This was an old black iron candle holder a friend brought me that was rusting and had seen its better days. I forgot to take a "before" picture, on this one. Imagine it black and rusting... So, to prep this piece, I took an iron brush to the rusted parts and then smoothed them out with a steel wool pad. Then I gave this a good coat of primer to seal the areas of rust and to prepare the piece to take paint. If you don't prime, most paints won't adhere and things will be flaking and you won't be happy.
I added some checks and color and sealed this with a simple poly.
You can make anything look better with a little paint. :)