How to Paint Metal Furniture & Fixtures

Learn the techniques for preparing, priming, and painting metal to get a smooth lasting finish. I am showing how I painted my wrought iron kitchen table base to a glossy white, along with how to paint other metal items you have in your home.

Knowing the right paint to use and the metal painting process, you can paint any type of metal to change the color or to simply freshen the look.

Painting metal furniture
Wrought Iron Metal Table Base Before Painting

How to Paint Metal Instructions

The number one question I receive about painting metal is – How do you get paint to stick to metal? The answer – sanding and a good bonding primer – once these are done on the metal surface, then applying the paint in a few light coats will ensure a permanent finish.

Is it Better to Spray or Brush Paint Metal?

Spray painting is the fastest way to paint metal and will provide a smooth lasting finish if you follow the manufacturer’s directions on the can’s label. It is my preferred way, but it is not the only way to successfully paint metal.

I normally would have used spray paint to paint this metal table base, but the weather was damp and humid and I needed a work area with a well ventilated area out of direct sunlight to do that. Instead I decided to paint the table base inside with a brush so the AC would help the paint dry properly.

Spray Painting Metal Furniture

How to paint metal with spray paint

If you decide to use spray paint, use a metal primer on the metal first or a “primer & paint in one formula” of spray paint.

For spray painted inspiration for metal items, check out these posts to learn how to paint metal using spray paint:

How to Paint Metal With Brush-On Paint

The key to getting a very smooth brush-on paint finish on metal surfaces that are rod like or rounded like the base of my table is to use a high quality small, flat paint brush.

Painting metal furniture
After Painting: Black Metal Table Base Painted White

Using a small brush will better able you to apply the paint in thin coats and avoid paint drips from happening.

If your metal surface area is flat and larger, you can use a foam paint roller to apply the primer and paint instead of a brush.


A paint brush with long flexible bristles like this one work well on wrought iron items. I bought this paintbrush in the fine art section at the craft store.

supplies needed:

  • Bonding primer – KILZ Adhesion
  • Latex paint in semi-gloss – Sherwin Williams ProClassic in Pure White
  • 100 and 220 fine-grit sandpaper or self-etching primers
  • Paintbrush
  • Detergent, bucket and hot water
  • Safety googles and gloves
  • Optional: Wire brush or rust remover will be need if metal is rusted or shows signs of corrosion. If the piece has been previously painted – use the wire brush to remove any loose or peeling paint.

Time needed: 23 hours

How to Paint Metal Furniture or Fixtures

  1. Prepare the Surface

    Sand the metal surface with 60 –100 grit sandpaper. A quick, but thorough going over to rough up the surface is all that is needed. I prefer using sandpaper, but you can also use a self etching primer following the manufacturers directions.

  2. Clean Surface

    Clean the surface well with a rag dipped in hot sudsy water. Make sure to remove sanding dust, dirt, grease and any old paint with a wire brush or paint remover and let dry.

    Rinse off soap residue with a damp cloth. Let clean surface dry.

    If the Surface is Rusty – you will need to use steel wool or a rust remover. I find that Brillo or SOS pads work very well to remove rust from metal without having to use caustic chemical products.

  3. Prime Surface

    Brush on one light coat of bonding primer. Let dry.

  4. Lightly Sand

    When the bonding primer coat is fully dry, go over the surface with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth any ridges that may have occurred in the primer as it dried.

  5. Add Another Coat of Bonding Primer

    Brush on one more light coat of primer; let dry.

  6. Brush On Paint

    For full coverage, you will need at least 2 light coats of paint. Brush on 1 coat of paint. Let the first coat dry, before applying a second light coat of paint. Let dry.

  7. Optional: Seal Paint

    If you used a semi-gloss or gloss paint you don’t really need a sealant. If you used a flatter sheen of paint, use 1-2 light coats of non-yellowing water-based polyurethane over the painted surface to add protection.

  8. Let Paint and Sealer Cure

    It may take a few weeks for the paint to cure, so be gentle with your painted metal item for the first weeks of use.

round dining table

I painted the metal table base over 7 years ago and it still looks good, even after a move to a new home. Right before I painted the metal table base, I stripped the wood top to lighten it. Then recently, I made an entire new top for the metal base to give the table top a new look.

More How to Paint Metal Instruction Posts

If you are thinking about painting a metal object in your home – you may find more metal painting tips, technique and effects that I have used successfully in these posts:


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  1. Maria Eyre says:

    Hi Diane! I love your tips, knowledge and style! I am a newbie but excited to begin on a gold metallic light fixture that I want to paint brushed nickel. Have you any experience and tips for me? It’s very modern and minimalist. Thank you, Maria

  2. Anonymous says:

    i am so happy to see how you did your table,i was about to buy another never thinking i could paint my.i want to do a white metal base and then the wood top in a sand blue.wis me luck,i will be folling your ideals,thank you again i am glad i found you.

