How To Spray Paint A Car – A Quick Guide For Beginners

Spray painting is fun, as you can do a lot of unique artwork with the tool. However, when the canvass becomes your own car, it suddenly becomes a challenging task, since you get a lot more responsibility on your work. Aside from that, you also get the risk of not getting it right, making your car look worse than the reason it needed to be spray painted.

Getting it spray-painted by a professional is a sure-fire way of having the job done. Unfortunately, it costs a whole lot more than actually getting it done yourself. This is why DIY spray-painting is becoming quite popular, as you can get the same result without having to spend a lot on the work. You can also add the experience as a fun bonus you can be proud of.

This article is a quick guide for beginners on how to spray paint a car. It’s not much detailed, but I hope it can help you to make a move!

Common Types of Spray Guns

Before delving into the how of spray painting, let’s get familiar with the different types of spray guns that you can use for your car painting.


HVLP (High Volume Low Pressure) Spray Gun

Similar to a conventional spray gun with air compressor, the HVLP is supplied with lower pressure, and is propelled by using high volume air. Because of this, they are highly efficient and cause minimal overspray.

Usually, a large air compressor is necessary in order to meet the power needs of an HVLP spray gun. However, this demand is greatly compensated by the efficiency, environmental-friendly, and functional prowess of the spray gun.

LVLP (Low Volume Low Pressure) Spray Gun

Contrary to HVLP, the LVLP is supplied with a smaller air volume. This results to lower consumption, and therefore, lower costs for use. However, it isn’t as efficient and as fast as HLVP spray guns.

With regards to air compressor use, LVLP can go with smaller types of air compressors. This flexibility makes the spray gun a good choice for most people who have a limited budget.

Siphon-Feed or Gravity-Feed?

Siphon-Feed Spray Gun

Siphon-Feed Spray Gun

Requiring a large amount of air pressure, the Siphon-feed spray gun is optimal for low-viscosity liquids such as lacquer, stains, and dyes. It utilizes its paint system by drawing up fluid from below the gun, and then pulls fluid from the feed tube.

It requires stronger compressed air, making it a bit harder to have. However, the spray gun itself is inexpensive and can be used if you already have a strong air compressor.

Gravity-Feed Spray Gun

Gravity-Feed Spray Gun

Similar to siphon-feed spray guns, the only difference is that the paint holder for this spray gun is situated on top of the equipment. This effectively lets gravity provide the paint and allows air pressure to be utilized more on efficient paint use to avoid overspill.

It doesn’t require strong air pressure, making it flexible enough to use regular air compressors. Gravity-feed spray guns that use less air pressure are safer and more efficient at paint use. Normal ones, however, can be prone to overspraying.

Air-less Spray Gun

This type of spray gun is less messy and fussy, as it does not require air when used. Paint goes to the nozzle and utilizes pressure through multistage pumps. As paint moves inside, they are atomized through temperature shifts.

This type of spray gun is best for large surfaces as they can be covered well with a thick coating. It also applies a wet coating, ensuring good adhesion and flow throughout the surface. Unfortunately, because they produce thick coats, its finish may be compromised.

Steps to Spray Paint your Car

Spray Paint your Car

1.Prepare everything you will need.

You don’t want to dive into something important without being prepared first. The most important part is the preparation. Make sure you have everything ready at where you plan on getting your car spray-painted. This avoids unnecessary pauses that may ruin your car’s look.

Things you’ll need to prepare:

  • A lot of 1200 – 1500 grit Wet and Dry Sandpaper
  • Masking Tape
  • Newspapers
  • Dust Extractor
  • Electric or Air Sander
  • Air Compressor
  • Spray Gun
  • Paint Thinner
  • Primer
  • Topcoat
  • Clear-coat Lacquer
  • Safety Glasses
  • Face Mask

All of these are sufficient to ensure a successful spray painting of your car and to make sure that you are safe while in the process. When getting started, wear your safety gear in order to avoid dirt or harmful chemicals from getting on you.

Do note that for small to medium cars, you may need a gallon of primer, about three gallons of topcoat, and about three gallons for clear coat lacquer. This amount provides ample room for mistakes and practice runs, ensuring that you won’t run out while in the middle of a successful operation.

2.Find a Proper Place to Paint.

When you have everything prepared, find a suitable place to conduct the painting process. Since you’ll be dealing with paint and several other chemicals, it’s very important to consider the safety of the people and environment around you, besides the fact of keeping the place clean. A well-ventilated garage is already a good place to start with. You just have to prepare it for the task you’ll be doing.

If you already have a place in mind, then you may consider cleaning up the place with a dust extractor. This removes stubborn dirt around the area, and lessens the risk of any contaminants getting onto the car while being painted. You won’t want a painted car with a few bumps due to dust and other floating debris. However, if you’re sure that your place is clean even without using a dust extractor, feel free to do so.

3.Prepare the Car.

You first need to remove the old paint from the car. This is where the sander comes in. Begin by sanding the surface down to its bare metal. The process may take a while, taking up a couple of hours in order to fully remove old paint. Hard to reach spots would be best approached with the sandpaper.

Thinner will come in handy after rubbing the car, as there might be some debris that stuck to the car after being cleaned. This removes dirt and debris that latches in while the other areas were being rubbed. Afterwards, wait for the car to dry up with the thinner evaporating.

4.Cover up the Car.

The beauty of painting your car by yourself is the freedom of choosing its design and doing it with your own effort. As there are a lot of different options, you may want to cover up some areas you don’t need painting in the meantime. Cover these areas with masking tape and newspaper, in order to keep them from being accidentally painted on.

5.Prime up the Car.

With the help of an air compressor, painting your car becomes an easier and more efficient job. Utilizing it with the spray gun, you need to be careful and take care of the equipment before priming.

When ready, practice your skills on a sheet of metal or a spare old car part. It’s important to assess your spray painting skills first in order to avoid uneven painting and unsightly mistakes. Usual techniques go with a side-to-side sweeping motion about 5-6 inches from the car. Once you get your technique down, apply primer to the car.

Follow the recommended thinner-primer ratio indicated on the paint can. You might use up all your primers after this, but you’ll know you’ve done a good job if everything is covered up evenly. This process could take a couple of hours as well. After priming, let it dry for up to 24 hours. Then rub with sandpaper again to smoothen out, careful not to expose the metal again.

6.Paint the Car up.

After getting the car clean after the waiting time, you can then start painting it officially. Do follow the recommended paint-thinner ratio. Then you can apply the paint according to the technique you used with the primer. Each panel may take up 10-15 minutes to work on, with about 30 minutes of waiting until you can recoat it.

Before applying the final coat of paint, use the 1500 grit sandpaper for a final touch up. Smoothen out the car, removing any possible dirt to allow a clean finish. Finally apply the last coat of paint.

7.Apply Lacquer.

Finishing off the process is lacquering the car up. Apply two coats of the clear-coat lacquer, with a 15-20 minute gap from each application. Do this with the same process as applying paint to the car.

Spray Painting Your Car Yourself

There are a lot of options to choose from when getting a spray gun for your car. Also, painting it by yourself can be quite the scary task as it leaves a lot of responsibility in your hands. This can be further worrying as there are a lot of things to think about before, during, and after the painting process.

However, even with these considerations, there are a lot of advantages that go with painting your car yourself. Cost is the first benefit that comes to mind, as it greatly reduces the amount you need to shell out for the same effect. Also, the feeling of success when done is an overwhelming feeling. You get to be proud of your achievement as it also becomes an excellent experience and memory.

Research, ask, get the right tools, and prepare. After which, everything will flow smoothly.

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