How to Paint a Car Professionally in 10 Steps

A brand-new car can be a major investment and not just any paint job will do. You want your vehicle to look amazing.

But you also need to protect it from the elements and from scratches, dings, and nicks that inevitably occur as you drive around town or down the highway.

If you’ve never painted your car before, these 10 steps will show you how to paint a car professionally so that your car looks great and lasts as long as possible.

10 Steps to Paint a Car Professionally

1) Select the right vehicle

The first step is selecting an appropriate vehicle for a professional paint job. Cars are painted more often than most people realize, and many local businesses focus on different types of vehicles, such as cars, motorcycles, or boats.

Smaller jobs can be handled by mobile paint services that specialize in quick touch-ups. However, if you have a larger vehicle or want to make sure you get perfect coverage on all areas of your car, it’s best to take your vehicle to an automotive paint shop.

During peak times, they may turn down jobs; if so you should call several months before your preferred scheduled date and ask when they are less busy.

2) Prepare your surface

Preparing your vehicle’s surface before you get started is important. If you’re using a spray gun, you’ll want to make sure there are no waxes or other sealants on your vehicle’s body.

Most professional automotive painting processes start with sanding and scraping off any surface contaminants. If you’re applying paint directly to your car’s bodywork, make sure that it is clean and clear of any old paint or waxes as well.

Additionally, if you’re using automotive paints and supplies, test out their adhesion qualities on scraps of fiberglass or plastic.

Automotive paints are formulated for specific types of surfaces, so testing their application can help ensure that they will stick where they need to when used on your vehicle.

3) Clean your vehicle

It’s important to start your project with a clean slate, so wash your car with soap and water before you get started.

Once your car is dry, you can begin sanding down any rough or uneven spots that may still exist.

Wearing safety goggles at all times when handling automotive paint will protect you from fumes and other airborne particles.

To fill any cracks or imperfections in your car’s surface, apply automotive filler primer; it comes ready to use and is simple to apply.

Smooth out rough edges by working on small sections of the vehicle at one time and rubbing gently for several seconds until smooth.

Follow up by applying two coats of automotive primer sealer, allowing each coat to dry completely before moving on to paint.

Read also: Best Paint Protection for Cars Using Ceramic Coating

4) Put on safety gear

There are many automotive painting techniques, but for beginners, one of your best bets is to use spray paint.

Since it covers large areas quickly and easily, spraying paint is ideal for covering any imperfections on your car’s surface.

When using spray paint, always wear safety glasses and some kind of protective clothing (old clothes work well), including rubber gloves.

When spraying color directly onto metal, check with a paint professional or read online reviews to ensure that it won’t damage your vehicle.

5) Spray primer (with wet sanding)

The first step is priming. And before you spray primer on your car, you want to wet sand it first.

If you don’t sand away any swirls or scratches in your paint job, they’ll show up much more prominently once you add paint.

First of all, get yourself an automotive-grade sanding block (usually made of wood) and some 600-grit wet/dry sandpaper.

6) Spray basecoat (with wet sanding)

Spray basecoat and wet sand with 600-grit paper. While spraying, keep your spray gun at least six inches from both sides of your car body and parallel to it.

Start with a small area at one corner of your car, moving toward another corner about eight feet away as you cover more ground.

Use overlapping coats for best results and spray slowly, keeping an eye on how much paint is accumulating around edges where it may drip or run down into hard-to-reach areas like door jambs or rocker panels.

Read also: Best Automotive Paint Guns for Beginners

7) Spray color coat (with wet sanding)

Once you’ve applied your paint primer, it’s time to apply your actual color coat. For most cars and light trucks (under 10,000 pounds GVWR), a single light mist coat with an HVLP gun will do (be careful not to over-apply).

However, if you have an extremely shiny car or just want more sheen from your paint job, consider using wet sanding with either 2000 grit paper or use polishing compounds like Novus #2 with very light pressure.

Follow up by doing 3-4 coats of clear coat for best results. If at any point you feel that your car looks too shiny, go back and touch up with 2000 grit paper and some polishing compound.

8) Clear Coat (2 coats with wet sanding in between coats)

Most automotive paints require a clear coat, which is a vital part of painting your car. The clear coat is what gives paint its shine, depth, and durability.

And while it’s not hard to apply by hand (two coats should do it), you won’t want to take that route unless you have a few hours on your hands.

It will save you time and money if you pay someone who knows what they are doing to spray on that final layer of clear coat, this way, they can ensure it goes on evenly and smoothly.

Plus, wet sanding helps keep your paint job free from nasty scratches once that clear coat dries.

9) Polish and Wax

Removing dirt and grime is only half of what polishing does; it also helps smooth out minor imperfections so that your vehicle looks great.

However, applying too much polish can actually create swirl marks that make your car look worse.

To avoid causing permanent damage, take your time when polishing (most pros do one section at a time), and don’t apply more product than necessary. Once you’ve worked over every inch of your vehicle, wax it for maximum shine.

Read also: Best Paint For Car Interior Plastic

10) Shine It Up

To paint, you’ll need masking tape and wide, blue painter’s tape (or newspaper); Q-Tips; paint thinner or mineral spirits; water, plenty of clean rags or paper towels; disposable gloves.

When painting, it’s important to follow specific steps in order. You should: first sand down any rust with 80-grit sandpaper and a sanding block, then wash off your car with soap and water for best adhesion.

Next, cover all unpainted plastic surfaces like taillights and mirrors with masking tape or newspaper, and keep painting supplies stored away from those areas as well.


Using professional paint can be an advantage, but it is not necessary to do a quality job. The only way to learn how to paint is by trial and error.

Get as much advice and assistance as you can from people who have painted cars before and get their opinions on what products and techniques worked well for them.