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DIY Painting a Car: 11 Tips To Get A Professional Paint Job


DIY painting a car is an endeavor that requires a good deal of time, effort, and planning. It is not a job for the inexperienced or faint of heart.

There are several elements that must be taken into consideration when tackling this type of project, from the type of paint and primer to be used, to the tools and supplies needed, to the proper prep and application techniques.

All of these elements, combined with the time and effort required, make DIY car painting a challenging but rewarding task. Painting your own car also allows you to have complete control over the final result.

You can be sure to select the exact color you want and make sure the finish is exactly how you want it. Additionally, it can be a great way to bond with family members or friends, as it can be a fun and satisfying experience to work together to complete the project of your entire vehicle.

How Does DIY Car Paint Job Work

If you’re looking to give your car a makeover and don’t want to spend a fortune taking it to a body shop, painting your car might be the perfect solution. But first, it’s important to understand the steps involved and the painting technique in achieving a successful automotive paint job. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to properly perform a DIY car paint job.

Gather the Proper Supplies

Gathering the necessary supplies in a paint shop is the first and most important step in completing a DIY car paint job. Depending on the type of paint job you are attempting, you will need to make sure you have the appropriate materials for the job.

In addition to the paint and primer, you will need to ensure you have various abrasive materials such as wet and dry sandpaper and sponges, spraying paint respirator masks, grease remover, paint thinners, masking tape, paint gun, body filler, and paintbrushes or paint sprayer that are appropriate for the job.

Having these supplies on hand before you start will help make the process more efficient, as well as ensure you get the best possible results. Use face masks to protect yourself from inhaling any of the toxic chemicals and fumes released when using these materials.

Clean and Prepare the Vehicle’s Surface

It is important to ensure that the car is thoroughly clean and free of dirt, dust, and any other contaminants that could interfere with the professional paint job. A car should be washed and then dried, and use safety precautions, like a respirator mask, to filter out airborne paint particles before you begin.

Additionally, any wax, grease, or oil should be removed from the car’s surface using an appropriate solvent. It is also important to sand the car’s surface before the painting process begins in order to ensure a smooth, even finish.

Apply Original Primer or Bare Metal and Sand the Surface

Applying primer is an important step as it provides a smooth surface for the paint to adhere to, as well as helps to prevent rust and corrosion. It is important to make sure the entire car is properly sanded before applying the primer for it to be effective.

After using a power sander sanding pads on the surface, a tack cloth should be used to remove any debris before applying the primer. The primer should be applied using a spray gun in thin coats. After the primer is dry, the surface should be sanded again, repeating the process of using a tack cloth to remove debris before applying the paint.

Spray the Paint With a Spray Gun

Spraying the paint is the fourth step in the process of performing a DIY car paint job. It is important to select the right type of paint for the job, specifically acrylic enamel paint. Acrylic enamel paint is a type of paint that is easy to apply, dries quickly, and it is highly durable. The paint should be applied in light, even coats, to ensure uniform coverage.

For a quality glossy finish, it is important to ensure that the paint is sprayed from at least eight to twelve inches away from the surface of the car. This will help to avoid runs and drips, which can ruin the overall finish of the paint job. After the paint has been sprayed on, it is important to allow it to dry completely before applying any additional coats.

Clean and Apply a Clear Coat of Lacquer Finish

A clean and clear coat lacquer finish is the final step in completing a successful DIY auto painting. Applying two or three coats of this clear finish provides a glossy shine while also protecting the existing paint from weathering and UV damage.

Before applying the clear coat lacquer, it is important to ensure the surface of the car is thoroughly cleaned and free of all debris, dirt, and contaminants.

Once the surface is clean, the clear coat lacquer can be applied. The application of the clear coat should be made in three to four coats, allowing each layer to dry before applying the next layer. This will help ensure an even and consistent finish like the professional paint job.

