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How To Paint A Car For Beginners (A DIY Tutorial)

Have you been thinking about repainting your car but don’t want to spend the dough to take it to a professional shop? Or maybe you just like the idea of a new DIY project that offers some challenge? In either case, learning how to paint a car whether or not you are a beginner can be done, but it will take the right tools, stamina, and lots of patience.

How To Paint A Car: Man Spraying a Car With Paint

Costs of Professional Car Painting Services

You don’t have to know how to paint a car, you can just hire it out!

As we mentioned, the costs of having your car repainted by professionals can be a bit pricy depending on the quality paint job you wish to pay for. Here are a few basic examples of what you can expect to pay for the three levels of paint jobs.


The most basic paint job involves just a couple of coats of synthetic enamel paint while offering the lowest attention to detail between the three paint jobs. You can look to spend less than $1,000 for this level of service.


For a little more, you can buy a standard paint job. This service includes sanding the car body to remove impurities and providing a smoother quality finish. You can look to spend between $1,000 and $3,000 for this level, which should last longer and look much better than your basic paint job.


If you want your car to shine like it’s back on the showroom floor, then the highest level paint job is what you’ll need. Included with this service is removing all traces of paint on the metal frame of your vehicle, pounding out any dents before carefully applying dozens of paint layers. This job can set you back between $2,500 to $20,000 (or more).

Other cost factors

Some other factors that can impact the cost you’ll pay include the size of your vehicle, the color paint you want, the type of paint finish, and the quality of the body shop painting your car.

DIY Car Painting costs

DIY Painting A Car

After looking at the costs of paying for a professional, let’s see how much it would cost to paint a car for beginners.

Now, if you don’t have any of the equipment you’ll need already, such as the power painter, sander, or paint, then you’re likely to spend between $600 to $2,000.

However, the most significant cost will be time and effort, as this is a DIY project requiring lots of patience. For instance, professionals will usually add on a few coats of primer, then a few coats of paint, then maybe a top coat that ensures a nice finish. Each coat can take hours to apply, extending the time frame for the project to several days.

Equipment and Materials You’ll Need

Here’s a list of the equipment and materials you’ll need to paint your car.

  • Sanding pads
  • Power Sander
  • Air Compressor
  • 1200 and 2000-grit sandpaper
  • Paint Sprayer
  • Cleaning solvent
  • Newspaper or likewise material
  • Primer
  • Masking tape
  • Paint thinner
  • Polyurethane paint, enamel, or acrylic enamel
  • Good quality face mask designed for painting
  • Safety glasses
  • Paint suit (optional)
  • Clearcoat lacquer
  • Rag
  • Mineral spirits or Denatured alcohol
  • Optional: Rubbing compound

Safety First

Before beginning your job, the most important thing is to ensure you have a safe working environment along with proper safety equipment. Painting a car is serious business and can pose a health risk if you’re not adequately protected, not to mention cause damage to surrounding property.

For example, you can only imagine the uncomfortable conversation you’ll have with your neighbor after accidentally painting their snow-white puppy blue.

Proper Ventilation

The ideal spot is a covered, well-ventilated area with low dust, such as an enclosed garage. Many people will tape tarp over the entire garage leaving only the open entrance uncovered. This can be the trickiest part of the job for many people since not everyone has access to such a location.

However, it’s never a great idea to paint your car outside since there are all kinds of dust and debris blowing around, and since it’s possible, you can accidentally paint something other than your car.

One of the best options is to rent an auto paint booth. Sometimes you can find stalls for rent online. However, you may have to drive around an area with a few body shops or call around to see if they rent booths, which can cost between $75 to $125 for a set amount of time.

You can also make a DIY paint booth at home. Here’s a video showing you how that’s done.

The right respiration device

A top-quality respirator is a must for painting a car. However, they are more pricy than your average mask, costing between $20 and $50 depending on the quality.

The correct gloves

When it comes to gloves, you want something that is easy to work in and protects your hands from getting paint and other chemicals on them. This is why disposable Nitrile gloves are the way to go. You can grab a box of 100 for about $10-$15.

The right eye protection

Eye protection is another vital safety must when painting a car. You can also use a face shield, but I personally recommend protective Google. Since you’re likely to work up a sweat, googles that are anti-fog will save you a lot of stopping and wiping. YOu can grab some for around $5-$15, and sometimes they come as a package deal with respirators.

The importance of cleanliness

Ensure your environment is free of debris, dirt, and dust. A good cleaning can save you a lot of headaches. There’s almost nothing worse than spending hours painting your car only to find fine bumps in your finish!

The suitable paint sprayer for the job

How To Paint A Car For Beginners (A DIY Tutorial) 1How To Paint A Car For Beginners (A DIY Tutorial) 2

You want to get a quality gravity feed paint gun that connects to your air compressor. People use two types of guns for automotive painting: LVLP (Low Volume Low Pressure) and HVLP (High Volume High Pressure). For single-stage enamels and clear coats, LVLP works better because it has a very soft, finely atomized spray. Plus, it paints slower than HVLP.

