Can You Paint Brass? Step-By-Step Guide

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Last updated: September 25, 2023

Craving fora shiny stylish metallic brass? This yis your go-to guide

To most people, brass is an object of beauty, but to others, it’s just another standard metal. While brass can create unique objects of beautiful shapes, sometimes the color makes it less attractive. That’s why it’s not uncommon to hear questions like: can you paint brass? And can you spray paint brass? 

The idea of spray painting brass is good and can transform dull-looking brass objects into beautiful jewelry or household items. So yes, you can spray paint brass provided you clean the object properly to prepare it for a beautiful new finish. 

But spray painting brass requires elaborate preparation, tools, and techniques. In this guide, we take you through the entire process, from cleaning the brass, what to use, how to clean brass, and the best spray paints for brass. Read on. 

Can Brass Be Painted?

Yes, brass can be painted but only after adequately preparing the surface by cleaning it up and applying a metal primer before the first coat of paint. You can spray paint using any type, but acrylic paints are the best and most recommended. Applying a layer of metal primer before painting ensures that the first coat will adhere and stick to the surfaces well. 

Can Polished Brass Be Painted?

Yes, you can apply a new spray paint over polished brass. However, since metal pieces (brass included) are generally slick, it can be challenging for the paint to adhere to the surface. 

There’s also the chance of the brass coating not sticking correctly. This is why we recommend adding a metal primer before painting takes place.

As part of the basics, the bras should be cleaned thoroughly, and after priming, sanding might be necessary to prepare it for beautiful paintwork.

But it doesn’t stop there. 

If you are working with lacquered brass, it doesn’t stop with cleaning, priming, and sanding alone. 

It’s difficult to get spray paint to stick on polished brass, and it’s even harder to achieve the same with lacquered brass. 

So you want to prepare it well before you start spray painting to avoid spray paint from chipping off brass and achieve maximum adhesion with good results.

When Do I Need to Paint Brass Surfaces?

You’re no longer wondering if you can spray paint brass because that’s possible. But when do you need to spray paint brass? Do you have to paint brass at all? 

It depends on the brass object and what you want to use it for. If you wish to revive its fading design and improve its aesthetics, you can spray paint without a second thought. 

This applies to door knobs, house numbers, chandeliers, padlocks, and ordinary objects. 

But if you want to revamp some sentimental or prized items like your brass lamp, then you should first determine if spray painting the brass will compromise the function of the lamp. 

Some lamps have brass that supports how they function. By covering the brass with spray paint, the role of brass in the function of the lamp might be compromised, and the lamp may not work anymore. 

And some lamps, like capacitive lamps, only function when the brass is fully conductive. So spray painting the brass may cause the capacitive sensor to malfunction.

Therefore you should first determine what role the brass plays in the functioning of that particular object you want to paint, then decide whether concealing it in the paint will affect how it works. 

What Tools and Preparation Do You Need to Paint Over Brass?

And now, on to the actual work. Once you’ve settled on which brass items you want to spray paint, the next step is to gather all the tools and equipment you’ll need to paint over brass. Below are some of the items you’ll need to spray paint brass. 

  • A piece of cloth

  • Rubbing alcohol

  • Metal primer

  • Clean cloths for cleaning the brass

  • Gloves

  • A respirator mask

  • Some eye protection

You can purchase rubbing alcohol and a metal primer at a convenience or hardware store. You can even buy them on Amazon. 

Rubbing alcohol cleans dirt, oil residues, or fingerprints off brass. It helps ensure the primer adheres appropriately to the surface. 

For metal primers, we recommend Rust-Oleum primers because they’re affordable and compatible with any brass surface.  

Once you have everything you need, take a few safety precautions before you get started.

Wear Protective Clothing

Basic safety measures include wearing a mask, gloves, and eye protection equipment. 

You want to be safe from the potentially toxic fumes emitted from the paint, and at the same time, you want to protect yourself from the small metal scrapings that occur during sanding and scuffing, as these may affect your eyes, skin, and even lungs. 

