How to Paint Galvanized Metal

Have you ever been over to Barn Light Electric?  Oooohhh…I love all the light fixtures they sell, especially the Wheeler Esso Wall Scone, but not the price of $219.00.

I have been searching for a less expensive alternative…you know me…I had to find a way…. and I did.


While browsing through Lowes a few weeks ago, I found the same shape fixture in galvanized steel for just under $40. It was exactly the same except it didn’t have the infusion of high gloss color. I got excited when I realized with a can or two of spray paint, I could have the exact color wall light I wanted at a fraction of the cost.

I could not be happier with my DIY results, plus I got to paint the light exactly the color I envisioned.

Here is the Barn Light Electric Esso Wall Sconce that I love.  It comes in a few different colors.

Barn Electric Esso Wall Sconce

It has three different colors on it – all high gloss enamel. Green exterior, white interior, and black rim.

Here is the one I found.


I found the pale turquoise Krylon spray paint at True Value. It is high gloss so it looks simiilar to the enamel finish on the Barn Light Electric model.


How to Spray Paint Metal Light Fixture

If you plan to use your light outside – you will need to make sure the spray paints you use can be used for exterior applications.  This Krylon formula is Indoor Outdoor. The white high gloss Rustoleum appliance paint and black craft paint I used are only for indoor applications.

supplies needed:

  • Light fixture
  • Krylon Indoor/Outdoor Gloss in Blue Ocean Breeze
  • Rustoleum Appliance Epoxy in High Gloss White
  • Martha Stewart craft paint in Gloss Black
  • Painter’s tape
  • Foam paint brush
  • Fine grit sandpaper 160 grit
***When painting with spray paint – do it outside or in a garage with good ventilation.  Always wear a mask and eye protection. 
*** I did not use a metal primer since the light was going to be inside. If you are going to use a metal fixture outside and the paint you are using is not a Paint and Primer in One formula, spray one to two light coats of metal primer over the entire surface. Once it is dry, then paint. Every brand of spray paint makes a metal spray primer.

Sand the surface of the light with a piece of 160 grit or fine piece of sandpaper. Clean off the dust.   The steel surface is smooth and this gives the paint something to adhere to.

Place your light fixture in a large box with low sides so you can pick the whole thing up to move the light fixture before it is dry, if necessary. This also helps keep overspray from getting everywhere. Since this light is round and has lots of sides to reach, spray in a well lit area so you can see if you are getting complete coverage and not applying the paint too thick.

I used foam blocks to hold the light in the position I needed it to make sure I was getting all sides.

1. Paint interior of light first with high gloss epoxy paint. It is very glossy and looks just like an enameled finish. Use painter’s tape around rim to protect the exterior from over spray and the bulb socket. Shake can of spray paint well – up to 2 minutes.

Apply evenly in light coats with the can about 8-10 inches away from the surface.  Slow, light, even strokes back and forth that slightly overlap.  Let dry 5 minutes, then apply another light coat.  Repeat applying light coats every 5 minutes until you have good coverage.  After 30 minutes, do not add another coat. Wait at least 24 hours or longer if you need to re-coat.

2. When the interior is dry, mask off the interior with painter’s tape and paper to protect it from overspray while you paint the exterior.  I sprayed the shade first, then propped in the box in a way that I could then spray the gooseneck and base.

Spray paint the outside of the light with spray paint. READ the back of the spray can you are using.  Each brand is different. Light, even coats every  1 – 5 minutes is the norm.  After 30 minutes, if you need to re-coat, wait for at least 24 hours.  If you don’t wait, you could wrinkle the paint finish. It is best to get the coverage you need in the first 30 minutes with light coats.  Let dry in a dust and bug free area.


3.  When exterior paint is dry, add painter’s tape around bottom edge right under rim, not over it.  Pour a small amount of gloss black paint in a dish. Dip one side edge of foam brush in paint.


4. Run the side of the brush along the rim making sure not to get it on the underside of the rim, only on the outer edge.


5. Reload the brush and repeat the process until the entire rim is black. Carefully remove tape. Let dry.


The best advise I can give you to get a factory like finish when you spray paint is to read the can’s label.  Each brand writes the specifics on how to use their product.

