Best Paints for Metal: Put a Fresh Coat of paint On Your Car Parts

These paints are the best paint for metal, and they’ll make it easy to spruce up metal items.

byHeather Fishel| UPDATED Feb 16, 2022 1:57 PM
Best Paints for Metal: Put a Fresh Coat of paint On Your Car Parts
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If you’re looking to brush up metal items and surfaces with a fresh coat of paint, there’s a bit of a tricky task ahead of you. Whether you’re sprucing up a metal mailbox, applying paint to metal patio furniture, or touching up metal appliances and tools, painting metal isn’t exactly easy. Metal is a finicky material, with a smooth surface that’s difficult to paint properly. And you can’t use just any paint to take metal from rusted or unattractive to freshly painted.

You need special paint—paint that’s made for metal surfaces, with a specialized formula that can bond to metal and stay on for a reasonable amount of time. So, if you’re ready to breathe new life into metal, you’ll need to pick out a quality paint for metal. Discover the best paint for metal with our top product picks below.

Our Methodology

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Our reviews are driven by a combination of hands-on testing, expert input, “wisdom of the crowd” assessments from actual buyers, and our own expertise. We always aim to offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.

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As we considered different paints for metal, we took a close look at each product’s purpose, uses, and available colors and finishes. We sought out paints that were easy to apply and durable, adhering strongly to metal surfaces for the best longevity and finished result. To identify the best contenders, we looked at the formulas of each paint, their application methods, and users’ experiences putting the paints onto different types of metal. We specifically focused on those paints that were made for automotive use, too, to ensure you can safely and effectively use them on your vehicle and its related parts. 

Best Paint for Metal Reviews & Recommendations

Best Paint for Metal Overall
POR-15 Rust Preventive Coating

When your prime motive is to prevent rust from damaging the metal parts of your vehicle, then the POR-15 Rust Preventive Coating is a good paint to have in your corner. Coming in a one-quart can, this paint goes on easily with a paintbrush and dries into a rock-hard, permanent coat with only two or three thin coats. It can also be sprayed on and it won’t peel, crack, or shrink under standard conditions. 


With proper handling, it cures into a neat, non-porous coating without leaving a residue. You can use it on your vehicle’s suspension, chassis, doors, engine, trunk areas, and other rusted metal parts. However, this paint is recommended for professional use only. You may not get the best results if this is your first time handling protective paint. 


Specs

  • Paint Base: Oil
  • Application Method: Paintbrush
  • Amount: 1 quart

Pros

  • Stops rust permanently
  • Creates an impenetrable barrier on metal surfaces
  • Extra-tough finish
  • No need for rust removal before application

Cons

  • Paint can harden in the can if you don’t use it up quickly enough
  • Must be handled carefully, as it can stain skin

When you choose Rust-Oleum Universal All Surface Spray Paint, you’re getting so much more than basic paint. This paint offers an incredible bang for your buck, giving you the color and quality you want for metal items paired with protection against rust and corrosion. It’s a two-in-one paint that will protect while it enhances the look of whatever you’re painting. Sold in an array of colors and finishes, this spray paint for metal works on virtually all surfaces, including metal, concrete, fiberglass, and more. 


It features an oil-based formula with great adhesion, and it’ll resist fading and chipping as it provides excellent durability. Once applied, this paint also prevents rust and corrosion from forming. Its fast-drying formula dries to the touch in just 30 minutes. You’ll have no problem applying the paint either, thanks to the patented ergonomic trigger and 360-degree any-angle spray nozzle.


Specs

  • Paint Base: Oil
  • Application Method: Spray
  • Amount: 11 ounces

Pros

  • Paint and primer in one
  • Prevents rust once it’s applied
  • Resistant to chipping and fading
  • Dries to the touch in half an hour

Cons

  • Spray nozzle is prone to clogging
  • When applied in thick layers, paint can run

Krylon Fusion All-In-One Spray Paint offers absolutely everything you need in a paint for metal. It offers an easy spray-on application, works indoors or outdoors, and is quick drying. But most importantly of all, this paint makes it so easy to coat metal items in a fresh layer of sleek, attractive paint. 


This spray paint is designed to eliminate the need to prep and prime; it features best-in-class adhesion, durability, and even protection against rust. It bonds to even the most difficult materials and surfaces without any sanding or priming needed. It’ll work on metal as well as tile, wood, PVC, and more. This paint even offers fade resistance so you can trust that it’ll look great after exposure to the sun’s UV rays. Whether you’re refreshing metal furniture or sprucing up metal items indoors, this spray paint will get the job done in about 20 minutes.


