How to Properly Paint Brass

Brass is an alloy (a metal that is created by combining two different types of metal or metal and an element) of copper and zink. It is used for decorative purposes as well as for some mechanical and electrical purposes because of its unique properties.

Brass is present a lot in older furniture like lamps and water tabs as well as in older houses in places like door nobs and even some hinges. But it can look a little old timey or mismatched sometimes. And when it does then it might be time to finally paint that old looking piece of brass.

In this article, I will go over everything that you need to know in order to properly paint brass without any paint chipping or peeling later on. I will also go over possible problems and I will give you some advice that I would have liked to know before I painted my first piece of brass.

Can Brass be Painted?

Let´s start out with the first and most pressing question before we look at anything else. Is it even possible to paint Brass or will the paint inevitably peel or chip off?

Brass can be painted but the surface has to be prepared beforehand. The surface has to be prepared by applying a layer of metal primer before any paint is applied. You can use any kind of spraypaint or even acrylic paint to paint the Brass. The Primer will ensure that the paint sticks to the Brass surface regardless.

It is also important to clean the brass surface before applying the primer to ensure that the primer sticks properly to the metal surface.

But you can read more on that further down below.

Generally, every kind of Brass can be painted without any issues when the surface is prepared properly and you can pretty much use any type of paint, however, some paints are suited better for painting brass than others.

You can read more about choosing the right type of paint down below.

How to Prepare Brass for Painting?

Preparing Brass for painting isn´t very hard or time-consuming if you know how to properly do it. I will go over what you need to prime Brass and how to do it as simply as possible.

What You Need to Prepare Brass for Painting

First of all you will need:

  • – A piece of cloth
  • – Some rubbing alcohol
  • – A metal primer

You can get rubbing alcohol at pretty much any convenience store or at your local hardware store.

You will only need the rubbing alcohol to clean the Brass from any fingerprints or oil residue. This is simply to ensure that the primer adheres properly later on.

You will also need a metal Primer in order to prepare the surface for painting. You can get a primer at your local hardware store or right here on Amazon.

I always recommend primers from Rust-Oleum because they are quite cost-efficient and they never failed me before unlike other primers.

Clean the Brass Surface With Rubbing Alcohol

Before you apply any primer to the Brass you have to clean the surface first.

Any oil or dust residue might hinder the primer from properly adhering to the surface. So use a piece of cloth and the rubbing alcohol and carefully clean the brass.

Be careful not to touch it with your bare hands after you cleaned it or you will have fingerprints on the metal that might hinder the adhesion of the metal primer later on.

So use gloves to move and hold the piece of brass.

Let the rubbing alcohol evaporate for at least 5 minutes before you apply the primer.

Apply the Primer to the Brass Surface

I would highly recommend using a spray primer if you are priming any kind of metal. Mainly because the application is so much smoother when you use a spray primer and you don´t have to deal with any brush marks later on.

So set the piece of Brass on some newspaper or carton and apply the spray primer in thin layers.

It is better to apply multiple thin layers of the primer instead of one thick layer.

Let the primer dry in between layers and try to apply the layers as evenly as possible.

You should only apply the primer in a well-ventilated area and it is best to wear a protective face mask.

Sand the Primer to Make The Surface Smoother

Once the primer has dried you can smooth the surface further by sanding it with some fine-grit sandpaper.

Be careful though!

If you sand the primer too much then you might accidentally end up removing it completely at some areas at which point you might have to reapply it.

So sand the primer carefully and with very fine-grit sandpaper.

What Kind of Paint Will Stick to Brass?

Naturally, you might think that you will need a special kind of paint that sticks to brass but the truth is actually completely different.

Any permanent paint can be used to paint Brass as long as the surface has been prepared properly with a primer beforehand. Acrylic paint, Enamel paint, latex-based paint, and similar can all be used to paint Brass once it has been primed properly. Some paints might need to be sealed afterward.

Especially acrylic paints and other similar paints need to be sealed after painting to protect them from water and scratches later on.

I would recommend using an acrylic spray sealer or something simmilar.

Latex-based paints and enamel paints usually don´t need to be sealed. But it won´t do any harm sealing them anyway.

When Is it Ok To Paint Brass?

Now that you know how to paint Brass there is still one thing to consider before you paint any Brass and that is what the Brass is used for.

If the Brass is simply there because of the design and look then you can go ahead and paint it without giving it any second thought. So if you want to paint a Brass door knob then just go for it.

But if you plan on painting a brass lamp then you should first clarify if the brass is necessary for the lamp to properly work.

Some brass lamps are made or have brass parts that make the lamp work in the first place. If you cover these parts then you might isolate the Brass parts with the paint and thus the lamp might not work anymore after the paint job.

There are also some capicity lamps that only work when the Brass is conductive. So painting this type of lamp will ultimately isolate the brass and the capicity effect will not work anymore.

So take a closer look before you paint anything especially if it is electrical.