How to Paint a Car- Easy Step By Step Complete Guide

It's easy to think that painting a house wall and painting your auto are similar tasks, but that is not the case. Although both tasks involve paints and rollers, one is a little complete than the other. Painting a car requires skills, that’s why the auto paint job comes at a higher price. However, if you are thinking of giving your vehicle a new look without the intervention of professionals, here is a step by step guide to get you started.

Step 1: Get Your Painting Supplies 

The process of painting a car can be tiresome and time consuming. Before settling to the painting job, ensure you have all the supplies required to do the job in advance. You will need 1200-and 2000-grit wet-and-dry sandpaper, masking tape, making paper, (to mask areas you don’t want to paint), and a powered sander. You will also require to have a spray gun, paint thinners, air compressor, and safety glasses.

The painting job is not easy, and it will require you to set enough time to work it through. Once you have everything in, you need for the job. You need to start preparing for the painting task. Therefore, you will need to find an ideal work space where you will be comfortable and will not interfere with the people around.

The amount of paint you need will vary depending on the size of your car and the areas you need to paint. However, for a small to medium size car, you will need 3 gallons of topcoat, 1 gallon of primer, and 2-3 gallons of clear coat.

Painting Supply

If you have a bigger vehicle, you will need 3-4 gallons of clear coat, 1 ½ gallon of primer, and 4 gallons of topcoat. However, if you are repainting the same color it's essential to have your paint match. Find the color code from the vehicles compliance plate, take the information to the auto shop to get matching colors.

Step 2: Sanding

Once you have everything in place, its time to start sanding the car. Start by evaluating how much paint you need to apply. Whether you will repaint the entire car you want to paint a few parts. After evaluation, apply masking tape on the areas you don’t want to paint for you to prevent contact with the paint.

Progress to sanding using whichever mechanism you find appropriate for you. Sanding can be done using an electric sander machine, or by hand using sandpaper on areas, you require to paint. This helps you to remove the top layer of the paint on your car then expose the surface to get a new paint layer.

Therefore, the process might last slightly longer, especially if you are using sandpaper. However, if you are repainting/ retouching with the same color, sanding will not take much longer. This is because you are not required to expose the car metal to apply the same paint on your car.


Step 3: Priming

Priming is what makes the difference between painting a car and a house wall. Once you are done sanding, the next step is to apply some primer coat. Primer acts as the binding surface and protective barrier for the paint. Therefore, it’s essential to apply at least 2-3 coats of primer before getting to paint or covering the metal layer. Primer coats also enhance paint adherence to the body of the car.

When priming, start by applying the first coat and let it dry. After drying, take a close look and observe if the entire body is uniformly covered. If by any chance you spot imperfections, repeat the sanding and priming process all over to correct the defects.  However, if there are no imperfections, then apply another primer coat and another for a smooth painting surface.


While shopping for primer yet, it's advisable to use a high-quality automotive primer. Using high quality also guarantees that your paint will firmly hold on the metal of the car for more extended periods. Additionally, having high quality primer acts as an anti-corrosive agent; therefore, it's essential to use the best quality to protect your car metal as well as paint.

Step 4: Painting

This is the last step in the process of painting your car. Painting is done in the same way you apply primer. It is done on the same areas you have decided to paint and have applied primer. However, before getting to paint, ensure that your last primer coat has completely dried to avoid corrupting your color match while you start painting the body of your car.

Similar to the primer, it's recommendable to ensure your paint is the best quality. Also, ensure to choose the best brand and before applying, carefully read through the preparing, application, and drying times of the paint you chose.

As per the ratios instructed, mix the paint and thinners. Apply the first coat and let it dry before applying the second coat. There are no limitations of the number of layers you can apply depending on your expectations.


However, if you notice any imperfection after the first coat, return to the sanding process, primer, and finally paint again until you get a smooth and balance paint on the entire car.

After you are done with the last coat, its time to take off the masking tape and let the car dry completely, drying time is however different depending on the paint and brand you choose. However, the drying process can take between 24 hours to 7 days before the paint is completely dry.

At this period, put your car at a cool place away from direct sunlight to make it dry entirely. After this, depending on your requirements, you can apply buff or polish the car to bring extra shine form to the newly applied paint.

Once You Are Finished

Painting a car should not be a stressful experience, regardless of how tough it may seem to start. Ensure you buy the right products and use the right tools, and nothing will be beyond your ability. Additionally, if after painting it all the coat you still notice some blemishes or mistakes that require to be corrected, you can always start over again. However, if you don’t feel like going through this process over and over, you can always get professionals to help you with the hustle.

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