How to Spray Paint a Bike: Avoid Common Mistakes

How to Spray Paint a Bike: Avoid Common Mistakes by Valentin | Last Updated: May 25, 2021
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Painting a bike is pretty straightforward and relatively simple. You just have to choose the right kind of paint, you have to prepare the surface properly before painting it, and you need to have some time because painting a Bike is pretty time intensive. In this article, I will tell you exactly how you can prepare your bike for painting, what to look out for, and how to properly paint it.

As a whole, these are the steps for painting a bike:

  • Disassemble the bike
  • Clean the bike frame from dirt
  • Sand the surface and remove rust
  • Repair smaller holes and dents with epoxy filler
  • Clean the surface with rubbing alcohol
  • Apply a primer to the surface
  • Apply the paint in multiple thin layers
  • Reassemble the bike

These are the basic steps to painting a bike. Seems simple enough, right? I will go over each of these steps in more detail.

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Materials

Before we start preparing our bike for painting you should first use it to pick up all the necessary materials for painting it properly.

You will need:

  • Some plastic sheets to protect the ground from paint stains
  • Some fine-grit sandpaper (400 grit and 600 grit)
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • An old towel or a piece of cloth
  • A spray primer (further information down below)
  • Spray paint (further information down below)
  • Rust reformer (only if the bike frame has rust on it)
  • Tools for disassembling your bike (varies slightly from bike to bike)
  • Some masking tape if needed

Before you go out and simply buy the next best primer and spray paint you can find in your local hardware store, make sure to read the two sections about choosing the best paint and the best primer for painting a bike down below.

The Best Paint for Painting a Bike

Choosing the right type of paint for your bike is very important. If you use the wrong type of paint then you might have to repaint your bike after only a couple of weeks because the paint either peeled off or got scratched too easily.

As a general rule, enamel spray paint is best for painting bikes. Enamel paints are durable, scratch-resistant, and water-resistant. They also don´t yellow when exposed to the sun. The best enamel spray paint for painting bikes is the Automotive Acrylic Enamel from Rust-Oleum.

You can use pretty much any enamel paint that you want but I highly recommend using spray paint for easier and more even application.

My favorite spray paint enamel for painting Bikes is the Automotive Acrylic Enamel from Rust-Oleum. You can buy it at most hardware stores or right here on Amazon.

The great thing about the Automotive Acrylic Enamel Paint from Rus-Oleum, that I linked above, is that it is a two in one spray paint. It is a paint and a primer in one.

Meaning you don´t have to apply a separate primer to your surface first you can simply apply the paint to the sanded and cleaned surface.

It doesn´t really matter what kind of material your bike frame is made out of because the process of painting it is the same for all of them no matter if it is a carbon bike frame or a metal bike frame. The primer and the paint will stick either way if you cleaned and sanded the surface properly beforehand.

The Best Primer for Painting a Bike

If you are using a 2x paint, as I mentioned above, then you don´t need a primer but when you use a regular enamel spray paint then I highly recommend applying a primer first.

As a whole, the best primer for painting a bike is a strong adhering primer for any surface. By using such a primer it is possible to paint any bike frame no matter what material they are made of. The primer should be applied to a clean surface in multiple thin coats.

A big advantage to using a primer is that you can use it to smooth out some small uneven dents in the bike frame.

Simply apply the primer and then sand the primer with some fine-grit sandpaper to smooth the surface further before applying the paint.

My favorite primer is the professional spray primer from Rust-Oleum. It adheres to most surfaces and is very easy to apply. You can buy it at most hardware stores or right here on Amazon.

Preparing the Bike for Painting

Before you apply any paint to the bike frame it is very important to prepare the surface for painting first. If you don´t do this then your newly applied paint coat might not live for long.

As a whole, it is recommended to sand and clean a bike before painting it but it is not always necessary. Most paints nowadays adhere well enough to a surface that has only been cleaned with rubbing alcohol and that has not been sanded. But paints will adhere better to a surface that has been sanded.

So before you start preparing the bike for painting it is important to note that paint will stick better if the surface was sanded and cleaned before any paint is applied even though it is not always necessary.

Dissassemble the Bike

The first step is to dismantle your bike. It is very important that you dismantle it strategically. Unfortunately, bikes are assembled slightly differently depending on the brand and the type of bike.

But here are some tips that will help you to assemble the bike easier later on if you follow them.

Disassemble your bike on an even surface, for example, concrete, where you can easily find parts that might fall down during the disassembling process. I can´t tell you how often I searched for little screws on the grass because I thought it is a good idea to disassemble my bike on the lawn.