  3. Your table change is amazing. That table is such a great style that you can keep changing as your tastes change. It doesn’t look so desi anymore. I’ve used spray cords often and they hold up really well. I thought I was the only person in the world who was raised by the ropes of darkness. You can’t wait to see the finished kitchen. I hate ropes too – anyone is showing ropes. I’m going to try out your ideas from my old kitchen set. Wood and metal. Top table wood base metal. Similarly, I am thinking of using light color but I am not sure yet.

  4. I have a hanging chandelier that is black metal base (complete with crystals) that I would like to make oil rubbed bronze. It is not able to be removed. How best do I hand paint it, or glaze with oil rubbed bronze? Due to where it it is I can’t spray it. The crystals are removable.

  5. Merry Graff says:

    How would it work if you could find a white coiled telephone cord to slip over your black cord?

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Merry – That is a great idea and taking the time to tell me. :-) I will have to go in search of some – if it is still made. If I find it, I will post about it.

  6. Trish Monjaraz says:

    Hi, I have an indoor metal table that has some cracks on the top. I will follow your instructions and sand first. If I’m using the Benjamin Moore paints, should I use a similar primer. Also Can I seal it with the sealer you recommend or do I need to purchase a sealer that works with spray paint. My home projects never turn out well so any suggestions would be appreciated.

  7. Re: Black cord & white tiles. I came across a crochet idea where the cable was just crocheted without any fancy edge .. just like casting onto a knitting needle …
    Have you thought about buying that heat shrink that’s used by those into computers & electronics? I think you would be able to cut it up the middle, wrap it around the cable (like using the cardboard rolls around the coat hanger middle for tablecloths) … Just can’t remember how hot you need to make the heat shrink for it to ‘set’ onto the cable. You can buy heat shrink in all colours & diameters, etc. Just as at any of your local electronic shops.
    You could remove the plug, slide the heat shrink onto the cable, then put the plug back on & ‘set’ the heat-shrink.

    Then again have you thought about spray painting the c able? As you know, there are paints for all sorts of materials, so I’m sure you’ll find one that will cover plastic/rubber cable.
    electricians tape. I’m sure you can buy it in white … then just wrap the tape around the cable.
    Hope these suggestions help … Cheers, Wendy from Oz … :)

    1. White Washi tape for the black cord or paint pen, or maybe nail polish?

  8. Thanks for the detail on painting metal. Please keep sharing your blog, it helps in getting innovative idea.

  9. Deb Paige says:

    Fun, fun colors. Outstanding job. My friends & I go to yard sales almost every weekend. We always find something that is dated and needs a makeover. Thank you for all the tips. Our local garden club is having a plant and yard sale Memorial weekend. I have a few patio & garden items that I hope to donate once the projects are complete. You have been very helpful. It was kind of you to take the time to share your ideas.

  10. Evie Campbell says:

    I’ve never thought that painting metal could be so hard until I tried to paint my pork. I wish I’ve read your post before I started. Thanks for the great tips.

  11. Hi, Diane! Thank you for this! I was wondering, I have a coffee table that has fake gold legs. Would that be considered metal? It’s shiny. I don’t think it’s brass because it attracts magnets. I wanted to spray it dark chocolate or expresso but not sure if that would work since it’s a shiny metal.

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Natasha – You can paint the legs, no problem :-) Just go over the surface with sandpaper first to rough it op a bit. Clean off the grit and then prime with a metal spray primer. Once that is dry, you can spray on the new color. When spraying – more thin coats are better than one or two thick ones. Follow the directions on the can on how long to wait before re-coating. It is usually around 5 mins between coats. Some new formulas of spray paint have primers in them already. I am old school and feel like some of these don’t adhere as well in the long run. I would use a primer on its own, – one/two light coats will help the paint stay on for a long time.

  12. Stella McCloskey says:

    I want to spray paint a white rod iron daybed with porcelain knobs on the four sides of the bed. What is the first steps I need to do before starting. Also, I want to spray it a black or dark brown. Do I need to sand it first so that the paint will adhere. Also, what paint should I look for.

  13. I used white cloth hockey tape on the cords of a couple of wall-hung lamps. Then I painted the cords to match the wall. The hockey tape absorbs paint very well.

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      I will have to look into this. I may even have some in one of my daughters sports equipment bags from when they were in high school.

  14. Serena @ Thrift Diving says:

    Hey, Diane! :) Would you recommend this same treatment if you’ve got some rust on your metal? I’ve found these awesome outdoor patio wrought iron chairs at the thrift store that need painted ASAP for an upcoming post. Any suggestions? Thanks!

    Thrift Diving

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Serena –

      I would not use the paints I used if you are going to place them outside. My table had no rust and was black wrought iron in great condition. I would use Rustoleum metal primer after you clean off the rust with steel wool and a detergent and water mixture. Let it dry. Then Rustoleum spray paint. If you want a metallic brush on finish – try Benjamin Moore’s Molten Metallics paint. I used it to makeover a rusted metal light fixture. It is amazing paint. You can see it in this post: You can use chalk paint on metal, too. I would still clean off the rust first – unless you want a rusty look to the pieces.

