K.C. Body Shop Supply

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Five Steps to Painting Your Car Like A Pro

It takes time to achieve a professional-looking automotive paint job. Here are the steps you need to take to paint your vehicle right.

1. Set up your painting space and have the right supplies handy.

You will need a covered, ventilated, low-dust, safe location to prep and paint your car. The space should have good lighting and lots of room. If it’s a garage, be sure there isn’t a water heater, furnace, or another device that could ignite the paint fumes and cause a fire. Use plastic sheeting to surround the painting area to reduce dust and prevent spraying issues.

Purchase supplies

Here are the supplies you’ll need to paint a vehicle and get a professional finish:


  • Sprayer
  • Primer
  • Sanding tools

Safety equipment:

  • Respirator mask
  • Goggles
  • Painter’s gloves
  • Disposable plastic coverall with a hood


Match your car’s current color if you’re touching up a section or restoring the finish by locating the color code, usually located inside the driver’s side door frame.

2. Prep the Car

Prepare your car for painting by following these steps in order:

Remove all the trim.

Begin your prep by removing any chrome or plastic trim that can easily be taken off. While many of these components simply snap off, you can purchase tools that can help with this. You can also refer to your owner’s manual for information on how to remove trim pieces. Tape over any parts  that cannot be removed using painter’s tape.

Remove all the rust

Remove all rust before sanding. Use a metal grinder to grind away the rust. If the rust is severe, remove the metal entirely  and weld in a patch, or replace the entire panel.

Sand the car

If your paint is in reasonably good condition, sand the finish enough for the paint to stick. However, it’s probably better to sand to the primer layer or, ideally, bare metal.

Use a power sander with a 400- or 600-grit pad, working in a circular motion with constant movement until you achieve a matte finish. Block sand new panels by hand using even pressure across the panel.

Clean the vehicle after sanding

Remove all sanding dust using tack cloths to wipe down the entire surface. Follow up by wiping again with rags dampened with paint thinner, mineral spirits, or denatured alcohol. This final wipe-down will remove any remaining dust and oils from the surface.

Mask the car

If there are areas of the car you don’t want to paint, cover them with tape and masking paper. Don’t use newspaper! Remember to mask window glass and trim, mirrors, door handles, and grills. Also, skirt the bottom of the car with paper.

3. Prime the car

Apply a thin coat of primer to your vehicle. Before doing this, it’s a good idea to test your spray gun and technique by practicing on paper or a scrap of metal.

Spray the primer

Priming an entire car should take about 10 to20 minutes. Use a sweeping, side-to-side motion.

Let the primer cure. This usually takes between 20 and60 minutes. Then add one or two more coats, based on product instructions. When you’re done, clean your sprayer.

Sand the primer

Sand the primer finish with 1500 or 2000-grit wet/dry sandpaper. Then wipe down all the primed and sanded surfaces. Use clean rags dampened with a wax and grease remover, acetone, or paint thinner. Allow five to ten minutes of drying time before moving to the next step.

4. Paint the vehicle

Before painting, practice your spray technique again. The paint may spray differently than the primer.

Thin your paint

Thin your paint following the paint manufacturer’s instructions. Be careful not to over or under-thin the paint.

Spray the paint

Put on your safety gear including your respirator and other equipment, then apply a coat of paint. Spraying a complete car should take around 20 minutes. Repeat the process, adding three to four  coats Allow adequate cure time between coats. Read the manufacturer’s instructions to make sure you apply the paint correctly.

Sand and wipe down

Wait about one hour after applying the last coat of paint. Sand and lightly wipe down the paint, just as you did the primer coat. Then lightly sand away any powdery residue with 1500 or 2000-grit wet/dry sandpaper. Use the same technique as you did with the primer coat. Finally, wipe down the surface with lightly dampened cloths, using wax and grease remover, acetone, or paint thinner.

5. Apply the clear coat

Before applying the clear coat, practice your spraying technique on a scrap piece of paper.

Spray the clear coat

Spray on two coats of clear coat lacquer following the manufacturer’s instructions. Remove all masking and paper about ten minutes after applying the final clear coat. Allow your paint job to cure for about a week.

Sand the car

Sand away minor imperfections in the finish, using 1200 or 1600-grit wet/dry sandpaper. Wipe down with damp cloths (same as before), then repeat the gentle sanding using 1600 to 2000-grit sandpaper to even out the finish. Wipe down the entire care once again after the final sanding.

Buff the car

Buffing a car by hand produces great results. However, it’s much faster to do it using a buffing machine. Be careful, though, because buffing machines require practice to get great results. Doing it wrong could result in removing the finish you worked so hard to apply.

Following these steps will help you to paint your car like a pro!