5 ways to paint a car

5 ways to paint a car
5 ways to paint a car

Having your car professionally repainted can be expensive. Luckily, you have the option of saving some money and having a little fun doing the work yourself! Painting a car properly requires good technique and a fair amount of practice. There are steps you can take to make your job easier, but you can start by watching an experienced painter in action and practicing a wreck or two before painting your own car.


Method 1 of 5: Prepare to paint

Paint a Car Step 1

Step 1. Find a suitable spot for painting

To paint a car safely and thoroughly, you will need an enclosed workspace with excellent ventilation, minimal dust, sufficient lighting, and plenty of room to work around the vehicle. Your garage can do the trick. However, you should avoid painting the interior if it contains a water heater, stove or anything else that could ignite the paint fumes that will build up during the process.

  • It may be illegal where you live to paint your car in your garage. Before doing anything, find out about the regulations in force.
  • Cover the inside of your workspace with a plastic sheeting to prevent unnecessary stains and reduce the amount of dust that can fall on your coat of paint as it dries.
Paint a Car Step 2

Step 2. Don't neglect security measures

When you visit a hardware store, paint store, or auto parts store to purchase the spray gun, primer, paint, sanding tools, and other tools needed for the job, be careful not to overlook the material. health and safety. Above all, you need to buy a respirator mask, and be sure to use it correctly.

  • Choose a respirator designed and sold for use in automotive painting.
  • Wear eye protection, nitrile gloves and a disposable plastic coverall with a hood to remove the old coat of paint or to apply a new one.
  • Take a look at the section Items Needed at the bottom of this page for a complete list of the items needed for this job.
Paint a Car Step 3

Step 3. Choose a color similar to the original one

If you want, you can match the new paint coat to the old one by referring to the color code of the car. You will find this color code on the certificate of conformity plate under the hood. There you will also find the vehicle's serial number and other essential information. The color code may be noted on the inside of the driver's door, near where information such as ideal tire pressure is noted.

  • Show the color code to any auto paint shop to get the correct shade.
  • If you cannot find the color code, contact the vehicle manufacturer to try to obtain it.
  • Some auto parts stores are able to find the correct paint color without the code.
  • Of course, you can paint your car in a totally different color if you want!

Method 2 of 5: Sand, clean and mask the car

Paint a Car Step 4

Step 1. Remove all chrome or plastic trim

Most body panel moldings can be easily removed and replaced. However, if you cannot loosen them by pulling gently on them, do not try to force them. Auto parts stores often sell tools that make it easier to remove these items.

  • Read your car's owner's manual to learn how to properly remove moldings.
  • Items that cannot be detached can be covered with masking tape.
Paint a Car Step 5

Step 2. Repair any traces of rust

Since you'll be sanding and repainting the entire car, you don't have to take it slow for this step. Put on your respirator, coveralls, gloves, and goggles and use a metal sander to loosen all the rust. If you can see even the smallest holes, use a putty knife to apply rust-free body putty, then smooth the treated area with a sander.

For the larger holes, you will need to be imaginative. Some car enthusiasts create "patches" from beer or soft drink cans or from thin sheets of semi-rigid plastic. They hold them in place with putty before sanding them to smooth the surface

Paint a Car Step 6

Step 3. Sand the paint to expose the metal

If necessary, you can sand only the primer coat or just the varnish coats to allow the new coat of paint to adhere. However, you will get a better finish if you take the time to sand the entire body to expose the metal. Use a dual-action power sander with a 400 or 600 grit pad and proceed in circular motions, moving continuously.

  • The job will take longer with a 600 grit pad, but there will be less chance of scratching or leaving marks on the surface.
  • Your goal is to achieve a matte finish on bare metal, not smooth it out.
  • Always wear your protective equipment when sanding, including eye protection and respirator.
Paint a Car Step 7

Step 4. Clean the entire surface of the vehicle

Use an adhesive rag to remove visible dust from the surface of the car, then wipe with a rag soaked in paint thinner, mineral spirits or denatured alcohol. This will remove dust residues as well as any oils on the body.

  • Do not mix cleaning materials. If you start by using paint thinner, clean the entire car with rags soaked in only paint thinner.
  • Allow the car to dry for 5 to 10 minutes before applying masking tape to any areas you do not want painted.
Paint a Car Step 8

Step 5. Apply masking tape or paper

You can use the masking tape or paper to cover any parts of the car that you don't want painted (or that don't need to be painted). For example, you will need to cover glass, window frames, mirrors, door handles and air intake grilles. Be sure to completely smooth the masking tape over the covered surfaces. Otherwise, paint may penetrate underneath.

If you haven't already, cover your workspace with plastic to avoid getting paint all over the place

Method 3 of 5: Prepare the vehicle

Paint a Car Step 9

Step 1. Practice on the door of a wreck

Start your compressed air paint sprayer and add the corrosion resistant, self-etching car primer of your choice following the instructions provided. Hold the gun about six inches from the test surface, squeeze the trigger, then use a constant sideways motion to cover it. Always use this sweeping motion when spraying the product.

  • An abandoned car door in a junkyard is ideal for training. However, you can also use a sheet of steel. If necessary, you can try on a piece of wood or even a piece of cardboard, but the primer and paint will not smear and adhere the same.
  • The process for loading and using a spray gun varies by make and model. Be sure to follow the directions for use carefully.
  • Don't forget to put on your protective gear!
Paint a Car Step 10

Step 2. Apply a coat of primer

Once you have mastered the spray technique on your test equipment, you can try to replicate it on your car. Try to apply a thin, even coat of primer starting at the roof and working your way down. Always use side sweeping motions.

