10 Tips for Spray Painting Metal

A wrought-iron gate with a spotty coat of green paint.

Many items around the house can be transformed with a quick application of spray paint. Brass fixtures, which were common in the 80s and 90s, are good candidates for a spray paint makeover, including light fixtures, doorknobs, frames, lamps, shower enclosures, faucet knobs, and candlesticks to name a few. Spray painting is a quick and easy way to paint metal surfaces, and you can give it a smooth, even finish that is very difficult to achieve with a paintbrush. Below are some useful tips for spray painting metal surfaces.

Work in a Ventilated Area

Because using spray paint results in the emission of very fine particles of paint, it is important to prevent excessive inhalation. Open all the windows and close the door to the room in which you are painting. Wear a pair of gloves to avoid getting paint on your hands.

Tip: If the object to be painted is a light fixture, consider taking it down and hanging it from the supports of your garage door. This allows you to move all the way around the fixture and spray it from all sides, even from underneath.

Prepare the Work Area

Spray paint will give the best results if the surrounding temperature, humidity, and wind are under control. Thus, avoid working in freezing temperatures, excessive wind, and high humidity. You must also thoroughly clean the surrounding area or else dust particles can fly around and settle on the painted surface when it is still wet.

Protect Surrounding Surfaces with Drop Cloths

After cleaning the area, protect all surrounding items and the floor with drop cloths. If you are painting a small item, it helps to place it in a makeshift cubicle made of scrap cardboard to contain the paint spray.

Remove any rust

It is important to remove all rust before you spray paint a metal surface. Using sandpaper or a wire brush, scrub out all the rust and then wipe the surface clean.

Remove Grease and Dirt

Clean the metal surface thoroughly next, as this will improve paint adhesion and finish. Use a grease-cutting cleaner to remove all accumulated grease, and ensure that the surface is free of grime and dirt.

Apply Primer

Primer is very important when painting a metal surface. In the absence of primer, the paint will not adhere to the metal, increasing the chances of rust formation and peeling paint. Use a good quality primer that is compatible with metal and the paint you plan to use.

Shake the Can Well

Shake the paint sprayer well to make sure the paint is properly mixed up. Not doing so will cause an uneven buildup of paint as you progress.

Apply a Test Coat

Before you apply paint on the metal object, spray a couple of test coats on a scrap piece. Use something like a piece of cardboard to check whether the paint lands evenly.

Hold the Can About One Foot Away From the Object

It is important to hold the spray paint can at the proper distance. Holding it too close will result in thick coats and overlap, whereas holding it too far will result in uneven coverage.

Spray in Thin Coats and Repeat if Necessary

Avoid applying thick coats of spray paint. You achieve better coverage by using thin coats and repeating the application until you achieve the desired results.

Pam Estabrooke, a district manager of ProTect Painters, contributed to this article.