Can I Paint With Enamel on Metal?

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Anyone who has ever tried to paint metal as part of a home design or creative project knows the challenges of getting a good result. Most paints are made for fibrous and porous materials, and metal often needs a little extra consideration when it comes to painting. Enamel paint is one viable option for painting metal of all kinds.

Benefits of Enamel

Enamel paint adheres strongly to smooth, hard surfaces, whereas other paint formulas work best on a porous surface. This means that if you've tried other types of paint and had trouble with the paint beading while wet or peeling once dry, an enamel paint is likely a good solution. Enamel paints have a glossy finish and brittle texture, similar to nail polish. For this reason, they often are used for small detail work on metal items or for painting a label on a metal possession.

Drawbacks

There are disadvantages to working with enamel paint. It has a strong odor and must be used in well-ventilated areas. In addition, it's difficult to find matte enamel paint if you don't want glossy. Because it's not water-based, enamel paint needs to be thinned with a special solvent, which you also need to use to clean your brushes and materials when you are finished painting. Enamel paints also dry quickly and are sold in small pots, making them better for small designs than for large ones.

Visual Effect

Enamel paint on metal has a jewel-like quality, because it is generally translucent to some degree (although different for different colors) and the metal shines through. This makes it a good choice for jewelry or larger decorative projects with a stained glass-like effect; this is amplified the more shiny the metal is. You can also layer enamel paints, although it's better to put a more opaque color on top of a dried, clear color than the other way around.

Alternatives

If you decide that enamel paint isn't what you want, there are other methods for painting metal. Most spray paints adhere securely to nonporous surfaces, including metal, although it's difficult to use spray paint to create detailed lines and patterns. Alternatively, use a primer coat between the metal and an acrylic paint; this substance is designed to adhere to a nonporous surface underneath yet still provide a surface that a porous-surface paint can stick to. Another way to help acrylic paints stick to metal is by sanding the surface, making it more rough and porous.

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