Meanwhile, HVLP is suitable for thinned paint such as latex and paints, faster than LVLP. Some people use an HVLP for their base coat and LVLP for their clear coat, but you can do the entire job using an LVLP gun. It just takes longer. This guide will explain the pros and cons of both.

For compressors, it’s highly recommended that you go for the larger tanks as you’ll be able to finish your entire job much faster without having to refill. These tanks can range from 60 to 80 gallons.

Here’s a handy video that shows you how to set up your paint gun.

How To Paint a Car: Getting Ready

Step One: Find the ideal location

First, check with the local authorities to make sure it’s legal to paint in your location before starting. You should have a well-ventilated environment, like an open garage, that’s clear of dust and properly covered to protect your three walls. You also want to avoid painting in your garage if it has a furnace, water heater, or any other potential source that can ignite paint fumes.

Step Two: Remove dents, rust, and trim

You’ll want to start by removing visible dents, sanding down rust spots entirely, and removing any plastic or chrome trend. The trim and moldings can be replaced after you’ve finished the job.


Sanding a Car

Step Three: Sanding surfaces

Sanding is important for giving the paint an even and smooth surface to which it can better adhere. Start by sanding your entire car using circular motions, either down to the bare metal, to the car’s original primer, or at least enough so your new paint coat can adhere to the surface.

For the best results, sanding down to bare metal will give your the best results.

Step Four: Cleaning

Nest, use a rag with mineral spirits or denatured alcohol, and thoroughly wipe down all the surfaces of your vehicle. This will remove any oil residue and prepare it for painting.

Step Five: Taping Surfaces

Using your masking tape and some plain wrapping paper or newspaper, cover the surfaces of your car that you don’t want to get paint on, such as your window trim, mirrors, glass, door handles, and grills.


Spraying Primer on a Car

Step Six: Priming surfaces

Once you’ve sanded down to the bare metal, you’ll need to use self-etching and corrosion-resistant primer to prime your vehicle’s surface.

Step Seven: Let primer cure

If you had to remove rust, ensure that you prime these spots properly by lightly feathering them until the area is smooth. You also want to apply enough primer to these problem areas. Finally, allow the primer enough time to cure wholly based on the instructions on the primer container.

Step Eight: Sand some more

Now, sand down the primed surfaces, but make sure you don’t sand too much and expose the base surface again.

Step Nine: Wipe down surfaces

Wipe down your primed surfaces using a rag that’s slightly dampened with paint thinner.


Spraying Paint on a Car

When you’re ready to paint, ensure you carefully follow the manufacturer’s instructions when preparing your paint for spraying.

Step Ten: Painting time

To paint, hold the spray gun about six inches from the vehicle’s surface. You’ll paint using side-to-side motions to apply thin, even coats. It’s also very important to keep your wrist perfectly straight, not bent. Your wrist should not move at all, but rather your arm should be like a straight stick moving side to side.

It may take between three to four coats before you’ve completed covering the surface of your vehicle. Also, be sure to adhere to the drying time set by the manufacturer, which could be 20 minutes to one hour.

Step Eleven: Sand again and wipe

Before applying your final cat, sand down the surfaces again to remove any powdery residue and then wipe the surface with a clean rag.

Step Twelve: Apply the lacquer

Next, you’ll apply a clear coat lacquer. Make sure you use the same painting technique mentioned above.

Step Thirteen: Remove the masking tape

Carefully remove all masking tape while your clear coat is still wet. After that, allow the clear coat the time to dry recommended by the manufacturer.

Step Fourteen: Finishing buff

Last buff out all painted surfaces using circular motions. You can also use a rubbing compound to bring out a lovely glossy finish.

How to Paint A Car: Additional Tips

Here are a few additional tips to help your job go more smoothly.

How to match existing paint color

If you want to match your car’s original paint, you can find this information on the “compliance plate,” which is typically found under the hood. The color code may also be located inside the driver’s side door frame. You can take this code to a retailer that sells automotive paint to get the perfect match.

If you have trouple finding the code, you can always contact the car manufacturer to get it.

Pitfalls to look out for

One of the biggest things people underestimate is the time and energy it takes to paint a car when it comes to pitfalls. This is a big project that can take several hours or even days, depending on the quality you’re looking for.

Also, consider the kind of care you’re painting. If it’s an older car, on which you couldn’t make the paint job much worse, then this is the ideal vehicle to paint for beginners.

However, if it’s a relatively new vehicle and you can’t afford to make a mistake, it’s probably better to let professionals handle this one.

Final Thoughts on How To Paint A Car For Beginners

When it comes to painting a car, it’s important not to skip any steps in the process, no matter how tedious they may seem. With the right equipment, materials, and attitude, you can finish with a paint job that will make your car look brand new!