Can You Use Acrylic Paint On Metals?

Acrylic paint features versatile properties and works on multiple surfaces, making it common among painters. Besides, it is durable, affordable, and natural for household and commercial applications.

On the other hand, metal is a valuable part of our lives and comes in handy in virtually every facet, from creating arts and crafts to engineering. Further, painters often integrate metal into installation artwork, sketch work, and frame painting.

As a result, they wonder if acrylic paint and metal can deliver masterpieces. So, let’s answer the question: Can You Use Acrylic Paint On Metals?

You can use acrylic paint on metal and expect a durable outcome. Moreover, the formula sticks to metal like any other surface, working well on smooth workpieces.

However, the project requires intense preparation to enhance adhesions and durability.

The metal painting process also requires sealing to preserve the finish from the elements compromising its longevity. Thus, read this article to the end to learn more about acrylics on metals and how to deliver a successful outcome.

What Is Acrylic Paint?

Acrylic paint consists of pigment suspended in an acrylic emulation. Further, it has three primary components: pigment, binder, and vehicle.

Pigments are granular solids giving the paint its color. Also, although manufacturers mill them into tiny particles, they do not dissolve but remain suspended in the solution.

These pigments can be natural, synthetic, organic, or inorganic and have little or no affinity to the surface.

On the other hand, a Binder is a substance that positions the pigment after the paint dries. For instance, acrylic paint has an acrylic polymer as its binder, which forms a film after the water evaporates.

Lastly, the Vehicle is the paint part that carries the pigment and binder. Mostly, manufacturers use water for water-based acrylic paints to create a polymer emulsion.

In addition, the paint dries once the water evaporates, delivering a stable, transparent polymer film full of trapped colored particles.

Acrylic paint is impressively resourceful. Further, depending on how much paint you dilute with water or modify with acrylic gels, pastes, or mediums, the final finish resembles a gouache, watercolor, or oil painting.

Before the 19th century, painters mixed various paints to achieve the desired color and thickness and control the fillers used. But nowadays, they’ve resorted to other means.

Moreover, hand-mixing is impractical with acrylic paint because of its fast drying duration and other technical issues.

For example, you must combine several polymers, including plasticizers, defoamers, stabilizers, and surfactants, to deliver a potent formula.

So, instead, artists buy acrylic paint ready to go, which only needs water or acrylic mediums for modification.

Interestingly, the acrylic mediums range is greater than oil and watercolor. The paint also bonds well to multiple surfaces and mediums, such as canvas, paper, wood, concrete, metal, and glass.

Although acrylic formulas are among the greatest inventions of art history, they have pros and cons. However, all the product’s benefits and drawbacks often depend on the artist. For instance, what one sees as an advantage may be a disadvantage to another.

Therefore, check out the detailed account below to determine whether acrylic paint works for your project.

Pros of Acrylic Paint

Pros include:

  • Quick Drying Time

This attribute is an important one when using acrylic paint. Besides, the formula does not need any effort to dry to the touch, and you can blend or apply colors to the painting spontaneously.

Acrylic paint contains plastic, color, and water. Whereas water keeps the formula in the tube without drying, it evaporates after application leaving a plastic paint film on the workpiece.

Therefore, depending on the coat’s thickness, the finish dries to the touch in seconds to a few minutes.

The formula dries within ten to twenty minutes, 100 times faster than traditional oil paint. Further, for one paint layer to dry, oil paint takes an average of five days.

Though acrylic paint dries faster, changing its open or working duration is possible by adding acrylic mediums.

  • Vibrant and bright Colors

Acrylic paints deliver various colors and, thus, accommodate different project needs and personal preferences. Besides, you can choose from a bright to a muted color palette, unlike oil paints, where you only get a subtle and muted appearance.

Also, we have enormous paint color options, so choose a simple color palette from a quality paint brand. This way, you guarantee a successful outcome.

  • Oily Texture

Believe it or not, acrylic paints mirror the effects of oil and watercolor paints. But the outcome hugely depends on the application technique. Furthermore, you can use this formula without water for an oily appearance.

