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Does rustoleum metallic need a clear coat?

Rust-Oleum metallic spray paints produce a shiny, metallic finish on various surfaces. The sparkling metal flakes in the paint create a bright and eye-catching look. While the metallic paints look beautiful on their own, many people wonder if they need a clear topcoat for added protection and shine.

The Purpose of a Clear Coat

A clear coat is a transparent, glossy coating that is applied over a colored paint. Clear coats serve several purposes:

  • They protect the colored paint underneath from damage caused by exposure to sun, water, chemicals, and physical impact.
  • They provide an extra layer of gloss for enhanced shine.
  • They create a smooth, even surface by filling in any imperfections in the paint underneath.

So in many cases, a clear coat is added on top of a colored paint to extend its life and improve its appearance. But is a clear coat necessary for Rust-Oleum metallic paints?

Benefits of Adding a Clear Coat

There are some benefits to adding a clear topcoat to Rust-Oleum metallic paint:

  • Enhanced protection – The clear coat forms a protective barrier above the metallic paint, shielding it from minor scratches, chips, fading, and other damage.
  • Increased gloss – A clear coat can amplify the shine of metallic paint, making the finish even more lustrous and reflective.
  • Smooths surface – Clear coat helps fill in any micro-textural imperfections, resulting in a smoother, more uniform finish.
  • Easy to clean – Metallic paint with a clear coat can simply be wiped clean without worrying about rubbing off the paint.

So in certain situations, a clear coat may be preferred to get the most out of Rust-Oleum metallic paint. For example, when using the paint on a high-use surface like a tabletop or outdoor furniture that will need heavy cleaning. Or if you want to achieve a showroom shine on a vehicle or other project.

Scenarios When a Clear Coat May Not Be Needed

While clear coats offer some useful benefits, they are not strictly necessary for Rust-Oleum metallic finishes. Here are some scenarios where you may opt to skip the clear coat:

  • Indoor use – For things used indoors like art canvases, picture frames, or decor items, metallic paint likely doesn’t need a clear coat since it’s not subjected to harsh outdoor conditions or heavy use.
  • Already has finish – If applying metallic paint over an existing clear finished surface like a factory-finished table or wood floor, another clear coat is redundant.
  • Desired patina – On items like metal furniture or architectural elements where you want the paint to wear naturally over time, a clear coat would inhibit the desired patina.
  • Difficult to reach areas – For complex, decorative pieces with grooves, cracks, or hard-to-reach areas that would be difficult to fully coat with a clear finish.

So for many general indoor arts and crafts projects or decorative finishes, Rust-Oleum’s metallic paints provide sufficient durability and beauty on their own without needing an additional clear coat.

Application Tips

If you do choose to use a clear topcoat over Rust-Oleum metallic paint, here are some application tips:

  • Allow the metallic paint to fully cure for at least 24 hours before applying a clear coat.
  • Lightly sand the metallic paint before clearing to help the clear coat adhere. Wipe away any dust.
  • Apply thin, even coats of the clear topcoat and allow proper drying time between coats.
  • Use short, consistent spray strokes or brush strokes when applying the clear coat.
  • Choose a clear coat formula suited for the surface you are coating – indoor, outdoor, metal, wood, etc.
  • Matte or satin clear coats will minimize glare on metallic finishes.
  • Multiple thin coats of clear coat are better than one thick coat.

Following these tips will help ensure proper bonding between the metallic paint and clear coat, and achieve the desired look and protection.

Recommended Clear Coats

Here are some recommended clear coat options from Rust-Oleum for use over their metallic paints:

Clear Coat Description
Rust-Oleum Crystal Clear Enamel Oil-based gloss finish suitable for indoor or outdoor use
Rust-Oleum Painter’s Touch Clear General purpose acrylic clear ideal for indoor surfaces
Rust-Oleum Triple Thick Clear Glaze Extra thick water-based clear coat for added protection
Rust-Oleum High Performance Clear Durable acrylic-enamel formulation resists chemicals and abrasion
Rust-Oleum Automotive Clear Coat Designed for automotive finishes with excellent UV resistance

There are also clear coat options from other brands like Krylon and DuPont suitable for use with Rust-Oleum metallic finishes. Ask at your local paint or hardware store for recommendations.

Consider Test Patches

Because every paint project is unique, it’s a good idea to test the metallic paint with and without a clear coat before fully committing to a finish. Here are some ways to test:

  • Apply metallic paint and clear coat to poster board or foam board samples to test compatibility.
  • Paint a small, discreet section of the actual surface you’ll be coating to view the results side-by-side.
  • Try different sheens – glossy, satin, or matte – to find your desired look.

A simple test panel can give you peace of mind that you’ve selected compatible products and the right finish for your project before going all in.


Over time, even clear coated finishes may experience some wear and tear or fading. Here are some tips for maintaining a shiny metallic finish:

  • Touch up any damaged clear coat or bare metallic paint as soon as possible to prevent oxidation.
  • Clean gently with a mild soap and water solution to remove dirt and debris that could scratch the finish.
  • Apply a fresh coat of clear coat every 2-3 years for optimal gloss and protection, especially on outdoor surfaces.
  • Avoid harsh chemicals, abrasive cleaners, or scrub pads/brushes that could damage the clear coat.
  • Waxing can help restore gloss and protect the clear coat from environmental damage.

With proper care and the occasional reapplication of clear coat, a Rust-Oleum metallic finish can maintain its sparkling look for many years.


While Rust-Oleum’s metallic spray paints produce a beautiful finish right from the can, adding a clear topcoat offers enhanced protection, gloss, and longevity in many situations. However, a clear coat may not be necessary or practical in some low-wear indoor applications. Consider the end use of the project and do test samples to decide if clearing is right for your particular metallic finish. With a quality application and proper maintenance, Rust-Oleum metallic paints will maintain their eye-catching sheen for a long time whether coated with a clear topcoat or used on their own.