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Using Acrylic Paint on Metal: Complete Guide & Tips

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Acrylic paint is an extremely versatile paint that can be used for any number of artistic projects.

While it is typically used for fine art and indoor projects, you might be surprised at the wide range of materials that it can be used on.

Can you use acrylic paint on metal? Acrylic paint can be effectively used on metal, but properly prepping the surface prior to painting is imperative for attractive, long-lasting results. Thoroughly clean the surface, repair any damage, and sand until smooth. Wipe away any remaining dust, and apply two coats of primer before painting.

If you’ve always wanted to paint metal using acrylic paint but weren’t sure where to start, then this article is for you.

Here, you will learn the step-by-step process for applying acrylic paint to metal surfaces, including choosing the right paints, properly preparing the surfaces, and ensuring a long-lasting paint job by sealing the surfaces. 

How To Paint Metal With Acrylic Paint

Whether you’re planning on painting metal furniture, fences, bed posts, garage doors, or garden ornaments, acrylic can be a good choice for these items.

However, taking into account a couple of considerations and completing a few initial steps is critical to ensure you’ll have a finished result that is durable and looks great.

Considerations Before Beginning 

Before you begin the process of applying acrylic paint to metal, it’s important to understand that different projects will require particular products and processes.

Spray or Regular Paint

For instance, depending on the size and structure of the surface you are painting on, you will want to decide whether spray or regular paint will be better for your chosen project.

Spray paint is often easier to apply to larger, flatter areas, while regular paint can be a good choice for ensuring coverage of surfaces with many nooks and crannies.

Indoor or Outdoor

You will also want to be sure to choose an acrylic paint that is specifically designed to withstand the elements if you are choosing to paint a metal surface that will see heavy usage or remain outdoors.

Acrylic paints labeled for use on exteriors are a durable, water-resistant choice that is well suited for outdoor projects.

Mediums & Finishes

Acrylic paints tend to dry to a dull, matte finish. If you are interested in creating a shinier finish, you might want to mix an acrylic medium in with your paint.

A glossy acrylic medium can help you to create a shiny, high gloss finish. Check out my article here for a detailed look at all of your options.

You can also administer an acrylic finishing varnish after you have applied a couple of coats of acrylic paint.

Acrylic finishing varnishes can range from matte and satin to gloss and high gloss.

Dealing With Rust

If you’re painting on a metal surface that has been outside for awhile or has been exposed to a lot of moisture, you might find yourself wondering if you can paint on rusty metal.

Metal with a little bit of rust can be painted on, but you will need to take steps to properly prepare the surface before applying acrylic paint.

Recommended Acrylic Paints for Metal

  • Krylon Fusion: Krylon Fusion All-In-One Spray Paint can be used on both indoor and outdoor projects and can bond to metal without the need for preliminary sanding or priming.
  • Arteza Acrylic Metallic Colors: This paint set contains eight different colors of heavy-body acrylic paints and are a great choice for painting smaller indoor metal projects that won’t see a lot of wear and tear.
  • US Art Supply Outdoor Acrylic Paint: This paint set comes with 24 2-ounce bottles of weather- and fade-resistant colors. 
Krylon K02732007 Fusion All-In-One Spray Paint for Indoor/Outdoor Use, Satin Black 12 Ounce (Pack of 1)
  • ALL-IN-ONE SPRAY PAINT – Krylon black spray paint delivers best in class adhesion, durability and...
  • INDOOR/OUTDOOR SPRAY PAINT - Whether your project is inside or out, this satin black spray paint...
Arteza Metallic Acrylic Paint, Set of 8 Vibrant Essentials Colors 4.06oz Tubes, Rich Pigments, Non Fading, Non Toxic Paints for Artists & Hobby Painte
  • Shimmering Metallic Acrylic Paints: These glossy acrylic paints are heavy-bodied and filled with...
  • Get More of the Colors You Use Most: Each set contains popular shades of metallic acrylic paint like...
U.S. Art Supply Professional 24 Color Set of Outdoor Acrylic Paint in 2 Ounce Bottles, Plus a 7-Piece Brush Kit - Vivid Colors for Artists, Students - Use on Canvas, Rocks, Kids' Wood Crafts, and Toys
  • 24 High-Quality Vivid Colors in Large 2 oz. Bottles: A full selection of 24 unique, eye-catching...
  • Indoor & Outdoor, Weather and Fade Resistant Paint: The highly pigmented acrylic paint has a smooth...