Alternatively, use a lot of water to achieve a semi-watercolor effect and a little for an acrylic look.

  • Versatility and Convenience

You can use acrylic paint on multiple surfaces and expect a satisfactory outcome. Moreover, it allows users to maximize their creative juices to deliver a masterpiece.

For example, besides the usual drawing paper surface or canvas, you can use the formula on wood, metal, concrete, glass, alloy, and plastic.

Acrylic paint sticks to the above surfaces for a long time. It can adjust and flex, meaning you do not have to worry about contractions, temperature fluctuations, stretching, and other environmental conditions.

You can apply the formula very thinly, like watercolor, or thickly, as in the impasto technique. Further, mixing acrylic paint with matte, gloss, gel, and glazing mediums is possible for a creative look.

  • Durability and Permanence

The paint remains on your surface for good. You cannot remove or alter the paint, but it is easy to wash away if you get some on your skin.

Also, although the formula is water-based, it does not rust inwards or fade away. Hence, you are sure of a solid finish.

Once the water in the acrylic coat evaporates, the finish forms a permanent and water-resistant plastic film. In addition, you cannot reactivate the coat with water after drying.

Moreover, you can enhance the paint’s longevity by applying a varnish coat. It protects the painting from UV light, dust, and moisture.

But ensure that the base coat dries for one to three weeks before adding the sealer. Otherwise, you’ll do more harm than good.

Similarly, acrylic paint with lightfast pigments can increase the painting’s durability. They also prevent the finish from fading, delivering a lovely, long-lasting appearance.

Generally, an acrylic finish needs a couple of months to years to cure fully. However, you can leave the painting unvarnished as it is permanent and durable after drying.

  • Non-toxic

Acrylic paint is water-based and soluble, making it non-toxic and easy to wash off with water. Moreover, it is odorless, allowing you to work indoors or in a box.

However, the formula is not safe to eat. In addition, be careful with cadmium pigments as they harm the skin.

  • More Forgiving and Easily Conceals Mistakes

You can mix unwanted paint with water on your paintbrush and dab it off with tissue paper after making a mistake when the paint is wet. The process will quickly remove the unwanted paint from the surface.

Also, paint over dry mistakes with the desired color. But use an opaque hue like titanium white to conceal the flaw. Otherwise, a transparent shade will not cover the mistake.

  • Beginner-Friendly 

Acrylic paint is the best for painting beginners as it is easy to access, and there is no particular protocol to start. Besides, you only need the paint and a brush to achieve a satisfactory outcome.

Learning acrylic painting techniques is also easy, with layering as the most critical yet straightforward method. Better still, the finish is easy to layer as it dries.

Alternatively, you can use other optional strategies such as impasto, dry brushing, and painting with a palette knife.

  • Available in a Wide Pricing Spectrum

Fortunately, acrylic paint comes in multiple options and, thus, accommodates various budgets. For instance, you can purchase the product from 0.25 USD/ fl oz to 9 USD/ fl oz.

But remember, the cheaper products have a lower quality while the more expensive ones have more saturated colors and are more permanent. So, budget according to your project demands.

Cons of Acrylic Paint

They include:

  • Dries Faster

The formula dries faster, allowing the user less time to blend it with other colors. As a result, seamless blending is challenging with acrylics.

However, you can add as many paint coats as possible to deliver the desired color depth.

Luckily, all hope is not lost, as you can use slow-drying mediums and acrylic retarders to increase your open or work time.

  • Challenging or Impossible to Clean on Some Surfaces

Acrylic paint sticks permanently to surfaces, making it a nightmare if you have some on clothes or carpets. In worst-case scenarios, you’ll have to live with paint marks.

Thus, always wear painting clothes or an apron you do not mind staining. Then, cover carpets with plastic covers to avoid accidental spills.

Also, this aspect is a disadvantage when choosing a palette. Besides, removing acrylic paint from smooth and rigid palette surfaces like metal or glass is challenging.

So, use disposable styrofoam plates, paper plates, tear palettes, or tin foil when using the paint.

