View Full Version : Acrylics on Rusted Metal?

05-08-2009, 03:36 PM
I want to try using acrylics on rusted metal, like found objects.

What would any of you recommend as a base? I would prefer to maintain a matte appearance to the metal, keeping the beautiful rust and patinas. Of course, one would need to thoroughly wash the piece in order to minimize flaking later.

My hunch here is to use a matte medium.

Any and all suggestions gratefully accepted.


Charlie's Mum
05-08-2009, 05:49 PM
Don't know the answer Robert but I imagine you'll need some kind of sealer which will stop the rust first.

How about a metal paint which does that? - it's called Hammerite over this side of the pond. After that, you could prepare your base and paint as normal.

05-08-2009, 06:01 PM
Could you not paint some of the Rust proofing Paint (specifically for this purpose) on the area you want to paint first, then lay down a Gesso or paint base of your choice atop that?
If I am not mistaken, the paint used for this purpose is a wonderfully hideous red, so I do not think it would be your final base! :)
(Basically what Maureen has suggested. Any good hardware store carries it in sizes from very small cans to large.)

Charlie's Mum
05-08-2009, 06:14 PM
Over here the paint I mentioned is available in a variety of colours for a finish to metal gates etc. :D

05-08-2009, 06:35 PM
Over here the paint I mentioned is available in a variety of colours for a finish to metal gates etc. :D
Well Maureen, being that you are living in our "Mother" country, one would assume that your much further advanced than we are!!!!:lol:
You do realize that the "Victoria Day" long weekend is coming up in Canada this month when we celebrate that Noble Queens long reign!
Yep we still look up to you all!:wink2:
(with tongue in cheek)

05-08-2009, 09:44 PM
cover with gel then paint away. I believe rust is oxidation so if you starve it from oxygen (seal it with acrylic) it will/should not continue to build.... I think

Shirl Parker
05-09-2009, 01:04 PM
I painted something rusted once. First I sprayed it with Rustoleum (?sp) and then with acrylic paint. Eventually it rusted more and broke, so ... you can do it, but no longevity.

George Servais
05-09-2009, 02:25 PM
Unless completely remove or chemically treated, oxidation will continue no matter how well sealed especially if sealed with a water based medium.
It will eat through in a matter of months.

05-14-2009, 11:01 PM
I stumbled across this work by Piet van den Boog. It's acrylic on rusted steel, 78.75 x 59 in. See other of his pieces online, Mike Weiss Gallery, NY (http://www.artinfo.com/galleryguide/19143/5702/216364/mike-weiss-gallery-new-york/artist/piet-van-den-boog/)

Of course, I'm not sure what he used to seal the metal, or if in fact he used anything.

So far, I'm pleased with how Golden Polymer Varnish with UVLS (Matte) seals a test piece without overly darkening the rust patterns.

05-15-2009, 03:33 PM
Hi Robert :wave: Sorry, missed your question when you posted it first.

Acrylic mediums are not good sealers, being in particular water-permeable. They are also oxygen permeable as far as I know.

The water permeability may not be enough to worry about for this application, in part because the substrate (or at least the rusted surface of it) might not be hydrophilic in the way that paper or canvas are. Also, presumably it's only humidity that is a concern here, rather than liquid water. However I'd still be wary of trusting an acrylic to cease further rusting, certainly for the longer term, given the specialist nature of commercial rust-inhibitors.

I'd personally like to try a matte polyurethane varnish if I were comparing, which both bonds better than acrylic and is much tougher.


05-15-2009, 03:39 PM
Hubby gave me a tip one time when I wanted to paint on metal, wasn't rusty however. But if you use vinegar on the surface of any metal the paint will adhere, won't peel, chip at all. Guess they use to do that in the navy on the ships when they repainted the hulls. Once you're done painting then any varnish could be used as well. It seems to prime the metal quite nicely.


05-15-2009, 11:26 PM
Maybe try using a Rustoleum clear coat as a primer for your support? Something like this (http://www.rustoleum.com/CBGProduct.asp?pid=166). I don't know how well or if acrylic will stick to this though.

Experiment on scrap first.

Best of luck!

05-19-2009, 11:33 AM
Thanks Einion and Elaine. I will experiment a bit more with a matte polyurethane varnish following a thorough cleansing with vinegar. Personally, find it hard to imagine that a reputable artist such as Piet van den Boog would paint on rusted steel if the result couldn't be reasonably archival. For that matter, I wonder why a gallery would sell work that might show damage within a few years.

I sent an inquiry to the technical support staff at Golden Artist Colors. Here is the reply from Scott Bennett.

The potential problem with painting over rusted metal, is that as the metal continues to rust, it will eventually cause the paint to flake off. Acrylic mediums will not stop the metal from rusting, but may slow it down for a time. In some cases, acrylic paints can speed up rusting. Fine art grade acrylic paints and mediums dry to porous, breathable films, so they will not block out moisture. If a piece of metal that has enough iron in it to rust, it will continue to rust and force off most coatings, unless you remove the rust and prime with a metal primer that will inhibit future rust from forming.

Cor-ten Steel is a type of steel that is often used in outdoor sculpture and structures, and it is allowed to rust and form a patina. Under most circumstances, it stabilizes, however it can continue to rust and degrade if water or moisture is allowed to pool. It might be possible to paint over corten steel and have some level of stability but we do not have information or test results to confirm this. There are many industrial coatings available to inhibit rust, over clean, non-rusted surfaces, but you may have to do some research to find information about painting over rust.

Below is some information I found about painting over corten steel:

The paint requirements for the COR-TEN steels do not differ from those for carbon steels. In locations where the outdoor environment is aggressive, the same quality paint systems found effective in protecting carbon steel are recommended for the COR-TEN steels. As noted earlier, environments which prevent proper oxide formation require the same surface protection against the effects of moisture as do carbon steel surfaces. Similar requirements apply where faying surfaces and bolted joints are involved, and where COR-TEN steel surfaces are likely to be in contact with other structural materials. To achieve the effectiveness of the protective coating selected, the stringent rules of surface preparation must be adhered to. While the designer must specify the paint system for the particular environment, the following are two examples of paint systems which have been found readily available and generally acceptable under most environmental conditions.

A one-coat system consisting of a high-quality air-drying rust-inhibitive shop-primer which is applied to a nominal dry film thickness of 1.5 to 2 mils.

A two-coat baked system consisting of 0.2 to 0.25 mils of a rust-inhibitive primer such as epoxy chromate followed by a top coat of synthetic-resin paint such as a polyester, acrylic or alkyd applied to a total dry film-thickness of 1.0 mils.

However, for prolonged exposure to water, the coating system should be upgraded to that of a tank lining.

More information can be found at www.ussteel.com. Alternatively, information about weathering steel from Bethlehem Steel can be found at www.intlsteel.com/PDFs/products/weather.pdf
Keith Mueller, Ph.D.
AISC Steel Solutions Center


If I hear of any other information from our other technical consultants about painting over rusted metal, I will forward that information to you.

Best regards,

Scott Bennett
Technical Support
Golden Artist Colors, Inc.