How to Paint Your Own Car at Home: A Step-By-Step Guide for a Pro Paint Job

How to Paint Your Own Car at Home: A Step-By-Step Guide for a Pro Paint Job

Painting your own car at home can seem like a daunting task. It is not something most people do, and unless you have professional experience, it is not something anyone does very often. Despite the uncertainty you might feel prior to starting, painting your own car can be a great experience that gives you a real sense of ownership of your car. Whether you are restoring your car, building one from scratch as a long-term project, or just adding new life and a fresh new look to your scratched up vehicle, you can paint it yourself and be thrilled with the results. The important thing is to do your homework and keep in mind these important steps to painting a car before you start.

Tools and Supplies

There are several things that you need to paint your car at home. First, you need a place to do it. Make sure there is ample space for your vehicle, the supplies and tools, and any parts you plan to take off during the process. Make sure the setting is well-ventilated. If you plan to paint your car outdoors, do not do it under a tree, as leaves and other debris can fall and get stuck in the wet paint.

In terms of tools and supplies, you will need a paint gun, a strong enough air compressor (check the necessary specs on the paint container), and a moisture separator. Additional supplies include painter’s tape and newspaper or plastic sheeting. To sand away the old paint, you will need an electric sander. A dust extractor is also recommended. To protect yourself while you paint, you will need proper coveralls, a respirator designed for spray paint, eye protection, and disposable gloves.

In terms of choosing the right paint, some people like to opt for acrylic lacquer or enamel, while others go for urethanes, base coat/clear coat finishes, or water-based finishes. You will likely need one gallon of base coat or primer, three gallons of top coat, and three gallons of clear coat to cover a smaller or medium-size car. For a larger vehicle, an extra gallon of each might be necessary. Just make sure you have enough before starting so you don’t run out while you are working.


Before you begin, you will want to decide how deeply you want to sand and how much you want to remove. Sanding down to the metal takes more time and work, but it allows you to see if there is any rust or damage under the existing paint, and you will know everything that is under your car’s paint when you are done.

You need to decide how much taking apart you plan on doing. Taking off the hood and doors gives you more control of coverage, but it does require more work and space. If you leave these on, it is still advisable to take off as many smaller parts like door handles and antennas as possible to make the job easier and cleaner.


Once sanding is complete, you need to cover areas that you don’t want painted using tape, newspaper, or plastic sheeting. Before you apply the primer, follow all instructions on the container, including any necessary mixing or diluting. It is a good idea to practice using your paint gun on a piece of scrap metal before starting on your car so you can get used to it. You will need to apply 2-3 coats of primer, and it will take from 20 minutes to up to an hour for each coat to dry. Once done applying the primer, the next step is to lightly sand off the grainy surface to a smooth finish.


Applying the paint will be similar to the primer. It will take around 3-4 coats of paint with similar drying times. Be sure to follow all the instructions for mixing and preparing the paint before you apply it. Once you are done applying the final coat, remove the tape while it is still wet to avoid it getting stuck under dry paint. Just be sure you don’t touch the wet surfaces.

The final step is to gently buff the surface using a circular motion. Just be careful not to overwork the new paint.

By planning ahead and following instructions, you can achieve a stellar paint job for your car at home. When you are done, check out our collection of accessories to add the right finishing touches.

If you liked this post, check out our blog post on 10 Ways to Keep Your Car Looking New.

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