  • Does Not Stick to Non-Absorbant Surfaces

Although acrylic paint is versatile and works well with almost all surfaces, it has difficulty sticking to non-absorbent ones, especially glass, plastic, and metal. Moreover, the paint peels off easily with poor surface preparation and application.

Apply a special primer and use multiple coats to deliver a durable finish when working with the above materials. More specifically, use a metal primer to improve adherence and prevent rusting.

Also, test the paint on a small inconspicuous area and perform an adhesion test.

  • Comes in Many Unnecessary Colors

We have thousands of acrylic paint colors in an art store. For instance, most acrylic paint sets with eight to 60 colors. But this aspect is a waste of money as you can use five primary acrylic paint colors to create any desired hue.

They include ultramarine blue, alizarine crimson permanent, burnt umber, and titanium white.

In addition, buy these colors from a high-quality student-grade brand for the best deal.

  • It Cannot Be Salvaged

Lastly, unlike watercolor, which can be reused by adding more water, acrylic paint dries off your palette. Therefore, you cannot use it again even if you add water, leading to paint wastage.

How Do You Prepare Metal for Acrylic Paint?

Acrylic paint is popular due to its impressive attributes; you can apply it to various surfaces. However, some workpieces require preparation to guarantee adhesion and reduce peeling chances.

Metal is among these surfaces. Check the procedure below to ensure it’s ready for an acrylic paint coat.

  • Cover Surrounding Surfaces and Objects

Cover the areas you will not be painting with painting or masking tape. They include door hinges, doorknobs, and other fixtures that should remain paint-free.

Furthermore, cover the floor to avoid messy work time and a hectic clean-up session.

  • Wear Protective Gear

Wear safety clothing when removing old paint and rust. Moreover, wear a protective mask during sanding to avoid inhaling the dust.

You can also use a wire brush to strip old paint layers from the surface for safer work time.

  • Remove Rust, Old Paint, and Dirt

Use a wire brush to scrub paint particles and dirt clumping over the metal. Then, wipe away the loosened particles with a damp cloth. 

Keep scrubbing and wiping until you remove all rough clumps.

Focus on stripping larger surfaces with the wire brush, as you’ll clean the nooks and crannies later during sanding. You can also make the process quicker by using a cordless drill with a wire brush extension.

Alternatively, get a sand block or fine-grit sandpaper without a wire brush.

Work in a well-ventilated area when removing paint and rust, and cover your workstation with a drop sheet to keep it clean.

  • Use a Degreaser or Mineral Spirits

Dip a cloth or rag in mineral spirits or a metal degreaser and wipe all the remaining rust and paint dust particles. This way, you will remove leftover grime and deliver a clean surface for painting.

Please do not skip this step, even if the surface looks clean. Otherwise, the acrylic paint will not adhere to the metal properly, eventually leading to peeling.

Also, wash galvanized steel with white vinegar to break down the remaining zinc from the galvanization process. As a result, you will facilitate better adhesion and topcoat longevity.

  • Smooth the Metal with Fine-Grit Sandpaper

Generally, sanding the surface before painting guarantees a long project life. Further, scuffing up the material smooths it out, delivering microscopic ridges to which the primer and paint can stick.

Finally, wipe the surface with a damp rag to remove lingering debris and sanding dust.

How to Paint on Metal With Acrylic Paint

First, remember that the preparation process is the key to delivering a durable and successful acrylic painting on metal. Besides, properly preparing the surface and the workspace goes a long way in delivering a high-quality paint job.

Afterward, paint the metal with the paint after gathering the following supplies:

  • Tarp or newspaper
  • Gloves
  • Clean rags
  • Eye goggles
  • Face mask
  • Metal primer for acrylic paint
  • Paintbrush or roller
  • Wire brush or steel wool

Here is the recommended procedure

Brushing or Rolling

  • Apply a Primer

Use a high-quality paintbrush or roller to apply a primer to the metal. Further, choose an oil-based formula for excellent adhesion and durability.

Then, let the project dry for at least 24 hours.

