How to Care for Art on Metal

When we broach the topic of metal art, we aren't making reference to your favorite 80s band (though we have no doubt their backstory would also make for an interesting and perhaps colorful subject matter). As part of our ongoing series about how to care for your paintings and other artwork, we're taking a look at art for which metals are the foundation upon which the artist paints.

As it relates to metal art, this can include works on tin, silver, iron, copper, gold, brass, bronze, and aluminum. This includes metal sculptures as well as paintings and hangable artworks made of metals. It can be difficult to find resources about the best way to care for these unique pieces, so we've done our research and come up with a few tips.


Metal Art Process

The whole premise of great art is that it is limitless in its potential. There is no one "right way" to create art and some of the most interesting works often feature non-traditional media. Painting on metal surfaces, while not entirely uncommon, is a somewhat unique practice.Abstract Metallic Surface With Rust by EdvanKunUnderstanding the artist's process for creating art on metal can be a useful exercise as it relates to caring for this type of art. It is similar and yet varies in many ways as compared to art on paper or canvas. An artist's typical process for creating art on metal involves first cleaning the surface of rust, dirt, and corrosives, sanding it down, and finally, applying a primer. The primer is usually a self-etching primer to combat the potential for rust, similar to what is used on automobiles. The primer allows for the easier application of oil and acrylic paints which are commonly the chosen mediums for painting on metal. After the painting is complete, a clear coat is applied to seal the paint on metal.Crumpled Aluminum Foil by Fabien Burgue From Pexels

Vulnerabilities of Metal Artwork

While metal is a very sturdy canvas for art, maintaining and preserving works of this nature can present some challenges. The medium is highly susceptible to something as simple as fingerprints and smudging or as complex as rusting. Potential complicating factors and vulnerabilities may include:

  • improper hanging and handling

  • exposure to acids or other corrosive chemicals which can damage metals and paint

  • environmental conditions such as moisture, humidity, and extreme temperatures


Mitigating Measures

When it comes to your fine art on metal, there are important steps you can take to protect these treasured works.

Hang With Care“Mission Morning” by UGallery artist Sherri Aldawood

While we appreciate the sturdiness of metal, some metal art may be heavier than your typical canvas and more vulnerable to a tumble if not hung with care. If your metal-based painting is in a weight range of 20 pounds or more, it may be less stable. In this case, protect your art by utilizing reinforced hanging methods such as wall fasteners for which you balance the weight across each hanging point. 

Prevention and Protection

When you purchase your painting on metal, ask a few questions. More than likely the artist will have already applied a protective coating in the form of a varnish approved for use for paintings on metal. This protective coating is critical for preserving the life of your artwork for generations to come. As it relates to heat, humidity, and extreme temperatures, our advice remains consistent. Don't store or display your art in rooms or spaces exposed to direct sunlight, extreme temperatures, or excessive moisture or humidity.

Careful Cleaning

Whether your art is a solid and substantial metal work or contains a thin layer of plated metal, you'll want to clean it with care. Given the existing protective coat, you don't want to use a polish or metal cleaner. Depending on what type of protective coat has been applied, a diluted spray detailer such as that which can be found in an auto parts store will usually do the trick. A gentle wipe with a soft cloth such as a microfiber cloth should be safe for a more frequent dusting of your paintings on metal.

Final Caveat

We hope these tips relating to metal art have been helpful, but as with all our advice about caring for your artwork, when in doubt, consult a restoration professional. If you're in the market to add to your collection of original art, you can peruse the latest works by talented artists on our website, which is refreshed and updated with new art weekly