A Guide To Car Spray Painting: Our Tips On How To Do It Like A Pro

16 December 2022 Automotive

Generally speaking, spray painting a car should be left to the professionals as not doing so could lead to further problems such as reduced protection against corrosion, premature deterioration of the paint finish or obvious imperfections that will affect your car’s resale value.

But on the other hand, there will always be reasons why you may decide to try your hand at car spray painting. If it’s an older car with a low resale value, paying a professional for essential repairs may not be justifiable. Or maybe you just see it as an enjoyable challenge. Whatever your reason, here are a few tips on how you can do it like a pro.

Find A Place To Spray

Spray painting outdoors is unlikely to give the best results. Even the slightest breeze will cause paint spray to drift and will blow insects and specks of dust onto your paintwork. Rain on freshly-applied paint or lacquer will cause damage that may require sanding back to the primer coat. Extreme cold and heat will affect drying times.

If you don’t have a garage or workshop – and you’ll need enough room to work around the car too – consider buying a portable garage from Amazon. It will only cost a few hundred pounds and can be disassembled and packed away between use. Commercial spraybooths are available from the likes of Masterflo.

Prepare Your Surface

We cannot over-emphasise how important it is to thoroughly prepare for spray painting. If you are repairing damaged or corroded bodywork you will have already done a lot of preparation – welding, fibreglass mesh, epoxy filler – but if you’re painting over slight chips and scratches it might be tempting to skip the prep. You may be pleased to see how well the paint coat seems to hide slight imperfections, but the high-gloss finish of the clearcoat will bring them into sharp relief again.

  • Start by removing any rust and apply a neutraliser to the area to prevent it from returning.
  • Mix epoxy filler thoroughly and to the correct proportions.
  • Use aerosol primer filler on areas where the damage is too shallow for putty filler. This is applied like an aerosol paint and will easily sand back to a smooth finish.
  • When you sand down filler, take it in stages from coarse grit to medium and then fine sandpaper. If you go straight from coarse to fine it will leave sanding marks that will show later on.
  • Scuff sand the surrounding paintwork to provide a good key for the new paint to adhere to.
  • Apply a guide coat of paint or dry guide coat – a fine black powder that settles in any cracks or pin holes – to show where more filling or sanding is required.
  • When you are satisfied with the filling and sanding, thoroughly clean and degrease the area to remove dusty and oily contamination.

Protect Surrounding Areas

It’s not just your face that will need a mask once you start spraying; your car’s windows, lights, wheels and trim will all need protection from overspray.

It’s well worth spending the extra money on professional masking tape for the edges of these areas, as it will give a sharp line with no paint creep and will remove cleanly from the surface when the painting is finished. Once the edges have been masked, cheaper masking tape and plastic or paper sheets can be used to cover larger areas.

Use Appropriate PPE For Paint Spraying

All fillers, primers, enamels and lacquers contain chemicals that can be harmful. Don’t risk your health, even if it is only a small repair. Use appropriate protection for your eyes, skin and lungs.

Choose How You Will Spray

You will find it hard to achieve professional spray gun results with a cheap car paint aerosol, but if you don’t have the budget for a compressor and spray gun, pick the aerosols the professionals use. While they would use them for spot repairs rather than painting an entire car, in theory, there’s no reason why you couldn’t do this.

ProXL clear coat aerosols feature the unique Vari-Nozzle, which allows you to control the spray pattern and delivery more accurately than with a standard aerosol.

The ProXL aerosols range also includes 2K (two-pack or two-component) clear lacquer and pre-gassed cans, where the two components are held in separate sealed compartments of the tin. When you are ready to spray, simply break the seal between them and agitate the tin as you would do with conventional aerosol paint for cars. This gives you the durability of a 2K product in the convenience of an aerosol.

Learn And Practice Your Spraying Technique

There are plenty of YouTube videos showing how to apply car paint aerosols and we would recommend watching them. Once you are confident you know how it’s done, practice on a piece of scrap cardboard – or better still, an old car panel – to perfect your technique.

When you’re ready to spray your car, take it slowly and steadily. Don’t try to cover the surface too heavily in one pass, and if you do hit problems and get running or sagging, let the paint dry fully before sanding it back and trying again.

Spray perpendicularly to the surface of the car and from a distance of about 8 inches (20 centimetres), applying the paint first in horizontal and then vertical passes.

Preparing For The Finish

Once you’ve achieved an even coverage of paint, let it dry thoroughly then give it a light rub down with very fine sandpaper to remove any paint nibs, and follow this with a thorough wash to remove the dust – a microfibre cloth is good for this.

The clear lacquer used as a final coat serves two functions: it protects the paint from damage caused by scratches and UV radiation in sunlight, and it adds gloss, depth and richness to the paint.

To get a professional finish, apply 2-4 coats of clear lacquer over the paint. Lightly sand and wipe clean the lacquer before applying the final coat to remove any small nibs.