When the exterior paint of your car is in bad condition and won’t accept a vinyl wrap, car painting will be a great idea. And instead of taking it to an auto body shop, you can even do it yourself.

However, there is a popular question we all want answered: “What do I need to paint a car?”

Yes, if you don’t get used to car painting or are a pro, you may not know what you need for this task.

Fortunately: We have consulted many car painting professionals and gathered useful information to complete this instruction. Each step will show you the details of the things you need to paint a car yourself.

Why Choose DIY Car Painting?

Why is a Car Painting Needed?

Improve its Performance

The outer paint works as a protective cover for a car’s metal frame. Over time, in addition to natural corrosion, scratches or small chips may leave openings.

As a result: Environment conditions such as water or oxygen can greatly have an effect on the car’s paint.

Thus: Car repainting will help to remove old paint or rust spots and cover them with a new hard protective coat. Your car will have a new look and can last for a long time.

Update Its Impression

If you have a vintage car, repainting can help to transform it with a new, modern and fresh paint surface.

Or: If you’re unsatisfied with your car’s color, you can repaint it to make everything more agreeable.

In other cases: If you use your car for work, this painting task may help you make a great first impression on important customers or clients.

Increase Its Resale Value

If you intend to sell your car, car painting is a great way to increase its value and help you get more money out of your sale. A car with a faded and old look will cost a lot less.

How Much is a Paint Job for a Car?

How much is a paint job for a car?According to Cost Helper, now the body shops provide customers with several service levels.

Particularly: The cost for a basic paint job ranges from $300 to $900. A standard service can range from $1,000 to $3,500. For a high-quality one, the price can be between $2,400 and $7,500.

Infer from that: For older cars, these costs may be excessive. If you cannot afford it and want to learn something new, you can try painting a car yourself.

The materials are available from hardware and automobile shops. The cost will also be more affordable if you can spend time and effort.

It’s time for the best part: So, you finally decide to paint your car yourself, right? Then, start with some useful knowledge. We’ll show you the basic steps of car painting and necessary prep tips.

Understanding the Main Steps of a Car Painting Project

Main Steps of a Car Painting ProjectTo know how to spray paint a car professionally, you should master its main steps. This’s a quick overview of how to paint a car:

  • Prepare and consider necessary things
  • Sand your car
  • Find and fix the rust spots
  • Clean your car to remove dust
  • Cover areas that needn’t painting
  • Practice the spraying technique
  • Prime your car
  • Resand your car
  • Apply the topcoat
  • Spray the finish paint
  • Buff your car

By the way, we’ll give you more details on how to prep a car for paint and the ways to paint in another separate post.

In the next following parts, we’ll focus on what you need for car painting instead. This is very important as well.

Pre Tips Before Car Painting

Mastering main painting steps, now you need to know the following essential prep tips before painting.

Consider the Legality and Your Task’s Affection

Consider the legality and your task's affectionYou’re wondering: “Car painting is also considered to be illegal, isn’t it?”

Amazingly, that’s possible.

In many controlled areas, some types of paints and other products such as spray guns, spray cans are restricted from selling.

In almost rural areas, it’s okay when you spray a car in your garage without affecting the surrounding environment.

But: In some cases, in urban or suburban areas, especially in the typical residential ones, you may encounter specific laws in that community so learning the law in your area will be very useful .

Thus: You’d better find out what the laws are in your area.

Also, you should determine whether they have any objections to your task, and ask them to call you first if there’s any affection.

Consider the Location and Timing

Consider the Location and Timing

How is the Workspace?

Finding a proper place with suitable conditions to perform your work is important.

That place should:

  • Be dry, enclosed, dirt-free and temperature-controlled
  • Not be closed to water heaters or furnaces
  • Have great ventilation on roof or door, enough lighting, and electricity
  • Have many rooms to work around the car
  • Have degrees between 65 and 90. Colder or hotter isn’t ideal.

