Can I Use Acrylic Paint on Metal? Chairs, Tables or Similar?

A custom-painted weathervane featuring a figure of a boy and a large rooster.

If you’ve ever wanted to make a piece of metal more visually appealing or maybe protect it from rust or perhaps improve its durability, you may have considered the idea of applying acrylic paint to the item.

After all, acrylic paint can have a protective element, and it definitely has the ability to enhance aesthetics!

Can I use acrylic paint on metal? Acrylic paint can be used on most metal surfaces provided that the metal has been properly cleaned of dirt, rust, and old paint first. Using a primer prior to painting is highly recommended for good adhesion and long-lasting results. Once the paint has dried, apply a sealant to protect your work.

In this article, you will learn about the kinds of metal that work well with acrylic paint, as well as how to properly prepare metal to create your desired results.

You will also learn how to seal acrylic paint on metal, and how chalk, latex, and enamel paints hold up on metal. 

Painting Metal With Acrylic Paint

As long as you properly prepare the metal surface before applying paint and use a good sealant to protect it when finished, using acrylic paint can be a great way to transform a metal object into a work of art.

Types of Metal That Work With Acrylic Paint

You can apply acrylic paint to pretty much any kind of metal, but it is important to know what kind of metal you are working with before getting started.

Ferrous metals contain iron and are usually magnetic and very strong. Ferrous metals include iron, cast iron, carbon steel, stainless steel, and wrought iron. 

Non-ferrous metals are generally lightweight and more flexible and do not have any iron in their composure. Non-ferrous metals include aluminum, copper, lead, nickel, silver, gold, tin, platinum, and others. 

Due to their lack of iron content, non-ferrous metals are not as susceptible to rust, and therefore they do not necessarily need the kind of rust-preventing treatment or rust removal that ferrous metals might require before painting.

Common Metal Objects To Paint With Acrylics

You can apply acrylic paint to mailboxes, fence posts, cabinets, toolboxes, grills, automobiles, railings, desks, chairs, tables, doors, garage doors, furniture, lamp posts, door knockers, bed posts, signs, and more. 

How To Prepare Metal for Acrylic Paint

Whether ferrous or non-ferrous, you will want to make sure that the metal is properly prepared before applying paint. 

1. Clean The Surface

The first step is to clean the metal surface with a rag and soap and water. You may need to use a stronger cleaning agent, such as denatured alcohol, to remove tougher oil-based stains and grime.

Make sure to wear protective gear and work in a well-ventilated space when working with solvent-based cleaners as they can contain toxic chemicals.

After cleaning, be sure to rinse any leftover residue and allow the metal to dry before moving on to the next step. 

2. Remove Rust

If the metal object has signs of rust damage, you will want to remove as much as possible before painting. Use a wire brush to scrub rust from the metal, and then use a damp rag to remove any dust.

3. Remove Paint

If the metal has been previously painted, you will want to scrape off any old paint using a putty knife.

If the paint is hard to get off and you don’t want to use a chemical solvent, you can try pouring boiling water or vinegar over the object to loosen old paint.

4. Prime The Metal

It’s always a good idea to use a primer made by the same manufacturer as the paint that you are using.

Choosing a primer that is specifically designed for use on metal is also helpful. Apply primer in thin, even coats. 

Can You Use Acrylic Paint on Metal Without Primer?

Some paints have built-in primer, rendering the need for a separate coat of primer unnecessary.

While you don’t necessarily have to apply primer before painting metal, if the object you are painting will be exposed to any moisture or is made of ferrous metal, it’s generally a good idea to prime before painting.

How To Seal Acrylic Paint on Metal

After you have applied at least two coats of paint to the metal, you will want to let the paint completely dry before applying sealant.

Sealant helps to improve the durability and increase the longevity of your paint job, and it can help to protect the metal from rusting. 

Once the paint is totally dry, you can apply a varnish or sealant. Varnishes and sealants can come in liquid or spray varieties.

Brush a thin, even coat of sealant over the paint for the liquid variety, or apply a smooth, continuous coat in a horizontal direction when using the spray variety (this one is excellent). 

Allow the sealant to completely dry before handling the metal object. 

Be sure to check with my Complete Guide and Tips for Using Acrylic Paint on Metal for recommended primers, paints, and sealants.

Related Questions:

Can I Use Chalk Paint on Metal?

Chalk paint is a type of paint that is often used on furniture, wood, and concrete. Chalk paint is designed for use without a primer and is often thinned down with water to create a wash effect.

Chalk paint has low VOC’s, making it less toxic than many other paints, and it comes in several different colors. 

Chalk paint can be effectively used on metal, although the metal may need to be sanded down prior to being painted if it is rusty.

If you’re looking to create a vintage effect, you might add water to the chalk paint to make it thinner. 

Can I Use Latex Paint on Metal?

You certainly can use latex paint on metal, although it is not the most adhesive choice.

If you’re using latex paint to paint a metal object that will remain outside, you will want to make sure that you use a latex paint that is specially made for outdoor use.

You will also want to make sure that you use a primer to improve the adhesion of the paint to the metal surface. 

Can I Use Enamel Paint on Metal?

Enamel paint is a superb choice for painting metal as it is designed to withstand the elements and dries to a durable, glossy finish that looks great on most metals.

To apply enamel paint to metal, simply follow the same steps that you would when applying acrylic paint.


As long as you properly prepare the surface and use a decent sealant, applying acrylic paint to metal is an effective and aesthetically pleasing project that can result in a longer life for the metal material.

Other kinds of paints can also be used on metal objects, but acrylic is an easy-to-clean-up and low-toxicity choice when it comes to painting metal. 

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I am a writer and an artist taking opportunities every day to transform my dreams into reality. I love learning new things and am always creating and innovating. I worked as an Art Instructor, teaching painting and art techniques to artists of all levels and ages. I have hosted countless paint parties and taught children’s art classes both in my home as well as an art teacher at a Montessori school.