How to Paint on Tin

Before you attempt to paint a tin surface, consider an important point about adhesion. Surfaces, such as drywall and wood, are porous. This characteristic leaves them well-suited for painted finishes. Unfortunately, tin is not porous. This trait makes it a poor candidate for paint. Combat this problem by pre-treating the metal with a special primer, formulated with the ability to etch tin. Use a specific paint based on the location and function of the tin. Utilize the correct paintbrush, or the finish will dry with flaws.

Things You'll Need

  • Water-based degreasing cleanser

  • Coarse sponge

  • Rags

  • Professional painter's tape

  • Drop cloths

  • Galvanized metal etching primer

  • 2- to 4-inch polyester paintbrush

  • Acrylic latex paint

  • Acrylic enamel

Step 1

Wash the tin surface with a degreasing cleanser, using a sponge. Rinse the tin with wet rags. Allow the surface to dry for 2 to 3 hours.

Step 2

Cover areas that are to remain unpainted next to the tin with professional painter's tape and heavy-duty drop cloths.

Step 3

Coat the tin with a metal etching primer, using a polyester paintbrush. Brush vertically, applying soft pressure. Allow the tin to dry for 3 hours.

Step 4

Use tap water to wash the etching primer form the polyester brush.

Step 5

Paint the tin just as you primed it. Use an acrylic latex paint on exterior tin surfaces. Use an acrylic enamel on tin subject to duress.


Never paint unprimed tin, or it will reject the new finish.

Never use latex primer on a tin surface, or flaking will result.

Do not attempt to finish unwashed tin, or you will have adhesion problems.

Do not paint tin, using a nylon brush, or the finish will dry with flaws.