Sultan Reader
2/19/11 8:38 p.m.

Ok I know it can be do and it isn't that hard but I would really like to "know what I am doing". Well I want to know enough so that my wife thinks I know what I am doing:-)

Anyway I am looking for a recommendation to learn the process. Maybe a book or online class or buying cases of beer for a painter.

Oh and a small bit of info, I have two cars to paint both cost less than $2500.

Thank you for your time and thoughts. Rick

EvanB Dork
2/19/11 8:49 p.m.

I don't know any books or online classes but I painted my Miata.

  1. Prep, prep, prep. Make sure it is clean and ready.
  2. Smooth, light coats.
  3. Buy good paint, I went to a Sherwin Williams auto paint retailer near me to get paint.
  4. Ventilation is very important, lots of fans.
  5. Clean environment, spray it down prior to painting, spray bug killer a day before to prevent bugs from landing in the fresh paint.

Not necessarily in that order.

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard SonDork
2/19/11 9:01 p.m.

I painted my own car, all you need is time.

The above advice is very solid, especially the buy good paint part. It's a shame to put so much time into a project only to have it flake off in a few years.

If you can sweet-talk somebody into it, spraying in a paintbooth makes a HUGE difference.

BTW, it took me 3 months of nights and weekends (daily) to do it right. Don't skimp on putting time into it.

fasted58 New Reader
2/19/11 10:12 p.m.

Check out your areas adult education Vo-Tech night school auto body and paint classes. Teachers are usually life long pros, tuition and textbooks are reasonable and you get to use their equipment. You'll be responsible for your own vehicles materials, some tools and some of their material costs. Plus you'll be with a bunch of car guys who wanna paint cars just like you.

aussiesmg SuperDork
2/19/11 10:12 p.m.

<= I painted this and the truck looks awesome in a pic this big, anything bigger and it looks like crap

Keith SuperDork
2/19/11 10:13 p.m.

I'm in the middle of doing a couple myself $2500 is totally doable. For that, you can buy a big compressor and a couple of decent spray guns as well. That said, there are a couple of cheap HVLP guns from Harbor Freight that get great reviews. I've got 'em, and I've found the small one to be particularly impressive.

I've got "How to paint your car" from Motorbooks. Pretty disappointing in a lot of ways - there's nothing at all about how to set up a gun, for example. It will teach you the basic steps though. I found much more useful information online and don't find myself going back to the book much.

The best thing you can do is make friends with your local paint shop. Go in there and be quite clear that you're a newbie and you will be hanging on their every word. They may have some suggestions for local painters who are willing to take you under their wing, which I think is the best way to learn. Actually laying down the paint is pretty easy. Heck, it's all pretty easy. Just repetitive and fairly long.

I can't really recommend following my lead and doing this for a first paint job.

PseudoSport Reader
2/19/11 11:43 p.m.

Prep work is everything, painting is the easy part. I kinda just read the instruction on the cans of paint and spray gun and gave it a shot. You might also try using a cheap LVLP gun since it sprays slow and is easy to work with for a beginer. I used one to spray my challenge Miata with $150 worth of single stage paint and primer in my garage. So far its held up for 3 years without issue.


Some more before pics and and prep work here:

Rad_Capz Reader
2/20/11 12:01 a.m.

I paint my own cars. Never had the luxury of a booth. As a matter of fact, the one below was painted in my backyard on a dirt driveway before the interwebz was around. As mentioned above prep work is key and good materials are nice. Since you have the internet available and many people have experience that they will share I'd just jump in and write a "How do I start?" post to get yourself moving forward. Explain what the car is, condition, and what you want to do. People will help you along step by step. Be confident, patient, and just go for it. You could get a lot done in the time you'd spend researching. As long as you're not trying to win best paint of show awards and realize it won't be "perfect" you'll be fine.

tuna55 Dork
2/20/11 6:59 a.m.

