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How to Paint Metal to Look Old

Updated February 21, 2017

Painting an antique look on metal can add accent, charm and a touch of elegance to otherwise plain metal furniture. Metal lamps, light fixtures, chairs and bed frames can all be painted using spray paint to look old, and metal spray paint can be found in many metallic tones and colours.

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  1. Purchase two tones of metal spray paint for your metal finish. Use direct to metal spray paint so you don't need a metal primer. Choose the metal colour you want and a colour that will serve as a dark tone of the metal colour. If you are using a gold colour, for example, you would also choose a dark brown. If in doubt, black is versatile and can be used as the dark tone for any metal colour. Choose matt spray paint if you want a look of old metal that is dulled, not shiny. Use gloss if you want to keep it shiny.

  2. Set up your area for spray painting. Spray outdoors or in a well-ventilated area. Line your working surface with newspapers.

  3. Thoroughly clean the object to be painted. Scouring pads and degreaser can be used to remove any gunk or grease.

  4. Paint light wisps of the darker tone so that it gets into the cracks, corners, crevasses and elbows of the object you are painting. Use light coats so the paint doesn't pool or drip. It is fine if a bit of paint gets on other areas of the object.

  5. Let this coat dry and then wet sand flat surfaces and raised areas with 220 grit followed by 320 grit wet sand paper. Sand so the dark tone is mostly sitting in the cracks and corners and so there is a slight gradation of tone that gets lighter as it comes out of those areas.

  6. Paint light wisps of the lighter tone so the paint falls onto the flat surfaces and raised areas. Spray so that it blends with the gradation of the darker tone.

  7. Let this coat dry. Lightly sand and repeat this process if necessary. You are basically giving a stained look to the metal.

  8. Tip

    Metal stains and spray-on patinas can also be used to achieve an old look. Also try hammering on your object with a wood block to help give it an antique, used feeling.

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Things You'll Need

  • Metal spray paint
  • Sandpaper

About the Author

Mason Howard

Mason Howard is an artist and writer in Minneapolis. Howard's work has been published in the "Creative Quarterly Journal of Art & Design" and "New American Paintings." He has also written for art exhibition catalogs and publications. Howard's recent writing includes covering popular culture, home improvement, cooking, health and fitness. He received his Master of Fine Arts from the University of Minnesota.

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