Spray paints for metal have unique requirements, compared with general-purpose spray paint. In this article, we explain how to choose the best spray paint for metal, to ensure good adhesion and longevity.
A new coat of paint can make even the oldest piece of furniture or home fixture look like it was just recently bought or installed. You can pick up some great preloved pieces of furniture and decor from second-hand stores, and a great way to practice sustainability, craftiness and thriftiness, is by giving them a new coat of paint. An example is our preloved metal bed frame DIY painting project, which was revamped simply with metal spray paint. Why buy new, when you can refurb?
While most spray paint is general purpose, suitable for surfaces that accept paint easily such as wood, the requirements for metal are quite different. Metal has properties that may make adhesion and longevity difficult – the metal may be smooth as chrome allowing paint to practically slide off, or it may be rusted and need some more serious preparation. If not prepared and protected properly, metal surfaces may continue to rust beneath the new coat of paint. Not to mention, metal has a tendency to get very hot if it is used near a fire, heating element or left in the sun over summer so the paint needs to be tolerant of heat.
Luckily, there are quite a few spray paint options for metal surfaces to choose from – you just need to know how to pick one. In this article, we will discuss some of the best spray paints that can be used for metal that are currently on the market, and discuss factors for you to consider when you are shopping for metal spray paints.
What Is Metal Spray Paint?
It’s important to note that there is no type of spray paint that is meant to be used solely for metal objects, but there are certain qualities that make a particular product better suited to metal surfaces. We will discuss this in greater detail in the next section, but the main thing to know is that if you want good spray paint to use on metal objects, then you will want it to be durable and capable of withstanding whatever elements that the metal will be exposed to.
Some spray paints suitable for metal may be clearly labelled as being ‘for metal’, but not all of them are, although they will usually mention they are suitable for metal surfaces somewhere on the can. Don’t be put off if you see a spray can that doesn’t make it immediately obvious that it is suitable for metal – read the spray paint can and consider the points in the following section to determine whether it is suitable.
We’ll expand on this in a bit, but for now, let’s turn our attention to the products we have reviewed. While comparing these different cans of paint to one another, I will explain key features and qualities, and you will start to get an idea of what to look out for.
Best Spray Paints For Metal – Brands & Specs
Krylon ‘COVERmaxx’ Spray Paint
BEST CHOICE FOR RUST PROTECTION
It’s not enough to simply apply a new coat of paint to a metal object and call it a day because you could end up needing to repeat that process over and over again if you use a substandard product. You want the paint you’re using to be able to last for a long time, and since you’re using it for metal, rust protection is ideal. Rust-protected spray paint is particularly desirable if the item you’ll be painting is something like a light fixture on your front door or some pieces of garden furniture. Those items are always exposed to the elements and need the kind of coverage this spray paint provides.
That’s the standout feature of Krylon’s COVERmaxx Spray Paint. With that added rust protection, you can easily notice the difference in durability featured by this spray paint and others available on the market. Obviously, it works just as well for metal objects that will continue to be used indoors as the added durability this spray paint delivers will enable those items to last for even longer.
Unlike some industrial-branded spray paints which come in shades of grey, black, silver and more grey, with Krylon COVERmaxx you’re given a wide variety of color options to choose from if you decide to use this spray paint. That’s an important requirement if you care about your decor and have a carefully designed color scheme, because it makes it possible for you to follow a consistent look for the pieces you’re painting. If you want a high gloss finish, however, skip this one as you wont be able to achieve it with this spray can.
- Easy to get started since primer is already combined with spray paint
- Rust protection included in paint
- Paint should dry in about 10 minutes or so
- Spray tip is easy to operate
- The finish is not as shiny as what you’d expect from metallic spray paint
*Note regarding Krylon COVERMAXX products: Unfortunately, it is very difficult to keep up with Krylon’s range, as they seem to rename and rebrand their products quite often. In my most recent search, I could not find Covermaxx on Krylon’s website so it may be phased out, however, at the time of this update (May 2023) it was still available from some stores including Walmart and Amazon (perhaps it is old stock they are selling off?). We’ll look into this in the next revision of this article.