And you should:

  • Cover surfaces you don’t want to let the paint on
  • Sweep and clean the floor
  • Use a covered shed to avoid elements
  • Use certain precautions

We would suggest:

A spray booth designed for this work would be ideal. Your garage or your driveway is also a worth-considering option.

If not, you can work outside with weather permitting, but don’t work under trees or others that can drop debris or dust onto your vehicle.

When is the Best Time?

The location is ready; now you need to figure out when to begin your task.

Summertime is a good choice. For the colder seasons, afternoons are the best. Moreover, car painting is a time-consuming task, so consider how many spare days you have beforehand.

Additionally, early morning will be the best time to paint in a non-paint booth condition.

Prepare Materials and Equipment

For materials, you can purchase the available DIY car paint kit on the market or prepare some things we list below:

1. Spray Gun

Spray GunThis’s the jumping-off point for car painting. A suitable spray gun will help your job to be done well. Normally, paints guns are categorized into 2 main types:

  • Can-style: the paint is stored in a can under the gun
  • Gravity-fed style: the paint is held in a cup above the gun

And many users now tend to use the former more. Why so?

HVLP guns are better. They use low pressure, so they’ll create less overspray as well as waste less product than the can-style ones. As a result, they’ll give your car a more exotic look.

See also: Best Paint Sprayers For Cars

2. Air Compressor

Air CompressorIf you only tend to paint one or two cars once in a while, you may consider renting or borrowing an air compressor.

If you’re serious about this painting task and will use it many times, it’s worth investing in a proper compressor machine. In fact, a good home compressor is less expensive than other shop tools.

Notes in purchasing an air compressor:

  • It must meet your paint gun’s requirements
  • It’s a moisture separator that gives enough dry air supply for demands of the spray gun
  • It should have a long lifespan
  • It can handle a solid workload
  • A 60-gallon tank with a 5-6 HP compressor is normally ideal for car painting. Meanwhile, a 25-35-gallon air compressor is suitable for small touch-up painting.

3. Sander

SanderFor this item, we would recommend a dual-action sander. It’ll save you much time with basic body filler shaping and sanding tasks.

Its unique design allows its circular pad to move in orbital directions instead of only spinning in a high-speed circle.

Moreover, it’s affordable, costing from 50$ to 175$ and is available in various sizes and power ranges. Buy one to make the hard work easier, leaving you more extra time for other jobs.

4. Sandpaper and Sanding Block

Sandpaper and Sanding BlockSandpapers are helpful for sanding the car’s chrome exterior before spraying paint.

They’ll smooth your car’s old painted surfaces or roughen glossy areas, so the paint can stick to better. For this task, you should use 1200- and 2000-grit wet-and-dry sandpaper.

Besides, sanding blocks will help to hold sandpaper better and sand the surfaces to an even finish.

Additionally, sanding blocks and boards are a great match for even and flat sanding chores.

5. Automotive Paint

How Many Paint Layers in a Car’s Exterior Coat?

Before buying automotive paint, you should know this first. Consult the table below:

Layers Paint Type Purpose
Undercoat Primer Prevent moisture
Allow base coat to adhere well
Basecoat Color coat Supply color
Topcoat Clear coat finish Protect layers underneath
Supply hard outer surface
Against chipping, shine, and UV
Detailing Specialty Add detailing designs

This is only a basic description of how car paint is applied. And different paint jobs may require different numbers of layers.

How Much Paint?

The paint amount you need differs in car size and the volume of your car’s areas you paint.

Normally: For small to medium-sized cars, you can use 1 gallon of primer, 3 gallons of topcoat, and 2-3 gallons of clear coat.

For larger cars, you can use 1 ½ gallon of primer, 4 gallons of topcoat, and 3-4 gallons of clear coat.

What is the Best Automotive Paint?

At various stores, there are many options for automotive paint including two main types: Solventborne and Waterborne.

