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How To Paint Aluminium

Painting aluminium can be a cost-effective way to inject new life into your home and garden. You may be looking to update your front door, garage door, window frames, garden gate, or outdoor furniture, and done correctly, painting aluminium can result in an ultra-chic, modern aesthetic.

We’ve all heard of the term ‘upcycling’ and a lick of paint is a convenient way to give your space a new lease of life, but there are other more practical benefits, too. Aluminium, especially outdoors, can be vulnerable to damage and corrosion caused by the weather.

It is important to prolong the life of aluminium, and painting it is an easy way to do just that. As well as looking great, properly preparing and painting aluminium helps to maintain the metal, resulting in less work and money in the long run.

Aluminium door painted with aluminium paint.
Aluminium door painted to a matt finish.

Can You Paint Aluminium?

The short answer is yes, you can paint aluminium. As with any painting jobs, the key to a smooth, professional finish is preparing the surface correctly, so don’t be tempted to cut corners here. Ensuring you have prepared your aluminium surface is key to a long-lasting and professional result, as well as having the right tools and products to carry out your project safely and easily.

Painting aluminium is an easy way to update and protect your surfaces from corrosion and damage.

There are five simple steps to follow when preparing and painting aluminium. Follow our guide below to learn more about the process and getting started on your painting project.

Quick Step-by-step Process to Paint Aluminium

  1. Clean the aluminium surface
  2. Descale the aluminium surface
  3. Apply a primer
  4. Apply an oil-based undercoat
  5. Apply your topcoats

How To Paint Aluminium

What You’ll Need:

  • Solvent-based liquid degreaser
  • Aluminium oxide paper
  • Etch primer or universal primer
  • Oil-based undercoat
  • Aluminium paint

Step 1: Clean the surface with a degreaser

It is important to clean your surface thoroughly. We recommend using a degreaser specifically for aluminium, which removes any contaminants and helps primers and paint adhere to the metal.

Pour a small amount of degreaser directly onto a clean, non-abrasive cloth or sponge and apply to the surface. Some degreasers may require you to rinse the aluminium with water afterwards, so always follow the instructions given with your specific product. Let the aluminium dry completely before continuing.

Step 2: Descale the surface

Descaling your aluminium surface removes any corrosion or scale, leaving a smooth surface to prime. Whilst aluminium doesn’t rust, it is liable to scale and spots of corrosion. Descaling the metal will leave a smooth surface, as well as helping to stop the corrosion from getting worse.

With your aluminium oxide paper, gently buff any patches of scale or corrosion with small circular strokes.

Step 3: Apply Etch Primer or Universal Primer

Applying a primer is an important step in preparing aluminium as it helps the undercoat and topcoat adhere to the surface you are painting. Etch primer contains a small amount of phosphoric acid which etches the aluminium surface, maximising adhesion.

A universal primer will also work well here. Spray directly onto the surface, or apply the primer with a clean brush. Leave to dry completely before continuing.

Step 4: Apply oil-based undercoat

Like primer, an oil-based undercoat will help the final topcoat of paint adhere to the aluminium surface. Apply a thin, even layer of undercoat with either a brush, roller, or spray. Once dry, the undercoat will have a matt finish and will be opaque.

Oil-based undercoats come in a range of colours, meaning you can match it with your topcoat to give the best colour pigmentation and an even final result.

If you are painting over an aluminium surface that has already been painted previously, you can apply an oil-based undercoat to the painted surface (once steps 1-3 have been completed) and it will help to cover the old paint, ready for it’s new colour to be applied in step 5.

Step 5: Apply topcoat

Now you’ve prepared your aluminium, you should have a smooth surface ready for the fun part – the topcoat. Stir the paint before you start to ensure that any sediment is dispersed.

With a clean brush and starting with a small amount, apply long, even strokes to the surface. How many coats you need will depend on what you are painting over and the quality of paint you are using, but we recommend at least two coats to ensure a pigmented and even result. Do this in a well-ventilated space and remember to wait for the paint to dry completely between coats.

Best Paint for Aluminium

There are some great aluminium paints on the market but choosing the right one for your project may seem daunting.

Hammerite’s Metal Paint is a brilliant mid-range metal paint with excellent customer reviews. This paint will give you a smooth, glossy finish, perfect for garden furniture and window frames. Hammerite’s paint offers 8 years of rust protection, so you can enjoy a long-lasting finish without worrying about rust spots, corrosion, or chipping.

Even better, it’s 3-in-1, meaning you don’t need to apply a primer or undercoat to your aluminium project.

You can even apply this paint directly onto any rust or corrosion that may have formed as the formula stops the rusting process, and, because it includes primer and undercoat already, is able to cover rust spots and corrosion smoothly.

Safety Considerations When Preparing Aluminium for Painting

When preparing and painting aluminium, there are several important factors to consider before you start your project safely.

When preparing the surface, especially when descaling the aluminium, always wear safety goggles to stop small parts that may chip off from injuring you. You should wear a dust mask to prevent breathing in small metal particles which become airborne when descaling the surface. Gloves and overalls should also be worn when preparing aluminium.

When applying degreaser, primer, undercoat, and your topcoat, ensure you are in a well-ventilated area. This will help the chemicals to disperse, as well as speeding up the drying process.

And don’t forget: always follow the instructions and guidelines given with your specific products for best results.