Enamel paint is the perfect choice of paint for any outdoor project or any other project, that is going to be exposed to the elements. It is quite easy to use but still, there are a lot of things, that you can do wrong. I probably made every possible mistake, that you can possibly make when working with Enamel paint so I decided to write this article to help everyone who wants to paint something with Enamel paint.
In short, to get a perfect finish with Enamel paints the surface should be cleaned with some soapy water and then primed with a primer. The Enamel paint has to be stirred before it is used. The paint should be applied evenly with a clean brush. Oil-based Enamel paint will result in a smoother finish than water-based Enamel paint.
The four major steps for applying Enamel paint are cleaning, priming, preparing the paint, and applying the paint.
So basically you have to follow these four very important steps in order to get a perfect finish on Enamel paint.
But before we get to the four steps in more detail we should first take a look at the different Enamel paints, that are available to us. There are a lot of different brands, obviously, but I want to take a closer look at the two major types of Enamel paints.
Oil-based Enamel paint and water-based Enamel paint. Traditionally Enamel paints where always oil-based but recently you can also buy water-based Enamel paint.
I personally made the experience, that water-based Enamel paint usually doesn´t have as smooth of a finish that traditional oil-based Enamel paint. So I usually prefer the oil-based variant. But if you need a non-toxic or fast-drying paint for outdoors, then water-based Enamel paint is probably one of the best alternatives.
If you are looking for a good, smooth finish, then I would go for the oil-based Enamel paint. Just to be sure.
The first step is probably the most important one. Clean the surface and before you paint it.
You should also make sure, that the area around the project, that you want to paint, is clean. There is nothing more annoying than having to redo a paint job because something got stuck on the surface of the wet paint.
So clean your workspace and your painting surface from any dust or dirt. Then I usually use some soapy water to clean the surface but that is really only necessary if the surface, that I want to paint, is very dusty or dirty.
Make sure, that the surface, that you want to paint, is dry before you start priming it. So if you used some soapy water to clean it, then leave it to dry for an hour or two until you are sure, that it is completely dry.
The next step is priming the surface.
You can skip this step depending on your surface. If your surface is uneven or prone to warping, then I would highly suggest using a primer. If you want to paint wood, for example, that is prone to move a lot when temperatures change, then I would suggest using a primer to protect the paint from chipping too fast.
You can get a general primer or a primer for oil-based colors at your local hardware store. I tried a lot of different primers and I never had a problem with any of them. So I don´t really have a special primer, that I like to recommend as they all work very well.
So far I used oil primer for artists, a general primer for outdoors, and a basic primer for wood and all of them worked perfectly without any issues.
The easiest way to apply a primer is via spray can but that is also the most expensive way. A Spray Can will spread the primer very evenly, better than any brush ever could. But Spray Cans are a lot more expensive. But it doesn´t matter which one you get the result will be very similar.
I prefer to take Spray Cans for finer surfaces with little to no uneven parts or cracks and I use the regular primer, that has to be brushed on, for a little rougher surfaces.
Simply apply the primer to the dry and clean surface as evenly as possible and let the primer dry for a couple of hours.
Look at the surface very closely, once the primer has dried. If you see any uneven parts or you didn´t cover a part of the surface well enough simply apply another layer of the primer.
Most primers can also be sanded. So if you see brush marks or drops somewhere then you can simply sand them flush with some very fine grid sanding paper. If you don´t have any Sandingpaper then you can check out my other article, where I talk about viable alternatives to Sandpaper.
The third step is preparing the Enamel Paint.
Enamel paint should be mixed before you use it. This does not apply to Spray Cans.
So open your Enamel paint and use a stick or something similar to stir the paint before you apply it. You should not use your brush to stir the paint. Trust me, it will be a huge mess!
And the final step is applying the paint.
This may sound like an obvious step but there are a few things, that can be done wrong here.
First off, you should use high-quality brushes. Low-quality brushes will result in more Brushmarks on the finished piece and they will generally not spread the paint as well and even as high-quality brushes.
You don´t need to get very expensive professional brushes, but please avoid the very cheap brushes, that you can get everywhere in the hardware store. They will do you more harm than good.
Generally, I would suggest using a non-synthetic brush for oil-based colors. If you are using water-based Enamel paint, however, then a synthetic paint is preferable. A nature hairbrush will only absorb the water within the paint and that will result in an uneven finish(for water-based Enamel paint).
I personally prefer an ox-hair brush for painting with oil-based Enamel paints.
Another thing to keep in mind is that you have to apply the paint as evenly as possible. Try to apply even pressure when you apply the paint and try to avoid overloading the brush with paint.
I usually start in the middle of the surface and work my way outwards or, if the project has a few hard to reach areas, then I will start with these areas and work my way from there.
If the first coat wasn´t enough and you can see some uneven parts or you missed a spot, then you can simply apply another layer of paint on top of the first one.
Once the paint is dry you can also apply a topcoat to further protect the paint but most of the time that won´t be necessary. Enamel paint already creates quite a strong and robust finish on its own.
How Do I Get a Smooth Finish With Enamel Paint?
When I started working with Enamel paints I struggled quite a bit with getting a good looking smooth finish with them. It was kind of hard and frustrating to work with Enamel Paints until I slowly but surely found out, what I have to look out for and what to do in order to get that silky smooth finish with Enamel paints. So, just for you and to prevent you from losing your mind, I will share everything, my process of getting a perfectly smooth finish with Enamel paints.
So in order to get a smooth finish with Enamel paints the surface and the workspace have to be clean of any dust or dirt. Use high-quality non-synthetic brushes and oil-based Enamel paint for the best results. Prime the surface with a primer before painting it.
So really the most important things to keep in mind, when working with Enamel paints, are a clean surface and workspace, use oil-based Enamel paint if the finish is supposed to be smooth, prime the surface before painting, and use high-quality brushes.
Let’s start with the clean workspace.
It is critically important, that your workspace and the surface, that you want to paint, are clean from dust and dirt.
Even the smallest dust particle or sand corn could create an unsightly spot on your finish. So make sure, that everything in the proximity of the project, including you and your brush, are as clean from dirt or dust as possible.
The next thing is choosing the right type of Enamel paint. If you want a very smooth finish, then you should use the traditional oil-based Enamel paint. Water-based Enamel paint will most of the time not give you as smooth of a surface as oil-based Enamel paint.
Also, use high-quality non-synthetic soft brushes to apply the paint. Stiff or synthetic brushes could result in an uneven finish or they could leave ugly brushmarks on the surface. I personally would recommend using ox-hair brushes.
And the final tip is using a primer to prime your project before you paint it. This will give the paint something to hold on to better and more evenly. It will also get rid of any uneven parts or little dents. It will also ürevent the wood grain from coming through.
If you follow all of these tips, then you will end up with a very fine and smooth finish.
Hi, I am a passionate maker and professional prop maker for the entertainment industry. I use my woodworking, programming, electronics, and illustration know-how to create interactive props and puzzles for Escape Games and marketing agencies. And I share my knowledge and my experience on this blog with you so that you can become a maker yourself.