How to Paint Brass

How to Paint Brass – Metal Alloy Prepping and Painting Guide

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Brass is an elegant alloy that can be found in and around homes across the world. However, not many people have a clear understanding of how to work with it. Below, we have provided all of the information that is needed on how to paint brass to achieve a great finish. Additionally, we have also included various tips and tricks on making the job easier. You will find out everything that you would need to know about brass and how to paint it in the segment provided below.



Understanding Brass

It is very important to have a clear understanding of the material you are working with before diving head-first into what could be a disaster. Brass is a material that can last for centuries and usually, people do not bother with any sort of maintenance as it tarnishes instead of rusts. However, the oxidation of brass can become a problem for some as it will turn green and black after a while.

Brass Painting Guide

To help you to understand the material, we have included some general information about it. So if you are wondering can brass be painted or whether the preparation phase is similar to what can be found with wood and other materials, all of your questions will be answered below.


What Is It?

An alloy consisting of zinc and copper, brass has been a very popular alloy due to its similar color to gold. Hence it has been used for producing low-friction components such as electrical sockets, hose couplings, bearings, hinges, locks, and so on.

Types of Brass Object to Paint

Brass is generally non-corrosive; however, if it is exposed to moisture, ammonia, acetates, chlorides, and other acids, it will begin breaking down.

This is largely due to the copper reacting to sulfur which will eventually become copper sulfide. Nevertheless, most people find the blue-green patina quite charming and will leave it as is. Another important thing to understand about brass is that it is available in different classes. This is based on the ratio of copper to zinc. These include:

  • Alpha brasses
  • Alpha-beta brasses
  • Beta brasses
  • Gamma brasses
  • White brass



What Types of Paint Work on Brass?

Since we are learning how to paint brass, we will need to know what types of paint will adhere to the surface. You may be tempted to pick up a random can of spray paint; however, you will likely be unable to achieve a lasting finish as you will easily be able to peel it from the surface.

Traditional Brass Painting Techniques

Considering brass is not like other metals, you may be wondering what sort of paint can brass be painted with. Despite its peculiar composition, brass is still a metal, and hence most paint varieties that work on metal will also work on brass.

We highly recommend using spray paint instead or painting with a paintbrush as you will have a hard time getting a uniform finish. You will also need a good self-etching primer to ensure that you can get the paint to stick to the surface. Keep in mind that you will need to ensure that the paint you have chosen is designed for metal. Take a look at the table below to see which paints will work for you.

Type of PaintDescription
  • Enamel paint is a sort of protective coating that can be applied to metal structures. Its rich, brilliant colors are popular among homeowners who wish to refresh the look of their houses.
  • A base coat plus a colorant make up enamel paint. These elements react with one another to produce chemical bonds that provide resistance to environmental influences like heat and cold. As a result, the final finish is more durable than normal finishes on any surface to which it is applied.
  • Acrylic paint is fast-drying and contains pigment contained in an acrylic polymer solution as well as plasticizers, stabilizers, defoamers, silicone oils, and metal soaps. Many acrylic paints happen to be water-based yet when they dry they are water-resistant.
  • Acrylic paint is ideal if you want a paint that is multifunctional and can be used on a number of surfaces. Additional surfaces may require some extra work before applying the paint, and this applies to metal too.
  • Oil-based paints are preferred for the following reasons: first, they stick better to metal surfaces, and second, contrary to latex paint, they are not based upon water suspension, thus there is no risk of rusting.
  • A variety of specialist paints developed for use on metallic surfaces are also available. They may not be common, but they can be useful for painting metal railings, brass handles, iron cast tubs, and steel windows.
  • Latex paints are arguably the most prevalent in most paint retail outlets, and many of these are now officially 100% acrylic, making them a better composition. They are water-based and are the finest choice for painting plasterboard and drywall, siding, and stucco.
  • Water-based paints are perfect for painting windows, various brass objects, doors, as well as trim, thanks to their wide range of possibilities and technological innovation.



Can You Paint Brass?

Brass may be painted, but its exterior must first be prepared. Before applying paint, the surface must be prepped by adding a coat of metal primer. To paint the brass, you may use any type of oil-based, acrylic, or spray paint. Regardless, the primer will ensure that the paint sticks to the surface of the brass. It is also necessary to thoroughly clean the brass area before using the primer in order for the primer to adhere effectively to the brass surface.

Remove Oxidization to Paint Brass

Overall, every form of brass may be painted without trouble if the surface has been adequately cleaned, and you can use almost any sort of paint; however, certain paints are more suited for painting brass when compared to others.


The Preparation Process

If you know how to do it correctly, preparing brass for painting is not difficult or tedious. We will cover everything you would need to know when it comes to priming brass as well as how to complete it as easily as possible. You will also need the following materials to clean brass:

  • Metal primer
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Cloth

Rubbing alcohol is available at almost every convenience shop or hardware store. Only rubbing alcohol will be required to clean the Brass of any oil residue or fingerprints. This is only to guarantee appropriate primer adhesion later on.

Clean Brass Before Painting



How to Paint Brass

The process of painting brass is quite simple once you get the hang of it. But to ensure that you get the best possible finish, you should follow the steps that we have provided below. These steps are crucial to getting the best finish and to guarantee that the paint sticks to the surface. You will need the following equipment for the best results:

  • Old newspaper or tarp
  • Painter’s tape
  • Goggles
  • Gloves
  • Clean cloths
  • Respirator mask
  • Steel wool
  • Primer
  • Paint

Supplies for Painting Brass


Step One: Wear Safety Equipment

All painting jobs need the use of a mask, skin, and eye safety, as well as gloves. Because you are painting brass, it not just shields you from the paint, but also prevents small metal fragments from getting into your eyes, skin, or lungs, during the sanding or scuffing process.


