From modern masterpieces to kindergarten crafts, acrylic paint can be the perfect material for almost any art project. If you’re painting something more practical, like a garage door or a fence, you may be wondering: will acrylic paint stick to metal?
Acrylic paint can be made to stick to metal using the proper procedures. With the right preparation and priming, acrylic paints will adhere to metal instead of peeling.
Keep reading to learn how to prep metal to accept acrylic paint, along with more helpful tips and advice about metal painting.
How to Prep Metal for Acrylic Paint
If you’ve ever tried to use acrylic paint directly on metal, you’ve probably noticed that it doesn’t last long. There are ways to avoid that! Either the paint won’t adhere at all, or it chips and peels off quickly.
Before applying the primer and the first coat of paint, the metal surface needs to be prepared.
Strip Away Old Paint
Make sure that any traces of the previous coat have been removed. This can be accomplished using paint remover, sanding, or wire brushes.
It is not advisable to do this task using power tools, however, as you want to avoid accidentally polishing the surface of the metal too smooth. If this is the case, the paint will not properly adhere.
Remove Grease and Rust
Properly cleaning the metal, making sure that it is free from all rust and grease will help the paint correctly bond and dry, reducing the risk of peeling.
It is essential to prep and prime outdoor surfaces, such as lawn furniture and garage doors, exposed to direct sunlight.
Repair Surface Imperfections
If there are any holes or dents in the surface, make sure to repair them before painting. Holes and dents in metal surfaces can be repaired using mesh and epoxy filler.
Smaller surface blemishes can be remedied by sanding the surface to bare metal, then applying a combination of mineral spirits and degreaser.
Apply a Coat of Primer
Primer is a critical step to ensuring the long-term success of your paint on a metal surface, especially if it will be exposed regularly to rain or harsh elements.
What Primer to Use When Applying Acrylic Paint to Metal
The right primer can make a break a paint project. Primer serves as a fresh layer, sealing over the old surface to ensure the new coat of paint has something to cling to.
This is critical for the paint to bond properly. Therefore, choosing the right primer for an acrylic-on-metal project–which is already prone to adhesion problems.
Used a galvanized primer when applying acrylic paint to metal. Avoid water-based primers, as they allow outside moisture in through the primer, compromising the integrity of the foundation underneath the coats of paint.
Why Galvanized Primer Works Best on Metal
Galvanized primer is explicitly designed for exposed metal surfaces for the purpose of maintaining paint over an extended time.
- Offers better protection. Galvanized primer provides a higher level of protection against corrosion than other primers.
- Gives a great look. It is designed to visually match with galvanized metal, making it an appealing option aesthetically as well as practically.
- Better match for iron and steel. Shiny galvanized primer is used especially for restoring galvanized iron and steel. It is enhanced with zinc to give the coat an additional sheen, which makes it a popular choice for refurbishing metal.
Rust converters can help guard against more rust in the future. It also makes painting over rust much easier.
Rust converters can also be effective if you are painting an already-rusted metal surface. If the surface is not already heavily rusted, however, galvanized primer is still the best option.
Applying Acrylic Paint to Primed Metal
If your project is an outdoor item, choose an acrylic paint classified as “exterior.” When you’ve cleaned and primed the metal surface, apply two coats of paint. Make sure to allow the first coat sufficient time to dry before applying the second coat.
An advantage of using exterior acrylic paint is that it does not need to be sealed after the final coat has dried and bonded. The sealant is included in the paint itself, providing adequate protection for most outdoor elements.
What Tools Are Best for Painting on Metal?
For the most part, the actual painting portion of acrylic-on-metal projects is the same as any other project. Acrylic paint can be applied to metal surfaces using any variety of rollers and brushes. Choose your tools based on the desired outcome.
Different visual effects can be created using different brushes and tools. Therefore, the best tool for the project depends on the project and the artist themself.
Rollers are effective for covering a large space with a uniform coat of paint. This is useful when painting the metal surfaces of sheds and garages, for example.
Some textures can be created using rollers, depending on the weight of the paint and how evenly it is spread across the surface.
If you’re using rollers to paint metal surfaces, foam rollers are recommended. Foam provides a smooth layer of paint, perfect for rolling an even coat of paint over a burnished metal surface.
Brushes are excellent for detail work and can be useful in getting the corners you miss with the roller. The freedom of motion offered by brushes allows artists more liberty to create texture and design.
The downside, however, is that it’s harder to achieve an even, uniform layer across an entire surface using a traditional brush.
Another advantage of brushes is the variety of sizes and options available. A visit to your local art store will verify that, no matter what.
If you’re going to use spray paint on a metal surface, make sure you get the right kind.
Spray paint is an extremely effective tool, especially for amateur artists and home projects. Spray paint allows for some of the freedom you get from a brush, but it’s easier to get a uniform coat.
The size and opacity of a coat of spray paint can be easily modified simply by holding the can closer to or further from the surface.
If you’re new to spray paint, familiarize yourself with the can on a spare piece of cardboard or an acceptable surface before getting started on your actual project.
Sealing Paint on Metal
Many acrylic paints have sealant designed into the formula. Paints like these do not need additional attention after you’ve laid the final coat and allowed it time to dry and bond out of risk of water damage.