Specs

  • Paint Base: Solvent
  • Application Method: Spray
  • Amount: 12 ounces

Pros

  • Bonds to even the slickest metal surfaces
  • Doesn’t require sanding or priming
  • Dries to the touch in 20 minutes or less
  • Protects against corrosion

Cons

  • Colors can be a bit challenging to match
Best Finishing Paint for Metal
Dupli-Color Paint Shop Finish System

If you need a paint that can be used on the exterior metal parts of both your vehicle and motorcycle, then this Dupli-Color Paint Shop Finish System is worth checking out. It’s a ready-to-use lacquer finish that comes in a 32-ounce can, but can be easily loaded into a spray gun. When sprayed on, it sprays easily and doesn’t run so you can have better control over your detailing project. 


This makes it a great choice for beginners who have had a bad experience with paintbrushes. Best of all, you aren’t bound to a recoat window. You can reapply the paint as often as you deem necessary. It’s also easy to sand or buff for a clean finish. The paint is available in multiple colors, but you should know that the clear coat is a bit thin in comparison to other brands. 


Specs

  • Paint Base: Lacquer
  • Application Method: Paintbrush or sprayer
  • Amount: 32 ounces

Pros

  • Pre-mixed and ready to use right out of the can
  • Doesn’t run when applied, even via sprayer
  • Available in automotive colors and in clear
  • Can be sanded while wet

Cons

  • Clear coat variety can be a bit thin
  • Easier to spray than paint on
Best Protective Paint for Metal
POR-15 Top Coat Spray Paint

Easier to apply than the original POR-15 formulation, a can of POR-15 Top Coat Spray Paint is just as effective and delivers seriously great protection for your metal surfaces, especially when you’re working on your vehicle. This oil-based aerosol spray paint can be applied directly onto metal surfaces, though it does require prep and priming. Once sprayed, it offers top-tier adhesion as well as protection. It’s formulated to shed moisture, preventing corrosion before it happens, and resists UV rays to keep color looking sharp. Plus, you’ll get a long-lasting sheen along with quite a robust protective barrier.


You do need to properly clean your metal surfaces (like your car’s exterior) before applying this paint for metal. And while it dries to the touch in 30 to 60 minutes, it can take up to four days to reach its maximum hardness.


Specs

  • Paint Base: Oil
  • Application Method: Spray
  • Amount: 15 ounces

Pros

  • Designed to be applied directly onto metal
  • Sheds moisture to prevent rust formation
  • Protects against UV light
  • Keeps its sheen and color for years

Cons

  • Takes days to fully cure and harden
  • Does require a thorough prep process

Rust-Oleum Automotive Custom Lacquer Spray Paint is different from other products in two ways: its lacquer-based formula and its speedy nature. This paint for metal goes on quickly, dries fast, and can be handled in almost no time at all. It sprays a coat on in seconds, thanks to its apply-from-any-angle nozzle and comfort spray tip, and you’ll be able to cover 8 to 10 square feet easily. The corrosion-resistant formula is durable to offer lasting protection against the weather, color fading, and more. And it’ll dry to the touch in 20 minutes, then be able to be handled within one hour. As an added bonus, it’s also smudge-resistant once applied and goes on decently thick.


However, do keep in mind that this paint for metal does only offer 11 ounces per can. That may be too little, especially if you’re applying multiple coats over larger areas. It’s enough for small spots and touch-ups, but you may need multiple cans otherwise.


Specs

  • Paint Base: Lacquer
  • Application Method: Spray
  • Amount: 11 ounces

Pros

  • Dries to the touch in 20 minutes
  • Can be applied from any angle
  • Smudge-resistant
  • Delivers complete coverage in seconds

Cons

  • May not offer enough in can for multiple applications or large areas
Best Water-Based Paint for Metal
Rust-Oleum Painters Touch Latex

Metal surfaces typically require oil-based paint, but water-based options can perform well too—like Rust-Oleum Painters Touch Latex. This paint does require a bit more effort, as it’s paint alone; you’ll have to prep, sand, and prime bare metal before you can apply it. But it’s just as tough and adhesive as other quality paints for metal. This water-based formula features little odor and is highly durable. 


It resists chips throughout its lifespan to provide long-lasting color and coverage. The paint can be used indoors or outdoors, and it’s suitable for use on metal as well as other surfaces like unglazed ceramic, masonry, and wood. A single can covers up to 120 square feet, and once you apply the paint it’ll dry to the touch in just 30 minutes. The glossy finish and available color choices can add sleekness and fresh new style into just about anything metal.


