How to Paint a Car – DIY Car Painting Tips

by James Williams

Giving your car a fresh new coat of paint is a nice feeling. Whether it's your own car or a car you're preparing a car for a customer, a good bright coat of paint can give it a bright sheen.

However, it can be quite frustrating to make sure that the layer of paint is perfect. There are some tools and methods you can follow to ensure your car looks good and well maintained.

This article will help list them and give you some tips. So, let's learn how to paint a car.

Car Painting Tools You Will Need

There are some must-have car painting tools you should keep in stock. Some of the important ones are:


Obviously, you'll need paint. You will want to buy water-based acrylic enamel paint. It is widely used since it is quite environmentally friendly. The amount of paint you need depends on the size of your car.

For most medium-sized cars like sedans, you will need 1 gallon of paint for the primer layer, 3 gallons for the topcoat, and 3 gallons for the clear coat. For larger vehicles, 1 and a half gallons of primer is recommended along with 4 gallons for both the topcoat and clear coat.

Masking Paper

This is a must-have and makes your life much easier. Masking paper allows you to protect some areas from being painted. Whether it is your first time painting or have painted a car before, this tool helps immensely by allowing you to be more efficient with your paint.

Masking Paper
Masking Paper

Spray Gun

Spray guns are incredibly efficient and helpful, and spray painting is generally recommended when painting a car. For a spray gun, you'll want a gun that can convert the paint into the most minute spray particles it can. The smaller the particles, the better the finish will look.

Aside from how well it atomizes, check to see the speed of the spray gun and how well the paint flows as these two factors will affect how smoothly your job goes.

Air Compressor

You will need a suitably powerful air compressor for painting your car. Generally, a high-power stage 2 air compressor will cover most of your needs and is generally recommended to have in stock. Remember to keep this tool well maintained and lubricated.

Sanders and Sandpaper

If you want to ensure the smoothest paint job, you will need sanders and sandpaper. Usually, you will want to remove the rust from the metal body as well as smoothen out all the bumps in the chassis.

Electric sanders will generally get the job done, but you will need 180-grit sandpapers to remove rust from some corners.

It is also recommended to use 320-grit sandpaper to smoothen out any scratches from the initial sanding process. Sanding the edges properly is essential to ensure that your paint sticks to the body of your car and doesn't peel off.

Body Filler

Scratches and dents will disrupt the painting process and will result in a sloppy job. Use a body filler to fill in those dents.

Face Masks, Respirators, and Safety Glasses

If you don't paint cars on a regular basis, you might not need face masks or respirators. Since you'll usually be spray painting, the chances of paint particles entering your respiratory system are high.

Fumes are also quite detrimental to your health. You can also buy safety glasses to protect your eyes from stray paint particles.

Tips on How to Paint Your Car

Tips on How to Paint Your Car
Tips on How to Paint Your Car

Once you have gathered all the necessary equipment, you can start painting your car. These tips will help give you an idea of what to do:

Do Not Rush and Be Patient

Before you get to paint, you should be mentally prepared. Painting a car takes time.

You can take days painting just one car perfectly. With that stated, you need to prepare yourself for a very tedious task. If you are rushing, you will make a mess most of the time and get a sloppy finish. Take it slow and steady.

Prepare Your Workplace

Since painting a car will usually take days, you will need a good workplace. It is recommended to do so in your own garage rather than outside as you are shielded from the weather and will minimize the spreading of paint particles and fumes.

Your workplace should be uncluttered and allow you lots of breathing room. And you can work better if you are more relaxed.

Do a Pre-wash

Washing the car properly before beginning the sanding and painting process is recommended. This removes dirt, which can interfere with the paint layers.

Ensure a proper wash. Use paint thinners to remove any previous color so that it doesn't interfere with the new coat. After using the paint thinners, do not begin work immediately as there will be some residue. Let the residue dry.

Mask Parts to Protect Them

Use the masking tape. Use it to prevent paint from getting into areas you don't want it to. If there are parts of the car you don't want to paint, use masking tape on them and then later remove them after you are done.

Test Your Spray Gun before Using It

You should try out your spray gun on a piece of steel you won't need. This will allow you to get a good feel for your tool. Check the pressure of the spray gun and adjust it to your liking. You can also use it to practice if this is the first time you're painting.

Use the Proper Spraying Technique

When using the spray gun, keep it 6 inches away from the panel. Move the spray gun sideways when you're spray painting and never hold it still when you're spraying. This will cause a thicker layer of paint to form. Some of the paint will not stick to the surface and instead seep down into other parts.

Do Not Apply Too Much Thinner

After applying the primer, you will usually use a rag damped with thinners to clean the surface. Do not apply too much thinner as it will just end up undoing the primer and wasting all your hard work.

Remember to Remove Rust

Rust will interfere with your paint heavily. If the layer of rust is small, it can be sanded out. If, in the worst-case scenario that the chassis is badly rusted, you should resort to using a rust converter.

Let Each Coat Dry before Applying a New One

Make sure to let each coat of paint dry before applying a new one. The new layer will usually not stick properly, leading to a very awkward look and cause the paint to drip everywhere. For the primer, you will usually need to wait about 10 to 20 minutes for it to dry nicely,

Keep Your Spray Gun Clean

You should clean your spray gun after every application, especially the nozzle. Leftover paint in the nozzle will often interfere with the spraying process.

Avoid Color Mismatch

Sometimes you might end up mismatching the colors of your paint. One way to avoid this is by making sure the paint is factory matched to the vehicle. There are vehicular color codes that you can look up for the model. Note these down and order paint according to the codes.

Follow the Instructions

The paint you buy will often have instructions and recommended ratios that tell you how much paint you should mix for your coat. Always follow them. The paint cans will also tell you how much time it takes for the paint to dry.

Use Sandpaper to Remove Powdery Residues

If there are parts where the paint seems powdery, use your sandpaper to remove it. For this 2000-grit sandpaper is recommended.

Use a Buffer to Improve the Coat

You can use a buffer after you have finished applying the coat to give your car a more polished look. Move the buffer in a circle over the part you want to polish. Repeat until you get your desired look. Do not hold the buffer down too hard, or you'll ruin the paint.

Fix Small Mistakes Using Sandpaper

In case you made a mistake, or there's a small part that you want to redo, you can use sandpaper to scrape off the paint and then spray it again to fix it. Do not do this too many times, though.


Painting a car can be a strenuous task if you are not prepared with the proper tools and are not aware of the proper painting techniques. Hopefully, this article has given you some insight and will make things easier for you.

About James Williams

Hi, This is James from HomerDIY. I have great experience in writing about everything related to Pump and DIY tools. For the last few years, I am researching the different types of tools and sharing my opinion on this blog.

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