How To Paint Your Car By Yourself

on May 12, 2021
Man using a spray gun to apply paint to a silver cars front fender.

So you’ve decided that your car needs some new paint, but you don’t really want to take it into a shop. 

Whether you want to paint your car by yourself for financial reasons or because you’re looking for a new project, there’s a number of things you’ll want to know before you go into it. 

Painting your own car is quite the undertaking and will take up several days of your time. But when done properly, you’ll be able to take pride in knowing that your car's sick new paint job was done by your own hands.

At Shine Armor we want to help you get your ride looking as crisp as possible -- inside and out, so let’s talk about what you need to know and what you need to get in order to paint your car by yourself. 

 

Safety First

Painting your car by yourself can be pretty dangerous because you’re working with many toxic products. 

Sanding down the current paint job on your vehicle releases chemicals, the paint you’re spraying into the air has chemicals, and the paint thinner is obviously not something you want to be breathing in at all…

Basically, you don’t want to breathe in or come into direct contact with anything that you’re using, so a high level of safety is required. 

A heavy-duty respirator,  safety goggles, gloves, and even a full-body suit are all strongly recommended. You might get away with not using the bodysuit, but you would look pretty cool in it.

 

Choosing Your Color

Are you painting your car because you want something new? 

Or is your current paint job cracking with age, and you want to inject some life into it? 

If you’re trying to paint your car the same color that it is currently, your car can actually tell you what color to look for. 

Typically found on the inside area of your car's door frame is your VIN and paint color code. This number tells you exactly what color your car is so you can purchase the right match. If you have a hard time finding the paint color code, contact your car dealership, and they’ll be able to look it up based on your car's year, make and model. 

If you’re painting your car a new color, then it’s up to you and your imagination! 

 

Proper Equipment

The paint on your car is going to last a long time, so this really isn’t the time to go cheap on your equipment. 

 

Safety Protection

We know we already mentioned safety protection like goggles, gloves, and a respirator -- We just want to say it twice so you know it’s a top priority. 

 

Sandpaper

One of the first steps you’ll take painting your car is sanding it down, but what level of sandpaper do you need?

High-level grit sandpaper is the way to go, something between 1200 and 2000 grit. You want something that’s going to remove the current coat of paint to give your new coat something to hold on to. 

You’ll also want a sanding block- For the preparation sanding, you’ll want the tactile awareness of how much you’re sanding off that you just don’t get with a power sander. It’ll be a little more effor,t but it will be worth it. 

 

Spray-Painter

There are a few different options as far as spray-painter kits out there, but we recommend a gravity-feed sprayer. This style of sprayer uses gravity instead of pressure to push the paint, which has a lower pressure value. 

The lower you can get the paint pressure, the smoother you’ll be able to apply your paint. 

You will need an air compressor with any type of paint-sprayer, but unless you plan on regularly using it, you don’t really need to go out and buy one. 

Plenty of hardware stores will have air compressors you can rent for a few days instead.

 

Automotive Paint

This one might seem a little obvious, but you’ll need automotive paint if you want to paint your car. 

Automotive paint is different from typical household paint because it’s typically enamel-based rather than water. This means that it has more of a plastic quality when finished with much more durability than what you might paint your walls with. 

You’ll also need a paint primer, which will help bond the car frame and the new paint.

 

Cleaning Products

Before, during, and after you paint your car, you’re going to be cleaning it, so make sure to get some high-quality cleaning products.

 

Shine armor cleaning products

 

The Shine Armor Ultra Concentrated Car Wash Soap is the perfect choice for preparing and finishing your car for its new paint job, and at $31.99 for a gallon, you’re getting an amazing product for an amazing price. 

 

Location

Make sure to pick the right place to paint your car because it can make a big difference in how it turns out. 

What are you looking for in a location? Besides a place where you can leave your car sitting for several days without it getting in the way, you need somewhere that is dust-free and very well lit. 