Design Master ‘Premium Metals’ Metallic Paint
BEST CHOICE FOR COLOR RANGE & FINISH
The rose gold color has been around for a while, being a popular option for jewelry such as earrings and bracelets, but one can argue that it really became popular after Apple decided to offer it as an option for their iPhones. It shouldn’t really come as a surprise that there are now rose gold paints, and Design Master’s Premium Metallic Spray Paint is one of them. As well as rose gold, you will find this paint in a number of other intriguing shades of gold and silver including so-called Champagne Gold and 24 Carat Gold. This is certainly the most fancy metal spray paint you will find.
This spray paint looks wonderful, especially on metal accessories and accent pieces where you want to add a touch of luxury. I’m not much into shiny stuff, and even I’m feeling turned on by this spray paint. Once you’ve allowed the Design Master paint to dry, you will see that gold or silver color pop. The folks at Design Master did a great job of capturing the exact shades of colored gold and silver, and they also did well to make the finish extra shiny to emphasize the color itself.
You also won’t need to wait that long for this spray paint to completely dry. After applying, you only have to stay on standby for about 20 to 30 minutes. The paint should be properly applied after that and you’ll be able to evaluate the results of your efforts, and recoat if needed. The paint is pretty strong and even though this can only contains 11 ounces of spray paint, you should be able to make that last a long time because you won’t have to apply as many layers. However, you will want to stick with indoor items for this spray paint, as it is not durable enough to withstand the outdoors.
- Incredible gold and silver color range
- Finish is high quality and gives a new sparkle to the painted item
- Drying time required is more than acceptable
- Will need something else if you are painting an item to be used outdoors
Rust-Oleum ‘American Accents’ 2X Ultra Cover
BEST CHOICE FOR SHINE
Rust-Oleum’s American Accents Ultra Cover 2X Spray Paint shares plenty of similarities with the Krylon COVERmaxx discussed earlier. Both products come in a wide variety of color options and they are also capable of handling the elements just fine because of their rust-resistant qualities.
The drying time for Rust-Oleum’s spray paint is slightly longer, but the difference is not significant enough to give Krylon’s product a definite edge. Instead, the tie-breaker can be seen in the quality of the paints themselves. I would argue that Rust-Oleum’s spray paint produces a greater finish. The shine is more pronounced, helping old items appear like new after it has been painted with a few coats. Yes, a few coats.
What you may notice is that this paint isn’t as thick as Krylon’s. Typically, you will need to apply multiple layers of paint to get an item completely covered, but the usual amount won’t be enough if you’re using this particular can of spray paint. It will take a bit longer to complete the entire painting process simply because you have to apply so many layers. That’s also the reason why a can of Rust-Oleum’s American Accents Ultra Cover 2X Spray Paint may not last as long as Krylon’s COVERmaxx.
- This paint features an exceptional shine when allowed to dry properly
- Comfort tip allows for longer and easier usage
- Paint is thin and must be applied in numerous layers to achieve desired effect
Krylon ‘Metallic’ Spray Paint
BEST CHOICE FOR BRIGHT COLOR
If you want a spray paint that works well with metals and provides nice, bright layers of paint, then this Krylon Metallic Spray Paint will suit you. It’s easy enough to use as well and the paint should dry up in a hurry as one would expect from Krylon’s lineup of spray paints. If color is what you want, then you’ll want to have a look at their range, which features a lovely selection of different metallic colors including Brass, Gold Leaf, Silver and Copper. Compared with the Design Masters color range discussed earlier, Krylon offers a wider range of metallic colors, but not the same attention to specific shades of gold and luxurious feel that DM is going for.
The quality of the paint itself is good, but you may find it lacking for a familiar reason – that is, dull finish. Yet again, the finishing shine is not what you would ideally want to see from a metallic spray paint, and this time around, that issue is compounded by the fact that this paint is not as durable as other offerings. If you aren’t seeking a high shine finish, and instead prefer a more matte look to your metallic paint, then this shouldn’t be a problem however.
Finish aside, the greater concern is the durability of this spray paint. It’s not worth the trouble of using this paint for outdoors item because the new layers you will spray on are just going to come off in a matter of months. This is a type of spray paint that is highly compatible with metal items, but in terms of durability and shine, there are better options available. But if you’re looking for a simple, value for money spray paint to use on low-use, indoor decorative items, then this one should do the trick.