Put all the parts that belong together on one pile. If you have screws or other small parts that are loose then put them in a small plastic bag and tape them to the part of the bike they belong to. This way you don´t have to search for them later on and you know exactly where they belong.

And finally, you can clean or oil parts on your bike that you usually don´t easily get to. This is the time you can clean, repair, and remove rust on all the parts of your bike.

Sand the Surface

Now that you have disassembled your bike it is time to sand the frame of the bike.

As I mentioned above, you don´t have to sand the frame if the frame is not rusted or the paint is peeling but it is recommended to ensure that the paint adheres properly.

So grab fine-grit sandpaper and start lightly sanding the surface of the bike frame. If you have areas that are rusted then try to remove as much of the rust as possible.

You don´t have to apply a lot of pressure it is just important that you rough up the surface to give the primer a better chance to adhere properly.

Repair Smaller Holes and Dents

When your bike frame has smaller dents or even holes in them then you might want to fix those before you apply any new paint to your bike.

The easiest way to do this is using some epoxy putty. Epoxy putty is a two-part putty that you mix before applying it. It has the consistency of dough.

You can buy epoxy putty at your local hardware store or right here on Amazon.

Epoxy putty adheres very well to almost all materials and it will fully harden within 12 hours. Once it is hard you can further sand it to ensure that it is flush to the surface.

So combine the two parts of the epoxy and knead them thoroughly before you apply the epoxy to the bike frame. Try to smoothen the epoxy with your hand (it´s recommended that you wear gloves for this) as much as possible. Then let the epoxy dry and sand it flush once it´s completely hardened.

Clean the Surface

This step is pretty straightforward. Just clean the surface from dust and grease with some rubbing alcohol and a piece of cloth. Try not to touch the surface too much after cleaning before you apply the paint.

Apply a Primer

And the final step, applying the primer. You don´t need to apply a primer if you are using a 2 in 1 paint. But I would still recommend applying a primer anyway just to be on the safe side.

Before you apply the primer it is important to put the bike frame on some plastic painter sheets to protect the ground from paint stains.

The primer should only be applied in a well-ventilated area.

Apply the spray primer in thin and even coats. It is better to apply the primer in multiple thin coats to ensure that no drops form and to ensure that the primer is applied evenly and smoothly.

Let the primer dry in between coats.

I usually put the bike frame flat on the ground and apply one layer of spray primer on one side. Then I flip the bike frame after the first coat has dried and apply a thin coat to the other side. I repeat this process until the whole bike frame is coated in a nice and even coat of primer.

If you discover any uneven parts on the surface of your primer coat then you can use very fine-grit sandpaper to gently smooth the surface before you paint it.

Applying the Paint

And the very final step in painting your bike is obviously painting it!

So get the paint of your choice and apply the paint in pretty much the same way that you applied the primer before.

Lay the bike frame flat on the plastic painter’s sheet and apply the first thin layer of paint.

It doesn´t matter if the first coat of paint covers fully or not. You will apply multiple coats to ensure that the paint is not running in the process of painting your bike frame.

I usually apply the first thin coat of paint and then I flip the frame on the other side as soon as the first coat has dried. Then I apply a thin coat to the other side and repeat that process about six times.

You should end up with a nice even coat.

You don´t need to apply a topcoat to enamel paints. Especially if they are automotive enamel paints.

Enamel paints are naturally very resistant to scratches, water, and the elements.

Now all that is left to do is reassembling your bike right after the paint has dried and you are done. You successfully painted your bike all on your own!

Spray Painting a Bike Without Disassembling it

The most annoying part of painting your bike is probably disassembling and reassembling it. So I often get asked if there is a way to paint a bike without disassembling it first.

As a whole, it is possible to spraypaint a bike without taking it apart but it is generally not recommended to do that. It is possible to simply mask off all the areas that should not be painted by using masking tape and plastic sheets. But one leak can be enough to permanently damage parts of the bike with the paint.

So I would generally not recommend painting a bike without dissasembling it first but it can be done.

However, one leak could be enough to ruin parts of your bike when some of the paint gets through.

So I personally don´t like the risks and it isn´t all that faster in the end because masking all the parts that should not get paint on them off takes as much time as simply disassembling the bike in the first place.

Hi, I am a passionate maker and professional prop maker for the entertainment industry. I use my woodworking, programming, electronics, and illustration know-how to create these interactive props. And I share my knowledge and my experience on this blog with you so that you can become a maker yourself.