Stainless steel is tough and durable, but its harsh aesthetics can look a little too sterile. Fortunately, you can quickly change its appearance with your favorite paint hue. The only problem is that stainless steel is tricky because of its smooth, corrosion-resistant texture.
Hence, it all comes down to ‘how do you get spray paint to stick to stainless steel?’
The best way to get professional results on stainless steel with paint is to prepare the surface correctly. Start by cleaning the area with a good detergent and degreaser, followed by adequate sanding. The next step is to apply a primer to ensure the paint holds onto the stainless steel without sliding or chipping. Finally, paint the desired color in multiple layers until your preferred coverage is achieved.
Stainless steel is a ferrous alloy with a passive layer of chromium on top. This is why the metal resists rusting so well, but that’s also why the surface resists paint. But don’t worry; I have quite a few tricks to help you get the perfect finish on stainless steel.
Can You Paint Stainless Steel?
The short answer is yes, but you need to ask yourself if you need to paint it in the first place.
Stainless steel is available in appealing finishes and is effortless to clean and sanitize. In addition, this hard-wearing and versatile material is resistant to rust, making it ideal for household appliances and various commercial and industrial sectors.
Since the material is already rust-resistant, you don’t need paint for an added layer of protection against environmental stressors. But if you’re bored of the appearance of stainless steel, you can always spruce it up with some spray paint.
Stainless steel has a layer of chromium that regenerates itself, and due to this top layer, DIY enthusiasts often wonder, ‘Will paint hold on stainless steel?’ If you prepare your surface thoroughly and apply a suitable primer before painting it, it will.
What Type Of Paint Is Best For Stainless Steel?
Selecting paint for a DIY project can be challenging with so many available variants. If you’re confused about the best paint for stainless steel, this section will answer all your questions and help you pick the right paint for the job.
Here are the types of paints that are generally used on steel.
Oil-based paints are mostly the first choice for achieving a lasting finish on stainless steel. You might not find an oil-based paint designed specifically for stainless steel, but you can use any paint that works on ferrous and non-ferrous metals.
Hint: Stainless steel is a ferrous metal.
Oil-based paints are favored for stainless steel because they’re tough and do not chip easily. Moreover, they are easy to clean, making the variant ideal for application in high-traffic areas around the house.
Oil-based paints are available in glossy and matte finishes, so you can pick one according to your preference. Another highlight is that you can find various paint formulations that can be brushed, rolled, or spray painted, allowing you plenty of application freedom.
You can also use oil-based paints to paint automobile parts. Check out my blog on how to paint car rims for a detailed guide.
However, oil-based paints are not without a downside.
Some oil-based paints have a strong smell due to the solvents it contains, which can also be flammable. In addition, they take a long time to dry compared to water-based paints, but quick-drying formulations are also available, so you should keep an eye out for them.
Also check out, how to make spray paint dry faster.
Oil-Based Paint Recommendations For Stainless Steel
This is an excellent oil-based formula if you’re searching for vibrant and unique colors for your project. It is available in 8 different finishes, ranging from high gloss to satin and matte, so you’ve plenty of choices.
The paint’s formula is 2-in-1, so you don’t have to apply a primer separately. Another highlight of Rust-Oleum paint is it’s low odor, chip resistant, and offers lasting protection.
Here’s another option that includes primer in its formula. The Krylon Fusion paint is available in exciting color options like oil-rubbed bronze, aluminum, black stainless, copper, and rose gold for your stainless steel project.
However, if you prefer gold spray paint, we have narrowed down the 7 best gold spray paints for you to try.
You can also find various finishes like hammered, textured, and metallic, apart from the regular flat, satin, matte, and gloss variants. Krylon paint offers maximum rust protection and excellent durability, making it ideal for both indoor and outdoor usage.
If you’re still contemplating, ‘Can you spray over stainless steel?’ The Rust-Oleum metallic spray paint will not disappoint.
It has over 70 color options, including black stainless steel paint in metallic, specialty metallic, and hammered finishes. The Rust-Oleum works on virtually any surface, including stainless steel.
The oil-based formula dries to the touch in 30 minutes and resists fading and chipping, providing lasting results.
Water-based or latex paints are the first choice for DIY enthusiasts because of their quick drying times and a wide variety of colors. They are convenient to work with and have little odor compared to their oil-based counterparts.
A major benefit of working with water-based paints is that you can clean up any glitch or mess effortlessly with water without involving solvents. In addition, once the paint has completely cured, you can clean the surface effortlessly.
Although water-based paints are a budget-friendly option, they are generally not as tough as oil-based paints. So, if you plan to paint a surface that must withstand considerable use, water-based paints are a hard pass.
Expert Advice: You must use a primer with water-based paints, or your paint coat will not stick to the stainless steel surface.
Water-Based Paint Recommendations For Stainless Steel
The Krylon metallic finish paint is a water-based variant that works exceedingly well on metal surfaces, including stainless steel. It can be purchased in various metallic colors such as silver, black stainless steel, brass, and gold leaf.
The paint has a quick drying time and delivers a bright and durable finish. However, it is recommended for indoor use only, so if you need to paint an outdoor surface, this option isn’t for you.
The Rust-Oleum Metallic Finish paint is great for painting stainless steel accent pieces. It is available in six attractive metallic colors, including rose gold, copper, and dark bronze.
The acrylic paint delivers a high-shine finish on metallic surfaces that dries to the touch within 60 minutes. It is rust and chip-resistant, and its color-retention technology keeps your painted projects looking good over time.
The Rust-Oleum water-based paint is ideal for indoor use; therefore, you should opt for an oil-based paint instead for outdoor projects.