I will offer one piece of advice, don't go posting in paint specific forums.

"How can I paint my car for less than $1000?"


I have no actual advice, my kids came and my project stalled before that stage,

2/20/11 7:10 a.m.

Your second car is going to be much better than your first, I guarantee it.

Your paint supply place will be your friend in most cases. People being people, experiences vary, but if it is not too busy, the guys at my supplier seem willing to talk and advise.

Buy a paint "system" if possible; this means all the stuff from one manufacturer that is meant to work together.

There are economy lines of paint that will serve quite well for our projects. The huge dollar stuff only comes into its own with show cars that require perfect prep.

pete240z SuperDork
2/20/11 7:15 a.m.

Find the article when CM had that old Volvo painted at a "paint and bake" shop. I thought that was decent advice. You do all the prep and dismantle; toss the guy a $100 tip and let them spray it for you.

spin_out Reader
2/20/11 9:19 a.m.

I took a couple of night courses at the local Vocational Tech High school at night. It worked out to cost $1 per hour of class. I had painted cars before by reading books. You can do that, but there is nothing like professional instruction for $1 per hour. (It probably costs more now.)

Prep is everything. You will need to sand and buff the paint when done if you don't paint it in a booth. That can take a lot of time.

My attempt to show a picture of our $2010 Challenge Mustang. If it does not show up, you can look in readers rides. :)

ncjay Reader
2/20/11 1:26 p.m.

I'm just starting to do my own bodywork and paintwork. There's soo much to learn. All the different types of pimer, bondo, and sandpaper alone is kinda mind boggling. The final product and longevity is determined by the chemicals you mix together. Make sure to get all your paint, hardener, and other chemicals from the same manufacturer to help and avoid any trouble. Clean, clean, clean. Words to live by. Sand, sand, sand, and sand some more. Prep work is 85% of the job. Another option is to do an internet search on "$50 dollar paint job". I have messed around with this and had very good results.

Sultan Reader
2/20/11 8:17 p.m.

Wow everybody thank you so much for the input. Great advice.

Keith your car is awesome! My "main" car is my Miata. It will be classic red with black a pillars and black hard top.

PseudoSport. That is the exact thing I want to do!

Curmudgeon SuperDork
2/20/11 8:39 p.m.

I've painted 5 cars, it's gotten better each time.

Prep work is 99.99% of a good paint job. Removing dings and dents doesn't cost much in materials but the time... I'd suggest getting an electric random orbital sander to do your bodywork, it's less aggravation than running hoses and a big compressor. The downside is that most of those have paper only down to around 220 grit. That means once the Bondo or whatever is shaped properly you'll need to wet sand the primer with 400 grit and then 600 by hand, which is time consuming. Body shops have gone to DA (dual action, or random orbital) sanders and pretty much skipped the whole wet sanding thing. But now you need a compressor capable of making the CFM/pressure required to run a DA. $$$$$.

Once that's done it's time to shoot. You can do this with a vertical cheapo compressor (I've done 2 that way) but you might want to call around and see if someone will rent a paint booth. I agree, don't cheap out on paint, particularly red. Red soaks up a lot of UV and will 'chalk' badly unless it has lots of UV inhibitors in it, which raises the price of the paint accordingly.

There's two types of paint: single stage (SS) and basecoat/clearcoat (BC/CC). SS requires no clear and can easily be wet sanded and buffed to bring out a shine. It's much more forgiving, I'd recommend that for a beginning painter. BC/CC requires a bit more thought and time, plus if the BC gets runs etc those have to be sanded out before the CC can be shot, which increases the amount of time involved.

It's certainly doable, people do it every day. Just be aware you are going to be putting an a lot of effort and you will screw up. Don't let it get you down!

Jcamper New Reader
2/21/11 12:36 a.m.

