Introduction: How to Paint Your Bike

Picture of How to Paint Your Bike

here i will show you very simple steps to painting a bike using a few household supplies you can get at your local hardware store

this bike shown here i found in someones trash. all it needed was a new tire tube and some lube. works great, a little rough and shifting is tough but it runs fine.

the original color scheme shown below

Step 1: Find Tools

you will probably need every bike adjusting tool under the sun, including wrenches, screwdrivers, hex keys

you may need wire cutters and pliers to remove cables.

you will need to acquire a chain tool if you wish to re-use the chain, otherwise, you will need to pry it off with force and have a new one installed.

so with that being said lets begin the painting process

Step 2: Unbolt EVERYTHING From the Frame

In order for a clean, neat looking paint job, you will need to remove everything from the frame.

Start by taking the brake and derailleur cables out. simply loosen the bolt that the wire is pinned down with on the brakes and derailleur. then remove them, and disconnect them from the handlebars.
Depending on your bike, you may have to cut the clips holding the wire onto the frame, but some bikes have built in loops that the wire is guided through.

Then remove the brake mechanism themselves. the brake removal process may vary depending on your make and model of the bike. i am not a brake removal expert, but most brakes look like they come out when you unbolt them from the frame.

The same goes for the derailleur. It varies depending on the model. Many are bolted with the rear wheel along with an additional bolt to keep it from moving out of its proper position. In whatever case, this part is usually not hard to detach

Next you will want to remove the wheels. The back wheel will be a bit tricky because the chain will be caught on the rear cassette. if you have a chain tool, now is the time to use it to remove the chain, if not, leave the chain where it is while you remove the wheel, and we will explain how you can remove this shortly. The derailleur will remain attached to the chain, and i will also explain how this can be removed.

Proceed by removing the seat post, the rear rack if you have one, any reflector mounts, the handlebars, the pedals, and and Cyclometer wiring and sensor (if you have one of those as well).

Now you will need to remove the sprocket and fork from the frame. to remove the sprocket, you need to turn the bike to the side that the gear isnt on, and locate the bolt. you will need to turn this clockwise to remove it. make sure the pedals are off before the next step, or you will have trouble getting it out. Next, carefully remove the washer and bearings from the side you just unbolted, and snake the pedal-thingy through the hole out the other side. you will notice another bearing on the other side. remove this as well before painting. the fork will have a very similar design, except you turn the bolt counter clockwise. take note of the exact order of the bolts bearings and washers.

by now you should have a basic idea of how things fall into place on the frame. if there is anything i left out, take it off as well. the frame should not have any moving parts on it, or any bolts attached to it in any way whatsoever.

now put each set of bolts in separate plastic bags and label them with permanent marker. be sure to draw a diagram for things like bearings and washers and how they should go back in.

Now you will have to get the derailleur off the bike. to remove the chain, you can basically use any type of force to get it off, because without a chain tool, you will damage it trying to get it off in any other manner. i recommend pliers and a hammer to break the links in the chain. simply twist the chain in a manner that it shouldn't be twisted and after awhile it should come off just fine. then pull the chain scrap out of the derailleur.

now its time for the fun stuff

Step 3: Sand the Frame of Everything, Rust and Paint

Picture of Sand the Frame of Everything, Rust and Paint

in order for you new coat of paint to stick for years to come, you will want to sand any rust or existing paint off the frame. you can do this by using rough sandpaper, or power tools. i started out with 60 grit sandpaper, but was saved when my uncle happened to have wire brush drill bits in the trunk of his car. you can get such things and your local hardware store.

another option is to sand using a belt sander.

you will want to get every bit of paint off or it will cause an uneven paint job if you leave spots like in the right side of this frame shown here.

it took me about 3 days to get all the paint off. but if you have a wire brush drill bit and a plug in drill, you should have it done within 2 or 3 hours. sand any other parts you want to paint. on this bike we painted the sprocket, the rear rack, the handlebars, the chain fender, and the brake mechanism. DO NOT paint bolts, chains, cables, or bearing systems. do not paint holes that the bolts go in, and do not paint the rear cassette (gears).

once you have you sanded parts ready, hang them somewhere (such as a garage ceiling), put any tarps down, and wait for a day with a humidity under 75%, otherwise painting will be miserable.

if you live near the ocean, try to avoid leaving the frame unpainted for more than a few days, as rust will form almost instantly from corrosive particles in the air.

