How to Paint an RC Car Body: Step-by-Step Guide for Perfect Results

Painting an RC car body isn’t just about aesthetics; it’s a chance to showcase your creativity and make your car stand out. Whether you’re a seasoned hobbyist or a newcomer, a custom paint job can transform your RC car into a unique masterpiece. But where do you start?

Key Takeaways

  • Choosing the Right Materials: Use polycarbonate paints for durable and flexible finishes on RC car bodies. Brands like Tamiya and Pactra offer high-quality options.
  • Essential Tools and Supplies: An airbrush kit, spray cans, masking tape, sandpaper (320-400 grit), plastic primer, and cleaning supplies are fundamental for a smooth painting process.
  • Preparation Steps: Properly clean and sand the RC car body to ensure paint adhesion. Apply primer in thin, even coats for better durability.
  • Painting Techniques: Use multiple thin coats of paint with steady, sweeping motions. Allow proper drying time between coats to avoid drips and runs.
  • Adding Details: Apply decals and stickers on a clean, dry surface for a custom look. Use fine-tip brushes and masking techniques for painting small details and trims.
  • Maintenance Tips: Store the RC car in a cool, dry place, and clean it with a microfiber cloth. Repair any chips or scratches with fine-grit sandpaper and matching paint for a lasting finish.

Choosing the Right Materials for Painting an RC Car Body

Selecting the Best Paint Types

Choosing the right paint type is crucial for a durable, attractive finish on your RC car body. Polycarbonate paints, designed for Lexan bodies, provide excellent adhesion and flexibility. These paints, often referred to as “Lexan paint,” prevent cracking or flaking during impacts. Several brands, like Tamiya and Pactra, offer high-quality polycarbonate paints in various colors. Avoid using standard model paints since they don’t flex with the body and can chip easily.

Essential Tools and Supplies

Gathering the right tools and supplies ensures a smooth painting process. Key items include:

  • Airbrush Kit: Offers precision and control, ideal for detailed designs.
  • Spray Cans: Convenient for larger areas, ensuring even coverage.
  • Masking Tape: Essential for defining clean lines and protecting areas not to be painted.
  • Sandpaper: Fine-grit sandpaper (320-400 grit) helps prepare the surface by removing imperfections.
  • Plastic Primer: Enhances paint adhesion to the RC car body.
  • Cleaning Supplies: Use mild soap and water or isopropyl alcohol to clean the body before painting.

Proper preparation and quality materials play a significant role in achieving a professional finish on your RC car body.

Preparing the RC Car Body for Painting

Cleaning and Sanding Techniques

Proper cleaning and sanding ensure a smooth surface for painting. First, I wash the RC car body with warm water and mild soap to remove dirt, grease, and residues. Next, I dry the body thoroughly with a soft cloth to avoid water spots.

I use 400-600 grit sandpaper to lightly sand the surface. This step helps the paint adhere better. I focus on avoiding deep scratches by using gentle pressure. To remove sanding dust, I use a tack cloth, which helps create a clean surface. For intricate areas, I employ a fine detail brush to remove debris for an even finish.

Applying Primer Effectively

Priming the RC car body provides a base coat, enhancing paint adhesion and durability. I shake the primer can vigorously for at least 2 minutes to ensure an even mix. Holding the can 6-8 inches from the surface, I apply thin, even coats to prevent drips and runs.

After the first coat dries (approximately 10-15 minutes), I apply additional thin coats as needed, usually 2-3 layers in total. I let the primer cure for at least an hour before proceeding to paint. Using light, even strokes results in a smooth layer that optimizes the final paint job.

The Painting Process

Step-by-Step Guide to Painting

Prepped and primed, the RC car body is ready for paint. I start by shaking the paint can or airbrush cup to mix the paint thoroughly. A uniform mixture is essential for an even spray. Holding the spray can or airbrush about 6-8 inches from the surface, I apply the first coat in light, sweeping motions. Multiple thin coats provide better coverage than one thick coat. Between each coat, I let the paint dry for about 10-15 minutes, following the manufacturer’s drying times to avoid runs.

Once the base color is set, additional colors or effects can be applied. Masking tape or liquid mask helps protect areas that shouldn’t get painted. To create complex designs, I layer colors from light to dark, allowing each layer to dry thoroughly before adding the next. After all painting is complete, I let the body dry for at least 24 hours to cure properly.

Tips for Even Coating and Drying

Consistent paint application is key for a professional look. I maintain a steady hand and even speed while spraying, ensuring I don’t linger too long in one spot. Overlap each pass slightly to prevent stripes or bands of uneven color. Proper ventilation helps in drying and prevents the buildup of harmful fumes.