A garage can definitely do the trick if you have enough room; just make sure you don’t have any sawdust floating around, or it might end up in your paint job. 

It’s also important to be somewhere with adequate ventilation. While you should definitely be wearing your respirator and eye protection anyways, you don’t want the spray paint and fumes to accumulate in your space. Not only is it a hazard to your health, but you might also end up accidentally painting everything in your garage. 

 

Prep Work

Alright, you’ve got everything you need. You cleaned out your garage, and you’re looking dashing in your full bodysuit and respirator. 

But before we actually paint the car, there’s a lot of prep work to do. In fact, you might say that most of the effort that goes into painting your car is everything you do before the actual painting begins.

 

Wash Your Car

Go ahead and give your current paint job one last cleaning before saying goodbye. 

Make sure to really focus on removing any dirt, dust, or other gunk sticking to your car; youreally don't want to be dealing with it later. 

Starting off with a clean car is going to make your life much easier, and your paint will come out much smoother. 

 

Remove Plastic and Chrome

You only want to be painting the metal frame of your car, so you’ll want to pop off anything plastic or chrome. 

More often than not, these pieces have simple ways to take them off and put them back on, but make sure to research your specific vehicle online for instructions before you start ripping anything out. 

 

Taping

Next, you’re going to want to tape off anything that you can’t remove but still don’t want to paint: Windows, headlight covers, side mirrors. 

Make sure to have smooth tape lines; any creases in the tape might let unwanted paint in.

 

Sanding

Now we’re going to grab the sandpaper we bought and start going to town. Your car is not going to look very pretty when we’re through with this step, by the way. But don’t worry, it only gets better from here. 

Take your sandpaper on the block and slowly work your way around your car; leave no spot unsanded. The best practice for this is to go section by section and sand in crisscrossing diagonals so that you end up with a cross-hatched pattern. 

There are different schools of thought as far as how much you sand off. Down to the sheet metal? Just passed the first layer? Maybe you only have to scuff up the current coat?

We recommend sanding until the current color is nearly gone. Especially if you’re going from dark paint to light paint, you’ll want to remove pretty much all of it before you move forward. 

 

Clean With the Good Stuff (Again)

So now your car is scratched up and covered in old paint dust. Time to clean up again!

Reapply your Ultra-Concentrated Car Wash Soap with a clean microfiber towel and clear all of that dust off. Going into the painting phase, you want your car as clean as possible so that you don’t end up with any rough patches or uneven patterns in your coat. 

 

Prime Coat

Alright, your car is almost ready for some new paint. But first, we have to apply a smooth layer of primer on every surface you want to be painted. 

As we said, the primer is going to hold the surface of the car and the paint together much better than if the paint were applied by itself. 

Follow the instructions on whatever primer you end up getting. More often than not, you apply it to the car, let it dry and cure for a certain period of time, then lightly sand it some more to give it a rough texture. 

Don’t sand it so much that you completely remove it because that would defeat the purpose of the primer. 

 

Paint Away

Here we are. You’ve washed, taped, sanded, washed again, primed, and sanded again. 

The time has come. Follow the instructions to fill your new sprayer with your paint color of choice and proceed to slowly and smoothly cover your car with your paint. 

Keep your sprayer around six to ten inches away from the vehicle and carefully move around the entire body. You will more than likely have to apply several coats and wait for each one to dry, but your patience will pay off once you’re done. 

 

Shine and Finish

After you’ve successfully applied your paint and your car is looking crisp with its new color, take a moment to congratulate yourself.

Painting a car isn’t easy, and here you are at the end. 

But before you completely call it a day, make sure to really put in the extra elbow grease and buff your entire car to make sure that color really pops. 

After all the effort you went through, it’s worth it to make sure that your new paint job is as smooth and polished as possible. 

 

Sources:

How to Do a VIN lookup | Car and Driver

Block-Sanding Basics - 125 Steps To Perfect Paint | Hot Rod

How to Wash Your Car | Consumer Reports

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