How to Paint on Old Metal Screens

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Things You'll Need

  • Masking tape

  • Ammonia and water solution

  • Cleaning cloth

  • Wire brush

  • Diesel or mineral spirits

  • Paint remover

  • Safety glasses

  • Heavy work gloves

  • Grinder

  • Sandpaper

  • Brush

  • Metal primer

  • Metal paint

Image Credit: Hemera Technologies/ Images

Whether you are trying to spruce up a screened-in porch or just trying to give an old screen door different look, painting an old metal screen can give these things a new life. Painting the old screens can be a rewarding project that is generally not difficult to execute. It is fun and, with the right materials, does not take long to complete.

Step 1

Tape off all areas that don't need to be cleaned using masking tape. This will prevent any chemicals from getting onto areas where they are not desired.

Step 2

Clean the metal screen using an ammonia and water solution. Use the cloth to apply the solution over all the areas on the metal screen that need to be cleaned. Remove rust form the metal screen using a wire brush. If you are working on an aluminum screen, you can use diesel or mineral spirits to clean the screen. After cleaning with diesel, rinse immediately with water.

Step 3

Remove paint from the metal screen if it's already painted. You can use any paint remover. Follow the instructions given on the paint remover can.

Step 4

Use a grinder if the metal screen has holes or sharp burrs. Wear safety glasses and heavy work gloves. Use the grinder to smooth the surface of the metal screen. Work only on the area that needs grinding. Do not grind on the same spot for a long time, because this can spoil the metal surface. Once grinding is done, use 60-grit sandpaper to sand over the are you grinded. This ensures a smoother surface. Then sand over the surface using 120-grit sandpaper. Doing this will also remove any traces of metal paint and chrome. If there are holes and indentations after the sanding, use liquid metal or spot glazing compound to fill them. Once the holes have been filled, repeat the sanding procedure. Do the sanding procedure after the fillers have dried.

Step 5

Use masking tape to tape over all areas of the metal screen that do not need to be painted.

Step 6

Brush primer over the smooth metal screen. Apply two to three times, letting the primer dry between each coating. The primer should precede the paint, as this prolongs the life of the screen and makes the paint stick to the screen. The primer that is used should be meant for metal surfaces.

Step 7

Paint in one direction over the metal screen. Do not paint back and forth. Use paint meant for metal surfaces. If you are using paint from a can, use brushes to paint. You can use spray paint as well. If you are spray painting, paint many thin coats, and allow the paint to dry in between each one.


Use a hairdryer to speed up the drying of primer or paint between coatings.


Diesel is highly flammable and the fumes can be dangerous. Handle it with care and use a respirator or, ideally, work outdoors.

references & resources

Thomas Anderson

Thomas Anderson is a musician and writer in the Marquette, MI area. He holds a bachelor's degree in music education and has written for various local publications and websites as a music journalist for over six years.