Can You Use Acrylic Paint on Metal

Acrylic is mostly used on canvas since these two make some of the best paint and surface combinations, allowing a quicker dry time and a strong color layer. But can you use acrylic paint on metal, or is there only one option: canvas?

Well, it’s possible to use this paint on a metal surface. It is, however, done less often than on a canvas.

But it is possible to use acrylic on any metal surface easily. You can follow some steps to get the best color application results, and we’re gonna talk about those in this guide.

Related: Can You Use Acrylic Paint On Plastic

Can You Use Acrylic Paint on Metal..

How to Use Acrylic Paint on Metal

Acrylic paint can be used with a range of materials because of its chemical composition.

As this paint comes with various ingredient bases, the paint variation you could use depends directly on what type of material you’re using with it and what type of project it is.

Some acrylic variations have oil and wax in them. These aren’t the best for use with metal. There are also some things you’ll have to keep in mind while choosing the right acrylic for your metal projects.

We’re going to talk about those throughout this article. So, without further ado, let’s start talking about the painting process –

Step 1 – Materials Preparation

Let’s talk about a few necessary materials and why you need them


This is one of the most important components of this project. The metal surface isn’t the best surface to use acrylic on. And the chances are high that there might be some growth in the near future which might penetrate through the color layer. If rust buildup happens to come in contact with the paint’s film, it’ll break the film apart.

The first reason you want to use a primer on the metal surface is to prevent any rust buildup and reach the paint’s film if there happens to be any.

And the next reason is that you want to create a sticky layer between the paint and the metal. This sticky layer will help to keep the surfaces stuck with each other for an extended period.


Try to use spray-based acrylic paint for application on metal. Liquid variations are okay too.

However, spray dries up faster and is especially suitable for plastic and metal applications. If you decide to use liquid paint, use something that can dry up quickly and free of oil or wax.

Hand Gloves

Acrylic paint has some harmful chemicals that you don’t want your skin to come in contact with.

Always wear a good pair of gloves while working with any paint-related task. Also, you don’t want to get your hands painted with sticky acrylic. That is another reason why you shouldn’t work with bare hands.

Also, dirt and oil stains from the painting are hard to remove with tap water. You’d need to wash your hands with soap thoroughly to remove those stains. For all these reasons, using a pair of gloves is mandatory.

Wire brush and sandpaper

If the metal surface you’re going to paint on is free of any previous paint, then it’s great. You won’t need to spend a lot of time removing that old paint layer now. But the chances are high that a paint layer is there, and you need some tools to clean that up now.

You can use a wire brush or sandpaper to remove the old paint layer. There will supposedly be some dirt accumulated on the surface too.

Rubbing the surface with a hard bristle wire brush can quickly make the surface smooth again. Don’t use soft-bristled brushes on metal as they won’t work effectively here.

Sandpaper can be used as an alternative here if you want to. Use hard sandpaper to smooth up the surface by removing the old paint’s film.

If there are hard-to-reach areas, you can use a small wire brush to reach those corners. You may need to use multiple brushes for this.


Once the painting is complete, you can apply a final sealer coat to protect the color layer even more. A good sealer can lengthen the paint’s lifetime and make the surface protected from touch and rough handling. It’s optional but is worth your time.

Painter’s Tape

Painter’s tape’s main task is to create a barrier between the area you don’t want to paint and that which you want to paint.

The tape helps create a strict boundary so that you can’t mistakenly apply paint to unwanted areas. It’s optional, but you can think of this as safety. If you’re skilled and confident enough, you can skip this.

Clean Clothes

If you work indoors, then you should use a large piece of cloth on the floor to protect it from the spilled colors and dust coming from the work.

Stains from acrylic can make a big mess in your house, which you don’t want. Any cloth is fine but if possible, use a paint drop cloth since it absorbs paint quite fast.

Also, you’ll need some clean cloth as you work to clean surfaces and excess paint. Have a few soft clothes at hand. The clothes shouldn’t be too thick nor too thin. Any soft cloth is okay.

So, these are the things you should prepare before starting the painting process.

Step 2 – Cleaning

It would help if you started with cleaning the previous paint and dirt layer first. Take a wire brush and slowly work through removing the paint’s film. Once the hard parts of the film come off, rub the surface with a cloth soaked in soap.

The reason for using soap water-soaked cloth is to remove the oils that leaked while removing the paint and remaining dirt on the surface.

If the paint seems not to come off easily, you can use a color thinner or lacquer thinner. Soak a cloth with this liquid and rub it on the thicker parts of the pain. That will efficiently do the job of removing the paint.

Once the paint layer is sufficiently removed, sand the uneven areas and the remaining paint bits. If you still think the surface is unclean, you can use a commercial cleaner and use it similar to the lacquer thinner’s rubbing process.

Make sure that the surface is spotless before you start applying the prime or the paint. Any remaining paint or leftover rust can ruin your whole paint or make it look uneven on the surface.

Step 3 – Priming and Painting

Before I start talking about the priming process, it’s necessary to know that this step is entirely optional.

But one strong reason to do it is because of the chances of rust formation on the metal. If the metal you’re working with is rust protected or stainless steel, then feel free to skip this process altogether.

Primers usually come in two forms. One is in liquid, and the other is in spray form. You can choose whatever you like, but the spray one tends to dry quicker, in general.

However, use only the primers that are prepared for acrylic coating. It will result in the best output. Also, thoroughly mix the paint before use.

If you use spray, hold the can 8-10 inches from the surface and start spraying from a corner.

Slowly cover the whole surface while making sure not to overlap any area. Follow a similar process while using liquid paint. Apply a very thin layer and let it dry for some time. The drying time varies and can take up to a few hours.

It would help if you tried to do multiple coats. Why? Because the first coat works as a protective layer from the rust buildup.

The following layer or layers work as extra protection for the acrylic paint’s film. You can apply two layers, and that should probably be enough.

Make sure to give each layer enough drying time. If a layer is still wet and you coat it with another wet paint, the results will not be good. The surface will get uneven, making the final paint film messy and thick in some areas.

Once the priming is complete, and the layers are dry on a satisfactory level, apply the acrylic paint.

Like the prime, the paint also comes in two forms: liquid and spray. Both are okay as long as you give each layer enough drying time. The drying time for the paint can take quite some time, sometimes up to 48 hours.

You should do multiple coats with paint, too, just like you did with the prime. Give enough time between each layer and once the final layer is completely dried, cover it with a sealant coat. It’s optional but recommended to create long-lasting paint works.

Learn more about acrylic paints:

Final Words

Hopefully, you’ve got a good answer for you can use acrylic paint on metal and now know the correct painting process. If it’s done right, the paint can last for quite a long time, making your time and hard work worthwhile.

Leave a Comment