Tips for Perfect DIY Paint jobs

Painting your own home can be a rewarding experience, but it is also a time-consuming and potentially stressful task. To get the best results, it is important to do the job right. Here are some tips to help ensure you complete a perfect DIY coat of paint:

  1. Prepare the surface properly
  2. Ensure the surface is clean and free of dirt and debris
  3. Sand the surface if needed to create an even coat
  4. Select the right paint for the material
  5. Use multiple thin coats instead of one large thick coat
  6. Allow the paint to dry completely before applying a second coat
  7. To apply paint, use a face mask & safety glasses
  8. Use a clean rag slightly dampened to remove dust in circular motions
  9. Using the right tools on your own vehicle will help you save money
  10. Remove any powdery residue from a rag-denatured alcohol or mineral spirits
  11. A dust extractor can really improve the overall time you spend cleaning

Look for a label under the hood or in the door jamb to find the color code on the old paint. Once you have ordered the paint, test it by applying a thin coat to an area where there is bare metal showing. Use masking tape to cover any areas you don’t want to paint.

Pros and Cons of Painting Your Car DIY 

Red Spray Gun painting a car in special booth

Painting a vehicle by yourself may be an appealing prospect, especially if you’re looking to save some money. Although doing it yourself provides you with the satisfaction of a job well done, it also comes with a number of potential risks and drawbacks.

The spraying technique used can impact the amount of paint used for each project. Before attempting a DIY paint spray project, it’s important to understand the pros and cons of such a venture.


Cost Savings

You can save a significant amount of money compared to taking your car to a professional painter. This is because you are only paying for the supplies and materials rather than the labor costs associated with a professional job.


A DIY paint project allows you to customize your vehicle to the exact look you envision. Whether you are looking for a unique paint color or a classic look, this is a great way to achieve the desired results.

Time Savings

While DIY painting does require a significant investment of time and effort, it can be much more cost and time efficient than paying for professional painting services.

Not only will you avoid the cost associated with professional services, but you will also save time by not having to wait for a professional to complete the work. Doing it by yourself, you can be sure that the job will be done quickly and to the highest standards.


DIY auto painting enables you to customize your car with colors and designs that reflect your personality. You can choose from a wide range of colors and finishes, making it easy to create something unique and special.


Lack of Professional Results

Professional auto body shops use high-quality tools, paint, and techniques to achieve a superior finish. DIY painters may not have access to the same quality materials and tools, leading to an inferior finish.


While DIY car painting can save you money in the short term, it may end up costing you more in the long run. You will have to purchase all of the necessary supplies, including a paint gun, air compressor, sandpaper, paint primer, and other materials, as well as a good quality paint job.


Painting a vehicle is an involved process that requires technical knowledge and skill to complete effectively. If you lack the necessary experience and know-how, you could end up with a less-than-ideal result.

Time Consumption

Painting your car is a lengthy process, and it requires a great deal of patience and dedication to complete the job properly. You can end up spending lots of time when getting the masking tape stuck during the last coat.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Which Sandpaper Grit Is Best for Painting Your Car?

When painting your car, it is important to consider what type of sandpaper grit is best suited for the job. The type of grit needed will depend on the painted surfaces of the car and the paint that is being used.

Generally speaking, medium-grit sandpaper (with a range between 80 to 120) is most often recommended for the majority of painting projects. If a car is being painted with glossy paint, a finer grit paper (with a range between 150 to 220) might be used for the best results.

For larger vehicles with a rougher surface, a coarser grit paper (with a range between 40 to 80) might be used. If you are going to be working with the engine bay, you can use thicker sandpaper, such as heavy-duty grit paper (with a range between 20 to 80), for the toughest surfaces.

What Is the Price to Paint a Car Yourself?

The exact price you are going to pay to paint your car by yourself can vary based on the paint types, paint color, spray primer, prep work, the size of the car, and the complexity of the project. Getting the color code to match the old paint can sometimes make you lose money if you get it wrong.

Generally speaking, you can expect to pay anywhere from $200 to $1,000 for the supplies and materials needed to paint a car yourself. This price range covers all the necessary items, such as primer, mineral spirits rubbing compound, painter’s tape, masking paper, and other items.

Last Updated on: February 10, 2023

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