Step 4: Hang and Paint

Picture of Hang and Paint

Hang the bike using strong cable. for this i used the bikes existing brake cables since they were shot anyways. make sure the knot you use to secure it to your garage door or ceiling is sturdy and secure. this bike was hung on the garage door where some unused holes were located. block off any holes with paper to keep paint out of them.

now comes the best part of the fun, painting. you will need 2 or 3 kinds of paint.
you will want to buy

-a rusty metal primer to stop and prevent rusting and corrosion
-a spray paint of the same type and company
-an optional clear coat for added protection

i recommend Rustoleum paint because a lot of people recommend it, and it stays on very well.

first you will have to prime, then paint, then put the clear coat on. always prime the suface first for it will keep the paint on longer.

if youve never spray painted before, the key is to put on several, super thin, layers-not thick slimy ones-

hold the can about 6 inches to 1 ft away from the part you are painting, and smoothly sweep up and down the part. you do not have to cover the entire object in the first coat. doing multiple coats helps the paint bond to the metal better. wait about 5 minutes, and then spray another light coat, being sure to give remote areas a little more attention. once you prime, go ahead and use the color of your choice to color that component in.

on this bike, i painted the frame and fork black, while painting everything else yellow, and did a gradient yellow/black on the bike's chain fender.

Step 5: Allow Drying for at Least 3 Days. More If Humidity Remains Above 70%

Picture of Allow Drying for at Least 3 Days. More If Humidity Remains Above 70%

Allow everything to dry for at least 3 days before installing parts. the frame can be cautiously handled after about 24 hours, but pain will come off with the slightest scratch so be careful.\

once fully dry you can re install parts while the bike is still suspended to prevent scratching from on-the-ground assembly. i got everything except the back wheel back on the bike while it was suspended.

Step 6: Take to the Shop for Any Parts That Need Replacement

Picture of Take to the Shop for Any Parts That Need Replacement

since i damaged the chain to remove it, i ended up taking it to the shop to get a new chain and cables installed on it. they did an excellent job routing the cable to without a scratch. they even tightened up some bolts that i didn't tighten yet. below is the finished product without a chain

Step 7: Ride Away

Picture of Ride Away

now your bike is ready to roll in long as you painted it nicely.

Step 8: The End



BtheBike (author)2014-07-14

almost always the original paint being touched up and clear coated looks better than rattle canned imo .

txCWS (author)2014-03-16

Just getting started on refurbishing 2 90's vintage Trek Mountain bikes...I work in the automotive repair industry and plan on using our paint booths to get the painting done. Nice instructible.

nathan701 (author)2014-03-09

I like to use paintstripper ( much less chance to damage your frame) also it's best to use a primer and wet sand it between layers.
Here is my try ( also a beach cruiser).

alx1xla (author)2013-12-01

Thank you! That was a great one!

KingDalliwall (author)2012-12-02

Hey man! Your step on how to paint your bike really helped me. I'll get mine done and show you a picture of it. Thanks a lot. Cheers!

mikelewin (author)2008-11-26

yea, just google frisket & it'll turn up a bunch of resources where you can purchase online. if you use frisket, print out your pattern on regular paper then put it up against the bike before you even touch the frisket you'll save alot of frustration that way. in my project, the original lettering and design was more or less destroyed by being through my local trails so i had to design it from scratch. if your original lettering is still in good shape then it should be easier to copy. but in my opinion, going custom is always better than reproducing stock effects. if you want to see what's possible with PhotoShop and five minutes work, drop ur email address and i'll send over the design i'm using on my bike, might give some inspiration

nancap (author)mikelewin2012-01-24

Please email me your design as well.


bacnine (author)mikelewin2008-11-28 thanks

NT86 (author)mikelewin2008-11-26

rbrantley (author)2011-11-26

Very nice! I also recently went through my own project of painting a mountain bike frame. You can check it out here:

TSC (author)2010-06-19


11tillr (author)2010-05-17

good how to, very to the point and made slow enough for begginners.
thumbs up.

Bardouv (author)2009-09-20

That looks like my Jamis Earth Cruiser. I got mine from an old friend. The fenders had sooooo much rust. Never did paint the frame because I couldn't decide on a color. Yours looks so wicked, though.

aaon (author)2009-07-17

Really wish I could see a picture without it being photochopped.

Hannah Belle Lectre (author)2009-05-09

I once had a really nice bicycle get stolen; when I got my next bike, I painted it a hideous, florescent Barbie-doll pink. Not only did it make extra visible to drivers, it made the bike so ugly that no one ever stole it. Rode that sucker for four years. Ahhh, good times. Yours is a much nicer paint job than mine was.

there is a bike company that makes really nice bikes but doesn't paint theme (except for a protective clear coataaaaa0 so that they wont be stolen

Robertofromitaly (author)2009-04-16

era mejo prima!!

caruhh (author)2009-02-26

i would like to find that in the trash!