Read the instructions on the product for specific information on drying time or application. Also, apply a zinc chromate primer before the oil-based one when working with rusted metal. It resists corrosion and protects the surface from further rust.

  • Apply the First Paint Coat

Cover the workpiece with acrylic paint and let it dry. Use a bristle paintbrush or a paint roller to deliver a thin layer. In addition, avoid using too much paint, as it causes the surface to appear clumpy.

Remember, acrylic paints dry faster than oil-based paints and are toxic-free, making them perfect for interior applications. Moreover, they are durable but not water-resistant.

Next, give the project at least 90 minutes to dry, but always confirm the specific duration with the product manual.

  • Apply the Second Paint Coat

Add another layer if the job appears streaky or if you want a deeper color. But still, follow the brush strokes in the first coat to deliver a consistent and smooth finish.

Then, wait 36 to 48 hours for the workpiece to cure completely and avoid moving it. Otherwise, the paint will peel and crack prematurely.


  • Mix the Paint

Shake the paint can to blend the formula for a smooth consistency. Turn it from top to bottom and shake it for two minutes. Continue until you hear the mixer ball rattle inside the container.

  • Test the Paint

Confirm the paint delivers the desired outcome by testing it on an inconspicuous area or scrap metal. Also, assess the nozzle and familiarize yourself with how the paint flows during the test painting.

Here, you’ll see the final finish and determine if you want to make any changes.

  • Hold the Sprayer ten to 12 Inches From the Workpiece

Getting too close to the metal causes drips and runs, whereas painting too far from it leads to uneven spraying. Therefore, measure ten to 12 inches to deliver a uniform and smooth outcome.

  • Paint in a Sweeping Motion

These motions should be from left to right. Also, avoid thick paint coats to reduce drips and runs and facilitate faster and uniform drying.

Overlap your passes with the paint until it appears more even and opaque. And pause after each sweep by releasing the trigger.

  • Let the Surface Dry

Give the workpiece at least one hour to dry to the touch. However, you can wait slightly longer or shorter, depending on the nature of the paint and existing environmental conditions.

Also, avoid touching the finish to confirm whether it is dry, lest you ruin it.

  • Spray On the Second Paint Coat

Repeat the application process once the initial coat dries. Then, inspect the surface for 30 minutes to an hour for it to dry.

Always allow the second layer to dry completely before handling the project.

  • Correct Mistakes

Do not panic when you see a few spots and drips due to pauses during painting. If the finish is wet, remove these blemishes with a clean and dry lint-free rag.

Alternatively, use fine-grit sandpaper if the paint is dry.

Here’s How to Apply Acrylic Paint On Metals:

Do I Need Primer for Acrylic Paint On Metal?

You need a primer for acrylic paint on metal, especially for bare surfaces. This way, you help the formula adhere better.

However, primer is not always necessary, especially when painting over an existing finish.

Also, acrylic paint on metal becomes brittle and cracks over time, and it is not as durable as other paint types. Therefore, applying a primer is advisable to guarantee the project’s longevity.

Other scenarios that need a primer include metal in poor condition or if the project will experience cold, humid, and demanding weather conditions.

The primer will help prevent rust and corrosion while ensuring the paint coat adheres and does not flake or peel.

Metal primers in the market include

  • Etching Primer

This formula works best on galvanized and non-ferrous surfaces to enhance the adherence of subsequent coats. It effectively ‘eats into’ the galvanized layer without removing the zinc protection and primes the surface.

Etching primer contains acid with the edges of the metal, creating a chemical and physical bond and promoting adhesion.

The product may limit your choice of subsequent layers, so consult the product manual. But you can comfortably use it on lamp posts, railings, and in-vehicle repairs.

  • Red Oxide Primer

This formula protects metal from corrosion and rust, making it ideal for ferrous surfaces experiencing harsh conditions such as cold air, dampness, and humidity.

It is common in the agricultural and industrial fields for structural work, gates, outdoor equipment, and railings.

Red oxide primer delivers a protection layer before you add a topcoat and adheres to surfaces with rust traces.

