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How to Paint a Motorcycle

Do you want to professionally paint your motorcycle? You don't have to actually be a professional painter to paint like one. You just need to know what paint supplies are needed, what equipment  to use, and exactly how to use it all. It's definitely not easy, but it's not rocket science either. You've spend hard earned money on your motorcycle, so if you're going to paint it, you better paint it right.There's no sense in bargaining for the lowest bid at your local Maaco or trying cheaper paint methods such as rattle cans. Make your bike look the way you've envisioned it. Make your paint job look professional, and make it look totally custom! Yes, we can paint your motorcycle for you. Yes, it will rival any custom chopper, And yes, it will be expensive. So we're going help you save thousands of dollars by showing you exactly how to paint it yourself.

We are going to start by showing you how to paint a dirt bike. Painting dirt bikes is a great way to start because the plastics are relatively inexpensive and they are in infinite supply on eBay and Amazon. Painting a dirt bike versus a street bike, requires different paint supplies, but the entire process is somewhat similar. In this motorcycle paint tutorial we will be custom painting a 2014 Honda CRF250L.

Step 1: Obtain paint, supplies, and tools

If you already have an air compressor, great! You just save your self at least $300 because you will need a 33 gallon size compressor. You will also need the paint of your choice, various sizes of painting tape, clear coat, activator, reducer, sand paper, gloves, respirator, goggles, and a well ventilated area to work. We have already made a link list of paint supplies for you. You can use our links to Amazon or pay retail at your local paint supply store. Your choice.

Step 2: Scuff your surfaces

Use Scuff Stuff Surface Prep by Presta and a gray Scotch-Brite pad. Dip the Scotch -Brite pad in water and apply Scuff Stuff to the pad. Start scuffing the plastics as if you were sanding them. Scuff until there are no more shiny spots left. The entire surface to be painted should be dull. Rinse off the motorcycle plastics with water. Use Wax & Grease Remover and blue shop towels to clean the surfaces thoroughly. Let dry for 10-15 minutes.

Note: If you do not let the Wax & Grease Remover completely dry, you might have a chemical reaction when you start to paint.

Step 3: Apply an adhesive promoter

Spray the plastics with an adhesive promotion product specifically designed for painting plastics. There are several products available. (We have this listed on our Paint Supplies page). Use even passes, back and forth, over the surface about 6-10 inches away depending on how strong the aerosol pressure is. Do a test spray on something you don't need just to make sure you are spraying the correct amount and don't cause a run. We use adhesive promoter instead of adding a flex agent to the base coat because we have better results with the adhesive promoter, especially on the fenders which flex a lot more than the other parts.

Note: If you do create a run in your motorcycle plastics, let it dry, lightly sand it with 1000 grit sand paper, clean it with a tag rag, and start over.

Step 4: Spray your base coat

This is the color you want your graphics to be. Depending on the paint you use, mixing specifications will vary. We only use House of Kolor, so we mix 2:1 with medium speed reducer. We use medium because we paint in a climate controlled environment. After you mix you paint, add it to your paint gun and test spray at 40 psi. Most paint spec sheets recommend 30 psi, but we use about 40-45 psi. Spray about 8-10 inches away from the surface with smooth, even passes. When you are sure you are not creating runs on your test piece, start shooting your motorcycle plastics. 1 even coat is all you need here. Let it dry for 15 minutes.

Note: Spec sheets usually refer to dry time as "flash".

Step 5: Lay the graphics

They way you lay graphics will differ depending on your design. The easiest way is to go to your local sign shop and tell them you need transfer decals made for paint masking. They should know exactly which type of decal you need. Just make sure you don't get a cheap, thin decal or else it will wrinkle when the paint is applied over it. Let's say you want a Honda logo on the side cowling. Press the decal onto the spot you want it to be. Press firmly enough to remove any air bubbles. If you want pin stripes, lay your thin blue vinyl tape wherever you want to keep your base color. Use a razor to cut the ends or tuck them under the underside of your plastics. 

Step 6: Spray the second coat (contrasting color from the base coat)

Spray your second coat in the same manner as your base coat. Let your plastics dry for 12-15 minutes. Use a razor to carefully lift up an edge on your decals or tape. Peel it off. Make sure to peel the graphics before the paint completely dries. The paint should still be slightly tacky when you peel off the graphic masks. By now, your dirt bike plastics should be looking pretty good. Let's make it better.

Step 7: Clear coat

Mix you clear coat 2:1:1 with reducer and activator. Spray in the same manner as your base coat and second coat. Let the clear dry 12-15 minutes between coats. Do at least three coats. If you mixed your clear correctly, your motorcycle parts should be nice and glossy. 

Step 8:

Sit down on a stool next to your dirt bike. Open a Miller Lite and drink it as you stare at your custom painted motorcycle for hours. Congratulations on a job well done!

The above info is a broad summary of how to paint a dirt bike. If you want know all the ins and outs of the painting process, read on...

Since the painting surfaces of the dirt bike are plastic, you can paint it exactly how we paint our custom helmets. Our book details precisely how to custom paint a motorcycle helmet. This book details everything from equipment and supplies needed to the type and brand of paint you need to get he job done.  

December 06, 2014 by Ralph Rodriguez
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