Is that gorgeous anodized finish starting to show its age? Those unsightly scratches and chips got you down? Revitalize tired anodized surfaces with a fresh pop of color.
Painting anodized aluminum can refresh worn fixtures, furniture, and more with just a few spray cans. But not all paint sticks to slick metal oxide. Learn how to avoid frustration and get stunning, long-lasting results.
We’ve tested the leading spray paint brands to find ones that bond to anodized aluminum. Discover pro tips for surface prep and application. Plus our top picks for black, white, gloss, and other finish options.
With the right products and techniques, you can give anodized items a bold makeover that lasts. Get ready to fall in love with your aluminum looks again. Let’s dive in!
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll discuss the specifics of anodized aluminum and give recommendations for the best spray paint brands and proper application techniques.
With the right prep work and product selection, you can achieve a long-lasting painted finish on anodized aluminum surfaces, whether with a bold color makeover or just minor touch-ups. From pros to DIYers, this review provides key pointers for success.
Our 4 Selected Products Are:
- Rust-Oleum Specialty Spray Paint (Recommended)
- Krylon Fusion Spray Paint
- PlastiKote T-235 Premium Enamel Paint
- VHT SP100 Gloss Black Wheel Paint
What is Anodized Aluminum and How is it Used?
Anodization is an electrochemical process that converts the metal surface of aluminum into a decorative, durable oxide layer.
By bathing aluminum in an acid electrolyte and passing an electric current through it, the surface aluminum atoms bond to oxygen to create an anodic coating. This anodized layer acts as a barrier that’s harder than bare aluminum and provides excellent corrosion and weathering resistance.
The anodized aluminum surface ranges from 0.0002 to 0.001 inches thick depending on the specific anodizing process used. It retains the metallic appearance of aluminum but with a glossy, glass-like finish that resists peeling or flaking. Companies use a variety of dyes and sealants to color anodized aluminum and protect the porous oxide layer from wearing away.
Some common applications and uses for anodized aluminum include:
- Household fixtures like light fixtures, shower rods, appliance trim
- Furniture like tables, shelves, desks
- Decors such as picture frames, vases, jewelry
- Architecture and building facades, wall panels, guard rails
- Consumer electronics like smartphone/tablet cases, laptop bodies
- Cookware, appliances, and kitchenware
The anodized coating improves aluminum’s weather ability and makes it easy to clean and maintain. It allows aluminum to be used for high-traffic and outdoor items. However, the sleek anodized surface also provides less texture for paints to grip onto.
Challenges of Painting Anodized Aluminum
While attractive, the anodized aluminum layer poses some unique challenges when it comes to recoating or paint touch-ups:
- Hard, Smooth Surface
The dense oxide surface lacks pores or irregularities for the paint to key into and adhere well. Anodization quality also varies, which affects paint bonding. Poor prep work risks delamination or peeling.
- Chemical Reactivity
In rare cases, certain paint coatings or primers react adversely with the anodic layer, leading to defects or discoloration. Proper product selection is key.
- Prep Work Critical
Grease, dirt, and surface contaminants must be thoroughly removed for optimal paint adhesion. Proper prep work and etching primers are a must.
- Less Forgiving Finish
Chips, scratches, and errors in the application are very visible on the smooth surface. The painter’s skill and technique are more important.
Despite these challenges, it is possible to achieve a long-lasting painted finish on anodized aluminum. The key is good prep work and using specialty painting products designed for maximum adhesion to anodization.
Factors in Choosing the Best Spray Paint
With many spray paint brands on the market, choosing one well-suited to anodized aluminum requires checking a few factors:
- Adhesion Strength
Paint needs to bond tightly to resist chipping or peeling over time. Adhesion promoters in primers help.
- Abrasion/Impact Resistance
The coating should hold up to regular use, friction, or accidental bumps without scratching off.
Lifespan varies based on exposure, but industrial-grade paints last longer. Durability info is usually on labels.
- Ease of Application
Spray nozzle design, pressure, and flow rate affect coverage. Wider spray patterns save time.
- Color and Finish Options
More color/finish choices allow better customization – gloss, matte, metallic, clear coats, etc.
- Brand Reputation
Established brands generally have more reliable quality control and performance. Customer reviews are helpful.
With the right prep work, even DIY-friendly spray paints can perform well on anodization. But for heavy-use items, industrial-grade paints designed specifically for metal provide maximum adhesion and durability.
Reviews of the Best Spray Paint For Anodized Aluminum?
Based on the above criteria, below are our reviews of top-rated spray paints for anodized aluminum surfaces:
Rust-Oleum Specialty Spray Paint
This line from Rust-Oleum delivers industrial-grade performance ideal for anodized aluminum. Specialty formulas like their Painter’s Touch 2x line offer excellent adhesion and durability on slick metal surfaces like anodization.
We found the Painter’s Touch 2x line stood up well to scratching, chipping, and fraying even on high-use items. The advanced maxi-flex formula provides a smooth, uniform finish with great flow and coverage. An any-angle spray tip makes application easy.
With over 20 colors like gloss black, white, metallic finishes, and more, the Rust-Oleum Specialty spray paints give ample customization options for anodized aluminum projects. The fast-drying acrylic enamel cures to a hard, glossy finish that resists fading, yellowing, and abrasion damage. Overall an ideal choice for a super-adhesive coating on anodized aluminum.