- Colors are bright and they are easily applied using this can of spray paint
- Paint will dry in 10 minutes, and it may take less time than that on certain occasions
- Stick to using this paint indoors or you’ll see its substandard durability
Rust-Oleum ‘Hammered’ Metal Spray Paint
BEST CHOICE FOR OUTDOOR ITEMS
Durability is what you’re getting from Rust-Oleum’s Hammered Metal Finish Spray. You can use this spray paint to retouch pieces of furniture and fixtures that are going to be placed inside your home, but if you really want to get the most out of it, then save it for items that you will place outdoors. In addition to this paint providing items with essential protection against extreme heat of the sun and rain. As well as protection against the elements, it also does a great job of remaining resistant against chipping. The durability is truly remarkable.
Another nice thing about using this spray paint is that it possesses the ability to effectively hide the blemishes and bumps of the items you are painting. That’s a feature you’ll likely appreciate a lot because if you’re retouching the paint on something, that likely means it has also accrued damage of some kind.
This spray paint will work to make your possessions look like new in more ways than one. So, what’s the catch? Well, in this case, it’s long drying time. The items reviewed previously take about only a few minutes or half an hour at most to dry, but if you’re using this item, drying time will jump up to 2-4 hours. If you end up needing to apply multiple layers, you can imagine how annoying it is to wait that long for the paint to dry.
- Highly durable paint that is resistant to the elements, bumps, and scrapes
- Hammered finish does well to hide the flaws of items being painted
- You will essentially have to set aside an afternoon if you’re painting using this
Krylon ‘ColorMaster’ Paint & Primer, Metallic Finish Spray Paint
BEST GENERAL PURPOSE SPRAY PAINT
We’ll finish up the reviews with one more Krylon product – the ColorMaster Paint & Primer Metallic Finish Spray Paint. If you’re thinking that this is going to be exactly like the other Krylon items on this list, then you would be mistaken. Also, being labelled as a ‘General Purpose’ spray paint may lead you to believe that it’s one of those items that work well for a great variety of uses, but is not remarkable enough to stand out for any specific project, but that’s not true either.
Compared with the other Krylon spray paints, the ColorMaster features a better finish. The difference is evident right away. The enamel plays a huge role in making a shinier finish possible for this Metallic finish spray paint. Aside from the Metallic finish, in this range you also have a large range of other finish options to choose from, including Flat, Gloss, Semi-Gloss, Satin, Matte and more. This could come in handy, for example, if you want to spray paint other decorative items in your home to the same color as part of a design, but don’t necessarily need the Metallic finish for each piece.
Primer is included in the paint mix, shortening up the time you need to spend preparing for painting. With ColorMaster you still retain many of the good qualities of other Krylon spray paints. Like their other options, quick-drying capability is also present in this spray paint, and there’s also an easy-to-use tip that will make it possible for you to continually paint without putting an undue amount of strain on your fingers.
Krylon giveth and Krylon taketh away, however, because the durability of this spray paint is lagging behind the company’s other products. The paint should still be able to last for a while if you just use it for indoor items, but that itself is an indicator of its less than ideal ability to withstand the elements and other causes of damage. As long as you use it indoors only, on low-use items, this paint should fulfil your needs just fine.
- Offers a better finish than other Krylon spray paints
- Drying time remains short
- Easy-to-use spray tip allows for longer usage
- Durability of the paint is not on par with other Krylon products
Things You Should Look for When Choosing The Best Metal Paint
Now that we’ve covered some of the most popular metal spray paints available, you should have some idea of the properties we are looking for, mainly color, finish, durability and its suitability for indoor/outdoor use. As mentioned earlier, there are no spray paints that are made specifically just to be used on metal items, but there are certain qualities that make a particular can of spray paint better suited for that application. I’ll go over these qualities in more depth with you now.
One quality that you need to look for in spray paint that will be used for metal objects used outdoors or near a fire stove is an ability to handle high temperatures.