Gather Materials

In order to paint on metal, you will need to have a few supplies. These might include:

  • Acrylic paint
  • A cup of water
  • Thinner or medium 
  • Various sizes of paint brushes
  • Primer
  • A wire brush for removing rust
  • Painter’s tape
  • Sandpaper
  • Varnish
  • Sealant

Prep the Surface

In order to create desirable results, you may first need to prep the surface of the metal so that the acrylic paint can better adhere to it.

The first thing you will want to do is make sure that the metal is clean.

Use a clean, slightly damp rag to wipe any dust from the material, or use a warm, soapy rag to remove thicker layers of dirt.

Use a wire brush to remove rust or grime from the metal.

You may need to further sand down the surface after scrubbing with the wire brush to ensure that the surface is as smooth as possible.

After sanding, be sure to clean the surface again with soap and water, and then wipe the metal dry. 

If there are any parts of the metal that you do not wish to paint, make sure to use painter’s tape to cover or mark off those parts of the material.

Prime the Metal

You will want to apply at least two coats of primer to the metal before applying paint.

Primer functions as a protective coating, helping to prevent the development of rust, and it also gives the metal a more adhesive surface for the acrylic paint to stick to.

Wait for each coat of primer to dry before applying the next coat, and make sure that the primer is completely dry before applying the paint.

Recommend Product: Rust-Oleum Metal Primer 

Rust-Oleum Metal Primer is a primer that is designed specifically for use on metal materials. It comes in spray-paint form, making it easy to apply to large areas.

It is an oil-based paint formulated to prevent rust and is wet sandable. It dries in 15 minutes and has a flat finish, which makes it perfect for covering bumps and imperfections.

Apply the Paint

Whether you are using a spray or standard version of acrylic paint, simply spray or brush the entire surface with the color of your choice, wait for that coat to dry, and then apply additional coats as needed.

If you are painting with regular liquid paint, remember that the larger the area you are painting, the larger the brush you should use.

You can find a complete guide to different brushes in my article here.

Seal the Surface

Once your paint has completely dried (this might take at least 48 hours), you can apply a sealant to protect the surface.

Some exterior paints won’t require a sealant as they may have sealant included in their formula. 

You can use varnish or finishes to seal the paint. Finishes can range in appearance from flat or matte to satin, semi-gloss, and glossy. 

Recommended Sealant for Acrylic Paint on Metal: Americana 

Americana Acrylic Sealer/Finisher is a quick-dry aerosol sealant that usually only requires one coat for total coverage.

It has a gloss finish, which makes it a great choice for any project that needs a little combined durability and shine. 

Americana Acrylic Sealer/Finish Aerosol Spray 12oz, Gloss
  • Americana acrylic sealer/finish aerosol spray
  • Provides a protective coating that dries quickly and to an even durable finish

Tips & Best Practices When Using Acrylic Paint on Metal

When using acrylic paint on metal, it’s imperative to clean and properly prep the surface before painting. 

This may include repairing any dents or small holes and often entails scrubbing with a wire brush, sanding, and priming the metal. 

Be sure that the metal is completely dry before painting, and don’t forget to use painter’s tape to protect any areas that you want to remain paint free.

Always allow freshly applied primer and paint to completely dry before adding another coat.

Related Questions:

How Do You Paint Over Already Painted Metal?

Remove any rusty areas using a wire brush, and sand any parts of the metal that may be cracked or chipped.
Apply one or two coats of primer over the painted metal. Once the primer has completely dried, you can brush or spray on the acrylic paint.

Is Acrylic Paint Waterproof on Metal?

Acrylic paint is generally water resistant, but not waterproof.
If you are painting an item that will be outdoors or in a high-moisture environment, it’s important to apply a waterproofing varnish or finish over your final coat of acrylic paint.


With a little bit of prep work, acrylic paint can easily be applied to metal.

So, if you have an old toolbox, mailbox, or rusty wheelbarrow that needs a little spicing up, then break out the acrylic paints, and get to work!



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