      On another note – I am going to start the the piece in my dining room using the chalk paint colors you did or very similar in the Annie Sloan workshop we went to. I am so excited to get started on it. Hope yo are enjoying the extended weekend.

      1. Serena @ Thrift Diving says:

        Oooh, I like that molten metallics! I have some nasty outdoor lighting that could use that treatment. I think it would look nice on the chairs, too. And I can’t wait to see your rendition of my paint colors! I am going to be doing mine, too! I’ve got a bunch of furniture stocked up in the garage that needs to be cleaned out so I can makeover my garage. I’ll be sure to use those colors on at least ONE of the pieces! :)
        Thanks for the painting tips. You’re fabulous! :)

        Thrift Diving

  15. Sheryll & Critters. says:

    The table looks so perfect. Sigh, wish I could do just almost as good as you do with paint.

  16. Hi Diane,
    Love your posts about painting techniques! Just wondering if you can suggest a clear coat paint to cover hand painted over metal desk items (like I always worry that in time these pieces will chip and thought a good clear coat may help.
    Thank you,

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Doreen-

      You would want to use a clear water based polyurethane that will not yellow over time. Polycrylic is a water-based one that I have used. One to two light coats would give you the protection you want. You could also add a clear wax coat instead of poly and buff it to a shine. It will sit on top of the paint, but it will protect it. Spray paint clear coats will offer you a smooth finish, but will yellow the finish.

      1. Thank you Diane, your reply was so helpful!

        1. Dessy anaiwan says:

          Thank you Doreen and Diane,

          Because of both of you , I come to know the about best suggestion to paint metal desk items. The technique is awesome.

          Thanks again :)

  17. Yes! Cords need to be white, or beige, so they don’t stand out so much! Table looks great! ;)

  18. Magali@TheLittleWhiteHouse says:

    I like the table with its white base and wood top.

  19. Brenda Messmer says:

    Cover the cords with a white cloth sleeve. Velcro it together so it can be put on and taken off to be washed.

  20. Karen Mccallum says:

    Could you use the vinyl spray paint found in automotive stores for the cord? I used it on a vinyl seat and it worked great. It has some movement to it and doesn’t crack. The table looks great! Karen

  21. Diane, love the white table base. Cords are something that bug me too. Thought I was the only one. I know you will find a solution that will work. Can’t wait to see the whole kitchen reveal.

  22. Love the table! Looks so much better white than black. I agree about the cords, too. Lamp cords running across walls/floors bug me more than anything. They make cord covers (Google “Kordrap”) but I’ve never seen them in person. Someone who is handy with a sewing machine (not me!) could probably make their own similar ones in any color.

  23. Jann from Newton Custom Interiors says:

    I love the table now with it’s white base, and thanks for the great painting tips!

  24. I love hearing that you just finished painting your table! It makes me feel so normal. :)

    Great painting tips…thanks for sharing…I have a metal table base that I might be painting.

  25. Thanks for the detail on painting metal. You always get great results!
    It is ironic that appliance and lamp cords so frequently contrast with their backgrounds! Waiting for the day when every thing is cordless…

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Faye – I hope that happens in my lifetime – cordless electrical appliances! XO

  26. Wow, it is so much brighter. I love the black iron, but thecwhite really pops!

  27. Heart and Haven says:

    I’m always paranoid to keep my toaster plugged in when not in use, fearing a fire can accidentally happen.

    However, I’m not a fan of keeping lots of appliances on the counter anyway due to visible clutter.

    What about a possible solution for an appliance cubby, etc.?

  28. Beautiful job! I painted some metal chairs recently. You have some great tips.

    1. idalina silva says:

      i am going to try your ideas with my old kitchen set. wood and metal. top table wood base metal . buffet same. i am thinking of using a light colour but not sure yet..
      thank you for the tips.

  29. Diane,
    Can’t wait to see your finished kitchen. I too hate cords – ANY cords showing! This might sound petty but did you realize that leaving an appliance plugged in draws current/electric expense? Would you consider unplugging appliances when not needed? Obviously you’d hide the cord until you need it. Just a thought. (I’m a crazy person and hate clutter on my counters so put all appliances away till needed – another option lol.)

    1. I’m so glad to hear Denise’s comment. I so much agree! Not only are plugged in cords energy hogs but they can also be a fire hazard. I, too, put the appliances away where I can. Love the table, Diane.

  30. Nana Diana says:

    Love the change in the table. It doesn’t looks quite so rustic now. I have often spray painted cords and they hold up really well. I thought I was the only person in the world that was bugged by dark cords…lol xo Diana

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Diana – They are such eyesores – vice versa if I had a dark backsplash – white would look awful. I think I am going to try the white plastic spray paint. Thanks for telling me it works! :)

  31. Susan @ says:

    Your table makeover is awesome. That table is such a great style that you can just keep changing as your tastes change.
    Maybe use washi tape on the cords? Not sure how that would hold up, but it is an option. Can’t wait to see what you do.

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Susan – Thanks for the idea on the Washi tape. I will experiment with it.