Automotive Car Painting Tips & Tricks

This car painting tips page is not intended to teach you everything you need to know to paint your car. Its goal is merely to identify the basic steps, and some useful tips and tricks to help make the job of painting your car more successful.

Refer to our articles here about choosing the right paint job for your car and also 4 life-saving steps to DIY car painting.

Car Painting Tips: Table of Contents

  1. Before You Get Started
  2. Cleaning
  3. Sanding Down the Old Paint
  4. Applying Acrylic Glaze
  5. Masking
  6. Wipe-Downs and Guide Coats
  7. Wet Sanding
  8. Final Instructions


1. Before You Get Started

  • Check into your local environmental regulations regarding spraying paints at home. Even if you decide not to do the entire job yourself, you can still get a better paint job and/or save a lot of money by doing the prep work yourself – using the following information. Read more here in our article about 6 key tips for how to paint a car.
  • Make sure you have all the paint gallons and auto paint supplies ahead of time. Here’s our articles on types of automotive paint, trends for popular auto paint color, and also our guide to car paint supplies.
  • Remove as much trim as possible. One of the best car painting tips we can give you is to remove as much of the trim as possible from over and around the areas to be painted.
  • Exterior. If you’re doing an exterior-only paint job, this means trim, bumpers, mirrors, grille, and other exterior items. If you’re painting all or part of the interior, you’ll have a lot more to remove.


Read More: 3 Things to Know Before Approaching Your Insurance Company for Repainting


2. Cleaning

  • The next auto painting tip is to thoroughly clean every nook and cranny. (Not just the painted areas, but also any areas that dirt could be dislodged from while painting.
  • Start with detergent. Then, follow that with a quality wax and grease remover on areas that will be painted.
  • Apply a thick layer of tape. Then apply a thick layer of tape to any areas like the windshield molding that may not have been removed. This will protect these areas from the sanding you’ll be doing next.


3. Sand Down the Old Paint

  • Next, you’ll want to sand down the old paint, (or, at least to the original paint level) using a dual-action (DA) orbital air sander, which is less likely to dig in like other sanders.
  • In general, use sandpaper finer (a higher number) than 120 grit. You may need to use coarser grits for removing rust or excess fillers. More info here about how to sand a car for repainting.
  • Repair information. In this auto painting tip guide, we’re not going to get into the details of body repair (welding, fillers, etc.), but obviously, these repairs would have to be made if there is damage or rust. Even minor pinholes have to be properly repaired.


Read More: 6 Common Auto Car Paint Problems & Cures


4. Acrylic Glaze

  • Acrylic glaze information. Another important car painting tip is to avoid the temptation to use large amounts of acrylic glaze. The surface glazes over quickly, but thick areas take longer to dry and often shrink back a lot. After a thorough cleaning of the car (and the mess you just made), it will be time to mask off the car for the primer/filler coats.


5. Masking

  • Masking information. Masking is also one of the most important steps for a high quality paint job. If you’re not painting the trunk, engine compartment, etc, you’ll have to take special care in masking off these areas from overspray.
  • Weatherstrip material/tape. Using weatherstrip material or even weatherstrip tape can help to seal the joints between body panels to prevent spray from entering.
  • Use a thin plastic tool. Use a tool such as a plastic knife or filler spreader to force masking tape under the edges of any remaining trim such as around the windshield or window moldings.
  • Mask tires/wheel wells. Make sure you also mask off the tires and wheel wells, and form an apron around the underside of the car to keep overspray off of these areas.


6. Wipe-Downs & Guide Coats

  • Prior to applying the primer/filler coats. Now do one more wipe-downs just prior to applying the primer/filler coats.
  • Apply a guide coat. In addition to applying several thin coats of a quality primer/filler, we recommend applying a guide coat. This is a thin sparse coat of a contrasting color of primer/filler peppered on top of the last full primer/filler coat. As the car is block sanded (see next paragraph), the guide coat will be removed quickly from areas that are high. In low areas, the guide coat will remain visible. You will need to use your judgment on whether to sand the high areas a bit more, do additional body work, or (for very minor low areas) add a couple additional coats of primer/filler and a guide coat.


7. Wet Sanding

  • Wet sanding of the primer. This is generally done with 400 to 600 grit wet/dry sandpaper. Use a soft foam pad wrapped with the paper for sanding curved areas.
  • For flat areas. For flat areas, you’ll want to use a rubber pad. Use a bucket of warm clean water and a sponge to constantly rinse the area and the sandpaper. Learn more here about how to wet sand a car.


Read More: What is Automotive Paint Made Of? 10 Tips to Maintain It

Roadster metallic blue paint restoration.


8. Final Instructions

Our last car painting tips include removing the soggy masking tape and paper that was used to mask off the car. If you haven’t done so yet, do it now. When done, clean the car thoroughly with clean water, and wipe the car dry to prevent contaminants in the water from being left on the primer. If you’re not going to color paint the car immediately, or if you’re going to transport the car to a different location for the final paint job, you must prevent getting any oils or contaminants on the surface. A coat of primer sealer is highly recommended if there is any chance of the car getting contaminated. Remember all the work you did to mask off the car. Well, it’s all going to have to be done again. Also make sure that there is absolutely no primer overspray on adjacent areas.

For the color coats and clear coats, follow the manufacturers directions in thinning and applying the paint. In general, start at the top and work your way down. Keep the gun 10 to 12 inches from the surface and as parallel as possible. Overlap the spray pattern 33% to 75% of the previous pass. Use medium wet coats that look smooth and glossy, but don’t run. Start each stroke and pull the trigger before you get to the area to be painted, and don’t stop or release the trigger until you’re past the area being painted.

Read More: 3 Best Ways to Protect Your New Car Paint Job


Our Auto Painting Products

Auto Paint Gallons

These include our acrylic enamel auto paints, acrylic urethane auto paints, and acrylic urethane paint basecoats.

Single Stage Kits

These include our single stage kits like single stage acrylic enamel auto paint kits, acrylic urethane auto paint kits, flat or satin kits, and high gloss Xtreme kits.

Two Stage Kits

These include our two stage paint kits like our acrylic urethane basecoat + TCI clearcoat, urethane basecoat + Starfire Clear, and our premium acrylic urethane basecoat + TCI Clearcoat.


Contact Us

Need help with painting your car? is your source for high quality car paint and automotive paint kits and supplies. If you have further questions about our car painting tips, or automobile color trends, please contact our team today, or take a look at our crucial tips to remember in painting your car.


Further Reading