How to Paint Metal With a Brush

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Things You'll Need

  • Rags

  • Mineral spirits

  • Oil-based paint

  • Pail or 5-gallon bucket

  • Wooden stir stick

  • 3- to 4-inch paintbrush


Unless your paint is specifically intended for metal, you may have to apply a coat of primer before you paint or you could end up with chipping and peeling. In this case, you should apply the primer just as you would the paint. Then proceed in painting the metal.


Never mix mineral spirits with latex paint. This will ruin it.

Paint metal without streaks or flaws.
Image Credit: Martin Poole/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Anyone who has ever tried to paint metal with a brush will tell you that it is difficult to apply a smooth-looking coat of paint free of unattractive brush marks. Because metal is so smooth, it can be unforgiving to do-it-yourselfers with shaky hands. Even some professionals have trouble painting metal with a brush and opt instead to use spray rigs. However, if you plan to paint metal with a brush, there are a few techniques you can employ that will give you a much better chance at a sharp, flawless-looking finish coat.

Step 1

Clean the metal thoroughly with a rag dampened with mineral spirits. Allow five to 10 minutes for the mineral spirits to evaporate.

Step 2

Pour oil-based paint into a 5-gallon bucket or a painter's pail. Fill the pail only halfway.

Step 3

Add 1 oz. mineral spirits to the paint to dilute it and promote a smoother-looking application. Mix the mineral spirits and the oil-based paint with a wooden stir stick. Add more mineral spirits if the paint still appears too thick. Add more paint if you dilute the mixture too much.

Step 4

Dip only the tip of a paintbrush into the paint. Use the paintbrush to apply the paint to the metal surface. Use only slight pressure.

Step 5

Paint from left to right. Apply only a light coat. Do not try to completely cover the metal on the first coat.

Step 6

Allow about one hour for the metal to dry. Apply a second light coat just as you did before. Allow another hour for the metal to dry. Continue applying light coats until the metal is completely covered.

Ryan Lawrence

Ryan Lawrence is a freelance writer based in Boulder, Colorado. He has been writing professionally since 1999. He has 10 years of experience as a professional painting contractor. Lawrence writes for High Class Blogs and Yodle. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism and public relations with a minor in history from the University of Oklahoma.