Tin is a great surface to paint on and has been my surface of choice for years. It is important for you to know the proper way to prepare it before painting. First and foremost you should know that if there is any rust on the surface it must be removed. Rust will continue to "grow" beneath any layer of paint, sealer and even a rust inhibitor if it is not removed. The instructions for preparing old and new tin before painting are not the same. I do not paint on tin that is rusty. If it has a very small amount of rust that can be easily removed then I will consider it, if I love the piece. If the integrity of the tin has been invaded I would not paint a design on it, ever!

If you are painting on a piece of tin that has rust you must remove all the rust before you begin your base coating. Use commercial products that will remove rust and possibly a wire brush to remove all, not some, but all of the rust. Remember, if you do not remove all of the rust it will continue to rust beneath your paint and over the years the tin will deteriorate and flake away.

Wash the tin with soap and water and remove any dirt, grime or grease after you have removed any rust. Hopefully, there is no rust on your piece of tin. Rinse it in vinegar and then water to insure an oil free surface. Allow it to dry thoroughly. Make sure all crevices and seams are dry. Once all of the tin is dry prime it by spraying with RustOleum Gray Car Primer. After it is primed, allow it to dry and follow the instructions for basecoating at the end of this page.


I cannot emphasize enough how important all the steps below should be closely followed. Each type of tin is treated differently so be certain to follow the instructions to insure that you have a good result. The paint will adhere and will not peel or scratch if you use my instructions.

Remove any stickers and make sure all the residue from the sticker is completely gone. Goo Gone is a good product to use to remove the glue left after a sticker is peeled away. Wash tin in warm soapy water and rinse thoroughly with water. Use a final rinse of vinegar and water to make sure that any trace of oil is gone. Since tin has seams it is important that you allow proper time for it to dry naturally. A hair drier may be used to dry the tin thoroughly or place it in your oven on the lowest "warm" setting. It will be best to allow it to air dry for at least 24 hours before you begin any prep work.

GALVANIZED and RAW TIN (Prep Before Painting)

Many of the tin products produced by Folk Art Tin™ are made of galvanized tin and some raw tin. Galvanized tin will not rust unless it is scratched or cut. Raw tin should be primed so it will not rust. They are both prepared the same way. The galvanized tin needs the same procedure to make the paint adhere well, not to prevent rust. Raw tin needs protection to avoid rust and to make the paint adhere well.

Sand in a circular motion with a piece of medium grit sand paper to rough the tin surface. Pay particular attention to the edges by sanding them well. Wipe all of the dust away. This gives tooth to the tin and allows the primer and paint to bond well.

Tin must be primed with a rust inhibitor to prevent any rusting. It also starts our process of creating a tough skin to avoid any scratching or peeling of the paint. I use RustOleum Gray Auto Primer (a spray). I sometimes use Penetrol (a brush on) on flat surfaces. I use it mostly on flat surfaces since it runs so easily. It has a longer drying time, but it leaves a wonderful surface to paint when it is dry. Both of these products can be found in any home improvement center.

PRIMED TIN (Prep Before Painting)

When my business was started I did not have tin that was primed. We now have unprimed and tin primed with a black powder finish applied at the factory. It is slick so I sand the primed surface with medium grit sand paper in a circular motion and remove the grit. Always sand the edges of your tin as this is the area that is most likely to be damaged. Now you are ready to go to the next step, applying your acrylic basecoat.


When I apply the first coat of base color I mix all purpose sealer with the paint. Use any brand that you have in your paint box. It should be compatible with acrylic paint. If you can clean your wood sealer out of your brush with soap and water it should be okay.

Place sealer and your base color on the palette. A brush mix of these two products are applied first. I pick up more sealer than I do paint. The sealer helps to strengthen the bond of the paint. I apply one coat of this mix and allow it to dry. Your surface will feel cold until it has dried. Be very careful to not allow this mix to run. If it dries it is very, very difficult to sand.

THIS NEXT STEP IS VERY IMPORTANT - My students and customers always ask why it is necessary to paint so many layers of paint on the tin. You can do all of the steps in these instructions more quickly than you can when you paint on a wooden surface. Paint adheres well to wood because it is porous, meaning the paint sinks below the surface of the wood. Tin does not absorb the paint. So we must apply the paint so it will adhere well and it has a thick skin.

Compare it to a plastic drop cloth. If you buy a drop cloth to place on the floor when you are painting a wall it will tear before you can pull it apart. If you buy a more expensive drop cloth you can unfold it, use it, fold it up and use it again, because it is thick and durable. You want a durable finish on your tinware... so don't skip any of the steps that I use.

Next apply three coats of acrylic paint with no sealer added; sealer is added to the first coat only. It is important to have a good base coat on the tin. Be certain to apply the paint smoothly and avoid any runs or ridges. If these should occur you can sand very lightly and apply several layers of base color until it is level with the area you sanded.

Allow ample drying time between each coat of paint. Allow the paint to dry completely before applying the next coat. When the paint feels cold to the touch it is not dry or cured. It will be warm when it is dry.

WARNING!!! I no longer use the technique you are about to read. However, I felt I should mention it and tell you how, but abandoned the process when I had a disaster occur with a completed tin piece and it was ruined.

Your tin can be placed in the oven on the lowest setting to cure your paint if it is small enough to go in your oven. Make certain to keep it on the lowest setting (usually 180 - 200 degrees) or it can melt the solder that holds the seams of your tin together. I did use this long ago, one of my sons turned the oven up to cook a pizza. Place a note on the oven door so your family will know it is in use. Do not leave it in more than a few minutes on the low setting.

Tin will scratch very easily if it is not cured. Humidity affects the drying and curing time. If possible wait 24 hours before applying your pattern. If you cannot wait that long be sure to carefully apply the pattern without too much pressure on your stylist. I recommend that you allow the tin to cure before you varnish.

Updated 2012© Della Wetterman Della and Company

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