How to Paint a Motorcycle With Spray Paint and Get Great Results.

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Masking off everything I didn’t want to get paint overspray on.

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The hideous “Tribal Armband Tattoo” paint scheme I was getting rid of. It smelled of Overcompensation and fail. The scent of 1000 “Tapout” tee shirts and Axe Body Spray. Had to go.

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More air brushed Power Fail.

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Pretty much summed up my thoughts anytime I looked at the awful original paint on my bike.

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My feeling after being quoted around $2,700 for a new paint job by two local professional motorcycle paint companies.

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IMG_3621 Masked off ready for spray can goodness!

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Then this happened, and it continued to rain like the mother fucking Amazon rain forest for a week straight. I trudged on despite this…

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The original tank in it’s horrid glory, complete with the scratches and big dent the previous owner inflicted upon it.

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Black… Red… Chrome… An “Ace of Spades” with some guy in it… So bad.

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The bare metal replacement tank I bought. Hanging from my improvised outdoors paint rig.

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First couple of coats of metal etching primer.

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After another coat of the etching primer, I did three coats of sandable filler primer. Wet sanded between every couple of layers.

 

 

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A few base coats in. I wet sanded in between each coat, probably did about 8 layers.

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Wet sanding is easy, and made a huge difference in the final quality of this paint job.

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I sanded up the fenders – Taking off most of the clear coat until they were dull looking. I didn’t re prime them, but started spraying coat after coat of new paint.

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Slowly, the ugly original paint began to disappear…

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… Like a bad dream.

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…. Until it was almost completely gone.

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The tank base coats done.

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The first coat of Urethane two part clear. looking shiny!

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My improvised “Inside a shed” paint room since the weather sucked so bad.

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IMG_3641 This was my secret weapon for a good looking and durable final product. This Spraymax 2K clear coat is basically the same stuff a pro painter would mix up. unlike other off the shelf clears, you actuate a little canister of hardener that’s in the can, and it mixes into the same type of clear that the pros use. It’s as resistant to gasoline and other solvents, something none of the spray paint clears are. You’ll want the goofy looking filtration mask though. This stuff is dangerous to breathe.

 

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Pretty much done.

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Old and new.

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The finished products back on the bike.

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The stuff I had to buy. Probably between $100 and $150 total investment with lots left over. Still WAY better than $2,700!

Several months ago I bought a used chopper from it’s original owner. Great bike, but it had a ridiculous looking “Tribal tattoo” paint job… Pretty much the exact opposite of anything I would consider cool.

I entertained getting a professional repaint done, figuring maybe a budget for a solid color might be around $600 – $800. I was wrong. Both places I contacted quoted me around $2,700, enough to buy another bike.

Was not going to happen.

So I did some research on various custom motorcycle forums, and there are lots of people doing great paint jobs with cans of automotive spray paint. The stuff you can buy at any auto supply store.

You’ll read scary warnings about how shitty spray can paint jobs will look, don’t believe that, those rumors are probably started by guys that paint motorcycles for a living. Any person willing to spend a few days doing prep work and taking their time can get great results.

A few tips:

Warm your spray cans with hot water. It makes the paint flow more evenly. Buy one of those little spray can trigger/handle rigs. they’re inexpensive and make it a lot nicer to spray.

Almost all spray paint is lacquer. Lacquer paints have solvents in them, and they dry as the solvents evaporate. they dry really quickly, and are easy to work with. The downside to them, is that if you rush things, the final product will look like crap, and any solvents that land on that paint will mess them up. Gasoline being a solvent, makes a lacquer painted motorcycle tank… Risky. Lacquer paints also tend to chip easily, and generally don’t last a long time.

These unfortunate properties extend to most if not all of the straight out of the can clear coats that you can get at an auto supply or home improvement store.

Fortunately, a few years ago new “2K” spray paint clear coats were developed. These are just like the stuff a pro would mix up and use to paint a vehicle, the two part chemical process is set up so a person can trigger it in the can, and then has around 48 hours to spray before the stuff hardens too much.

I got great results with using the SprayMax 2K glossy clear coat over standard Rustoleum and Duplicolor rattlecan paint.

I would do it again anytime before spending almost 3K on some pro job.

Is it perfect? No. But for a custom cycle with lots of personal touches and small imperfections already, it looks great.

 

 

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