Painting over metal

gonzyroDecember 8, 2006

Hello! This is the first time I come in this forum, although I´ve been for a while in the Plant place. Please, I need some help...I´m planning to paint the metal electrical covers that surround light switches in the wall for decoration. I don´t know what kind of paint is good for this. I´m new in all the crafts and arts part of life, so I would like to know if somebody has an idea to help me. I saw decorated metal plates for sale in a little fair on the street and I´m wondering if I could do it myself.

Thanks in advance!!


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Hi Rocio, Welcome to the forum. I'd say to use "Enamel" paints for the metal switchplates. It might take three or four coats to cover it all up. At Michael's or Joann's Craft store you will find in the paint section, a Glass medium. You paint the glass (metal) first with this medium, let it dry overnight and then paint your color on. It helps the paint stick better to smooth, non-pourous surfaces. Please post pics of the switchplates when you're done, we'd love to see them.


    Bookmark   December 8, 2006 at 9:58PM
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Sal, thanks so much for your message! I have a question...this glass you´re telling it like a cover? should I paint the whole switchplace with this? Some of the plates that I want to do will be like lines or squares randomly painted. I sure will post pictures, thanks so much for your encouragment!!!

    Bookmark   December 8, 2006 at 10:16PM
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When painting metal it's good to clean it first with vinegar. It helps neutralize the chemicals that are on it to make it shine.
Make sure it's good and dry before you continue working on it.
You can then use metal primer...I like the spray type from Rustolum. It makes a good base for painting. Again make sure it's good and dry then paint with enamels.

    Bookmark   December 8, 2006 at 10:53PM
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Yes, the glass medium is like a cover, a film. You have to let it dry overnight before painting on it. I used it for painting a glass jar with acrylic paints. I quickly found out about the acrylic paint not sticking to the glass jar and bought the glass medium. I then learned that enamel paint will stick to glass-nonpourous material. At Michael's or Joann's craft stores, or whomever, you will find decorative painting books by Donna Dewberry. She has a couple specific books just for painting on glass. In the first couple of pages it explains about the glass medium and enamel paint. With enamel paint her rule is to let it set for 21 days before you wash it, or you can bake the glass in the oven and it will harden quicker. Or, you can go to her website "" and check it out there. You can most certainly practice on a switchplate and then wash it off before it dries. You should be able to wash the switchplate off a day or two later actually. If you want to, place your lines or squares on with a "light" pencil mark, then using an appropriate size brush, put on the medium or just the enamel paint. Dark heavy lines will be seen under the paint, especially light colors. Or, use painter's tape and section off what you want to paint. If you use the tape though, let it dry somewhat and then pull the tape up "slowly" or you will "rip" the paint off.

Don't forget Carol's idea of wiping the switchplate down first. That is a very important step. I like her idea of the metal primer also. I'm going to guess you should be able to bake the switchplates once they are painted, don't quote me on this though, I'm really not sure. Maybe Carol will jump back on this post and she can answer that one or someone else who has painted on metal.


    Bookmark   December 9, 2006 at 1:43AM
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I have painted a lot of tin cans and other metals over the years for craft projects and I would get a can of spray paint and use it like a primer. Then you can paint over that without little difficulty with craft paints. It will take more than one coat but that's normal if you want to get good coverage. Seal when you are finished with Poly or spray sealer.


    Bookmark   December 9, 2006 at 8:34AM
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thank you all very much for your messages! I have to make a list of things that I need and the steps to paint.
I´m sure I´ll have so much fun!!

    Bookmark   December 9, 2006 at 9:59AM
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Hi All,
I'm new to the board and am so glad to find such knowledgable sources! I was curious about using spray paint like a primer. When you say you used spray paint and use it like a primer, do you mean just any old spray paint? Any particular brand? Does it also serve as the base color for whatever you're painting?

    Bookmark   December 14, 2006 at 7:47PM
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Yes, any old brand. I tend to use the cheap stuff and it works just fine.

I have used the spray paint as the base and I have painted over the spray paint in another color if I didn't have the same color spray paint as I wanted to paint my project.

Before I started using the spray paint, I would spend HOURS painting coats of paint to get the item covered. You still do the 2-3 coats of paint but everything just goes way more smoothly and sticks better.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2006 at 8:52PM
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Sweets, I would imagine it is flat or satin spray paint, not gloss, right? Luvs

    Bookmark   December 14, 2006 at 10:33PM
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Gonzyro, I use the spray paint also but I make sure I seal it with a good varnish once I have finished painting. My concern is with metal switchplates. Earlier this year we had to throw away a lot of metal switchplates at my work because the electricians told us there was a danger of electrical shock and they could no longer be used (I worked on a Navy base). So, be careful.

    Bookmark   December 15, 2006 at 6:04PM
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Hey, Paintingfool! thanks for the advice....It´s the first time I hear about the metal switchplates. What do you mean with the "no longer"? Because they were painted or simply they are metal? In my mom´s apartment we lived for more than 20 years (and counting) with metal switchplates, but of course the building is brick....Do you thing that could make the difference? How about painting the plastic plates? Could that be done?
thanks again!

    Bookmark   December 17, 2006 at 8:18PM
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Rocio, I know nothing about electricity, I just remembered we were told to replace the metal plates with plastic plates because of the safety hazard (our buildings are extremely old on our base). You might be able to get a more definitive answer by calling your local electrician or your power company. Of course, every situation is different, you might check with your local electrician. You can definitely paint on plastic. I even use acrylic paints but you have to put a good varnish over it to keep it from scratching off. I never wanted to go to the expense of buying "enamel or plastic" paints so I just make sure I put on several coats of water base varnish and it worked for me. Good luck

    Bookmark   December 17, 2006 at 11:15PM
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Hmmm...I'm curious about the metal switch plate thing, too because we have a few in our house. If they are a safety hazard, why are they still making them? Also, if it's the metal and electricity thing they were concerned can lighting be made out of metal?

    Bookmark   December 18, 2006 at 12:12PM
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Ok, so I came across this thread it has been very helpful! I am painting a metal water bucket and I need some tips. My work is only in spots so I am not painting the entire thing. Any suggestions on masking the designs on a curved surface? Also, in the final varnish stage, should I varnish only the painted spots or the entire thing to make it look even? Thanks for the info already!

    Bookmark   December 20, 2006 at 6:30AM
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I use copper tubing and washers in some of my projects. How do I paint over them?

    Bookmark   May 12, 2011 at 10:04AM
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Has anyone ever done this? The gold leaf is on an icon.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2011 at 7:44PM
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