How To Paint Metal Furniture With A Brush (Steamer Trunk Redo)

Posted in Furniture Makeover
How to paint a metal steamer trunk
How To Paint Metal Furniture With A Brush (Steamer Trunk Redo)

Painting a metal surface on a piece of furniture or these old vintage steamer trunks is not hard. You just need to know a few things to get the best results with your DIY project. Today I’m sharing my best technique to paint metal furniture with a brush. No spray paint involved. This redo is being used as a toy box when my Grands visit. It’s functional but also pretty in my space. No one but them will know what’s inside of this repurposed beauty.

Thanks to Dixie Belle Paint Co for sponsoring this post. While I was compensated to write this post, all opinions are my own.

* As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases and through other companies as well. You will not be charged extra when you purchase through these affiliate links, but any income I make helps me create more amazing DIY projects to share with you! To see my full disclaimer, click here!

Preparing Your Work Area

Before starting any DIY project, be sure to prepare your work area. I don’t know about you, but I’m the Queen of clutter. One project seems to flow right into the next. So, take a little bit of time to clear your space. If you’re working indoors, lay down a drop cloth or something to protect your floors and work in a well-ventilated area. I prefer working in an outdoor space, but that’s not always possible in my Texas heat!

This steamer trunk has seen better days, but I’m going to give it a new life. Let’s get started!

Steamer Trunk Redo

You’ll also want to gather your supplies. Below is a list of what you’ll need to get started.

*This painting technique isn’t recommended on outdoor metal furniture due to extreme temperature changes and moisture. It’s best applied on indoor furniture in a controlled environment.

Important Steps To Prep The Metal For Painting (Cleaning)

Step 1: Cleaning your furniture is key to a great finish, and with metal, you also have to address surface rust or lose paint if it has been previously painted and the type of metal. Remove any loose visible dirt with a vacuum and brush attachment. I like to use a heavy-duty cleaner (Krud Cutter) that removes oils and wax for the stuff you can’t see. It’s excellent for removing loose paint, dirt and grime, and anything else that may have been spilled on the surface. Don’t skip this step.

Step 2: After cleaning, you’ll want to sand down loose rust or rough spots with an abrasive sanding block. These old trunks have been around, and I can’t help but think that maybe this one made it off the Titanic. It’s old, and I love the character that only age can give. After sanding, wipe away dust with a moistened cotton cloth and water.

You MUST Use A Metal Primer Before Painting

Step 3: Don’t miss this important step. Next, you’ll need to apply a metal primer (Zinsser 123 Primer for all surfaces) before painting to ensure that the paint you chose will adhere to the metal surface. I decided to use chalk-based paint made by Dixie Belle Paint Co for this project. It’s my go-to for most of my furniture painting makeovers. I feel I have more control over the finish than using a can of spray paint.

Apply the primer with a paintbrush or roller. I prefer a high quality paintbrush. You will need two coats for the best result. Don’t worry if you get a few paint drips from the primer. You can sand away any dips or runs with 220 grit sandpaper after the primer dries.

TIP: Use a white primer if you use light-color or white paint. This will make painting so much easier, and you should be able to cover the surface of your metal furniture with two coats of paint.

how to paint metal furniture with a brush

Adding a Fresh Coat Of Paint

Step 4: You don’t need special metal paint if you prime. I like chalky-based paints. It’s a great way to update the surface of furniture. Wood or metal sticks to almost everything; you can be artists with your creations.

How To Eliminate Brush Marks With Chalk Paint

Step 5: Because I chose to use chalk paint for my project, there’s always a concern about brush marks left visible on the painted surface. To help eliminate these pesky eye sores, I use a spray mist bottle with clean water (bottled water) to smooth as I add thin coats of paint.

Using this technique will not only minimize the brush strokes but also helps the paint to dry quicker, and you will use less paint. That’s what I’m talking about! CLICK HERE for the video tutorial and why I love brush painting.

how to eliminate brush marks painting with chalk paint

The Best Paint Brush For The Project

I used a two-inch synthetic angle brush by Dixie Belle Paint Co for this project. It’s great for tight spaces. The first coat of paint goes on as quickly as the second coat. I find it’s one of the easiest ways to apply chalk paint to furniture. For the detailed areas, I used a small artist brush.

DIY Steamer Trunk Makeover

How To Create A New Old Look

Step 6: Once you have your metal furniture project painted, feel free to add any special touches. For this makeover, I added a water-based gel stain with an artist brush to areas that would have normally chipped paint over time. This technique is super simple by adding a small amount of the stain to the very tip of an artist brush and bumping the paint on the edges that would naturally get bumped and worn. It gives so much more character to your furniture painting.

Try using a dark gel stain over white paint to create a more natural look.

Adding A Top Coat Or Wax

Step 7: Chalky-based paints can be sealed with a clear coat or wax. It’s totally your preference. Whenever I have wood involved in a furniture project, I like to keep the wood as natural as possible. The accent wood on this trunk was sanded down to the bare wood. Actually, there wasn’t much finish left on the wood, considering its age. It was more like I sanded away the dirt and mold.

Using Dixie Belle’s Best Dang Wax, apply it over the wood and paint with a large wax brush in a circular motion. Using a soft cotton cloth, buff the wax to a satin finish. It’s super easy to apply and smooth to the touch.

Best wax for chalk paint 6

The Steamer Trunk Redo (Farmhouse Style)

Don’t forget to PIN THIS!

Steam Trunk Makeover Farmhouse Style

Steam Trunk Makeover

Vintage Steam Trunk

Antique Steamer Trunk Redo

These simple steps will help ensure you get the best possible finish on metal, whether it be furniture, home decor, or vintage metal luggage.

Thanks for joining me today, and I hope you have learned some things to consider before painting metal furniture with a brush. While I love to spray paint, I always come back to the almighty brush. Maybe it’s the therapy of the back and forth strokes. There’s just something soothing about it.

What’s your preference for painting? I’d love to hear about your experience with the paintbrush. Leave me a comment below or just say hi so I know you were here.

Until the next project… xo, Do



    1. Hi Cheri! There’s a product list in this blog post with a link to Amazon so you can find them. All of my blogs have these lists. Thanks for stopping by. Have a great weekend. 🙂 xo

  1. I’m with you Do, as far as using a paintbrush! I prefer it any day over spray paint!! Love this makeover – pinned 🙂 Your work is always amazing!

  2. Hi Do! I love these old steamer trunks. I can’t wait to find one that I can makeover someday. Pinned

  3. I love how you left some waxed wood contrasting the drop cloth paint… looks amazing! And those little legs – adorble! Pinned! XOXO

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