  • Carboxide Metal Primer

This primer is an anti-corrosive for iron and steel and works well with multiple topcoats, making it suitable for metal doors, architectural ironwork, and metal gates.

Carbon metal primer also has a higher level of modified zinc phosphate to deliver superior, long-term protection.

You can use the formula on gingering metal, and it comes in red, grey, and white colors to accommodate various topcoats.

  • Mordant Solution

This formula mainly treats zinc sheeting and galvanized steel before painting. Further, it has phosphoric acid, which reacts with the ‘galv,’ turning it black. Thus, you can quickly identify treated areas.

The mordant solution effectively ‘firs up’ metal surfaces to enhance the adhesion of subsequent top coats. In addition, its treatments allow for a wider primer and topcoat choice than etching primers.

  • Zinc Rich Primer

This primer is a cold galvanizing paint often called ‘galvafroid .’The formula delivers a durable and highly rust-inhibiting surface thanks to its high zinc content. So, it works very well on steel and iron.

Zinc-rich primer is more reactive than iron and effectively sacrifices itself and oxidizes in preference. Therefore, it protects agricultural and construction plants, machinery, structural steelwork, railings, metal gates, and pipework.

  • Fast Dry Metal Primer

This formula is anti-corrosive and solvent-based to accommodate ferrous metals, such as wrought iron carbon steel, stainless steel, cast, and mild steel.

Its palatine version is perfect for spray applications and dries in 15 minutes.

Fast dry metal primer delivers long-term metal preservation thanks to its modified zinc phosphate. It is also ideal for a situation requiring a quick primer application.

Now that you know various primers in the market, it is prudent to learn various considerations to make when getting the best product.

  • Surface Type and Texture. Pick a urethane or oil-based primer for a smooth finish or a solvent-based primer for something with more grip. However, remember that there are some tradeoffs regarding how each type lasts on the workpiece before needing an application.
  • Rust Protection. Choose the correct primer type for steel and aluminum to prevent rusting and premature corrosion. For example, epoxy/polyester primers deliver superior rust protection while ensuring the finish does not chip or peel.
  • Temperature. Primers have a minimum temperature required before paint application. Therefore, ensure that your selection can withstand the intended environment.

For instance, avoid water/alkyd primers for outdoor applications with freezing temperatures. Otherwise, they will lose their adhesion, compromising the project’s longevity.

  • Amount of Work Time. Most primers have a work time limit that guarantees proper application before drying up and becoming unusable. Hence, choose one that has an extended duration and ensure you can work around it.

On the other hand, if you need to prime the surface as soon as possible, get a product with a short work time limit.

  • Surface Temperature. Get primer products suitable for warm or hot environments when working during the summer months. This way, they will not harden up too soon before painting.

Conversely, opt for primers that withstand low-temperate conditions during winter or cold seasons.

How Do You Seal Acrylic Paint on Metal?

Sealing acrylic paint on metal is advisable to protect it from fading and chipping. In addition, it ensures that outdoor paint jobs last longer despite experiencing harsh environmental conditions.

Furthermore, the project may not be as durable and will fail sooner without a sealer. Therefore, spare some minutes and add a sealer coat.

We have various methods of sealing acrylic paint on metal. The first option is to use a clear acrylic sealer. The formula delivers a protective barrier between the metal and the paint, guaranteeing durability.

The second option is a lacquer-based sealer. It protects the acrylic paint from fading and chipping, ensuring the finish looks good.

Nevertheless, regardless of the chosen sealer, ensure you follow the manufacturer’s instructions to facilitate the best results possible.

Below is a summarized procedure to guide you.

  • Choose an acrylic sealer. Get the most suitable sealer for your metal surface. You can start by determining the desired effect. For instance, consider a lacquer-based sealer for lasting beauty and an acrylic product for enhanced longevity.
  • Pour the Sealer into a Container. Only pour what you need to deliver uniform and complete coverage to avoid waste.
  • Load Your Brush With Sealer. Dip your paintbrush into the formula and tap it on the container’s side to remove excess. Also, use a small amount of sealer at a time.
  • Apply Thin Layers. Always start with thin sealer coats and use uniform strokes until you cover the workpiece. In addition, ensure you do not miss any spots, then let the project dry for 15 minutes.
  • Apply Additional Layers. Apply more sealer coats, if necessary. However, we recommend having two or three for a professional finish.

