Can You Use Acrylic Paint on Metal?

Acrylic paint is the go-to that many artists use for craft and DIY projects. It works with most substances, comes in vibrant colors, and is usually affordable and easy to find. Since it works on so many materials, from canvas to ceramics, you may be wondering if it also works on metal.

Painting metal, which has a hard, shiny surface, comes with its own set of challenges. Most paints do not stick to metal as well because the surface is too smooth. Therefore, you may be anticipating the same difficulties with acrylic paint.

You can use acrylic paint on most types of metal. However, you will need to prep the surface before painting, particularly if the metal is outdoors.

Which Type of Acrylic Paint Should You Use for Metal?

If you are painting an outdoor metal object, you should use outdoor acrylic paint as it has a sealant incorporated into the formula.

If you are painting an indoor metal object, you can use any acrylic paint. Although, you will have to add a protective sealant after painting.

How Should You Prepare Metal Before Painting?

As with any painting project, the first step is to clean the surface. Remove or protect any parts of the metal object that you are not planning on painting. Then, remove any rust or flaking old paint. Usually, the best way to do this is with sandpaper or a wire brush. Be sure to wipe down the metal afterward to get rid of any rust particles.

You need to clean the metal of dust and debris. Usually, you can use soap and water to do this. However, if the metal has many grease deposits or residue, use alcohol wipes or a cleaning solvent. Even microscopic dirt particles can affect paint’s ability to stick to metal, so your metal needs to be as clean as possible.

The next step is to apply primer. Although primer is essential for any painting project, it is even more crucial to paint metal. Primer helps to protect the metal from moisture in a way that acrylic paint, which is not waterproof, cannot. Primer protects the metal from oxidizing and ruining the paint. It also provides a better surface for the paint to stick.

Metal primer will get you the best results when painting metal. Apply two thin coats, waiting for the primer to dry between applications. Two layers of primer provide extra protection from oxidization.

Painting and Sealing

Once the primer is dry, then you can paint. You can use most types of acrylic paint on metal, including spray and liquid formats. Apply two thin layers for the best results.

After painting, go over the metal with a sealant, unless your paint already contains a sealant. A sealant protects the metal from moisture.

The sealant also provides protection from normal wear and tear and will make your paint last longer. It also adds a shiny, glossy finish.


Acrylic paint can be used to paint metal. The easiest way is to use outdoor acrylic paint, which comes with a built-in sealant.

If you don’t have outdoor acrylic paint, you can still use regular acrylics to paint metal. Yet, be sure to apply primer before painting to give the paint something to stick to. Then finish with a sealant to protect the metal from moisture.

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