Metal is obviously a good conductor of heat, and the paint you’re applying has to be able to handle that. This is especially important for outdoor items that will be out in the sun. If the paint you’re planning to use does not feature that quality, then don’t expect it to stay on for a long time. Check the spray can for mentions of outdoor use, as paints designed for the outdoors are generally more durable in all regards, including exposure to sun.
CAUTION: We do not recommend that you use any metal spray paint on any utensils or cookware that is in direct contact with food. This includes serving-ware, pots, pans, bowls, plates, cutlery, glasses, teapots etc. Paints contain toxic chemicals, which should definitely not be digested. Don’t risk it.
Type of Paint
Next up, you will want to pay attention to the type of paint you are getting.
If at all possible, try to get your hands on some enamel paint. Enamel paint is great for metal items, according to Networx, and that is due in part to it producing a hard finish once it dries up. For metal objects, that strong and solid finish is what you need to maintain the ideal look. Enamel paints won’t always be available though, and if you find them to be inaccessible, then you can consider some alternatives that produce a specialty finish such as hammered.
You can learn more about the unique properties of enamel paint in our article on Enamel vs Latex.
Some spray paints feature a metallic finish and those will definitely be helpful to you on achieving that look. You should know that not all metallic finishes are created equal however, so check to see which ones feature a better luster. If you like a polished, smooth metallic look, then specifically look for options that produce a good shine, as many metal spray paints produce a dull finish. In saying that, a dull or matte metallic finish is not necessarily unpleasant, it’s about personal taste.
Likewise, a matte metallic finish may look more elegant than a shiny finish (which can look a bit kitsch, depending on the context), so if you prefer a more understated metallic look, avoid those that boast about high shine. A hammered finish also works great for metal, especially if the item you’re thinking about painting is already older and has its share of bumps and scratches.
Paint thickness is another important factor to consider before you go out and buy a can of spray paint. The majority of spray paints offer acceptable thickness, and it should take no more than a few layers to properly coat an item. Just watch out for spray paints that are noticeably thin as they’re not as good of a purchase when considering value for money and time.
Primer and Rust Protection
Typically, when you’re planning to paint something metal, you first have to get it properly prepared by cleaning it, wiping away any dirt and debris, and then applying some primer. If your piece is old, it may even have some spots of rust or corrosion, and need appropriate treatment and clean up to remove the rust and stop it getting even rustier, particularly for outdoor items.
You should know that some cans of spray paint already come with the primer mixed into the paint and they are more convenient to use. Some even contain additives to protect against rust. If you’re dealing with rusted items, definitely have a look into a spray paint that contains primer and rust preventative, as these will save you the work of applying these separately before you start painting.
It’s not an essential feature, but also try to seek out cans of spray paint that feature what This Old House refers to as pistol grips. These pistol grips place less strain on your hands and they are easier to hold for longer painting sessions. Alternatively, some cans of spray paint have tips that are easier to press down. You should also be able to use them for longer periods of time because they require less effort to operate.
Last up, find some spray paint that doesn’t take too long to dry. Painting can be a fun activity, but you don’t want it to take all day. Thankfully, some spray paints can dry within minutes and they will allow you to get your painting projects done in a short amount of time.
By now, you should have a clear picture of exactly what properties to look for when buying the best spray paint for metal surfaces, either online or from your local hardware store. There is no one definitively ‘best’ paint, as everyone’s needs will vary, plus it is just the reality that no product can do everything perfectly.
The best way to choose the best spray paint for your metal surfaces is to identify exactly what you want to achieve from the end result. Are you painting jewelry and want a really luxurious and authentic look, if so, then go for the Design Masters range. Or, do you want an antique look from your metal object, if so, then the Rust-Oleum Hammered range may be a better choice for you. We’ve researched and shortlisted a few options above, and specified what they are best at, to help you identify which paint is best suited to your project.
And on that note, if you’re looking for a fun refurb project this weekend, try out our DIY metal bed frame revamp, using little more than some of the metal spray paint listed here, time and work. For more on using and choosing spray paint for other projects, be sure to check out our article on choosing the best spray paint for your project where we discuss general spray paint properties and tips whether it be for wood, plastic or other surfaces.
This article was first published in 2021, updated in 2022, and updated in May 2023.