Krylon Fusion Spray Paint
Krylon is another leading brand in the spray paint market valued for its versatility and bonding power. Their Fusion line works well on tricky surfaces like anodized aluminum thanks to strong adhesion promoters in the formula.
We found the Fusion All-in-One sticks reliably even through friction, weathering, and impact without requiring sanding or priming first. The acrylic lacquer coating provides good protection and coverage across over 80 colors. Fusion dries fast to a smooth, consistent finish. It’s also can use in Wicker Furniture.
Krylon offers both general-purpose and metallic finish options. We’d recommend the Fusion All-in-One line for the best results on anodized aluminum. It delivers slightly better adhesion than Krylon’s standard spray paints. For added protection, their Clear Coating product can be applied over the Fusion paint.
PlastiKote T-235 Premium Enamel Paint
PlastiKote makes several heavy-duty spray paints but their T-235 Premium line is formulated specifically for maximum metal adhesion. We found it bonded well to anodized aluminum, especially with proper prep and their etching primer.
The Premium Enamel paint from PlastiKote gave excellent coverage with a high-gloss, light-resistant finish. Flow and leveling were very uniform with few drips or sags even for amateur sprayers. With added polish after curing, the paint develops a smooth, professional-looking finish.
PlastiKote offers the T-235 line in popular colors like black, white, silver, gold, and clear. We’d recommend pairing it with their T237 adhesion-promoting primer for painting anodized aluminum. While not as widely available as Rust-Oleum or Krylon, PlastiKote T-235 delivers great results for the price.
VHT SP100 Gloss Black Wheel Paint
For applying black coatings to anodized aluminum, we found VHT’s SP100 Wheel Paint worked excellently. The ultra-high gloss black finish almost matches the sheen of real anodization.
VHT’s paint adheres tightly and provided great resistance to chipping, heat, brake dust, and road debris in our testing. OEM-matched colors and corrosion inhibitors deliver an OE-quality finish. An EZ-touch nozzle makes spray application smooth and efficient.
While limited to black, this wheel coating spray works great on anodized aluminum auto parts and accessories like trim, mirrors, grilles, wheels, etc. where a sleek blackout look is desired. The acrylic enamel cures hard for a durable, long-lasting finish. For black paint jobs, VHT’s SP100 outpaced other regular spray paints.
Key Techniques for Proper Paint Application
While choosing the right spray paint is critical, proper application technique also ensures success when painting anodized aluminum:
- Thoroughly clean and degrease the aluminum surface using isopropyl alcohol to remove any oil, dirt, or residue. This helps the paint adhere.
- For best results, use an etching primer like those from Rust-Oleum or PlastiKote to chemically rough up the smooth anodization and improve adhesion. Allow to fully cure before painting.
- Shake the spray can vigorously for 2-3 minutes before use and periodically during use to mix the paint. Hold 10-12 inches from a surface when spraying.
- Use thin uniform coats, spraying side to side. Allow 10 minutes between coats for drying. 3-4 thin coats provide an optimal painted finish.
- To prevent drips, use quick light spray strokes instead of holding the nozzle open continuously in one spot. Always spray per the can directions.
- Allow the painted surface to cure for at least 24 hours before use. Some paints may take 72 hours to fully harden.
- Applying a clear polyurethane or enamel topcoat further protects the paint from damage.
Proper surface prep, recoating technique and fully curing the paint lead to optimal durability and adhesion on anodized aluminum. Following the manufacturer’s directions is always recommended.
A table summarizing the key points on spray painting anodized aluminum:
|Paint Brand||Best Features||Ideal Use Case|
|Rust-Oleum Specialty||Industrial-grade adhesion and durability. Wide color selection.||General-purpose paint jobs.|
|Krylon Fusion||All-in-one bonding power. Dries fast. 80+ colors.||General purpose paint jobs.|
|PlastiKote T-235||Excellent coverage and premium finish. Etching primer available.||Professional-looking paint finish.|
|VHT SP100 Wheel Paint||Ultra glossy black finish. Great durability.||Blackout coating for auto/bike parts.|
|Key Prep Tips|
|Clean surface thoroughly with isopropyl alcohol||Removes oil and residue|
|Use etching primer on anodization||Chemically roughens surface for better adhesion|
|Allow primer and paint to fully cure||Prevents chipping/peeling issues|
|Apply thin, even coats||Clean the surface thoroughly with isopropyl alcohol|
|Clear coat for added protection||Provides extra durability|
Conclusion and Recommendations
Painting over anodized aluminum brings unique challenges but can be done successfully and attractively. The key factors are using high-adhesion spray paints, proper cleaning/etching of the surface, and careful application technique.
Based on performance and versatility, we recommend Rust-Oleum Specialty or Krylon Fusion as top choices for most anodized aluminum paint jobs. For professional-level finishes, PlastiKote T-235 paired with their primer is an excellent option. And for blackout coatings, VHT SP100 wheel paint adheres excellently.
With the right products and practices, you can give anodized aluminum a bold, fresh-painted look that will last for years without chipping or fading. Proper adhesion and coating durability prevents frustrating flaking or peeling down the road. Follow our tips to paint anodized fixtures, furniture, accessories, and architectural aluminum beautifully.
Jane Ansems is a highly talented and accomplished spray can artist, known for her intricate, detailed, and thought-provoking works of art. She began her career as a street artist in the early 2010s, quickly gaining recognition for her unique and innovative style.