Drying time between coats ensures each layer adheres properly. If I notice any imperfections like dust or bubbles, I lightly sand the area with fine-grit sandpaper before applying the following coat. Allowing the final coat to cure in a dust-free environment guarantees a smooth, flawless finish.

These methods contribute to achieving the best results when painting an RC car body. Proper technique and patience are crucial for a durable, visually appealing outcome.

Adding Details and Customization

Techniques for Applying Decals and Stickers

Decals and stickers can enhance the look of an RC car body. Start with a clean, dry surface before applying. Position the decal or sticker using tweezers. Peel off a small section of the backing first, then align it carefully. Smooth out air bubbles using a squeegee or a credit card. If any bubbles remain, use a pin to puncture and flatten them. Employ the wet application method if the decal is large; spray a mixture of water and mild soap on the area first. Place the decal and slide it into place while damp, then squeegee out excess liquid.

Painting Small Details and Trims

Painting small details and trims adds precision and depth to an RC car body. Use fine-tip brushes for accuracy. Mask areas around the detail to prevent unwanted paint spread. Apply thin layers to avoid drips and allow each layer to dry before adding more. For intricate patterns, consider using masking tape, stencils, or liquid masking film. Use a magnifying lamp for better visibility when painting fine details. Limit paint application to small sections at a time to maintain control over the process.

Maintenance of Painted RC Car Bodies

Keeping the Paint Job Pristine

Protecting the paint job ensures the RC car’s appearance remains vibrant. I always store my RC car in a cool, dry place to prevent color fading from sunlight or humidity. Using a soft microfiber cloth, I gently wipe away dust and dirt after each use, avoiding abrasive materials that can scratch the surface. For stubborn grime, I use a mild soap and water solution, ensuring to dry it thoroughly. Applying a clear coat finisher adds an extra layer of protection, making the paint more resilient to minor scratches and environmental factors.

Repairing Chips and Scratches

Occasionally, chips and scratches appear, but precise repair methods restore the paint job. Using fine-grit sandpaper, I carefully sand the damaged area, ensuring it’s smooth. Afterward, I clean the surface with isopropyl alcohol to remove any residue. For repainting, I match the original paint color closely, applying thin coats and allowing proper drying time between layers. If the damage is significant, plastic putty fills in larger scratches or gouges. Finally, a clear coat over the repaired area blends it seamlessly into the existing paint job, preserving the car’s overall aesthetic.


Painting an RC car body is both an art and a science. With the right materials and careful preparation, you can create a stunning, unique look that stands out. Remember to take your time with each step from applying thin coats to ensuring proper drying times. Maintaining your painted RC car body is just as crucial as painting it. Proper storage, gentle cleaning, and occasional touch-ups will keep your RC car looking fresh and vibrant. By following these guidelines, you’ll not only enhance the appearance of your RC car but also extend its lifespan. Happy painting!

Frequently Asked Questions

Why should I custom paint my RC car body?

Custom painting an RC car body allows you to express creativity and make your RC car unique. It ensures your car stands out from others and reflects your personal style.

What type of paint is best for RC car bodies?

Polycarbonate paints are best for RC car bodies as they adhere well and are durable. These paints are specifically designed to withstand the impacts and flexibility of RC car materials.

What essential tools do I need for custom painting?

Essential tools include an airbrush kit, masking tape, fine-grit sandpaper, and primer. These tools help achieve a smooth and professional paint job.

How should I prepare my RC car body before painting?

Preparation involves cleaning the car body thoroughly, sanding lightly to create a smooth surface, and applying a primer to ensure the paint adheres well and lasts longer.

What is the importance of applying thin coats of paint?

Applying thin coats of paint helps prevent drips and allows each layer to dry properly, resulting in a smooth and even finish. Multiple thin coats build up the color without causing imperfections.

Can I use decals on my painted RC car body?

Yes, you can use decals to add intricate designs and details to your painted RC car body. Apply decals after painting and ensure the surface is clean for better adhesion.

How do I maintain a painted RC car body?

Maintain a painted RC car body by storing it properly, cleaning with care using mild cleaners, and applying a clear coat finisher to protect the paint from chips and scratches.

How do I repair chips and scratches on a painted RC car body?

Repair chips and scratches by lightly sanding the damaged area with fine-grit sandpaper, matching the paint color, and applying a thin layer of paint. For significant damage, use plastic putty before repainting and finishing with a clear coat.