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.
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
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 Create the Perfect Paint Finish
- Spray Painting Metal Hardware: Brass to Nickel
- Metal Spray Painting Tip That Every DIY’er Should Know
- Painting Galvanized Metal
- How to Paint Aluminum Outdoor Furniture
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.
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.
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- Prime Surface
Brush on one light coat of bonding primer. Let dry.
- 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.
- Add Another Coat of Bonding Primer
Brush on one more light coat of primer; let dry.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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:
- Metal File Cabinet Makeover Using Homemade Chalk Paint
- How to Paint a Metal Chandelier
- Painting a Shiny Brass Kitchen Light
- Painting Rusted Outdoor Light Fixtures