On a typical vehicle, 10 to 20 minutes will suffice to apply a primer coat

Paint a Car Step 11

Step 3. Let the primer dry

Then add 1 to 2 additional coats according to the product directions. Refer to the instructions on the package for the drying time of the primer. Typically, the drying time is 20 to 60 minutes, after which you can add the additional 1 to 2 coats.

  • After 2 or 3 coats of primer, the surface of the bare metal should be flat and evenly coated.
  • Once the primer is applied, clean the sprayer following the instructions provided.
Paint a Car Step 12

Step 4. Sand the powdery finish of the primer coats

Wait at least 1 hour after the last coat of primer, then use wet or dry 1500 grit sandpaper to smooth the primed surfaces of the vehicle. Work in sections, sanding lightly from side to side and then top to bottom.

  • Some auto painters prefer to use finer grit sandpaper (eg 2000 grit sandpaper) for this task. The job will take longer, but you won't risk sanding the surface too much.
  • Remember, your goal is to remove the powdery finish, not to expose the bare metal under the primer.
Paint a Car Step 13

Step 5. Wipe down all primed and sanded surfaces

Use damp cloths lightly dampened with dewax, degreaser, acetone or paint thinner. Wipe gently in circular motions, pressing just enough to loosen any accumulated dust or oil.

Let the car dry for at least 5 to 10 minutes before proceeding to the next step

Method 4 of 5: spray paint coats

Paint a Car Step 14

Step 1. Practice spraying the paint of your choice

Prepare the automotive paint of your choice then pour it into the sprayer according to the manufacturer's instructions. The paint may not spread the same way as the primer, so remember to practice on your test surface first. Then spray a layer on the car using the same back-and-forth motion and working up and down.

  • If your chosen paint requires thinner, follow the directions to properly thin it. Too much thinner will reduce the gloss of the varnished surface and cause sagging.
  • Remember to always wear your respirator and protective gear when spraying paint.
  • Usually about 20 minutes is enough to apply a coat of paint to a vehicle.
Paint a Car Step 15

Step 2. Add 3-4 layers in total

Let the first coat dry for 20 to 60 minutes following the product recommendations. Repeat the process 2 or 3 times, waiting long enough between each coat.

Clean the sprayer again after applying the coats of paint

Paint a Car Step 16

Step 3. Lightly sand the paint

Wait at least 1 hour after applying the last coat of paint to lightly sand any powdery residue with wet or dry 1500 grit sandpaper (or 2000 grit if you prefer). Use the same technique as that applied when sanding the primer. Wipe the treated surfaces with a cloth lightly dampened with a further degreaser, degreaser, acetone or paint thinner.

Wait 5 to 10 minutes before continuing to the next step

Method 5 of 5: Apply the finishing touch

Paint a Car Step 17

Step 1. Spray 2 coats of clear varnish

Load your sprayer with the automotive varnish of your choice following the instructions provided. Spray it in an even layer, working sideways and from top to bottom. Allow the coat of varnish to harden as long as recommended, then sand and wipe the surface as described above. Add 1 or 2 additional coats according to the manufacturer's recommendations.

  • For best results, practice spraying the coat of varnish on your test surface first.
  • Remove masking tape (or other masking material) approximately 10 minutes after applying the last coat of clear varnish.
Paint a Car Step 18

Step 2. Allow the paint 1 week to dry completely

The paint and varnish will be dry to the touch in 24 hours. However, for best results, you should allow the polish to cure for 7 days, as recommended by the manufacturer. Leave the car where you painted it and try to prevent dust build-up as much as possible.

Avoid moving back and forth in the workspace and do not touch the protective plastic layer. Stay away to prevent dust build-up

Paint a Car Step 19

Step 3. Sand minor imperfections on the varnish layer

Start with wet or dry 1200 or 1600 grit sandpaper and use the same gentle technique as before to sand even the smallest imperfections. Wipe the sanded areas with damp cloths (again as before) then pass 1600 or 2000 grit sandpaper to even out the varnish in these places.

  • This is a delicate job, so sand gently and carefully. Otherwise, you will have to repaint the parts that you have sanded too hard.
  • Wipe the entire car again after the last sanding.
Paint a Car Step 20

Step 4. Polish your car by hand or machine

You will get better results by hand, however polishing machines and polishers will save you a lot of time. Good polishing requires careful technique and a fair amount of practice. If you've never polished a car before, it is recommended that you let a professional take care of this step.

  • Poor polishing could loosen the coat of paint that you took so hard to apply.
  • For best results, you can reapply masking tape and then run the sander over the body several times. Remember to wear your protective gear.


  • Don't neglect the prep work. You will save time in the long run.
  • Remember to respect the recommended distance between the gun and the body. Otherwise, the paint will adhere in large lumps.
  • Be patient and meticulous! Paint slowly. Don't rush or you'll have to redo everything.
  • For best results, connect a ground wire to the vehicle and to an earth ground. This will prevent the build-up of static electricity which could attract dust particles.
  • If this is your first time, get help from someone else who has experience in car painting.

Popular by topic