Over the years, I’ve been asked this question a lot. In fact, I believe that’s why many of you are reading this right now. We all want to know what enamel paint is, how it works, and why everyone has gone crazy about it.
Well, sit back and relax because you’ve come to the right place. If you are wondering, “What is enamel paint?” look no further. I’m going to break down the basics of what enamel paint is for you, in a way that even absolute beginners can understand. Plus, I’m going to show exactly how easy it is for anyone to use this magical stuff.
Types of Paint for a Paint Job
First, let’s go ahead and get something straight, there are two main types of exterior paints used on metal surfaces acrylics and enamels. They both have their distinct pros and cons which we’ll go over in a moment, but for now, let’s continue on with the topic at hand, what is an enamel paint and how does it work?
Enamel Paint and How it Works
Enamels come in two varieties, lacquer and acrylic. Acrylic was once known as “enamel,” which is how we ended up with the term ‘enamel paint.’ Today, we use the term to describe these paints because they both share similar properties. No matter which you choose to use, they are both durable finishes that can be used on metal surfaces without priming or sanding. Plus, they don’t require any special equipment except for regular painting tools like brushes and rollers. And since they dry to a smooth finish very quickly (unlike oil-based paints), you can start and finish multiple coats in a matter of days.
Both lacquer and acrylic enamels are suitable for practically every metal surface you can think of. That includes cars, motorcycles, bicycles and even BBQ grills. And since they’re both used as a protective coating with a high-gloss shine, they give surfaces a deep lustre that looks amazing from any angle. Even better, the sheen may last for years instead of weeks like other paints.
What is Enamel Paint Made of?
Modern acrylic and lacquer paints consist of two main ingredients, resin and pigment.
The resin is the base that holds everything together, which you can think of as the glue that binds all the other ingredients together. Resins are made from petrochemicals, chemicals extracted from petroleum products like oil and natural gas. When resins react with pigments (the coloured powder that creates paint’s colour), they form a new compound known as a ‘polymer.’ This polymer hardens into a tough coating on your surface after it dries to create an incredibly strong finish.
The pigment is what gives each type of enamel its distinct look. White pigments make the classic white enamel, while black pigments create black enamel. Metallic pigments provide a shiny metallic lustre, and pearlescent pigments give surfaces a beautiful iridescence with tones of blue, pink, green and more.
How are Pigments for Enamel Paint Made?
Just as resins are made from petrochemicals, pigments are made by combining metals with chemicals to form new compounds. For example, red pigment is composed of iron oxide (a compound created when you heat iron) mixed with other chemicals like cobalt and chromium. You’ll find both organic and inorganic (meaning man-made) pigments used in modern enamel paints, the most popular of which come from an entirely synthetic process developed in 1926 called ‘Wet Paint Pigment.’
However, enamel paints can also be made with water-based paint acrylic resins instead of petroleum-based ones. These alternative types are often called ‘water-based enamels.’ They provide the same shiny finish and durability as oil-based enamels (which use solvents like benzene), but they require less equipment to work with since you don’t need to use acetone or xylene to thin them down. You can even spray paint them using regular airbrushes. Since these resins come from plant sources like soybeans, corn and sugarcane instead of oil products, they’re considered more environmentally friendly than other forms of paint, which makes them great choices for both indoor and outdoor projects alike.
Why are Hardeners Used in Enamel Paint?
The final ingredient in enamel paint is hardeners, which are usually made from different types of alcohol including ethanol. When this chemical reacts with the resin and pigment, it sets to a tough finish that resists scratches, marks and other forms of everyday wear, making your painted surfaces practically indestructible.
How to Paint with Oil-based Enamel Paint?
Once your surface is properly prepared for painting (like lightly sanding metal to remove any oxidation), all that’s left is to apply two or three layers of enamel paint. Each layer requires roughly 15 minutes between coats before it can be recoated, so once you’ve applied your last coat, wait 6-8 hours until the surface has completely dried before handling or using it.
Each coat may provide an extra layer of protection against any chipping or peeling, but over time, you might find that your layers are no match for high-impact surfaces like glass. If this is the case, all you have to do is reapply another thin layer of enamel paint to get an even stronger finish.
A layer of the clear coat may also help to protect any underlying colours from fading or flaking away. You can apply it after every few layers of paint, or wait until you’ve finished painting the entire surface before finishing with a few coats of clear coating. It’s entirely up to you which enamel paint and enamel clear coats you prefer.
How to Apply Modern Enamel Oil-based Paint?
If none of these finishes appeals to you, there are several other ways modern enamels can be applied. You can use water-based paint enamels in unique ways with glitter, bits of mica or even sand to create an entirely new type of effect. These paints can be used with stencils to create patterns without having to freehand them on, or they can even be applied in thin layers with a roller.