As a rule of thumb:

-Spray in moderate temps. If it is freezing or 90 degrees, wait until the temp is around 50 – 75 degrees.

-Shake the can well, and even shake as you are painting.

-Hold the can 8-10 inches away from surface.

-Apply multiple thin, light coats.

-Use sweeping motions that slightly overlap.

-Re-coat within 1 -5 minutes between each additional coat until you get desired coverage, If after 30 minutes you still need more coats, wait at least 24 hours to apply another coat. It is best to get desired coverage in the first 30 minutes.  You risk the chance of wrinkling the finish if you have to re-coat after this time.

For more tips and tricks on how to get a factory-like finish when using spray paint, click here: Spray Painting FAQ’s

More Painted Light Fixtures

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  1. I love the metal wall light! I did the same thing with a metal clamp light, sprayed with Rustoleum Vintage Teal, clamped to bed headboard as reading light. I wish I could share a photo.
    Thanks for your inspiring posts!

  2. I love what you’ve done with the light! I am hoping to do something similar to hang over my bathroom vanity. I’ve read that truly galvanized metal surfaces won’t take oil based enamel spray paint well. Have you had any issues with it peeling, etc.?


    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Sheila – There have been no issues at all with the light. It still looks as good as the day I painted it. If you rough up the surface with sandpaper first and spray paint it when the temp is around 75 degrees, it should take the paint well and have a long lasting finish.

  3. Paula Siecker says:

    This light is soooo perfect looking – I don’t know if I can achieve a finish that is close to that nice, but I have a question for you – when I spray paint the galvanized funnel I plan to use as a pendant, what type of paint should I use for the inside? I don’t know if regular spray paint is safe near a heat source. Thanks so much!!

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Paula – As long as your light bulbs are not over 100 watts using regular spray paint is fine. If your bulbs get super hot – halogen or some other type you can use high heat spray paint for appliances. Just make sure no matter what you use that you let the paint dry completely before using the light. If you don’t, you run the risk of the heat from the lightbulb drying the paint too fast and then the paint may crackle.

  4. Atta Girl Amy says:

    Ooh, I’ve been wanting to makeover one of the Ikea fixtures for my laundry room. Thanks for the tutorial and all the spray painting tips. I never knew about the first 30 minutes and wrinkling! You learn something every day!

  5. Thank you for such a wonderful tutorial! I have been thinking about doing this in my boy’s bathroom, but was not sure about the finish etc… I am going to do it the way you did. Thank you for a great post and the inspiration!!!

  6. Krista @thehappyhousie says:

    I can’t believe how stunning this is Diane. I LOVE it – the color is amazing and what a fabulous knock off – such great savings. I want ten of these in our house!! Okay, I’d settle for one…but I would have to figure out where to put it! Thanks for the tutorial- pinning!!

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Krista –

      Thanks. Ed hung it up the other day after I painted the walls. It gives the small powder room a nice pop of interest and color. I kept the old light fixture in case we move. I can swap it out and take the turquoise one with me. Thanks for Pinning it XO

  7. Sheryll & Critters. says:

    Diane, I just nominated you over at Apartment Therapy.

    I love these lamps and you picked one of my favorite colors. I was this close to buying the same can to spray paint the shades of my new wall lamps, but decided to wait and maybe use just the wall paint and some fabric medium stuffy. Plus I might change my mind again after I get ready and see them up against the painted walls.

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Thanks Sheryll XO I had a hard time finding that color spray paint. Most were too dark. I think it would look beautiful on shades.

  8. Fabulous idea and job. I was going to just use the galvanized metal, but adding color would be so much better and it is such a great price.

  9. I can not wait to see how this room comes out. I know it will be fabulous. Your light looks perfect and the color is beautiful. I have used spray paint on several things but I’m not as good at it as you are. I will be reviewing your tips before my next attempt. Hurry up with the re-do on this room…I am so anxious to see it. :) Vikki in VA

  10. You’re so smart. Love that color and the high gloss look. A great way to save some money!

  11. Oh, you are so clever! It looks great.

  12. Melissa L. says:

    You would NEVER know that’s not a factory finish. Amazing! You are talented and resourceful and leave us budget-minded decorators with the best DIY ideas. Love it!

