Paint From Metal Furniture?

Even though most spray paint cans are designed to prevent the finish from dripping, there may be times when you experience a little seepage. If this happens, all you have to do is scrape off as much of it as possible and then use a deglosser to remove the rest.

How do you prep metal for spray paint?

Before painting metal, you must clean the surface to remove dirt or debris. Depending on what kind of paint you are using, consider using a primer to create an even color or make sure if anyone has used an oil-based paint previously.

Can I spray paint metal without primer?

If you are using aerosol paint, make sure to shake it thoroughly before applying. If there is no cure time listed on the can, you should be able to start painting within ten minutes.

Do spray paint cans need to be shaken?

Make sure that if the instructions do not specify otherwise, you shake your cans thoroughly and then shake them again or turn them upside down periodically to ensure that the paint mixes well. If you over-shake the can, it could cause the liquid inside to build up and clog your spray nozzle.

Can I paint metal without sanding?

Although most people understand that spray painting metal will leave a thin finish, it is important to consider if the paint lasts longer. Sanding down old paint or primer with steel wool can make it easier for the new layer of paint to stick, even if you are using spray paint.

Is it better to paint or spray paint metal?

It is easier to spray paint metal instead of priming and painting it by hand in most cases. If you are going for a design or pattern, consider marking off sections with masking tape before applying your new finish. This will allow you to cover a larger surface area at once and ensure that the finish is completely covered.

Can I paint over rust on metal?

Although spray paints are designed to work on metal, it is important that if your furniture has large sections of rust, you use a primer instead. After removing old paint or rust, you should also sand down the area to create a smooth surface that the new finish can stick to. This will allow your new finish to last longer and hold up against the elements.

Is spray paint good for metal?

Although aerosol finishes can create a strong layer that will protect your surface from moisture and other types of rust, it is important to consider what kind of metal you are working with. If you are using spray paint to create a design or finish that isn’t metallic, you should get the same results with less frustration. Spray paints can chip more easily if they aren’t applied over a primer and applied correctly.


With the right tools and preparation, you should paint your metal furniture without any problems. As long as you take your time and follow all of the recommended procedures, anyone should be able to paint their metal furniture with spray paint.

I hope you find this article helps you to spray paint on metal. Thank you for reading!

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