A Basic Guide to DIY Automobile Painting

A Basic Guide to DIY Automobile Painting

Auto paint jobs cost an average of $ 566.00 for one that is quick and cheap to $2,500 for a factory fresh finish. Achieving a show quality finish can cost as much as $20,000. You can paint a car yourself. The expenditure for the minimum of materials and tools you need for DIY auto painting is a little over $1,400. This is a basic guide for those contemplating painting a car themselves.

The Proper Painting Environment

A professional spray booth made by a company like PFS Spray Booths for example is best for automotive painting. The area a car is painted in should be almost dust free. The building should be large enough that the painter can circle the vehicle, ideally with a few feet of space on each side. Bright lighting is necessary.


Auto paint comes in acrylic lacquer, acrylic enamel, acrylic urethane, or water-based. A primer is also required. To ensure the right consistency the paint is mixed with thinner/reducer in a mixing pail specifically made for that purpose. To determine the proper paint for a particular car, consult the owner’s manual. Base coat, paint hardener, and clear coat will be on your shopping list. For tools, you’ll need a compressor and orbital sander.

Prepping The Body

For the best possible results what is under the paint is as important as the paint itself. There is no point to painting over rust so oxidation will be the first issue you address. The rusted area should be cut away and repaired by welding a patch in place. Depending on the severity of the rusting specialized tools and skills may be needed. To get the body straight all the wings and dings need to be removed. Dents are pulled or hammered out and filled with body putty. The putty is sanded to make it smooth. Filling and sanding might have to be repeated multiple times.

Note that even brand-new replacement doors, fenders, and etc. will likely need straightening. Chrome trim should be removed and glass and molding masked with tape and newspaper. Wheels and tires should be covered with blankets or lawn bags and masking tape. Open the hood and spread lawn bags over the engine bay to protect against any paint that gets in through the gaps between the hood and fenders.


For proper paint adherence, the car has to be primed. Once it dries the primer is sanded to create an even surface. Tip: using a sanding block allows you to apply more even pressure when sanding. Before the paint is applied the body needs to be wiped down with a Naphtha based cleaner and gone over with a tack cloth. Now you are ready to paint. Tips: inexperienced auto painters should practice on scrap metal. Charts are available to help determine the right ratio of paint to reducer.