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The Home Depot

6 Tips for Painting Metal

Pro Referral > Home Guides > Painting > 6 Tips for Painting Metal
6 Tips for Painting Metal

What type of metal is it that you’d like to paint? Let’s take a look at some different substances and how to cover it. The metal examples we’ll address in this article are aluminum, brass, copper, galvanized steel and rusted steel.

  1. 1.Rusty Metal

    A little extra time applying the appropriate primer will end up saving you from having to do the entire job over again.

    This can be one of the most difficult of the above-mentioned substances. Since it’s covered with oxidized, tiny protrusions, this is the first thing you need to tackle. There are a few ways you might choose to rid the surface of rust. One of those methods is by using the acid pickling route. Acid pickling includes dry acid pickling salts or mixtures that are either phosphoric-or hydrochloric-acid based.


    This way to clear the rust from your metal has its hazards. That’s why you might opt to pressure clean, scrape or use a wire brush to get the area ready to accept a coat of paint. Whichever process you pick – acid or muscle – after the rust is removed; apply an oil-based metal primer.


    It may seem obvious, but the paint you use should include as little salt and water as possible. Those two components are what rusted the metal in the first place. Recommended is a thick oil-based paint. The best practice would be to first apply a metal primer and then 2-coats of oil-based paint.

  2. 2.Painting Aluminum

    Aluminum needs a little preparation before you can coat it with color. You’ll have to use turpentine and an abrasive pad to get rid of the protective coating. After you finished this part of the process, rinse the surface with water. Once it’s dry, paint it immediately with a water-based acrylic paint. Would you like to cover the aluminum with enamel? Then you should first apply a coat of a water-based galvanized iron primer.


    If you’re painting an anodized aluminum window frame, just clean them with water and dishwashing soap before you apply the acrylic paint.

  3. 3.Painting Galvanized Iron

    This material is generally used in gutters and on the roof. Basically, it’s a galvanized steel sheet with a thin coating of zinc. The zinc is used to retard rust on the surface.


    The most important thing to remember when coating galvanized iron is you need to apply the right primer. Any deviation from this rule will ultimately force you to do it correctly the next time. You are looking for a water-based acrylic galvanized primer when you purchase the outer coating of paint.


    Let the primer dry, and then you have a choice of either water-based or oil-based paint that you can apply to the galvanized iron surface.

  4. 4.Painting Copper

    This metal is pretty easy to work with. All you need to do when painting copper is to simply sand it, and then use a red oxide metal primer to prepare the surface for painting.

  5. 5.Painting Brass

    We’re going to need to use two coats of either an oil-based or water-based acrylic paint. But before you start, you’ll need to wipe down the brass with methylated spirits mixed with something rough, like sand. Once you’ve scratched-up the surface, apply a coat of red oxide metal primer.

  6. 6.Importance Of Priming First

    Paint jobs fail because the surface has not been properly prepared. And while most metal surfaces will need a little “roughing-up” before any application, primers act as a bridge between the material and the paint. A little extra time applying the appropriate primer will end up saving you from having to do the entire job over again.

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