With that done, begin the spray painting process. 

Use Rubbing Alcohol to Clean the Brass Surface

It’s time to put your rubbing alcohol to use by cleaning the surface well to remove pollutants and ensure the paint adheres to the surface later on. 

Add some rubbing alcohol onto a clean cloth and clean the brass item thoroughly. 

Take care not to touch the brass with your bare hands after cleaning it since fingerprints can cause problems with adhesion. 

So wear hand gloves as you hold the brass object during cleaning. Once done, allow the rubbing alcohol to dry and evaporate before you apply a primer. This should take at most 10 minutes.

Add a Primer 

When working with brass or any other type of metal, we recommend using a spray primer if you want a clean, smooth application devoid of brush marks or distortion. 

Apply a coat or two of the spray primer to prepare the surface for paint and achieve an even color. Since working with metals can be challenging, go for self-etching or bonding primers, especially those from Rust-Oleum. 

Also, ensure the primer coat is thin and even. Always refer to the manufacturer’s instructions on the ideal waiting time between coats when priming and painting. 

Once you’ve applied the primer on the surface, let it rest for the time specified on the product label. This time should be a maximum of 24 hours for the primer to cure perfectly.

Sand the Primer to Smoothen the Surface

After the primer is fully dry, you can create a smooth surface by sanding it. Fine grit sandpaper will do a perfect job in this step, although you must do it perfectly and carefully. 

If you apply too much sandpaper, you might remove the primer in some areas, and you’ll have to reapply it again, so do it gently and use only fine-grit sandpaper and allow it to dry for a few hours.

Start Painting 

After sanding and allowing it to dry, the next step is applying spray paint. Again for this step, work with thin, even coats of paint. 

If your first coat didn’t cover the surface adequately, let it dry before applying another fresh coat taking care to avoid overloading the substrate with too much paint. 

Applying thinner coats helps you avoid drips and runs, which can make your work messy. 

Again refer to the instructions on the paint can on how long to wait between coats before applying the second layer. 

Ideally, a total of two or three coats of paint should be enough for a piece of brass, depending on the outcome you want to achieve. 

Let the Piece Dry Completely

Your last step is to step back and let the painted brass object dry out before you put it to any use. Ideally, you should wait 24 hours, depending on the type of paint used and the manufacturer’s recommendations. 

How to Paint Over Brass

Once you have followed all the steps above to spray paint your brass workpiece, you should ensure the paint job lasts as long as possible. 

That’s when it becomes necessary to seal up your brass piece, a process most people often ignore. 

Adding a sealing coat to your brass workpiece is an excellent idea to protect your thin coat of paint finish and improve its glow and durability. Just about any colorless coat can work well on your workpiece. 

To use the sealer, use the same method you used to apply the primer and paint coats: shake the can, spray thin layers of sealant, allow to dry between coats, and repeat if necessary until you get the desired results. 

One of the benefits of adding a protective sealant is to help reduce maintenance and protect the painted surface against abrasion, although they have one downside as they’re known to obscure the paint texture.

Can you paint brass fixtures?

Brass fixtures may lose their aesthetic appeal over time and need a new paint job to give them a better look. Most bras fixtures have brass plates, which can be spray painted. 

You must follow the standard preparation guidelines for cleaning these surfaces to ensure the paint doesn’t peel off. If done well, spray-painted brass fixtures should maintain a long-lasting look. 

Can You Paint Over Brass Faucets?

Old brass faucets can be restored with a great paint job, especially if you use excellent acrylic spray paint. 

Some people prefer to brush paint brass faucets, but this method may be messy, with brush marks left on the final finish. 

If you’d rather brush paint instead of spray painting your old brass faucets, use a self-etching primer or scuffing (steel wool would be ideal) before brush painting it. 

Can You Paint Over Brass Lamps?

Yes, brass lamps and light fixtures can be spray painted but should be primed carefully before painting. 

Again we recommend using a self-etching primer and allowing the brass lamp to dry before adding several light coats of spray paint to achieve the desired color blends you want on your lamp. 