Solventborne is the traditional type and includes a solvent base such as enamel, lacquer, or urethane. Thus, it tends to bring more volatile organic compounds than the latter.

Waterborne is the more popular and environmentally-friendly type and easier to use.

Nowadays, users tend to enjoy it better.

Do You Know?

Now, there are new and strange paint types that many users want to try at least once.

For example, vanta black that just has high absorption in the visible light band.

Another one is the pearl paint. It has a brighter glow, and you will see its color changes slightly when the sun glints off it from different angles.

However, consider your budget to choose the most suitable product.

6. Tape and Masking

Tape and MaskingNewspaper or cheap paper is often use to mask off the areas you don’t want to paint. It can allow paint to go through onto the surface underneath.

Plastic is the best choice to cover the engine bay and other parts that don’t need painting. Or wheel covers or trash bags can cover your car’s wheels and tires.

For the best results: You should use the proper and high-quality automotive masking paper and tape. You can use them together with plastic sheeting to bag large parts such as the tire, windows, or the bumper.

7. Primer

PrimerThere’s a common question: “Do you have to prime a car before painting?”

In fact: That’s essential in all cases. Priming will seal the car’s surface and make a protective barrier as well as an ideal surface for the paint to stick to. This will be well done with the good primer.

Moreover, when choosing primers, you should:

  • Make sure the primers are well compatible with the color paint. You had better use within one paint system; otherwise, there’ll be compatibility problems such as crazing, not sticking and more.
  • Use the light primer in case the color of your car is light and the darker primer if the paint is dark such as black, green and so on.

8. Other Supportive Things

Other Supportive ThingsThese’re some more supportive equipment in addition to the above main things:

  • Mixing cans or bottles
  • A can of Bondo (optional) to resolve small dents
  • A quart of acetone
  • Stir sticks
  • Strong soap, wax and grease remover or acetone for cleaning
  • Some tacked cloth
  • Paint thinners
  • Warm and clean water
  • Plates, palette knife or a torn piece of cardboard
  • High-density foam brushes

Protect Yourself

Protect YourselfFinally, the safety equipment for your body is necessary. Use proper protective items to protect yourself from harsh chemicals.What are those gears?

1. Gloves

They are cheap and a must while sanding, applying paint and working with chemicals. They also help to keep your fingers’ skin oil off the surface you spray paint.

Furthermore, you should use products made of P.V.C, or neoprene, nitrile but not thin plastic.

1. Shoes

If possible, you should wear closed toed and chemical resistant boots to cover your feet.

However, because you won’t handle the materials with your feet, you can just find something that covers them.

3. Face Mask or Respirator

Face Mask or RespiratorIn fact: Respirators like the N-95 – popular in hospitals – are simple and available, but inadequate. We need something that prevents not only particles but also gases, chemicals, and vapors.

Thus: A high-grade mask is a proper option. It can help to prevent the inhalation of paint when you spray, block its toxic vapors and avoid all other respiratory issues.

You should also use a respirator that meets specified OSHA standards. It’ll help to filter out particles in the paint that cause lung infections.

4. Goggles

Goggles, safety glasses or a shield will prevent eye exposure or other serious damages during car painting.

If you use an electric sander, this device will guard your eyes against debris. It’ll also block any paint splashes or fumes wafting from these substances.

Besides, it’s advisable to wear goggles while contacting chemicals, so that gaseous particles won’t harm your eyes.

5. Clothes

You should wear an apron, a protective hood, long pants, and sleeves to protect yourself from any contact with the primer or chromium.

Another choice is the painter’s liquid-proof coveralls. It supplies the ample coverage of your torso and appendages. It also prevents Isocyanates to seep through your skin.


Now, you may have your own needed answers for your concerns: “What do I need to paint a car?”, right?

We believe with the above helpful information, and your careful preparation, your car painting task will be a bit easier.

See you soon in the next post with more useful information. Thanks for consulting!