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It's not difficult to completely update your metal light fixtures by adding a coat of paint. You will need to use a bit of elbow grease and prepare the surface well, use a primer, then do multiple color coats for a smooth finish. Metal is a hard, nonporous surface, that unless prepped well, and the right products are used, you will have trouble with paint adhesion and the paint may crack off the surface over time. Doing a good job of cleaning and removing rust spots – if any – will give you the best end results. Sometimes, the lacquer on old brass fixtures is so heavy that you will need to condition the fixture with a special etching primer before you paint. Taking your time with all of the steps below, and using a smooth spray method will give you a professional-looking finish and you'll be very proud of how fabulous your "new" fixture looks.
Water based degreaser
Blue painters tape
Drop cloths - Canvas is preferable to plastic
Tack cloth - optional
0000 steel wool and 220 grit sandpaper or or sanding sponge
Galvanized metal etching primer - optional
Acrylic spray paint - I recommend Rustoleum because they have a primer/paint combo that is specifically designed for metal
2. Cover areas adjacent to where you will be spraying with drop cloths. You will be amazed at how far spray paint will travel. Those little particulates get everywhere, I am banned from using my garage because my husband's car once got "nailed" with bits of hammered black and of course his car is silver...... Some fixtures are best raised off the floor so you can spray underneath. I often hang ceiling lights and chandeliers so I have plenty of visibility on all sides. Table and floor lamp bases should be lifted so you can get the edges. It's a great idea to use a box for that purpose. Warning – don't use Styrofoam since it melts with the paint. Cover all wires and any part of the fixture that does not get a new color coat with blue tape. For example, on a chandelier, you don't want the part where the bulb gets screwed in - the socket - to be covered in paint. I typically stuff a bit of newspaper inside the socket then tape off the top. 3. Here's where your tack cloth comes in handy. They sell them in all paint departments as well as in craft stores. It is just cheesecloth that is very sticky. It wipes across the surface to be painted to pick up any dust and dirt. Great invention – if you want a nice finish on any painted piece – use a tack cloth between each coat. Shake your spray can really well. Before you go to the fixture, spray a little on your box or dropcloth to be sure you're getting a spray and not droplets. Apply a coat at etching primer to the bare metal and wait for it to cure. Follow the directions on the can. You can also purchase paint and primer designed for metal from Rustoleum. 4. Begin spraying your acrylic spray lightly, standing at least 6 inches away from the fixture. Use a sweeping motion up and down so you don't spray heavily in one area and cause the paint to drip. Multiple thin coats are significantly better for this procedure then heavier ones. Spray paint dries pretty quickly, but if you put it on too heavily, you may end up with cracks or drips. Take your time, and allow the fixture to drive between coats. I often end up with five thin coats of spray to get a very even surface finish.