You can also apply enamel paint by spraying, especially when it comes to applying metallic finishes. When you spray paint, you’re applying your resins and pigments straight from the nozzle onto your surface. Enamel paint is specially designed so that they stick really well after being sprayed onto uneven surfaces like rocks or tree trunks by using small particles which provide more points of contact. This creates a durable finish that may last for years without peeling or chipping.
Types of Finished for Enamel Paint
Fortunately, there are many types of modern enamel paints which provide unique finishes. They include the following,
Acrylic-Based Enamels. These are recommended for indoor projects since they don’t emit any substances that could cause respiratory irritation, headaches or nausea. They can be used on all non-porous surfaces like metal, glass and hard plastic, including wood.
Oil-Based Enamel paints. If you’re looking to paint outdoors in direct sunlight, these are your best options since their thick resins help them form a tough film over time. They’re more resistant to sanding than acrylic-based enamels (which means you’ll end up with a better finish if you use this type of painting outdoors).
Some enamel paint requires a bit more patience to make sure they cure properly, but others are ready to be applied in thin layers just a few minutes after being shaken. This includes lacquer-based enamel paints, which dry through evaporation. You don’t have to worry about these drying too quickly, which means you can apply them in thin layers and wait a few hours between coats for a smooth finish.
What is Acrylic Paint?
Acrylic paint is a water-based emulsion that consists of pigment, resin and water.
Acrylic paint is very easy to clean up with soap, water or turpentine. Acrylic paint is great for use on many different surfaces including paper, canvas, wood, plastic or glass. You can even apply acrylic paint to an iron surface then change the colour by heating it up again with your torch.
Types of Acrylic Paint
Solvent Based Acrylic Paint. Solvent-based acrylics have to be thinned with thinner before they can be applied. They contain a solvent that evaporates during application leaving you with a durable finish.
Water-Based Acrylic Paint. Water-based acrylics do not need to be thinned down. They have a lower concentration of pigment so they are not as opaque, but you can achieve really great effects with them on porous surfaces like canvas or paper.
Some people think that acrylic paint is water-soluble, but this is not the case. It can be removed with soap and water just like regular latex paint.
Acrylic Paint vs Enamel Paint
To better understand how acrylic and enamel paint differ, it’s worth taking a step back and looking at what they’re made of. Acrylic paints are made from a modified acrylic polymer resin, which is formed into tiny crystals to increase its thickness. This makes the paint stick well, especially in direct sunlight, but it also means that you can wipe away this type of paint with water (since it won’t soak into porous surfaces).
Enamel paint, on the other hand, is made from oil-based paint alkyd resins which come in different forms including linseed oil and synthetic esters. They tend to be thicker than acrylics, but don’t contain any crystallization ingredients like their counterparts.
This means that when you apply a layer of enamel paint, you’ll have to wait several hours before applying another coat for a smooth finish. This gives the resin time to fully cure and create stronger bonds between the paint and your surface. It’s also why it’s necessary to apply multiple thin layers of enamel paint instead of thick ones when creating smooth surfaces like walls or intricate patterns on metals.
How to Apply Acrylic and Enamel Paint?
Both acrylics and enamels can be applied using brushes, sponges or rollers (although you won’t achieve as fine detail with this method). You’ll need some sort of primer if you’re planning to use either type of paint over darker colours.
When painting with acrylic paints, don’t apply too much pressure since they tend to drip more than enamels. However, you’ll need to apply more pressure with this type of paint if you’re planning to roll it out across uneven surfaces like mountains or rocks. This is because acrylics are relatively soft and they can come off in pieces if they don’t stick well enough, especially when they dry.
Enamel paint, on the other hand, is a little bit more difficult to use since it requires adequate preparation time before you can apply it. They’re also not very flexible since the resin-based formula makes them break more easily. However, they are less likely to wrinkle or lose their shape when you apply several layers in one night.
Enamel Paints VS Acrylic Paints
You might be wondering why you could use acrylic paints if they’re just as well. Well, here’s a quick list of reasons.
Acrylic paints dry faster than enamel paint, so you can finish your project in less time. They also come off easier when it comes to corrections since water is an excellent solvent for acrylic emulsions and resins. Acrylic paints are more flexible than enamel oil-based paint, which makes them perfect if you’re planning to paint a mural or create large scale pieces without worrying too much about the effects of different atmospheric conditions.
Acrylic water-based paint always comes with a variety of vibrant colours that make it easy for you to achieve the aesthetic effect that you want especially if you’re struggling with matching specific shades or tints. In addition, some manufacturers have started adding luminisers to their products which make the final product appear shinier and newer from a distance.
Enamel paint, on the other hand, is relatively hard since it needs several hours to dry. They’re also quite thick which makes it difficult for you to apply them if you’re not experienced, for example when used for outdoor furniture. You’ll also have problems adhering to two layers of enamel paint close together without having cracks between them. However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t use enamel paint at all. It just means that it might require more practice before you can use it without any difficulties