What Kind of Paint and Primer Is Best for Stainless Steel?

Stainless steel is a widely used material in households and commercial spaces. However, despite its durability, it may start to look old and fade after a while. There are different ways to maintain the quality and appearance of stainless steel, one of which is painting it. But which paint and primer is best?

For stainless steel, an oil-based metal paint is the best option. If you are concerned about rust, use paint that has rust-inhibiting properties. Using an oil-based metal primer before painting the stainless steel is recommended as it will help create an even layer of paint over the surface, increasing durability.

In this article, you will learn:

  • The 4 factors to consider when choosing paint for stainless steel
  • What type of paint to use
  • What finish is best
  • My top picks for the best paint and primer for stainless steel

The 4 Factors to Consider When Choosing Paint for Stainless Steel

1. Type of Environment

One of the most critical factors to consider when choosing paint for stainless steel is the type of environment in which it will be used.

For example, if the surface is exposed to saltwater, high humidity, or corrosive chemicals, it will need a more durable coating than in a dry, indoor environment.

Some types of paint are specifically designed for extreme weather conditions, while others are better suited for indoor applications.

2. Temperature Resistance

Stainless steel can endure high temperatures, making it ideal for manufacturing and food-grade applications. If you’re planning to paint stainless steel that will be exposed to high temperatures, you need to choose a heat-resistant paint.

3. Type of Paint

Not all paint types are suitable for use on stainless steel surfaces. Some types of paint may not adhere well to stainless steel’s slick, non-porous surface or may not be resistant to corrosion or fading. Generally, it’s best to choose a paint formulated specifically for use on metal surfaces, especially stainless steel.

4. Cost

Finally, you’ll need to consider the cost of the paint. While it’s important to choose a high-quality paint that will provide the level of protection you need, you also want to make sure you’re not overspending on a product that may be more than you need. Consider the size of the area you’ll be painting, the type of paint you’re using, and the application method.

What Type of Paint Is Best?

Oil-based Paint

Oil-based paint is a type of paint that uses oil as a carrier for the pigment. It’s highly regarded for its durability and rich finish.


  • Excellent adhesion properties
  • Resists chipping and wear
  • Provides better coverage with fewer coats
  • Dries into a smooth, glossy finish


  • Takes longer to dry
  • Cleanup requires solvents like mineral spirits or turpentine
  • Emits strong fumes that require good ventilation
  • Contains higher levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
  • May turn yellow

Acrylic Paint

Acrylic paint is a type of paint made of pigment suspended in an acrylic polymer emulsion. It’s water-soluble but becomes water-resistant when dry.


  • Quick Drying
  • Easy Cleanup
  • Low Odor
  • Contain fewer volatile organic compounds (VOCs)


  • May not adhere as well to non-porous surfaces like stainless steel without proper surface preparation
  • May not hold up as well in high-moisture or outdoor environments
  • Can be sensitive to water
  • May require multiple coats for desired opacity and finish

What Paint Finish Is Best?

When it comes to painting stainless steel, choosing the right finish is critical for both the visual appeal and the durability of the result. As a rule of thumb, the glossier the finish, the better the protection against damage, corrosion, and wear.

High-gloss finishes, such as gloss enamel or high-gloss epoxy, are particularly resistant to abrasion, moisture, and chemical substances, making them ideal for stainless steel surfaces exposed to frequent use and harsh environments.

Moreover, glossy coatings form a smooth and non-porous barrier that prevents dirt, grease, and bacteria from adhering to the surface, thus ensuring easier cleaning and maintenance.

Other paint finishes that can be used for stainless steel include satin and semi-gloss. Satin finishes, also known as eggshell or low-sheen, have a subtle shine and a smooth texture that result in a sophisticated look and moderate durability.

Semi-gloss finishes offer a good balance between visual appeal and protection, making them suitable for both interior and exterior applications. As with glossy coatings, semi-gloss paints should be applied in multiple coats to ensure durability and coverage.

The Best Paint and Primer for Stainless Steel

Best Paint

When protecting stainless steel surfaces from rust, weather, and other elements, Rust-Oleum Stops Rust Protective Enamel Spray Paint is the best choice. This oil-based formula provides excellent coverage, long-lasting durability, and a superior protective coating. 

Unlike other spray paints, it is specially designed to resist peeling, cracking, and chipping, making it an ideal choice for any exterior or interior surface. Additionally, this paint dries to the touch in just 2 to 4 hours and can easily cover up to 15 square feet (1.4m²).

In addition to its impressive durability, it also boasts excellent UV resistance, preventing fading that can result from exposure to the sun’s rays. The paint’s abrasion resistance also ensures it can withstand wear and tear over time without losing its protective properties.

Perhaps most importantly, Rust-Oleum Stops Rust Protective Enamel Spray Paint is specifically engineered to prevent rust formation on metal surfaces like stainless steel.

This means that it offers superior protection against weather and environmental elements and eliminates the risk of unsightly rust spots forming on your stainless steel surfaces.

Best Primer

When preparing stainless steel surfaces for painting or protection against rust and weathering, Rust-Oleum Professional Primer Spray Paint is the best choice.

This high-quality, durable oil-based formula is designed to maintain its consistent, corrosion-resistant color despite the elements. 

It provides twice the protection of paint alone, making it the ideal choice for ensuring the longevity and durability of stainless steel surfaces.

It is also incredibly convenient to cover up to 14 square feet (1.3m²) and dry to the touch in just 15 minutes. It can be used indoors and outdoors, making it a versatile option for various applications.

One of the standout features of this commercial and industrial-grade paint formula is its high-output tip that can be sprayed at any angle. This makes covering all angles and surfaces easy, even the hardest-to-reach spots. 

Rust-Oleum Professional Primer Spray Paint also serves as an excellent base for adhesion, ensuring that any topcoat application will adhere to the surface properly.

It can withstand even the most demanding and heavy-use environments, making it suitable for use in various industrial and commercial settings.

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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