Aluminium has a myriad of useful properties all of which contribute to its almost universal renown as one of the most versatile metals. This ever-growing recognition is resulting in more and more materials being replaced by aluminium alternatives, which is why it is important to understand how the material works in comparison to other materials which you maybe more familiar with working with.
With aluminium becoming so prominent, many will find it necessary to find ways of personalising it and what better way is there of doing this than by painting it? Sadly aluminium does not accept paint as well as materials such as wood do, so it is not quite as straight forward as applying several coats, followed by a layer of varnish.
That being said, it is not difficult to paint if you know the right way to go about it. All you need to do is apply a primer first to help the paint adhere to aluminium's slick surface; but we will come to that shortly as there are a few steps you should take to properly prepare the material. Just to clarify, failure to follow the following instructions correctly may result the paint chipping or peeling off shortly after its application.
Step 1 – Ensure that the surface you intend to paint is clean and free from dirt, grease, oil, or anything else that could potentially interfere with the paint's application and adherence. Aluminium is a very sturdy material, so don't be afraid to use coarse scrub brushes, but do refrain from using wire wool scouring pads, as they will have a negative impact on the materials aesthetics.
Step 2 – Once you are certain the material is clean, it is time to apply the primer, though not any old primer will do. Aluminium's smooth surface has to be abraded to allow the paint to have somewhere to get in and hold on to. With most materials this can be done with sandpaper, but with aluminium you are best off using an etching primer and leaving it for 4-6 hours before painting.
Step 3 – Once properly etched you can use almost any kind of paint to decorate your aluminium, though we do suggest that you consider whether the final product will be kept in or outdoors, and what kind of weather it will be exposed to, when selecting your paint. Be sure to apply a white base-coat before applying at least 2-3 coats of your desired colour paint; doing so will ensure that you get the best possible results.
You may come across some paints which claim to be aluminium paint, but even these will need to be applied on top of an etching primer. The thing to remember is that aluminium forms a thin layer of aluminium-oxide on its surface, which makes it a challenging substrate to adhere to.