What Type Of Paint To Use On Bike Frame [Inc. Spray Paint Options]?

The type of paint used on a bike frame can drastically change how the bike looks. We've scoured through our sources to help you choose the right type of paint for your bike frame.

You can use multiple types of paint on a bike frame, including:

  • Household Paint
  • Urethane Car Paint
  • Latex Spray Paint
  • Enamel Spray Paint 
  • Acrylic Spray Paint

Now that you know what kinds of paint can be used, you may feel ready to paint your bike frame. But just knowing what type of paint to use isn't enough. Keep reading to learn more about these types of paints and how to apply them properly. 

Hanging bicycle frames in a Japanese bicycle shop. - What Type Of Paint To Use On Bike Frame [Inc. Spray Paint Options]?

What Type Of Paint To Use On Bike Frames?

You can use any type of paint that adheres to metal. It all depends on what kind of result you want. Some paints are more durable, while others are more vibrant, and some are more budget-friendly.

Side view of man in uniform and respirator painting bikes frame with green color

The type of paint you use also depends on your skill level, as some types require more experience with painting than others. 

Household Paint

This type of paint is probably the most common on the list. Everyday house paint can work great on your bike frame. 

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If you have some extra house paint left over from a previous project, or you're on a tight budget, house paint is a great alternative to other relatively more expensive paints.

If you're good with a brush or have issues with aerosol-type paints, house paint might be the right choice for your bike. Since house paint is typically applied with a brush or roller, you won't have to worry about the dreaded over-spray common with aerosol-type paints. 

The downside would be that if you're not as good with a brush, you might leave some obvious brush marks on the frame of your bike.

This type of paint also isn't as scratch resistant as the other types on this list, and if you ride your bike hard or use it on a daily basis you might encounter some wear issues with house paints. 

Urethane Car Paint

Paint used on automobiles can be used on steel bike frames. Urethane car paint may be the most long-lasting paint on this list.

When dry, this paint produces a hard, shell-like surface that is rust protective and fairly scratch resistant. If you ask any long-time bike painter, they're most probably going to recommend using urethane car paint. 

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The downside to this type of paint is that it isn't as do-it-yourself friendly as other paints. It can be difficult to use, and you may need special equipment like a spray gun for proper application. You'll also need to apply multiple coatings to achieve the desired look. 

Funky modern woman painting bicycle frame

You're also going to need a clear coat to finish with this paint. On average, this type of paint is the most expensive on this list.

Latex Spray Paint

This type of paint, and all other types of spray paint, is going to be the easiest to use on your bike frame. Latex spray paint, as the name suggests, is a latex-based paint in an aerosol shake can.  

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Latex spray paint has a less pungent smell when wet than the other types of paint on this list.

Because it doesn't have such a strong odor, this type of spray paint also has the shortest-lasting wet paint odor on this list. The new paint odor typically only lasts one day or even less if you dry your bike frame in an airy place.

Spray painting with bicycle painting photo

Latex paint is also known to have great color vibrancy. Depending on the type of color you want, latex spray paint can have a beautifully colorful finish.

Latex spray paint is great if you want to paint your bike frame with a color that really pops like neon green or bright yellow. 

The downside to latex spray paint is that it isn't as durable as the other types of spray paint on this list. Latex paint has been known to crack easily, especially if applied incorrectly. This type of paint is also prone to scratches and fading. 

Enamel Spray Paint

Another commonly used spray paint on bicycle frames is enamel spray paint. However, enamel spray paint isn't like traditional enamel paint, which is dried in a kiln, since it is only air-dried.  

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Enamel spray paint, like other enamel paints, is famous for its durability. When fully dry, enamel spray paint has a hard, glossy finish that's chip and crack-resistant. The finish is said to be glass-like in texture.

Enamel spray paints are very flexible and can adhere to almost all metal surfaces with proper prepping. Additionally, when repainting enamel-painted frames, you may not need to strip the frame down and keep the old primer from the last paint job. 

One drawback with enamel spray paint is that it is difficult to apply. When applying it the first time to your bike's frame, you will need to strip the frame to bare metal and do serious preparation work before applying the paint.

Enamel spray paint also takes the most time to dry out of all the other spray paints on this list. Its odor can last significantly longer. 

Another more serious disadvantage of enamel paint is that it may be more toxic than other types of paint. It contains significantly more volatile organic compounds, also known as VOC, which can be dangerous to people and animals. 

Acrylic Spray Paint

If you've been looking for spray paints on the web or in your local hardware store, you've probably seen acrylic-based spray paint before.

It's the most common type of spray paint on the market now for a good reason. 

Click here to see this spray paint on Amazon.

Acrylic spray paint is one of the least toxic types of paint on the market. It has a lower level of toxicity compared to enamel and latex-based sprays. It is still considered as flammable as other aerosol canister paints. 

This type of paint is also famously used in street art and graffiti paintings because it is very fast drying. Acrylic paint typically only takes 10 to 15 minutes to dry in dry and windy conditions, and it doesn't have that long-lasting paint smell that other paints have.

Most brands of acrylic spray paints on the market are water-soluble. This means that it they are easier to clean up than other paints. Using a common household thinner and some elbow grease, you can clean up any unwanted over-spray from your project. 

Note that acrylic spray paints are fast drying. Since the paint takes a relatively short period to dry, you will need to spray your bike's frame quickly to have an even, consistent coating. 

Another issue with acrylic spray paint is that the color pallets available for these types of paints aren't as diverse. You can find acrylic paints in primary and even secondary colors, but more premium colors may be hard to find. 

Should I Have My Bike Frame Powder Coated?

Framebuilder workshop

Powder coating is very different from the traditional methods of brush-on painting or spray painting. A powder of the desired color is sprayed onto a metallic part, then baked to harden and adhere to it. 

One advantage of powder coating is that it is significantly quicker than other types of painting. You won't need to wait for your bike frame to dry, since the powder color is baked to dry it.

Powder coating is also much more durable than other methods and will protect the bike from rust and other environmental factors. The process of powder coating also almost always ensures a perfect coat throughout the frame.

A drawback with powder coating is that you probably can't do it yourself. Powder coating needs special equipment and training to do it successfully.

You will need to take your bike frame to a powder coating shop to have it done. It may be a bit more expensive, but the results will surely be worth the money. 

Summing Up

You can paint your bike frame with different types of paint, including common household paint, urethane car paint, latex spray paint, enamel spray paint, and acrylic spray paint.

All of these paints have advantages and disadvantages, and it is going to be up to you to choose which type is best for your bike frame. 

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