A Guide to Painting Aluminium

Painting Aluminium Sheets
Painting Aluminium Sheets

Aluminium has no shortage of useful and desirable properties, most of which contribute to its almost universal status as one of the most versatile metals on earth. This ever-increasing renown is resulting in more materials and products being replaced by aluminium alternatives every day. It is for this reason that it is important to understand how aluminium works in comparison to other materials which people may be more used to working with.


With the rise of aluminium’s prominence, many people will naturally find it necessary to exploit ways of personalising it, and one of the most common ways of doing this is by painting it. Unfortunately, aluminium does not take to paint as well as other materials such as wood, so the process is not quite as straight forward as simply applying several coats of paint.

With that being said, if you know the right way to go about it, painting aluminium is rather simple. The trick to painting the material is to apply an etching primer first to remove the aluminium’s natural oxidisation layer and help the paint adhere to the surface. Failure to do this correctly may result in the paint peeling or chipping off the aluminium shortly after its application.

Painting Aluminium – The Step by Step Guide

Step 1 – Ensure that the surface you intend to paint has been thoroughly cleaned and is completely free from dirt, grease, oil, or anything that could potentially interfere with your paint’s adherence during and after application. Aluminium is a strong material, so don’t be afraid to use a coarse scrubbing brush, but refrain from using steel wool or scouring pads, as they could have a potentially damage the aesthetics of your aluminium.

Step 2 – Once the material has been thoroughly cleaned, you can proceed to apply the etching primer. The smooth surface of your aluminium has to be properly abraded to allow the paint to have somewhere to get in and adhere to. With most other materials, this is usually accomplished with sandpaper, but with aluminium it is highly recommended that you use an etching primer and leave it on for 4 to 6 hours before painting.

Step 3 – Once the aluminium has been properly cleaned and etched, you are able to use almost any kind of paint to colour your aluminium. It is important to consider whether the final product will be used in or outdoors, and what weather conditions it will be exposed to when selecting paint. Like most painting applications, it is advised to apply a white base-coat before applying 2 to 3 coats of your desired paint. This will ensure the best possible results for your newly painted material.

Be Cautious

You will more than likely come across paints which claim to be aluminium paint in hardware and building stores, but be wary as even these paints will more than likely need to be applied on top of an etching primer. Dulux is probably the most well known manufacturer of general paints in South Africa and they list a product on their website called “Dulux Aluminium Paint”. The product information clearly states “Suitable for metal and wooden surfaces provided that appropriate preparation and priming is carried out.”

The Alternative

The most important thing to remember when painting aluminium is that it naturally forms a thin layer of aluminium oxide on its surface, which makes it a challenging substrate for the paint to adhere to unless it is adequately removed. If you are still unsure about painting aluminium, the alternative would be to buy your aluminium sheets or extrusions with a finishing option such as anodising or powder coating, Aluminium Trading can handle these requests for you, simply contact us.

Comments (6)

  • Robert Mylroie Reply

    Please provide the product name and supplier of a suitable aluminium primer.

    July 2, 2020 at 5:22 pm
  • Johan Reply

    Where can I find a primer to paint aluminium valve covers, I am based in Oudtshoorn

    July 27, 2021 at 2:20 pm
  • Willem Westraad Reply

    Building off road caravan and covered with aluminum sheeting. Need to paint it. What primers and paint is the most suitable. How do I go about it to get the best finish

    November 3, 2022 at 6:19 am
    • Shea Reply

      Hi Willem, there are a variety of primers and paints available at hardware stores that are suitable for aluminium, you dont need to find a specialised product. Just make sure that the material is properly etched and the natural oxidisation layer is removed before you apply a primer or paint.

      November 14, 2022 at 8:43 am
      • Yunus Reply

        Hi Shea,
        I ordered the incorrect colour powder coated aluminium window and my installer said that I could spray paint it the the correct colour. I ordered charcoal instead of bronze. Please advise what products to use. Thank you.

        February 15, 2023 at 4:02 pm
        • Shea Reply

          Hi Yunus,

          Any etching enamel paint should be ok to use over powder coated aluminium. Obviously I have no idea on the quality of the material so this is not risk free advice.

          Best regards and good luck!

          February 20, 2023 at 7:24 am


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