Specs

  • Paint Base: Water
  • Application Method: Paintbrush
  • Amount: 1 quart

Pros

  • One can covers 120 square feet of surface
  • Dries to the touch in half an hour
  • Resistant to chips and fading
  • Highly durable

Cons

  • Does require a careful prep process to achieve a perfect finish

Our Verdict on Paint for Metal

When it comes to a quality paint for metal, it’s hard to beat the impressive performance of POR-15 Rust Preventive Coating. Able to stop and prevent rust while creating an impenetrable barrier, it’s a paint that won’t let you down. However, if you’re looking for value, the affordable price and easy-to-use nature of Rust-Oleum Universal All Surface Spray Paint is well worth considering.

What to Consider When Buying Paint for Metal

Whether you’re doing some detail work, touching up areas of bare metal, or need to add a coat of exterior paint, choosing the right paint for metal is crucial. We’re sharing our best advice for picking out a paint that delivers quality, durability, and easy application. 

Types of Paint for Metal

Traditional Paint

You can buy paint for metals that are just like any other can of paint. These traditional paint options are solid both online and at local hardware or home improvement stores, and they come in quart cans so you can tackle items with small or large surface areas. Traditional paint for metals is often able to be used on several different items, from walls indoors and outdoors to furniture to metal surfaces. 

Oil-Based Metal Paint

Oil-based paint is typically seen as the gold standard when it comes to covering metal surfaces and items. That’s because oil-based paints tend to adhere better to metal, offering a more long-lasting coat of color or finish. And unlike water-based alternatives, oil-based paints for metal don’t include any water at all, which can help offer better long-term rust protection and prevention.

Water-Based Metal Paint

Water-based paints tend to be thinner and less durable when it comes to metal surfaces and items, but you shouldn’t rule them out entirely. Some water-based paints can deliver great metal coverage and solid adhesion. Just make sure you’re picking out a paint that’s specifically formulated for metal surfaces; otherwise, it may not stick and wind up peeling away.

Spray Paint

Paint that’s suitable for metal is also available in spray paint form. This paint is just as durable and adhesive as any other type of paint for metal, but it’s packaged in a convenient, easy-to-apply canister so you can spray it right onto metal surfaces and items. It’s a great choice if you’re looking to cover large items, like metal siding, metal tables, or any other expansive metal object.

Touch-Up Paint

If you only need a small amount of paint for metal surfaces that are scratched, dinged, or marked in other ways, then touch-up paint is a perfect choice. Packaged and sold solely in small bottles or even pens, touch-up paint for metal is an ideal option if you need to quickly and easily cover up imperfections. With the right amount—and right color—of touch-up paint, you can even repaint small sections of various metal items.

Paint Pens

If you’re getting more creative with your metal paint and want to either fill in imperfections or make designs and decorations, then paint pens are the best choice. Paint pens that hold paint that’s suitable for use on metal make it incredibly easy to apply paint. Shaped like pens with a marker-like brush or spongy tips, you can “color in” or draw with paint right on any metal surface or item.

Paint for Metal Key Features

Water- and Temperature-Resistance

No matter where you plan to use your paint for metal, you want to make sure you’ve chosen a highly durable, long-lasting paint. And the paints that offer both water-resistance and temperature-resistance tend to be the best choice. You want a paint that can survive temperature fluctuations from season to season and continue to bond securely to the metal underneath even in the face of moisture and water. This feature is especially important if you’re painting items that’ll be outside year-round. 

Easy Application

Spray paints are a popular choice for metal objects and surfaces because they’re incredibly simple and straightforward. They’re also a great choice for large items or awkwardly shaped items with a lot of small nooks and crannies. Whether you opt for spray paint for metal or traditional paint, make sure the paint itself is easy to apply. You want a paint that won’t make a huge mess or cause you any difficulty. 

Thick Consistency

Paint consistency is particularly important when you’re painting something metal. To achieve a good finish and sleek coat of paint, you’ll want to choose a paint that features a thicker consistency. Thicker paint is better for metal because it offers better coverage and more even coverage. Spray paints, for example, can be applied quickly but may be too thin to fully cover your surface or object. Oil-based or acrylic paints, which are thicker, will require fewer coats.

Paint for Metal Pricing 

Most paint for metal is very affordable—in fact, you can find all kinds of paint products from spray paint to touch-up paint priced at less than $10. If you want more variety, such as multiple paint colors or a comprehensive paint set, you’ll spend $15 or more. Paint for metal, even in sets, doesn’t typically cost more than $40, but the more you spend, the more variety you’ll get.

FAQs 

You’ve got questions. The Drive has answers!

Q: Do I need to prime metal before painting?

A: In most situations, you need to prime metal before you paint it. The only exception is if you choose a paint that’s a primer and paint duo.

Q. Is it OK to use spray paint on a car?

A: Specifically formulated spray paints for car exteriors do exist, but not all will work. Check the can before you start applying the paint. 

Q. But then are all metal paints OK to use on cars?

A: Nope. You’ll need to make sure it will work with the specific metal on your car, too.