How to Paint a Vintage Metal Cabinet

Restore your vintage metal cabinet rather than buying a new one.
Restore your vintage metal cabinet rather than buying a new one. (Image: red office #2 image by Val Thoermer from

Both renters and homeowners need storage space. Whether you're organizing your garage or going for a mid-century modern look in your office or dining room, vintage metal cabinets can be purchased for little money and modified to fit your apartment or house's decor. With just a few basic supplies, you can transform an old or vintage metal cabinet into an eye-catching and functional piece of furniture.

Things You'll Need

  • Rag
  • Water
  • Soap
  • Sandpaper
  • Painter's tape
  • Plastic bags
  • Primer
  • Spray Paint

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Empty and clean the cabinet. Sand any rust spots and loose paint and scrub off any stubborn dirt. Rinse the cabinet to remove remaining debris. Dry thoroughly.

Remove or cover any handles or surfaces you don't want to paint with painter's tape and plastic.

Prime the cabinet with a primer designed for metal. Many people consider priming an unnecessary step, but priming will help the paint go on smoothly and require fewer coats (thus saving money), especially if you are making a dramatic color change. Let the primer dry completely before proceeding.

Paint the cabinet with spray paint designed for metal. Spray the paint in a thin, even layer, keeping the spray can moving constantly as you paint. Keep the can about 12 inches away from the surface of the metal cabinet. Spraying too close will cause drips and bubbles. Let the paint dry completely.

Add paint layers as necessary to cover the cabinet. Let paint dry completely between each coat.

Remove tape and replace hardware.

Tips & Warnings

  • Cover nearby furniture or floor with a drop cloth to reduce the chance of overspray.
  • Always spray paint in a well-ventilated area.


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