Rubber sanding block, wet-anddry paper, soap bar, masking tape, panel wipe, zinc-rich or etch primer, high-build primer, topcoat, thinners, rubbing compound, polish, microfibre cloth.


Practice makes perfect.

Experiment on a scrap panel and build your confidence by starting on a small area somewhere inconspicuous Ė such as under the bonnet or in a door aperture.


If possible, remove the panel and work undercover.

Lay the panel flat to avoid runs.


If youíre using newspaper, fold the edge that you apply the tape to.



AEROSOLS ARE often viewed as an inferior method of painting panels. They shouldnít be. While that stereotype may have been correct twenty years ago, aerosol technology has now advanced substantially. They are no longer the preserve of undiscerning hobbyists or bodge-it-and-scarper motor traders.

If modern aerosols are used properly, the quality can be just as good as paint applied with a compressor and spray gun.

Theyíre widely used in professional body shops.

The ease of set-up and lack of cleaning up afterwards means theyíre often the most convenient and cost-effective solution for individual panels or multiple small repairs.

All this means theyíre ideal for DIY use.

They enable you to achieve professional results without specialist equipment.

The range of coatings is extensive: etch primers, weld-through primers, red-oxide primer in colours other than red, high-build primers in any colour you fancy, guide coats and, of course, a huge array of top-coat and lacquer systems. Car paint specialists and some Autobarn and Supercheap Auto branches can mix top-coats from colour codes or from existing paintwork and offer advice on the best systems to use in specific situations.

Perfect results are achieved through meticulous preparation and good spraying technique. Practice is the only way to become a master of the art-form, but following this guide will enable you to get good results from your first attempt.


APPLY FILLER Carry out any metal repairs. Fill and profile large depressions with bulk polyester filler. Use fine filler to achieve the correct profiles and a flawless surface. Apply a guide coat when itís dry and sand with 180-grit abrasive paper on a sanding block.

PERFECT THE SURFACE Look away from the panel and feel it with the flat of your hand to identify minor imperfections. Continue to apply and sand fine filler and guide coats until perfection is achieved. Finish with a glaze (very fine self-levelling filler) sanded with 320-grit paper.

KEY SURFACE Key any areas of original paint that youíll be painting over with 320-grit paper and a sanding block or an orbital sander. Weíre repainting the hole door, so weíre abrading the whole surface. If youíre carrying out a spot repair, just abrade its vicinity.

MASK AREA Use paper and masking tape to mask areas you donít want to spray. If the repair needs to be blended into the rest of the panel, fold the tape back on itself to avoid a hard edge. This will create a soft overspray line that will be easy to feather in later.

CLEAN SURFACE Use a lint-free cloth moistened with panel wipe to remove all traces of silicone polish, oils from your fingers, sanding dust residue and other contaminants from the surface youíll be painting. Always use proprietary panelwipe Ė not thinners.

SHAKE IT! Itís absolutely essential to shake the can vigorously for at least two minutes. The solids sink to the bottom during storage and the paint will spit if theyíre not fully mixed with the propellant. Warm the can in tepid water if itís been stored in a cold place.

SPOT PRIME Paint areas of bare metal with zinc-rich primer to fend off corrosion. Hold the can about 200mm (8in) from the surface and apply a couple of thin coats, avoiding a hard edge where they overlap onto the rest of the panel. Wear a good respirator.

HIGH-BUILD PRIMER High-build primer fills tiny imperfections. Apply three coats, allowing each to flash dry before applying the next. Itís now possible to buy primers that are matched to the panelís finished colour, meaning that less top-coat will be required.

FINAL FLATTING Let the primer dry completely. Use 600-grit wet-and-dry paper, a sanding block and a bucket of water for final flatting. Work in straight lines along the line of the panel Ė not in circular motions. Regularly squeegee the surface to check progress.

MATCH COLOUR A surefire way to match new paint to existing paint is to take an adjoining panel to a paint supplier. This protects against previous mismatched resprays or paint thatís changed colour as itís aged. If thatís not possible, the carís colour code is a good start.

BUY PAINT Solvent-drying cellulose paint is simple to work with and appropriate for most classic cars. The correct combination of colour tinters is added to the cellulose base by weight, then itís forced into a Ďblankí aerosol prefilled with propellant at 60psi.

PREPARE ENVIRONMENT Enemies of spray painting are extremes in temperature, humidity, wind, silicone and dust. Donít attempt it outside.

Ideally, use heaters to raise the ambient temperature to around 20įC. Vacuum meticulously, wait, then lightly dampen the floor.

TEST NOZZLE Tape some paper or card to a wall and practise your spray technique. Itíll give you an idea of how wide the spray fan is, so you can gauge how much overlap will be required between passes. Itíll also show up any faults in the aerosol or nozzle.

MIST COAT Make the first coat quite dry to give the subsequent coats something to key into. Hold the aerosol further away than you would normally and move it slightly faster. Shake the aerosol regularly. Leave it to flash dry before applying the next coat.

TOP-COATS Spray the fiddly bits first, then tackle the rest of the panel. Apply just enough paint to give a glossy wet coat without it sagging or running, then overlap the first pass slightly to avoid a dry stripe. Allow it to flash dry, then apply two more coats on top.

COMMON PROBLEMS If you hold the aerosol too close or move it too slowly, the buildup will sag or run (bottom).

If you hold it too far away or move it too fast, youíll get a pebble-dashed appearance (middle). If the passes donít overlap enough, youíll get stripes (top).

BLOBS? Large blobs that fire from the nozzle will ruin the finish. It might be due to a faulty aerosol or nozzle Ė but itís more likely to be down to insufficient mixing or a semi-clogged nozzle. Press the nozzle with the can inverted after spraying to clear it.

FINAL POLISHING Leave the paint to cure for a few days, then hand-flat with 2000-grit wet-and-dry paper.

Use it wet with soap. When the dry finish is uniform and matt, use cutting compound followed by polish and a microfibre cloth to create a glassperfect shine.


For total perfection, flat the panel with 1500-grit wet-anddry paper before final polishing and apply a further two topcoats.

Wait five days before final polishing as per Step 9.

11 Clean an area with rubbing compound before colourmatching.