Epoxy coatings offer the most long-lasting results, and that’s why epoxy paint is used in several industries, including automotive. Since the paint is also available in spray paint formulations, it is an excellent option for home projects.
Epoxy coatings can easily withstand extreme temperatures and resist chipping and cracking on impact. They are also resistant to chemicals like solvents, making them the best spray paint for stainless steel.
Expert Advice: Epoxy paint contains a hardener, and the quantity you add to the resin paint decides how quickly your paint will dry. Therefore, be careful with how much hardener you mix with the paint since you don’t want the paint hardening before your project is complete.
Epoxy Paint Recommendations For Stainless Steel
This epoxy paint for stainless steel is ideal for metal surfaces like stainless steel. It delivers an ultra-hard coating that’s tough and hard-wearing. The formula is abrasion and scratch-resistant and fights rust to keep your appliances looking as good as new.
The Rust-Oleum epoxy paint is designed to match up to common manufacturing colors such as white, biscuit, almond, stainless steel, and black, so you don’t need to worry about your appliances standing out from the rest.
However, this formula is best for indoor applications, but if you want epoxy paint for an outdoor project, check out my next recommendation.
The Krylon paint delivers all the benefits of a durable epoxy coating with the bonus that it can be used on exterior surfaces. However, the color options are somewhat limited compared to other paints.
The Krylon paint is designed to withstand stains and scratches and is effortless to apply, making it ideal for quick touch-ups and repairing the finish of your household appliances.
Can You Paint Stainless Steel Without Primer?
The surface of stainless steel is smooth and shiny, making it less than ideal for paint application. Therefore, applying a primer before the color coat is necessary if you want the results to last.
A primer helps create a base for the top coat to stick to and increases the durability of your color. However, buy a primer that’s compatible with the color coat, or you may end up with a botched-up project. For example, if you use Rust-Oleum oil-based paint, pair it with an oil-based primer suitable for metal surfaces from the same company.
As a rule of thumb, select white or a light shade of primer if you want to paint the surface light. However, you can opt for darker primer colors, like gray and black, if your color coat is also dark.
I recommend the Rust-Oleum Painter’s Touch 2X Primer because it has a low-odor and chip-resistant formula that works well on various surfaces, including stainless steel. Since the spray primer for stainless steel is designed for interior and exterior surfaces, you can use it for different painting projects.
Expert Advice: Use a 2-in-1 paint formula to avoid the added cost of primer and save some time on your project.
How To Spray Paint Stainless Steel in 4 Quick Steps
Now that you know the best paints and primer for painting stainless steel, let’s move on to the actual process.
- Safety And Preparation
Start by selecting a well-ventilated space for your project, especially if you plan to use oil-based paints. Wear your safety goggles, respirator, and gloves to ensure you stay safe from harmful paint fumes.
Cover any areas you don’t paint to land accidentally. You can use a cloth, a disposable plastic sheet, or a newspaper to secure the surrounding areas.
If you can disassemble the item you plan to paint, it would help achieve a smooth and even finish and allow the paint to get into all nooks and corners.
Pro Tip: Painter’s tape is your best friend when preparing a surface for paint. Using it excessively is okay as long as you can save time and effort on post-paint clean-up.
- Clean And Sand The Surface
Wash the surface with detergent to remove all dirt and grime. Next, sand the stainless steel with 320-grit sandpaper to prepare your surface for the primer. Try not to miss any areas, and apply even pressure while sanding.
Once you’ve thoroughly sanded the area, apply a degreaser to eliminate any oils, grease, or residues from the surface. Remember that a degreaser also leaves some residue, so as a final step, you should wipe the surface with acetone to ensure the primer sticks completely.
If the stainless steel has been colored before, you will need spray paint strippers for metals to do the heavy lifting.
Pro Tip: You can use steel wool to roughen up the surface of stainless steel, especially if it has a mirror finish.
- Apply Primer
Apply the primer of your choice to prepare the stainless steel for the color coat. This step will help ensure the paint bonds with the surface and provides a lasting finish. Spray one coat of primer and allow it to dry before going in with the paint coat.
Remember to use a primer compatible with your paint, and if you want to skip this step altogether, opt for a 2-in-1 paint formulation that already contains a primer.
- Begin Spray Painting
Now you’re in the final stretch. If you’re a complete newbie, you should read up on spray painting techniques for beginners to understand the basics.
Shake the can well for a minute to ensure the paint’s formula is even on the inside. Hold the can roughly 12 inches from the stainless steel and start spraying in a constant moving motion.
Apply a thin layer and let it dry for 20 minutes or the recommended time mentioned on the spray paint can. Once the first coat is dry, apply a second and then a third until the desired coverage is achieved.
Allow the paint to cure completely prior to using the painted surface but remember to remove any tape you may have applied before the paint hardens completely.
If you’re wondering what to do with the empty can of spray paint after your project is ready, check out how you can recycle spray paint cans safely.
Does spray paint come off stainless steel?
If you don’t sand stainless steel and apply a metal primer before painting it, the spray paint will come off.
Is it better to spray or paint metal?
Compared to painting metal, spray paints offer quick and lasting results without visible brush strokes or uneven texture.
Does metal spray paint need a primer?
Yes, primer helps the spray paint to stick to metals and ensure lasting results. However, oil-based paints are durable on their own, so you can skip primer if you’re using them.
Spray painting stainless steel may seem arduous, but it isn’t as hard as you think if you have the right equipment and technique. So, the next time you try to paint your kitchen sink or appliances, follow the instructions outlined above for professional results!