Step Two: Test for Brass Plating

A brass coating does not imply that an object is wholly brass. Instead, it might be brass plating on top of another material, commonly a metal such as steel or zinc. The primary reason that you’ll want to know if it is brass or brass-plated is that brass-plating layers can be very thin. If you are working with brass plating, you may need to adapt your surface preparation method, using a softer touch along the way.

To test if your object is made of brass or if it is plated, place a magnet on the object to see whether it sticks. Since pure brass is a non-ferrous metal, magnets will not attach to it. If your object is plated brass over another metal, then, depending on what that base metal is, a magnet may stick to it. If the plating is brass over a ferrous metal, the magnet may not adhere very well, but slide around a bit.

Test Brass Content with Magnet


Step Three: Remove Corrosion or Tarnish

If there are symptoms of corrosion or wear, you must first treat them. In most circumstances, you should begin by cleaning away any rust with steel wool as a beginning step. Along with removing the tarnish, scrape the surface with steel wool throughout the entire piece to ensure it’s suitable for priming.

When using steel wool, keep your touch mild if you are handling a brass-plated object. Because steel wool is abrasive, if you are overly harsh, you might scrape all the way through the plate.

Scour Brass for Painting

Taking all that into consideration, unless you have a very light touch, you might be better off using a tarnish cleaner made particularly for brass plating to avoid mistakenly removing the brass plating at this stage. Avoid any brass polishes though, as these could leave an oily residue that will prevent proper paint adhesion.


Step Four: Scuff the Brass Item (Optional)

If you do not need to utilize steel wool to remove tarnish or corrosion, softly sand the item with fine-grit sandpaper. The outer layer will be less smooth as a result, which makes it less challenging for the coating to adhere.


Step Five: Clean the Brass

After you have removed any tarnish or rust and scratched the surface, it is time to clean thoroughly. You should choose a cleaner that is intended to remove grease and filth. If the item is not too unclean, a little grease-removal dish soap as well as water could suffice. Wipe off the object with a gentle, lint-free cloth, giving special attention to any areas with built-up grime or dirt.

Clean Brass with Cloth for Painting


Step Six: Apply the Paint Primer

Using a coat or two of paint primer creates a better foundation for the paint, ensuring that it adheres properly and that the color is consistent at the end. You will need to select the proper primer for the task. As metal is a difficult surface to deal with, a bonding or self-etching primer is your ideal choice.


Step Seven: Paint the Brass Item

It is time to paint once you have applied the primer as well as let it dry. As before, apply thin, even coatings as you work. If you do not obtain complete coverage in one application, wait for the first coat to dry before applying a second coat rather than overloading the item with paint. If you use too much pressure, you may end up with drips and runs. You will not have that problem with thinner coatings.

Brass Painting Guide


Step Eight: Allow the Piece to Dry

After applying the final layer of paint, allow the object to cure fully before utilizing it in any capacity. In most circumstances, this entails a 24-hour wait. Nevertheless, you may examine the product’s instructions to see whether it has a specific drying period.



The Best Methods of Painting Brass

When it comes to the best methods to paint brass, there are a few of them that stand out compared to the rest. So, before you ask, “can you paint brass”, it is important to have a clear understanding of the different methods that can be used, which we have covered below.


Spray Painting

Using spray paint means that you will be using more paint when compared to brushing the surface of brass; however, this is the sole disadvantage of the method. If you are looking for the fastest method to paint brass, then this is the way to go. You will be able to cover the surface in a smooth finish with no difficulty when it comes to reaching those tight crevices.

You will need a bit of practice when using a spray gun or a spray can; however, once you get used to it, you will unlikely find yourself using a brush any time soon. If you are wondering, “can you spray paint brass”, then you are correct, and we would recommend that you use this method.

When to Spray Paint Brass


Brush Painting

Brush painting has been around for centuries and it allows excellent control of the paint with good adhesion while also being able to minimize the amount of paint that is used. However, this is the slowest and most labor-intensive method of painting.

Painting Brass with Brushes

Brushing is also much better for painting tight areas compared to spraying due to better control. If you are wondering “can you paint brass”, this is usually the first option that comes to mind. However, you will need to apply more than two coats and you could possibly need to apply multiple thin coats to avoid leaving brush marks.



When Should You Paint Brass?

If the brass is only there for the sake of style and appearance, you can go along and paint it with no hesitation. If you would like to paint a brass chandelier or that dated old brass bed, go ahead and do it. However, in the case of such objects as hinges, locks, tapware, musical instruments, and other utilitarian items, check first to ensure that the paint will not obstruct or be damaged through the functioning of the object.

Keep in mind that in many cases, brass is used both for decorative and practical reasons, so unless your paint is equally hardwearing, you should avoid painting things like door handles that require a highly durable surface.

When to Avoid Painting Brass


Learning how to paint brass is an important part of the process to ensure that you get the best possible results. Each step is crucial but it is meant to be enjoyed, as painting should always be a fun project for the novice or expert DIY enthusiast. Nevertheless, we wish you the best of luck with your brass painting project!




Frequently Asked Questions


Can You Paint Brass?

Yes, you can. However, you will need to ensure that you get the best finish by preparing the surface in the best way possible with the steps that have been provided.


Can You Spray Paint Brass?

Yes, you can spray paint brass and this is the best option when you are working with very smooth surfaces.


Can All Brass Pieces Be Painted?

No, as some brass items may have additional components such as electrical sensors that should never be covered in paint. You could cover these parts of the object with painter’s tape; however, where electronics or similar sensitive equipment are concerned, we would suggest not painting them at all.

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