It’s one great way to transform an old piece into an elegant masterpiece. 

Can You Paint Brass Door Knobs or Handles?

Brass door handles and knobs are some of the most specific objects you can spray paint as part of your home decor. 

Even better, you can use brass-colored paint to help give the handles and knobs a fresh look without necessarily changing the design. 

Preparation is another essential factor here and can take some time, but if done with precision, the new coat of paint on your door handles and knobs will last a long time despite the normal wear and tear these objects are susceptible to due to overuse. 

Can You Paint Over Brass Plated Metal?

Yes, you can paint over brass metal, provided you don’t overlook the surface preparation part. This step allows you to remove any corrosion, loose brass plating, and other blemishes on the surface. 

You may also need to scuff it with fine steel wool or self-etching primer. Once all that’s been done, apply thin coats of spray paint, allowing it to dry before adding another layer until you create this new look that will last a long time. 

Can You Paint a Brass Bed?

If your brass bed headboard is old and worn out, you can restore its beauty with an excellent fresh coat of paint. You can remove it from the bedroom to a different environment more conducive to spray painting or brush painting. 

If the bed headboard has corrosion or uneven surfaces, use rubbing alcohol to clean it up or scuff it up with fine-grit sandpaper as part of the preparation to achieve a smooth, beautiful finish.  

Otherwise, use a self-etching primer to prime it, then apply your chosen paint.

Can Brass be Painted with Varnish?

Ideally, yes, brass can be varnished. And varnish or even lacquer sticks better on brass and, in some cases, may not require priming. 

And you can even varnish previously painted brass since it acts as a sealant. And which better way to protect your spray-painted surface and ensure it lasts longer? 

Varnishing a previously painted brass workpiece is an easier way of protecting against fades and scratches, chirping, and peeling.  

Still, there’s one fundamental rule that you must always consider when varnishing a brass. 

You want to scrutinize the brass object to determine if it’s been previously glossed or has a varnish coating. 

If that’s the case, you should remove the original varnish or gloss coating before applying a new one. Otherwise, you’ll end up with uneven layers of varnish. 

Use a suitable solvent to remove the old varnish on your brass piece, ensuring the solvent is compatible with the type of varnish you’ll use. A good example of the best solvent is acetone or a lacquer thinner. 

As for removing old varnish coating, it’s as simple as soaking a clean piece of cloth or towel in acetone or lacquer thinner and rubbing it over the brass surface to loosen up the old adhesion. 

Next, wipe the surface with a damp cloth until the old varnish and residue are completely removed. 

The next step is to apply thin layers of pressurized spray on the brass surface, then let the item dry before varnishing it. 

Finally, sand the item with 400 grit of fine grit sandpaper before applying the final varnish coats.

Can You Paint Over Lacquered Brass?

When varnishing a previously painted brass workpiece, you’ll need to move the old lacquer on the brass item before repainting it. Otherwise, you’ll experience adhesion problems along the way. 

Fortunately, there are a few tricks and hacks for dealing with old lacquer on smaller brass items. 

Take a large pot and fill it with water. Add one to two tablespoonfuls of baking soda, then bring the pot to boil.  

Stir occasionally until the baking soda is fully dissolved. 

As soon as the water begins to boil and the baking soda is fully dissolved, put the brass items you want to paint and allow to boil for a minimum of 20 minutes. 

Remove the brass objects with tongs and allow them to cool. It’s now easier to peel off the lacquer from the object. If this process is too tedious, invest in a good varnish or lacquer remover. A good example is a denatured alcohol

As you work with this product, check the label on manufacturer usage guidelines since it contains toxic chemicals that may be dangerous and require proper handling.

With the old lacquer removed, you can now apply a new one, using the same steps given above for using varnish. 

Can You Paint Brass?

What Brass Items You Shouldn’t Paint?

Some brass items are electronic or electrical. Such items are unsuitable for spray painting and shouldn’t be spray painted as their conductive effectiveness might be compromised. 

