How to Paint Your Dslr


Introduction: How to Paint Your Dslr

About: "Logic is the beginning of wisdom; not the end" - Spock

I have had a Canon 10D with a broken shutter lying around and finally found what to do with it. I searched endlessly online for people who have tried this and all I found was the disastrous painting of a D90 on DigitalRev. I decided to try it and I found my results to be very pleasing.

I must advise you that this has a very high chance of screwing up your camera, especially if you mess up on the masking job. My pop-up flash was permanently popped-up, but I never use the pop-up flash anyways so I just super-glued it down.

For this Instructable you will need: A dslr camera, masking tape, spray-paint, super glue,  and an x-acto knife.

(the camera shown below is not finished yet as I still have to go in with details and buy an eyecup for it)

Step 1: Prepare the Camera

Pick out what colors you will be using. The number of parts you can paint vary from camera to camera, but generally their would be the body and however many grips there are. I used satin for the grip and gloss for the body. The decision is all up to you.

Prepare the camera for masking and painting by taking out the batteries (not that we will take the camera apart, but so that we don't accidentally paint the battery).

Then sand any brassing or rough parts down using fine sand paper (120+).

Finally I wiped down the camera with a slightly wet sponge just to get it clean. 

Step 2: Take Off the Rubber Grips (if Any)

Most cameras should have rubber grips that come off rather easily. Try to find a corner that is already peeling off or stick a small screwdriver under the grip to pry it off. Once you can grab a corner, pull the grip off. If there are multiple grips, pull them all off. Be very careful not to rip the rubber grip while peeling it off. The grips will be painted and glued back onto the camera later. 

Step 3: Start Masking Off the Camera

This is definitely the most important part of all. You must use masking tape and mask off lcd's, command dial, buttons (opt.), lens mount, hotshoe, card bay, connections, the viewfinder, and whatever else seems necessary. What you have to mask off varies from camera to camera, but mainly consists of those things.

I suggest masking off by covering up more than necessary and then running your fingernail along the groove of the camera so you know where to use the x-acto knife (see pic. 2). I advise that you go over the lines where you cut with a powerful magnifier to make sure that your lines are perfect. 

I do not show the masking over the lens mount, but you must mask that off too if you want a working camera. Mask off whatever seems necessary, take your time, and do a really good job if you want a good looking camera.

Step 4: Primer and Paint

Once you have everything masked off nicely, you can put primer on the camera. Though you can skip the primer and go straight to painting, it is highly advised that you go with the primer. This is where it gets slightly tricky. If you want to cover the entire camera, you have to have it hold it up to get the underside painted. I decided to take a long bolt that screwed into the tripod socket and then held it up while wearing long rubber gloves. I then gently set the camera down in a cardboard box and waited for it to dry.

Since you have to leave the bolt in while it dries, you must balance it while it is in the box. This is where you have to get creative if things don't work out. Other options could include hanging it from string going through the neck strap holes or a string attached to something screwed into the tripod socket from which it dangles while you paint it. 

Step 5: Painting the Body

When I did the painting, I did several coats. Each time I did a new coat I would move any dials or switches that didn't get covered during the last coat (once the previous coat dried of course). I used the same technique of the bolt in the bottom of the camera for this and it worked very well. Once a coat dried I would look over it very thoroughly and find where it might still be showing primer. Take time and care in this step, as it shows later on.

Step 6: Painting the Grips

This is a very easy step. Pick out what color you want to go with your body and spray-paint the grips. Once they are dry, see if you missed any spots and if you need to go over it again. Careful when painting them though, as mine are taking a long time to dry. 

Step 7: Glue on the Grips

Once both the camera body and the grips are completely dry, glue the grips back on using superglue. I used crazy glue, though many other types of glue would work. Make sure that there is flue on the edges and be quick and precise when putting the grip back into place.

Step 8: Fix Problems

Take off all the tape and see how it went. If you got small amounts of unwanted paint on the screen, etc. you can hopefully scrape it off very carefully using the x-acto knife (magnifier advised for this). Also test to see if you didn't destroy the camera and if all functions seem to be working. If everything seems alright, you can breath a sigh of relief and move onto adding details if you would like. If you have already scared yourself to death with painting your camera, you can stop here. 

Step 9: Add Details (optional)

This is where I will be painting the buttons and dials that got painted with the body. I plan to paint them the same color as the grip, and since i am on a budget, I will be spraying the spray-paint into the lid of the can and painting it on with a brush. This is fully optional and since I have not tried it yet, I do not know whether to say if it will work well or not. Within a few days I should news on how it went and advice on how to go about doing it. 

Step 10: Go Out and Enjoy Your Camera

Put your battery back in the camera and go out and takes some pictures with your new awesome camera. Please post pictures of your new colorful camera if possible. I wish you the best of luck with painting your camera and I hope you have much fun doing so.



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    37 Discussions

    Great job! I wonder if the shutter button would be stuck by the paint.

    DON'T USE SUPERGLUE, use double-sided tape, or maybe contact cement. superglue will make it near impossible to remove the grips later on if you need to repair it or something, and superglue shouldn't be used anywhere near anything with delicate optical components that you don't want fogged up by superglue fumes.

    2 replies

    Good point maltfalc. I didn't glue it near the lens and there was a cap over the body, so the fog wasn't a problem. For those who glue back on the grips, take caution.

    fogging can continue to form for a week or longer, so it's just not worth the risk when there's no need to use superglue.

    The rubber grips have totally held their paint, the little rubber piece that covers the video out, flash in/out, and all that has not done too well because of the whole flexibility thing. The body has done a pretty decent job with the paint though. The bottom has some scratches and chips from being abused. A topcoat probably could have been worthwhile.

    Hey, saw your awesome paint job! Super rad. I was wondering, how the paint has held up over the months since you painted it. Any chipping, cracking etc?

    what about "SONY NEX MIRRORLESS"? anyone try it to give it colour already?

    Great Job! Congratz!
    So the paint will not get in the camera through the gaps between buttons?
    I have wanted to paint my old SLR for the longest time but haven't really taken any actions yet.. I actually bought model paint for my project but still not have the time to try it out yet. I was thinking of using model paint and use paint brush to paint the whole thing :S

    7 replies

    Nothing appears to have made its way into the camera. Just do a good job on masking and then everything turns out well. I strongly urge you to not try to paint by hand. It is impossible. Stick with spray paint and if you want to paint the buttons, do a first coat of the buttons' color and wait for that to try fully so you can mask off the buttons. Then paint with the bodies color. I tried painting the buttons by hand and I found it very tricky.

    Do you mean try to spray paint the buttons (or at least around the spot of the buttons) first, let it dry and mask it off before painting the body? What should I do with the gaps around the buttons then?
    Did you just let the paint slightly go over the buttons or did you make sure the paint fill the gap as well?

    Thanks so much for answering :)

    Exactly, paint buttons or button area (with button color) then mask off buttons and paint body (with body color). The gap around the buttons should not be a problem unless it is really big. In that case I would just let it be and just go with masking off the buttons only. There was a gap on the shutter release and it turned out alright with just an extra coat.

    thanks, what if i want to have the buttons and body in the same colour? then i can skip the button-masking part?

    I was thinking doing pink just to show DigitalRev the right way to paint a camera pink. I was very happy it did not turn out like that disastrous thing.