Auto Painting How To Do It Yourself

Do you want your car looking like new with a great paint job? Most people do but they don’t like the hassle that comes with getting the car painted professionally. Between looking for a paint shop that will perform a total repaint on your vehicle and having the work completed to your total satisfaction in a timely manner it can all be a harrowing experience. So why not do it yourself?

You know the old saying: “If you want something done right, you’ve got to do it yourself.” So why not give it a try? All you need is the time and patience to do it properly. Oh, and some tools of course.

By far the most difficult challenge for the first time painter is knowing the numerous steps of the process: prep, primer, blocking, and the final spray job. Looking at the big picture, it appears like a giant hurdle, but if you follow these simple steps it should only take a few days to complete.

If do you happen to lack the confidence or ability to spray the finishing coat you can always complete steps 1 to 10 and then ask a local paint spraying shop to apply the final coat which will still save you quite a bit of cash.

1. Find a Suitable Location

Look for a appropriate location to carry out work. You need a place with excellent ventilation, hardly any dust and dirt, very good illumination, electrical power, along with sufficient space to work around the vehicle. Home garages usually are not appropriate due to the presence of water heating units or even furnaces which could trigger an ignition of the paint fumes that accumulate during the painting process.

2. Gather Necessary Tools And Materials

Before you start you should make sure you have the materials and equipment that is needed to get the job done.

Air Compressor
Paint Sprayer (LVHP, LVLP, or airless)
Power sander with sanding pads
Respirator, dust masks, eye protection

Hand sand paper in grits from 120-600
Solvents for cleaning surfaces
Masking tape and paper
Paint (enamel, acrylic enamel, or polyurethane)
Paint thinner and catalyst or hardener
Body filler or fiberglass for repairs

3. Remove Trim

Take off any chrome or plastic trim that can be easily removed. Most of the vehicle body panel moldings attached to cars can be snapped off and snapped back on again without difficulty. However, if a gentle attempt to remove the trim is not successful then you can always wrap the part in masking tape., If the trim does not come off with ease don’t try to force it off.

4. Remove Rust and Repair Dents

Remove rust and repair any dents and holes with body filler or fiberglass. Small to medium dents should be repaired with bodyfiller and larger repairs requires fiberglass.

5. Sand The Vehicle

Sand the paint either to the bare metal, the original primer, or at least sufficiently for the new paint to adhere to. The amount of sanding you decide to do your choice, however the best results requires removing the paint back to the bare metal, repriming the surface with an automotive primer, and then applying your finish paint.

6. Mask Up The Vehicle

Use masking tape and paper cover all the surfaces that you do not want painted, such as the glass windows, trim, door handles, mirrors, and grills. When you have finished check that there aren’t any holes in the masking tape and paper otherwise overspray may get through.

7. Clean The Vehicle

Thoroughly clean all surfaces with mineral spirits or denatured alcohol to ensure no oils (including body oils from fingers and hands) are on the vehicle.

8. Protect Your Garage

This step is optional. You may want to Cover your garage with plastic sheeting in order to avoid permanently coloring the room.

9. Prime The Vehicle

Prime any bare metal areas of the vehicle with a corrosion resistant, self-etching primer. You should also prime surfaces that have been repaired with bodyfiller or fiberglass.

Allow the primer to dry thoroughly. Check the information on the in. Primer curing times may differ, and some primers require another coat or the finish paint applied within a certain time period.

10. Sand Primed Areas

Lightly sand all primed surfaces smooth. Use a fine grit wet and dry paper to smooth paint runs or drips smooth to the surface, being careful not to sand too far and exposing the metal again. If you happen to sand too much and expose bare metal you will need to add more primer to the vehicle.

11. Clean The Surface To Be Painted

Clean the surface after priming to remove any dust or oil that has accumulated during the process.

12. Spray The Finish Paint

Prepare the finish paint for spraying in keeping with the manufacturer’s directions. Certain automotive paints require a hardener or catalyst to be mixed into the paint. Also the paint may need to be thinned for the equipment you are using. Be very careful when using thinners, if you add to much thinner it will decrease the gloss of the finished surface and may cause runs.

Give the paint enough time to fully dry before touching the vehicle. When using a hardener or catalyst, your paint should be dry to touch in less than 24 hours with full cure taking up to 7 days depending on the product. During the interval between beginning the painting process and tack free time, the car must remain free of dust.

13. Spray Clear-coat

Some paints such as metallic require a clear-coat to be added on top of the finish paint.
Some painters also use clear-coat to give the finish a deeper, higher gloss look.

Remove Imperfections

Any imperfections such as dirt or small runs can be easily removed by sanding very gently with 1500 grit wet sand paper. Use a buffing machine or polisher to bring back the shine to the sanded area. Be careful with the machines though because if misused they can ruin a paint job. Depending on the area needing polish it may be a better to buff by hand.

Paint Spraying Tips

1. Practice spraying on a piece of cardboard or something before applying the paint to the vehicle.

2. Keep a distance between you and the car.

3. If you’re using a conventional type of spray gun you ideally need a constant pressure of around 65 psi, anything lower and you risk applying the paint too thick/too heavy

4. Don’t rush


Fumes can be harmful and potentially lethal. Use safety precautions when paint spraying such as wearing a an appropriate vapor respirator and ensuring the workspace is well ventilated. Ventilation is also essential to avoid the build up of fumes in an enclosed space which could explode.


If you have some other great auto painting tips that you wish to share or have any questions add them in the comments box below.