How to Paint Your Car Like a Pro

How do you paint your car like a Pro when your car’s paint starts to fade?

A new paint job can help you maintain the value of this investment. 

how to paint your car like a pro
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Maybe you’ve seen what is commonly referred to as the “poor man’s paint job” when owners use a foam roller brush to give their vehicle some new paint. 

Don’t do that. 

You’ve already practiced your painting techniques for other projects. You can use that skill to help your vehicle look great as well.

How to Paint Your Car Like a Pro: First Step to Automotive Painting 

Can you paint your own car?  Of course, but there are a few prep steps you need to do before you get started.  You’ll want to make sure you take off the current coat of paint – a step most DIY car painters forget to do. 

You’ll need to sand away the existing paint. How do you sand a car before painting?  Use circular motions with your sandpaper or use a sandblaster or power sander for faster results.   Strip away the existing paint down to smooth bare metal.

Corners and crevices, however, almost always need to be done by hand. 

Going to bare metal will get you the best results, but as long as you have a smooth and even surface for your paint, your results will still look professional. 

Expect the sanding process to take 90-120 minutes per panel. Then wipe down the vehicle with a clean rag and dust thinners.  Allow to dry before continuing the project. 

Your Work Area: Cleanliness is Next to Godliness

This saying is more than applicable here.  You work area must be so clean, you could eat off the floor.  Well, maybe not THAT clean, but you get the idea.  

Any foreign things in your workspace, garage, DIY paint booth etc have a chance of ending up in your paint.

If you’re working outside, take a hose and spray everything that you think could contaminate your paint and primers.  Don’t paint underneath a tree or anything else that could drop contaminants onto your paint job.

Covering Up: Masking Your Workspace

Painting like an automotive professional means using the same techniques you see online or in the shops.  

You have to take time to mask up (cover) all the areas where you don’t want any paint to land.  When in doubt; mask it!  This includes windows, headlights, windshields, rims, you get the drift.

Plastic sheeting works best here, but newspaper can also work in a pinch.  Make sure to get yourself tape specifically made for automotive painting.

Practice Your Spray Technique

Before going all in on your vehicle, we recommend practicing your spraying technique.  

Using a sweeping motion with your arm instead of using your wrist leads to more uniform, consistent results.  

Always pull your trigger and start your motion before the panel you’re painting and keep the trigger and paint flow going as you sweep from side to side.  

Make sure to overlap your strokes.  Some Pros prefer to overlap 50%.  Each person is different, so it’s up to you to figure out your overlap percentage that you;re comfortable with to get your desired results.

Priming Your Vehicle

Once you’ve got your spray technique down, it’s time to start with priming your vehicle.   Be sure to mask up the areas that you don’t want painted – like your windshield. 

Overspray is going to happen, even if you buy the best paint gun for cars. 

Then put the primer through the sprayer, but at the ratio recommended by the product manufacturers. You may need to thin it. Primer must be applied in thin, even coats from the roof down. 

How Long Will it Take to Paint my Vehicle Like a Pro?

Plan your time wisely here.  Excluding sanding and masking time, you will need to factor in your painting time.

A good top coat usually requires 3-4 coats.  Plan for 10-20 minutes of painting per panel and about an hour (more or less depending on conditions in your area) for each panel to cure properly.

Rushing will only give you terrible results.

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Editor’s Recommended Car Spray Guns: Gravity Feed

We recommend a gravity feed gun for use on your vehicle.     

Take a look at the DeVilbiss Finish LineGTI620G Millenial, or the Iwata LPH400.     

Quality spray guns in this category will get you quality results. It’s what the Pros use to make vehicles shine.  We love the even paint flow and application because of the gravity feed.    

Paint waste also isn’t an issue with this type of gun. 

Even if you’re low on paint, it will still deliver.  There’s also a ton of options available in this category, meaning there is something at every price point and for every level of painter. 

Clear Coat Application

After the last coat of paint is applied, remove any residues with minimum 2000-grit sandpaper. Then apply the clear coat. 

See the tested and Pro recommended clear coat gun detailed review: the Iwata LPH400.

Final Step in How to Paint Your Car Like a Pro

Don’t forget to buff your paint after the final coat is dry.

Using a mechanical buffer, work in circular motions and keep it moving.  If you stay in one place for too long. the top coat can burn and you’ll have to start over.

How do I maintain my newly painted car?

To maintain your newly painted car, you should avoid washing it for at least two weeks after painting to allow the paint to fully cure. After this period, use a mild soap and a soft sponge to wash the car, and avoid using abrasive or acidic cleaners that can damage the paint. You should also park your car in a shaded area to avoid prolonged exposure to sunlight, which can fade the paint over time.

Also, do not wax your car for at least 3 months. The pressure of applying and removing the wax can damage the paint because, depending on a few factors, car paint might not be fully cured for up to 6 months after application.

Conclusion How to Paint Your Car like a Pro

How to paint your car like a pro takes practice and attention to detail.  If you’re up for the challenge then go for it!


Can I paint my vehicle with a paint sprayer?

Yes, check out our best spray guns for cars post or details about the best one for you.

What equipment do I need to paint a car?

To paint a car like a pro, you will need a spray gun, an air compressor, masking tape, sandpaper, a paint booth or a well-ventilated area, and the appropriate safety gear, such as a respirator and goggles.

How long does it take to paint a car like a pro?

The time it takes to paint a car like a pro will depend on the size of the vehicle, the complexity of the design, and the skill level of the painter. On average, it can take anywhere from several days to a week or more to complete a professional-quality paint job.