Step 3: Paint!

Picture of Paint!
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Now that everything has been properly prepped we can get to work on the paint itself. First, you will need to mix your paint. The mix should be 50% paint and 50% mineral spirits. This will produce a product with the consistency of milk. You want it nice and runny, but with a little body still. Too thin and you will have drips all over your car which will only add to the sanding work we are trying to avoid. Too thick and it will take longer to dry then we want. I found the best way to do this was to pour half of the paint can into another container. Then, add the mineral spirits to the remaining paint in the can. Mix it well and you are good to go!

Now, you need to determine how you are going to go about painting the car. It is wise to paint each coat in the same manner to make sure you do not lose track of where you have laid paint already. Plus this makes things go a little smoother all in all. Here is a quick breakdown of how I went about painting my car: Started with the top of the car, passenger side then moved to the driver's side - passenger side of the hood - then the driver's side of the hood - back to the passenger fender - passenger side of the car until I got to the door - up the small strip of door across the top of the door and back down the the rear fender's top - back to the front of the side of the car all the way back to the rear of the passenger side - trunk lid and spoiler - driver's side rear fender till the door - up the door trim again to the front of the car - back to the rear of the driver's side and forward to the fender - driver's fender and done! Essentially it was a clockwise circle around the car starting at the passenger side of the hood. Except once I was done with one side of the hood or the roof, I jumped to the other side to finish. Keep in mind that this is what worked out best for me and my car. There are deep body lines between the roof and the rest of the car making it easy for me to paint it as a "separate piece".

As I begin to explain the painting technique, you will see why it is important to keep applying paint to the car in some sort of order. Letting one area dry with an edge left undone and then coming back to it will only create paint lines in your final product. Your only break points should be at the edge of the car's body. Like between the fender and door, or the door and the roof.

Now we are ready to apply paint. Pour some of your well mixed paint into a paint tray and let's get started. For large areas of the car I used a 4" brush to apply the paint. For large, even flat spots such as the hood or the trunk you will want to get a lot of paint on the brush. I usually dipped the brush into the paint until the angled tip of the brush was completely submerged. Now simply start to paint it onto the car. The key here is in the technique. Proper use of the brush is what helps to eliminate any brush strokes or orange peel. First, lay on some paint, pretty thick, to an area. Always make sure to paint one decent sized area at a time. Spread the paint out a bit to cover the area you are working on. Now, that you have a good base to work with, simply run the brush over the area you have well spread paint. Just use the weight of the brush itself and slowly glide over the paint making sure to always stroke in the same direction. This final smooth roll over the paint is what helps to eliminate any weird drying patterns. Moving on to the next section make sure to spread a little bit of new paint over the edge of the area you just painted to ensure smooth even coverage. As you move through the project, make sure to take a look back frequently to areas you have just painted to look for any drips or sagging areas. If spotted, simply give them a quick brush over. Lay down three coats of paint this way allowing at least 6 hours of dry time between coats. (Pics 1 & 2)

Here is a link to a video of me laying down some paint to help illustrate the technique. It is not the best video, but it should help you grasp the process better.[http://smg.photobucket.com/albums/v326/StylussKid/Paint%20Project/?action=view�t=MOV06158-1.flv Paint Application Technique]

Once you have 3 layers of paint down bust out the hose and the sandpaper. Give everything a good wet sand session again at 600 grit. Keep in mind that you are not trying to create a completely smooth surface again, but to take out any major bumps and to rough up the paint some. If you see areas with a bit of dripping, sagging or any other mess, just sand them down accordingly. This is your chance to correct any imperfections in your paint job as well. If you are happy with the way the 3rd coat looks as it stands and there are no drips or imperfections... feel free to skip the sanding.

Now that your base has been put on and you have given it a decent sand we can start on the final few coats. I say few because the amount of coats will vary on a few factors. Did you need excessive sanding due to a problem area? Are you changing colors? Are you happy with the look after 2 coats? Well, that would be a good place to start... at two coats. Then move to three if need be. Four if you really must. If you pass four coats after your first session of sanding, you will want to give another quick sanding session to the paint before moving on. This time move up a bit in paper grit though. 800 or 1000 will do. (Pics 3 & 4)

At this point you should be done! The paint will have its own gloss to it as it is natural to the Rustoleum paint. Feel free to wax the paint to help bring out some extra shine. I would wait one full day before washing or waxing the paint though to be safe. The Rustoleum can says it dries in 24 hours, but since we have diluted it so much it will dry a lot quicker. I had about 12 hours between coats. But if you are doing this in warm weather, you should easily be able to get 2 coats on the car in one day with an early start. Once you have laid on all of the coats you want to and are happy with the final result, let the paint dry for at least 12 hours. I finished the final coat at about 6:00pm and began putting the car back together the next morning at 10:00am.
If you are not happy with the look, continue to sand the paint progressively increasing the paper grit. Start at about 800 or 1000 and move to 1500, then even 2000 or 2500. Once the paint is totally sanded smooth, polish the car with a power spin buffer and the gleam will come back but be smooth as butter. You can refer to the 50 Dollar Paint Job for more in depth information about the sanded finish technique. I am happy with how it looks wihtout the sanding, so I stopped here.
BakersD9 months ago

you're a lifesaver. I was following the paint roller / hair dryer method and omgaaawd it's sooooo tedius. I did three coats with the roller, then noticed your foam brush tutorial. Tried it not thinking I'd be able to do it because I'm not the greatest painter lol. Needless to say, you've made my life 10x easier on the final few coats, and it looks alot better. Little to no orange peel and it goes so much faster then having to follow your roller with the hair dryer the entire time. You da man.

Styluss (author)  BakersD7 months ago

Thanks for the feedback! Good to see people getting use out of the Instructable after all this time.

Hi, interesting article. I am planning on buying my daughter's 2000 Cavalier for $1,000.00, it has real low miles but the paint...ugh! The roof is basically void of all paint, down to bare metal. The rest of the car has spots of clear coat chipping away. My question is: her car is black. Do you have knowledge of any drawbacks to black Rustoleum being used?

Styluss (author)  gabhanjacisa3 years ago
You can use any color and achieve the same results. It's all the same paint! However black will not hide imperfections like white does, keep that in mind.
Here are a few tips to improve your finish quality. 1) back your sandpaper. Without a pad or backer you risk transferring your hand's profile to the sanded surface. It's particularly important when prepping with very coarse grits and when color sanding with very fine ones. Otherwise your finish can acquire a 'rippled' surface. Paint suppliers sell neoprene pads for this very purpose but i know very high-end restorers who make their own and even use paint sticks for fine work. 2) Rake the block or stick across the panels diagonally and not lengthwise. Sanding lengthwise will transfer the backer's shape to the panel. No bueno. 
Thanks - I remember seeing the $50 version of this - I have a beat up 90's explorer I'm going to town on as an Art Car...this will be how I pull together a base coat.
roflcast6 years ago
great tutorial, really thorough and easy to follow. I want to try this on my old 'Rust'ang soon