If you’re not going to seal the paint after the final coat, make sure you used paint that is specifically labeled as “exterior.” Interior acrylic paint does not have the same compounds and will not hold up well to water exposure unless it’s properly sealed.
When you’re done painting your metal masterpiece, you can ensure its protection by applying a layer of sealant. An easy way to do this is with sealant spray.
The homestyle method of using hairspray, while effective to some extent, is not recommended because it doesn’t hold up over time and can damage other artistic materials.
Check Amazon or your local art or hardware store to find the right sealant for both your paint and your project.
Is Acrylic Paint Water-Resistant?
Although acrylic paint is technically water-resistant, it’s a long way from being waterproof. Do not rely on the water resistance of acrylic paint for water protection.
Exterior acrylic paint is an exception to this general rule, but if you have the sealant on hand, it won’t hurt to add a protective coat for good measure.
What Is the Best Kind of Paint for Metal?
Acrylic paint is not the only kind that is safe to use on metal. Oil-based paint can be used as well, although it too requires some prep work before you start slapping paint on the nearest metal surface.
In general, paints that are okay to be used on metal will be marked accordingly. Check the paints you have already to see if they’re metal compatible. If not, look for labels marking the paint as usable on metal, such as with this Acrylic Interior/Exterior paint.
Water-Based Acrylic Paint
Unlike primers, it’s okay for the paint to be water-based. The advantage of acrylic paint is that it is available and affordable.
While the additional step of preparation stops acrylic from being the easiest way to refurbish metal surfaces, its variability, forgivingness, and other valuable attributes make it a popular option for backyard projects and home renovations.
Acrylic paint is not the only option available for metal-surface projects. Oil-based paints can be used as well. Unlike acrylic paint, oil paint can be brushed directly onto metal surfaces.
Because oil paint is not water-based, there is no danger of causing rust if you paint it on without primer.
Even so, using a layer of oil-based primer before adding a coat of oil paint will result in a smoother, more uniform finish when the final coat of paint has dried and bonded.
How to Remove Acrylic Paint from Metal
Acrylic paint is a relatively forgiving medium, which is a valuable benefit for amateur painters.
Most acrylic paints are water-based, which makes them easy to remove, especially if they haven’t dried or been sealed yet.
However, once the paint is dry, it can no longer be removed simply with water. Acetone and lacquer thinner are both effective for removing dried or sealed acrylic paint from smooth metal surfaces.
Where to Get Acrylic Paint Removers and How to Use Them
Acrylic can be removed from metal surfacing using supplies from the art or hardware store. They are also helpful for getting paint off of glass and unfinished wood.
Both acetone and lacquer thinner come with warnings, however.
- Acetone: Acetone is so strong that it requires almost no elbow grease from the user. The downside of that chemical strength, however, is that acetone emits strong fumes. Acetone should not be used in a confined space; if you must use acetone indoors, open as many windows as possible and ensure decent air circulation before administering the substance.
- Lacquer thinner: Never use lacquer thinner on plastic surfaces, though it is great for wood, glass, and metal. When using lacquer thinners to remove paint from metal, choose ones with ethyl acetate as the active ingredient rather than toluene or methanol. Both toluene and methanol are toxic and should be kept out of reach of children and animals.
DIY Acrylic Paint Remover
Acrylic paint can also be removed from metal surfaces using material available around the house. Some common cleaning substances, such as ammonia solution and isopropyl alcohol, can be just as effective on acrylic paint as they are on the kitchen sink.
- Ammonia Solution: Ammonia is among the most common chemicals, along with bleach, used in cleaning solutions. Mix one part ammonia with ten parts water for a safe, non-toxic cleaning solution.
This method, while safer than acetone, requires more effort on behalf of the painter. Whenever you’re using ammonia for paint removal or anything else, be sure to keep it separate from bleach substances, as bleach and ammonia combined create noxious gas.
- Isopropyl Alcohol: Isopropyl alcohol is the same as traditional rubbing alcohol used to clean medical equipment, treat wounds, and remove nail polish. It can be applied directly to the surface and, with some muscle work, should lift paint away from the metal gradually without damaging the surface underneath.
- Washing Soda: Washing soda is a chemical compound often used in laundry to remove stubborn stains, but it can be mixed with some household substances to create an effective paint remover.
- Combine equal parts washing soda and cold water.
- Separately, mix warm water with flour to make a thick substance
- Combine the washing soda water with the flour gel
- Paint the substance with a brush onto the surface of the dry paint you intend to remove
- Allow the substance to stand on the paint for half an hour.
- Keep the substance damp while it sits, irrigating with a spray bottle or moist sponge
- Use a combination of warm water and standard white vinegar to wipe away the substance, leaving the metal surface clean
Acrylic paint is a popular option among artists and homemakers alike due to its high variability and availability. Acrylics can be used on a wide range of materials, including metal.
However, the slick surface and risk of rust associated with metal require painters to prepare the surface before painting carefully.
This process includes cleaning and priming the metal surface, clearing it of all grease and rust before even the first layer of primer is painted on.
After the metal is primed and the paint has been applied and allowed to dry, you finish by sealing your masterpiece with sealant spray, safeguarding it against water and elemental damage.