What Kind of Paint and Primer Is Best for Brass?

Brass is a popular material for many home fixtures and accessories, but its shiny golden finish can clash with certain design styles or lose its aesthetic appeal over time.

Painting is a cost-effective and versatile solution if you’re looking to update or transform your brass surfaces. However, not all paint and primer products work well with brass.

Oil- and water-based paint can be used on brass, provided proper preparation is done beforehand. You should use a primer designed specifically for brass and metal surfaces for best results. A self-etching primer is the preferred option, as it helps the paint adhere better and prevents oxidation and corrosion over time.

In this article, you will learn:

  • The 5 factors to consider when choosing paint for brass
  • What type of paint to use
  • What finish is best
  • My top picks for the best paint and primer for brass

The 5 Factors to Consider When Choosing Paint for Brass

1. Chemical Composition of the Paint

One critical factor in choosing paint for brass is the chemical composition of the paint. The chosen paint should be compatible with brass and not react with it, as this could cause corrosion and damage to the metal.

Opting for specially formulated paint designed for use on brass is highly recommended, as it significantly reduces the risk of any negative interactions with the metal surface.

2. Paint Finish

Another essential factor is the paint finish that you desire. Brass can have a natural sheen or matte finish depending on the type of brass. Also, the decision to paint or preserve the natural sheen should be considered.

If you plan to paint your brass, your paint finish is essential. A glossy or metallic finish will give the brass a shiny look, while a matte finish will provide a more subdued look.

3. The Condition of the Brass

When choosing paint for brass, the condition of the metal surface is critical. Clean your brass and remove any existing paint, dirt, or debris before proceeding with the paint job.

If you have old brass pieces that do not have a natural coating, brass primers are a great way to protect the metal from corrosion and prepare it for painting.

4. Environmental Considerations

The environment in which you intend to place the brass pieces is also a critical factor to consider. Ensure the paint you choose is suitable for indoor or outdoor use if the brass piece will be placed outside or exposed to the elements.

Additionally, consider the environment in which the piece is stored or displayed. For instance, a brass piece kept in a damp or humid room may require a certain type of paint that can resist the effects of humidity.

5. Painting Techniques

Avoid techniques like brushing, as these techniques seldom produce even paint coverage and can leave brush marks on the brass surface.

Use spray paint, which provides an even finish and is less likely to leave marks. When using spray paint, it is also essential to conduct it in a well-ventilated area, preferably outdoors, to avoid inhaling toxic fumes.

What Type of Paint Is Best?

Water-based Paint

Water-based paint is a viable option for painting brass, especially with a primer to promote better adhesion.

It offers environmental advantages due to its lower VOC content and easier clean-up, but it may not provide the same level of durability as oil-based paints.


  • Less Flammable: Safer to use in confined spaces.
  • Non-Hazardous: Environmentally friendly disposal.
  • Easy Clean-up: Can be cleaned up with water.
  • Reduced Odor: Less invasive smell compared to oil-based paints.
  • Sustainability: Lower polluting effect than traditional paints.


  • Poor Adhesion: May not adhere well to raw metal, glossy, and shiny surfaces.
  • Durability: More prone to chipping, scuffing, and impact damage.
  • Gloss Finish: Struggles to achieve a high gloss or mirror finish.
  • Water Resistance: Weaker water resistance may take longer to dry in humid conditions.

Oil-based Paint

Oil-based paint is a popular choice for painting brass due to its strong adhesion to metal surfaces and ability to provide a smooth, sheen finish once cured.

It offers better coverage and hiding power than water-based paints and is known for its resilience, making it a durable option for brass objects.


  • Adhesion: Adheres well to metal surfaces, including brass.
  • Durability: Known for its resilience and longevity.
  • Smooth Finish: Achieves a high-gloss, durable finish.
  • Stain Resistance: Resistant to staining and water damage.
  • Coverage: Provides better coverage and hiding power than water-based paints.


  • Drying Time: Takes longer to dry compared to water-based paints.
  • Odor: Emits a strong, invasive odor.
  • Cleanup: Requires mineral spirits or paint thinner for clean-up.
  • Environmental Impact: Not as environmentally friendly as water-based paints.

What Paint Finish Is Best?

Among the array of options available, one finish distinctly stands out as the clear winner: gloss. This particular finish provides unparalleled durability and boasts the highest level of shine, making it the ideal choice for brass painting projects.

Gloss finishes provide a bright and reflective surface that enhances the natural brilliance of brass. The shiny surface reflects more light, creating a greater visual impact and a more noticeable appearance.

This is particularly important for decorative brass objects like candlesticks or decorative hardware, often meant to stand out and draw attention to their surroundings.

In addition to its durability and shine, gloss finishes are relatively easy to clean and maintain. Stains and dirt are less likely to adhere to the glossy surface, and any smudges or fingerprints can be easily wiped away with a soft cloth.

This is especially beneficial for brass objects that are frequently handled, such as doorknobs or drawer pulls.

The Best Paint and Primer for Brass

Best Paint

Rust-Oleum Stops Rust Protective Enamel Paint is the best option available on the market. This ultra-durable spray paint provides a beautiful finish and offers long-lasting protection against rust, abrasion, fading, chipping, and dulling.

The superior coverage ensures that every inch of the brass surface is coated evenly and thoroughly, regardless of its intricate design or shape.

Moreover, this versatile spray paint adheres to practically all surfaces, such as metal, wood, and ceramic, making it perfect for use in both indoor and outdoor environments.

One of the greatest features of this spray paint is the any-angle system, which allows you to spray the brass surface at any angle. This is particularly useful for hard-to-reach areas as it ensures you can apply adequate paint without risking blotches or missed spots.

Also, the comfort spray tip on the Rust-Oleum Stops Rust Enamel Spray can drastically reduce finger fatigue, making it easier to undertake larger projects for longer periods.

This means you can enjoy a more seamless painting experience without causing strain on your hands.

Best Primer

Rust-Oleum Stops Rust Clean Metal Primer is the best primer for brass, without a doubt. The combination of its powerful formula and easy application makes it the ideal primer for all your brass metal surfaces.

The unique formula provides superior adhesion and enhances the durability and longevity of your brass metal finish. It eliminates the risks of chipping, cracking, and peeling commonly associated with painting brass surfaces.

This primer is known for its exceptional performance in preparing surfaces for applying enamel finish. The primer promotes topcoat adhesion, reducing the need for multiple enamel finish coats. This saves time and significantly reduces the cost of painting your brass surfaces.

It features a comfort tip designed with a wider finger pad that reduces the fatigue caused by continuous spraying. This unique design ensures you can prime your brass surfaces for hours without experiencing any discomfort.

Additionally, the any-angle tip allows you to easily spray at any angle, ensuring you reach every part of your brass surface, even the hard-to-reach areas.

Joshua Milton

Joshua Milton is a passionate DIY and home improvement enthusiast. With his expertise in various projects, he provides practical tips, step-by-step guides, and creative ideas for transforming your living space.

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