I have painted a couple cars, and am painting a '65 pickup for a friend right now. You didn't really list what you do/don't have, but I think the biggest constraint I have run up against is the compressor. I have an older industrial compressor that puts out about 8 cfm or so. I plumbed an air system in my shop so that I wouldn't have to worry about water in the air, and I borrow a small construction compressor to add to my system so that I can make it through a coat without waiting for it to catch up. I bought a really nice DA sander, and a really nice lvlp gun, but both use tons of air (like 13 cfm or so). I have played with some different paints, but I like Omni, a cheaper PPG line for the kind of stuff you are looking at. You can get everything from epoxy primer to clear in Omni, and it is pretty good bang for the buck. Base/clear is the only way to go in my opinion; its easy to shoot, easy to fix, easy to make look great.

Without details, I would kind of proceed this way. 1. Start with taking down anything where you need filler to metal, and doing the filler work. 2. If your paint isn't broken, don't fix it; only grind off paint completelyt if it is having adhesion problems. Otherwise, just scuff it. 3. Paint the whole thing with Epoxy primer in white. 4. I really like the MP282 Hi-build primer(grey), sands real nice. 4 coats or until you are out. 5. Guide coat and wet block sand with 220 until your hands fall off. 6. If you are happy, prep for paint, if not another round of hi-build. 7. Thin epoxy primer 10% and use it as a sealer. 8. Base coat until coverage plus 1 coat. 9. Clear coat-and thin it more than the tech sheets call for, like 15% more or so. The tech sheets are written for VOC regs, not for nice smooth paint.

I would expect to spend around 1k for materials doing it this way. I used autobodystore forums a lot, and my local jobber for paint. Hope that helps. J

spitfirebill SuperDork
2/21/11 7:41 a.m.

Link to ^

I painted my Spitfire before Al Gore invented the internet or before any of the hot rod type shows were on TV. Watching those have helped me a lot.

If you can get a shop to rent you the booth, you will be way head of the game. Especially if you use their compressor and can borrow or rent their gun.

If you are going to do it yourself, price the Devilbiss gun that is better than the starter kit. Well worth the money. You will be surprised what paint will cost.

tr8todd Reader
2/21/11 7:50 a.m.

Stay away from metallic paints on your first few paint jobs. Stick to a nice solid color. Don't be afraid to put on more coats than you need. You will be thankful for the paint thickness when you go back and wet sand out all of your imperfections. Your first coat needs to be very thin. If you try to cover with the first coat, the paint will run. The first coat is just to give the paint a surface to stick to. Second coat should start to cover. Third and heaviest coat will completely cover the primer and the car will look painted. Don't be afraid to give it a fourth and fifth coat. Your first paint job should be in a single stage paint. That way you can wet sand the base color. You can still top coat with clear if you wish. Getting the gun set right is the hardest part. Do some test sprays on a board, piece of drywall, parts car, whatever is available. Start and end your spray off of the car. NAPA has some really good cheap paint. It's Sherwin Williams packaged as NAPA. Last three cars I painted were with NAPA paint and they came out awesome- except for the metallic grey TR8 that a horsefly crawled across my hood as I was cleaning the gun. Left a trail that looked like a sea turtle crawling across the beach.

itsarebuild Reader
2/21/11 10:56 a.m.

i think everyone here knows more about it than me, but when i started looking for advice the one thing i keep hearing that wasnt already mentioned several times over here is make sure you have LOTS of lighting to keep you from missing spots. especially low on the body. i havent tried it yet but i plan to with the challenge car in a few months.

ddavidv SuperDork
2/21/11 4:58 p.m.

Roller paint jobs FTW. No fancy equipment, no mess. Downside is the limited number of colors and the time it takes. Upsides are many, including the disbelief from everyone who sees it and can't believe you applied it with a roller.

pigeon Dork
2/21/11 7:05 p.m.

Anyone used the Harbor Freight electric HVLP setup? I need to paint my 951 project and I don't own a compressor, and I don't think I can get close enough to Guards Red in Rusteloum

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