A good example is lamps. So unless the brass on the item is purely for aesthetics and not functionality, you should leave it as it is.

In addition, painting brass household items like brass utensils and dinnerware isn’t a good idea unless the utensils are made of an entirely different material, not brass. Otherwise, painting your brass utensils will render them unusable and only good for decoration. 

So go ahead if you want to create some unique artistic displays from brass pieces you’d typically use for eating and drinking.

Can you paint brass? Best Spray Paint For Brass

Ideally, you can use spray paint on brass objects, provided you prepare the surface adequately. 

Oil and water-based paints are both suitable for brass surfaces and compatible with most primers. 

But if you want a more customized and professional look, go for acrylic, enamel, or chalk spray paints. 

Still, while you may use any paint of your choice, some paint options are suitable for specific circumstances. 

Use oil-based paints for high-touch pieces, as they’re highly durable and of excellent quality. Oil-based paints are also resistant to scratches and chirping. 

But for standard items where durability is not a factor, you can work with water-based paints since they dry faster, are less toxic, and are largely affordable. 

Furthermore, if your brass object is subjected to high temperatures, you should specifically work with paints formulated to withstand heat.  

And if your brass paint is ornate, work with spray paint instead of brush paint to get the job done faster and with a smoother finish. 

If you need to know which type of spray paint to use, here are a few examples that top our list of best picks. 

Rust-Oleum Protective Enamel Paint Satin Finish

Rust-Oleum Protective Enamel Paint tops the list of the most durable, reliable oil-based paints that offer a slight sheen and a glowing finish.  

It leads the rest as the most resistant to wear and tear and the ideal choice for high-touch surfaces. 

In addition,  Rust-Oleum Protective Enamel Paint provides excellent coverage and is not susceptible to fading, corrosion, or weather elements. 

Use Rust-Oleum Protective Enamel Paint if you’re painting outdoor brass items though you can still use it for indoor painting. 

KILZ Chalk Spray Paint

If you’ve used chalk paint before and want to use it on your brass pieces, KILZ Chalk Spray Paint is a great choice. It comes in various classic colors, so you can choose multiple options that suit your project. 

It’s also suitable for different materials, including brass. KILZ Chalk Spray Paint offers a highly durable surface, and it’s mostly recommended for upcycling as it can withstand wear-and-tear well.  

And being a spray paint, you can use it on items with ornate designs, giving you flexibility and better coverage with minimal work. 

FAQS: Can You Paint Brass?

Is there spray paint for brass?

You can use any spray paint of your choice on brass. But if you are working with high-touch surfaces and keen on durability, use oil-based paints like Rust-Oleum Protective Enamel Paint or chalk paints like KILZ Chalk Spray Paint. Acrylic and enamel paints are also great for brass, but water-based paints are most suitable for moderate-use items. 

Do you need to seal the painted brass?

Not necessarily though it’s a good idea. Adding a sealing layer on top of the final coat of paint helps protect it from scratching, peeling, chirping, and other damage. While this is not a requirement, it’s a recommended practice. 

Do you need to clean the surface before painting brass?

Yes. You want the outcome of your spray painting to be a smooth finish. You want the paint to stick and adhere well to the surface. The only way to ensure this is by cleaning up the entire surface with the right cleaning agent before applying it. 

Can brass plating be painted?

Yes, brass-plated objects can be painted. However, you must ensure that the paint sticks on it properly by cuffing it to remove all the tarnish before the paint can be applied. This is a standard yet crucial step that must be followed. 

Do you have to sand before painting brass?

Sanding, especially with fine-grit sandpaper, is essential in preparing the brass surface for painting. It helps create a smooth surface on which to apply a primer which helps support adhesion. With brass, always use fine-grit sandpaper of at least 400 grit. 

Conclusion

At this point, we believe we have answered your question: “Can you paint brass?” or any other related questions pertaining to spray painting brass.

We have explained the many ways of spray painting brass, the steps to follow with each method, and the best spray paints. 

You have your answer and know the proper techniques to employ when preparing to work with brass. 

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