Spananierin (author)caruhh2009-04-01

And you found that in the trash???????? Some people are crazy, this bike is so beautiful!!!!!

mikelewin (author)2008-11-17

i've done some frame & parts painting and please tell me you gave it more than one coat? and used a primer and finished with a clear coat. if you want a long lasting paint job, go with: 2 coats of primer (wet sand) 5 base coats (your color) wet sand) 2 or more coats of clear (final optional wet sand for ultra smooth finsh) good instructable all around but for a better wearing pant job (i.e: less chipping, longer life) i'd suggest following a procedure like i outlined in the comment. you did a good job but i'm trying to help you do better on the next one

TFrosty (author)mikelewin2009-01-22

this may seem like a dumb question but did you use oil based paint?

mikelewin (author)TFrosty2009-01-23

i went straight to my local hardware store and picked up rustoleum spray paint. i'm assuming its oil based as you need mineral spirits to clean it up as opposed to water. i've used rustoleum products in the past on bikes & paintball guns and they've always worked well. one final note, you'll get the best results if you prep the surface after stripping the old paint & rust. soak a rag in either fresh alcohol or acetone and wipe the bike/ area down. you'll get much better paint adhesion that way

TFrosty (author)mikelewin2009-01-23

Thanks appreciate the tips

NT86 (author)mikelewin2008-11-18

thanks, this was my first bike but the second one I make when the weather gets warm again I'll definetely use your advice Thanks!

mikelewin (author)NT862008-11-21

no problem & btw if you want to spruce it up by adding decals or whatever, i could do a photohop pic for you to cut out & stencil if you send me an idea of what you'd want on the bike. i've done it myself for a few projects and it can really help to restore an old bike and make it look alot better

NT86 (author)mikelewin2008-11-23

cool, although i tried it with the stencil font in publisher, which worked, but how do you do fonts that have centers that cant be supported, is there some kind of slightly adhesive paper that can do the job? also whats the best way to cut them out, and exacto is a bit tricky because if you slip too far u have to start over again

mikelewin (author)NT862008-11-25

there is a film called frisket used in the auto industry for this exact reason. Or as a low budget substitute, which i'm considering using on my next project would be label sheets that you can buy from your local Staples or Office Depot. They come in full size sheets, avoid pre cut labels, then you're screwed. I'm currently working on a project where i'm using clear contact paper to spray it on. i first printed up a pattern, transferred to tracing paper then used the contact paper. the benefit of contact paper is low tack, which means low adhesion so it won't pull off the paint underneath. best way to do any font is to use your PC. you can download a ton of font's for Word to get just what you're looking for. good luck with your projects.

NT86 (author)mikelewin2008-11-25

sounds confusing lol, so if i google frisket it should come up?

mikelewin (author)NT862008-11-26

i hit add comment instead of reply, look at 1st comment to see details & whatnot

bacnine (author)mikelewin2008-11-28

NT86 & Mikelewin thank you both. I am in the process of painting an old Schwinn Varsity. So this is going to come in very handy. Mikelewin, I would love to hear how you can do decals. I would like to put decals back on my Schwinn-there are decals on the bottom tube, seat tube and the fork thanks

NT86 (author)bacnine2008-11-28

kewl, i belive i have a schwinn varsity frame or something similar that some workers dumped in our trash pile while rennovating, it looks a bit similar to the pictures that i googled, i will have to pull it out of the storage room and see.

bacnine (author)NT862008-11-28

I am looking for old Varsity's. I have a lot of bad rust on a lot of my parts that I will have to replace. Let me know if you are wanting to sell it.

mikelewin (author)bacnine2008-12-03

is it just surface rust or are the parts pitted? if its only surface rust, you can give them a quick sanding with extra fine paper and use a spray clear coat to protect them from additional work. worked well on the steel frame bikes i used to have

NT86 (author)bacnine2008-11-28

ill have to check to make sure its a varsity, i will do so in about 20 min or so

mikelewin (author)bacnine2008-11-30

easiest way for the DIY'er to do decals is to use word, yes MS word. pick a font that looks like the original or w/e font you want, print it out, transfer to tracing paper and then apply to bike. but thats the tricky part, i finally settled on using masking tape as a masking material for areas to be sprayed. lay out masking tape on the bike wherever you'll be spraying then use adhesive spray to affix the tracing paper to the masking tape. proceed to CAREFULLY cut through the paper and tape then remove the tape where you want the paint to go. make sure you use a good quality new paint for this. older spray cans that have been sitting around for years don't work that well. FYI: use google image search for patterns or even the original lettering, just type in which decal you want, like "Schwinn Varsity" or in my case "RST gila plus t6 (i just did a custom decal for that since i couldn't find it)

NT86 (author)mikelewin2008-11-30

i never thought of it that way, thats much better than having to stick with the stencil font, thanks!

Rye2121 (author)2008-09-18

couldnt u just wrap everything u dont want painted with some kind of wrap, and then just spray it with spray paint w/ two coats, instead of taking everything apart?

NT86 (author)Rye21212008-09-18

yes you could do that except if the bearings get paint in them then the whole thing is screwed. there are bearings in the handlebars and pedal sprockets. this requires you to remove those components. that leaves the chain dangling and touching the frame. so u have to now remove the chain. dont want the seat post to get stuck from paint although you could tape that if you wish. its just best to paint the frame standalone

bumpus (author)2008-08-17

Great color combination! And a very snazzy bike indeed! :D

NT86 (author)bumpus2008-08-17

Thank U these are my favorite colors except the shade of yellow i like isn't very common so I went with regular yellow (i like a yellow between orange and yellow)

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