How to paint a car – DIY car painting tips and tricks

If you’re trying to save money or you like to do car bodywork yourself, learning how to paint a car is a brilliant idea. There are few steps you have to follow to achieve a good DIY result.

Preparing the surface is probably more important than then the spray painting part. If you already have a prepared surface, follow these steps.

Step 1: Cleaning, degreasing and masking

Thoroughly clean and degrease repaired surface and its surroundings. If your repaired part is on the car make sure to mask the rest of the car to avoid overspray. It is also a good idea to mask the air vents and other parts where you can overspray on inner parts. It’s is your choice if you don’t mind color on your inner fender.

I have a compressor, so I use it for cleaning the dust, priming and spraying base and clear coats. I have done some decent repairs using spray can primer, base color coat and clear coat before, so if you don’t have a compressor or money to buy it, use spray can paint and paint outside the garage.

Step 3: The right viscosity

My DIY color base coat viscosity formula is simple. I live in Europe and normally paint outside when it’s 20°C 68°F or more. I mix my paint in a cup, lift the mixing stick above the paint and see if the paint stops running and starts dripping as separate droplets after 2-3 seconds, then your paint and clear coat viscosity are more or less fine. Now I use measured mixing cup and sometimes I still use my original viscosity method.

Step 4: spraying base color coat

I apply first light coat of color base coat, investigate if the paint looks fine and there are no greasy spots. My second coat of paint is rather heavy. I make sure my metallic base coat thickness is as thick as possible, yet without any runs. I believe this creates this deep metallic paint effect. The third coat is very important because you have to set everything just right. I achieve decent results using HVLP spray painting gun with 1.7mm needle, my compressor air pressure at 2 bar.

Step 5: spraying clear coat

Use a mixing cup or my method for clear coat viscosity. If the temperature is higher than 26°C (78.8°F) or you’re working on bright sun outside add some extra paint thinner.

I normally apply 2-3 clear coats. Use a good light and spray enough clear coat for it fully glaze. Remember that you have to spray even coats and avoid overspray, this way you will have less polishing to do. Overspray hardens up and makes the surface look dusty.

There’s a little trick I use to see if the clear coat is hard enough for a second coat. Your clear coat can’t harden up between coats, yet you can spray to seen because you’ll get plenty of runs. If you touch a masked area with some clear coat overspray and the clear coat feels sticky but nearly hardened – it’s ready for a next coat!

Step 6: remove masking and enjoy!

Carefully remove the masking tape after few hours if you want your masked edges to blend slightly. Be careful not to press or contaminate the clear coat because it can still be soft enough to damage it. Peel the masking tape of slowly to avoid ruining the clear coat.

Great! Well done if you achieved the result you wanted. I normally cut and polish the clear coat of repaired part after two or three weeks. It’s common to have some overspray, runs or other flaws. Cutting and polishing helps to get rid of these flaws.