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How to Spray Paint a Car with Spray Cans

Spray painting your car is generally inexpensive, convenient and effective. It’s a great way of touching up an area that’s been scuffed or scratched without having to go through the hassle of hiring a professional to respray the whole car. But, if done incorrectly or if rushed it can end up looking worse than when you began. 

Time, patience, the right equipment and our guidelines below are key to achieving a perfectly smooth finish.

1. Prepare the Surface

Before doing any kind of repair work on your car you’ll need to wait until the conditions are warm and dry and ensure the area to be repaired is clean, free from wax and contaminants and is dry. Our Pro-Cleaner is an efficient and reliable cleaner and degreaser that can remove dirt, grease, oil, silicone, wax, tar, adhesive and residues. 

Once the surface has been cleaned sand out any rust scabs, scratches or paintwork damage with course wet or dry sandpaper. Over time, you’ll start to see the paint flaking away. Once most of the paint has been removed you’ll want to change the sandpaper to 180-320 grit to ensure it’s smooth enough for priming. Don’t leave any small marks or scratches behind as these won’t be covered up by the paint. 

When the area you want to re-spray is smooth, clean and dry, use masking tape to mask off adjacent panels to prevent overspray. We recommend covering up a larger part of the car than you think is needed as paint, especially spray paint, can travel a long way. Never tape off mid-panel or you will see a tape line. Make a line with tape first, then tape paper to your existing tape line. Doubling up newspaper will work, but paint is likely to bleed through if you’re using several heavy coats. For smaller areas like tail lights and trim, masking tape is perfectly fine. If you’re painting in an enclosed area, mask the entire car with plastic sheeting to prevent overspray.

2. Prime the Car

There are many different primers to choose from so researching to learn which primer is best suited to your car is vital. Our Epoxy Primer gives an excellent adhesion directly onto the bare metal and also has active rust preventing pigments to help protect the car.

To apply the primer, it’s important you shake the can well for a few minutes beforehand. Ideally, the can should also be at room temperature too. Hold the can around 10-12 inches away from the surface and spray lightly in a back and forth motion. Apply 3 more coats, waiting 5-10 minutes for it to dry in between coats. If you notice any imperfections take the 600 grit wet or dry paper and sand them out, then re-apply a couple coats of primer again. 

Use a water-dampened lint-free cloth to wipe away any sanding dust and dry the area. Make sure there is no dust on the masking paper and if there is then replace it.

3. Spray Paint the Car

When the time comes to spray paint the car, follow the same application method as you did with the primer. Thoroughly shake the spray can for a few minutes and spray a test panel to ensure a suitable colour match and coverage. Apply as many medium coats as necessary to cover the intended area, again waiting 5-10 minutes between each coat. It’s always best to apply several, thinner layers and building them up rather than one heavy layer.

Each coat should appear uniform and dry, if needed, gently use a cloth between each dry coat to remove any dust. 

If you’re using a tri-coat paint the method would be slightly different. You’ll need to first spray the ground coat colour, one coat at a time until the area is entirely covered. Then, spray the mid-coat pearl colour, again, applying this one coat at a time until you achieve the pearl effect of the factory colour. 

4. Apply a Lacquer and Polish

If you have metallic paint, then applying a clear lacquer is necessary to achieve the right, glossy finish as the rest of the car. Plus, it’ll help protect the paintwork too. You’ll need to wait around 1 hour after the base coat colour has been applied to then apply either the 1K Clear Coat or the 2K Clear Coat. Shake the can well and apply 4-5 light layers, waiting 10 minutes in between coats before moving onto the next. You can touch the tapeline to test out when it’s dry rather than touching the panel. It’s important to wait until it’s dried fully as skipping this step can result in a colour mismatch, a heavy orange peel-like texture or a loss of gloss.

Polishing your car afterwards is optional but it’ll finish off the paint repair job nicely and give it that fresh, shiny, new look. Wait at least one day before polishing your car. If you notice any orange peel-like texture or dust embedded in the clear coat, you can gently sand this out using 1500-2000 wet or dry paper and then use a rubbing compound to bring up its brilliant shine. We strongly recommend you don’t wax the car for 30 days as the paint settles.

Touch Up Paint Factory Top Spray Painting Tips

We’ve rounded up some top tips from our expert spray painters here at Touch Up Paint Factory to ensure you get the best results possible from spray painting your car yourself.

  • We’ve already mentioned above that the ideal weather for paint repairs is warm, dry and bright but you’ll also need to make sure that it’s a still day. Any wind would potentially blow dirt inclusion into wet paint. It’s best if the weather is slightly overcast as this helps to prevent any sun glare and the diffused light helps to see extra details. We don’t recommend painting in high humidity or in outdoor temperatures below 12 degrees.
  • When it comes to preparing your car for painting, ensure the panel to repair is cleaned up with soapy water, free from any tar or wax residue and dried thoroughly. Mask the adjacent panel and the next panel to the adjacent one to ensure no overspray contamination. And, make sure your hands have been washed properly before putting on your PPE gloves, especially if your car has been recently valeted with dash shine.
  • Once you’re ready to apply the paint, apply light coats, little and often rather than heavy coats and ensure the primer is fully dried before. Depress the nozzle on the spray can while pointing at the masked area and then move the can keeping the nozzle depressed. You should only ever release the nozzle when pointing at a masked area. This will help to prevent any paint splatters on the work area. Also, ensure the base colour is dry to touch before applying a clear coat.
  • Lastly, when you want to polish your car remember to wait until the clear coat is thoroughly  cured. This can be anywhere from 24 hours to one week depending on the weather conditions. Always ensure the area you’re polishing is clean, even a small piece of grit under the fine wet or dry can ruin a paint job. If you’re using a machine polisher, then always use it on the slowest speed. This keeps the repair cool and the compound works to its best effect.

Take a look at our high-quality Aerosol Spray Paints, perfect for touching up your paintwork. 

We also supply a kit full of everything you need including Wax & Grease Remover, Gloves, Tach Cloth, Wet & Dry Sandpaper Kit and Masking Tape for a smooth and professional touch up paint repair job.

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