Also, give every layer 15 minutes to dry before applying the next one.

How Long Does Acrylic Paint Take To Dry On Metal?

Generally, acrylic paint dries quickly, but it is advisable to give it enough time to cure. Besides, the curing process allows the finish to harden and become more durable.

Allow at least 24 hours before using the metal surface to guarantee the best results. Also, some instances may need an average of 48 hours, depending on the temperature and humidity levels.

How to Speed Up Acrylic Paint Drying Time On Metal

Fortunately, you can speed up acrylic paint drying time on metal, regardless of environmental factors. This way, you can paint any time and still deliver a professional finish.

Here are a few strategies to adopt to reduce the drying duration.

  • Apply Thin Layers

This is the easiest way to ensure acrylic paint dries faster. Besides, the basic rule of painting stipulates that thinner layers facilitate faster drying.

However, even if you use thinner layers and are impatient to continue painting, ensure each coat dries to the touch before adding another.

Thin layers are essential regardless of the surface. You can make acrylic paint adhere to any surface, even metal, but keep the coats thin.

  • Work in a Warm and Dry Environment

Environment significantly affects drying and duration. Moreover, it is among the most critical factors affecting painting or storing and transporting painting.

The best environment for acrylic paint on metal is 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit, 40-50% humidity, and proper air circulation. Here, you can expect the finish to dry in 20 to 30 minutes.

  • Use a Hairdryer or Heater

These accessories are standard in most households and are an easy strategy to make acrylic paint dry faster. However, follow the precautions below to guarantee a successful outcome.

  • Only use the lowest heat.
  • Ensure the room is well-aired when using a heater or hairdryer.
  • Avoid blowing the air too close to the finish
  • Do not blow one area for a long time.

Also, remember that a heat gun is hotter than a hair drier. Therefore, please be careful to avoid harming yourself.

Finally, the general rule with heaters and hairdryers: do not overheat!

  • Use Fast-Drying Paint

We have fast-drying and slow-drying acrylic paints. So, do not go for the latter when working against a deadline.

In addition, it is assumed that student-grade acrylic paint dries faster than its artist-grade counterpart.

  • Don’t Use These Mediums

Sometimes, we add different mediums to acrylic paint to improve its flow, extend the work time, or thin it. However, retarders, slow-drying mediums, wetting sprays, and extenders slow the paint’s drying time.

So, read the product label carefully to ensure you do not accidentally slow down drying.

Frequently Asked Questions

The questions include:

  • Can You Remove Acrylic Paint From Metal?

You can remove acrylic paint from metal using over-the-counter ammonia. Apply the formula on a cloth and rub it over the finish.

Alternatively, dip the painted workpiece in ammonia. But ensure that the workplace is well-ventilated with no open flames.

  • Is Acrylic Paint Waterproof on Metal?

The answer depends on the paint and metal type. However, generally, acrylic paint is not waterproof. So, you’ll need a sealant to protect the surface from moisture and UV rays damage.

Fortunately, we have various sealants compatible with acrylic paint. Thus, consult with your local hardware store for the best formula.


Acrylic paint is famous for its user-friendliness and suitability for various surfaces. In addition, it is arguably the most famous paint type appealing to multiple painting professionals.

The paint delivers an excellent finish if you prepare the surface adequately and adhere to the recommended application techniques. Even better, you can quickly correct mistakes when the finish is wet.

However, some surfaces, like metal, need preparation for the paint to adhere effortlessly. Thus, the above discussion elaborates on achieving a fine metal acrylic finish.

Can You Use Acrylic Paint On Metals?

You can use acrylic paint on steel, metal furniture, and aluminum. But you must prime the surface to improve adherence.

Also, seal the painted surface afterward to ensure the paint lasts longer on indoor and outdoor metal.