  13. Betsy Justis says:

    Love it! Have you ever used the faux finish spray paints for rust oleum, like the brushed nickel or oiled booze colors on light fixtures?

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Betsy -I have used them and they look beautiful. They do produce the exact color on the can’s cap. What I don’t like about them is the molded to your hand nozzle grip that has a locking button. I always get the cans without this nozzle. I have never been able to get the can to spray the entire contents in the can. It always seems to stop half way through and then is unusable. I have returned many of them.

      If you like the faux colors – you may want to consider what I used for my exterior light fixtures. I used Molten Metallics by Benjamin Moore. It is brush-on paint, but creates a beautiful faux metal. You can read about it in this post:

  14. kristen duke says:

    That’s pretty fabulous! I struggle with my spray painting, often get wrinkles, will try your tips of light even coat every 5 minutes. I think I tend to get overzealous and impatient and spray too much, too close.

  15. WOW! That looks fabulous.

  16. James Mason says:

    Awesome paint finish, well done.

  17. Kim (a Bit of Colour) says:

    Genius!!!! Looks beautiful!

    1. You always amaze me. You are always coming up with creative and low cost ideas for the home. Thanks so much for sharing your ideas. Can’t wait to see the finished product in its place of honor.

  18. That looks perfect!
    I have to admit, I can not use a spray can if my life depended on it.
    I start off doing light coats, but then I have a naughty self telling me just do a little bit more here, a little bit more there. Well you get the picture.
    The project become a mite bit drippy. This is where I want to kick myself.
    So I try to avoid spraying as much as possible. I just know I will mess up.
    I know it all has to do with patience , but the amazing thig is I do have patience. But I think I put a hex on myself with spray paint.
    Can’t wait to see the room.
    My best to the family

  19. Beautiful…I have this fixture on my porch. It came in white, but I painted it black. Love it even more for use inside. Great idea!

  20. Athena at Minerva's Garden says:

    The Blue Ocean Breeze color is one of my absolute favorites, and I’ve used it as an accent color in our home library, for the inside backs of bookcases. I even matched curtain fabric to this color of paint. My only complaint is that the spray mechanism on those cans of spray paint are not very good–it was very drippy coming out of the can, even though I shook the can a lot before spraying, and kept shaking the can periodically throughout the spraying process. Did you find that to be the case when you used it, or do you have a tip to share on how to make those sprayers work better on the can?

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Athena –

      I do love the color, too. It was hard to find around me. I finally found it at a True Value. I did not have the dripping problem with this can, but I do know that every can acts a little differently depending on the nozzle itself, temps, and how well you shake it. This formula works best at 50 degrees F. Most spray paints are usually around 70 degrees for an optimal finish.

      I do like the nozzle on these Krylon cans. It is easy to press and sprays a nice even coat. If I do have a nozzle problem, and it does happen -I do switch the nozzles from can to can until I like the way the can sprays. We did this all the time when I worked in display since we spray painted daily and didn’t have time to run out to buy a new can if one stopped working.

      Have you ever used Valspar spray paint? Love the nozzles – they spray evenly and are easy on your spraying finger. I do not like the Rustoleum hand molded nozzles. They look cool and do spray a nice even coat, but I have never had one work until the can was empty. I have returned quite a few half used cans.

      The next time you use the Krylon paint, have a back up nozzle from an old can and see if it makes a difference.

      1. Athena at Minerva's Garden says:

        Thank you, Diane, for all your great spray paint tips. I never thought to change out the nozzle, so I will definitely give that a try the next time I’m spray painting, as well as your other tips. I haven’t tried Valspar spray paint, so will give it a go the next time I’ve got a project. Thanks again–I always enjoy reading your blog!

          1. Diane Henkler says:

            Thanks Camille – I know a lot of people like the attachment. I have gotten a few a conferences. I have to remember to use one the next time I paint. When I can’t choose a color, I usually go with my first choice. Happy painting!

  21. Tegan Seymour says:

    Wowow it turned out so great, and what a fantastic colour!

  22. Love it!

    Thanks for the low-cost idea.