How to Paint a Pickup Truck – A Basic Guide

A Truck with an excellent paint job is one of life’s true joys. It’s like being the kid with the best bike in the neighbourhood or the biggest piece of birthday cake. Whether you drive a Ford Ranger, a Chevy Silverado or a Dodge Ram, a great paint job will take your truck from ho-hum to headturner.

truck paint tutorial

Maybe not the best choice but hey, made you look!

Actually creating a great paint job for your pickup truck takes skill and finesse. Automotive painting is one of the most arduous and painstaking tasks in crafting your trucks final look. It can also be one of the most costly.

If you are on a budget, there are options for you. Some paint shops can deliver a good paint job for a fair price. Your other option is to take on the task yourself. If the paint job is a success, you’ll have even more to brag about: a hot set of wheels AND a “do it yourself” tale to tell.

Achieving a great paint job is a step-by-step process. You simply can’t rush painting. Follow the basic steps of preparation, primer application, blocking, final paint coat and detail application. This can seem like a daunting task for any beginner, but the entire job can be completed in just a few days.


Before you begin, make sure you are working in a well ventilated area, as killing yourself from inhaling the spray paint fumes is going to make you a legend for a whole different reason!

What you’ll need

Below is a fairly comprehensive list of what you will need to complete the paint job.  Some of this, you will have in the garage but you may need to get a few items, so be sure to check before you start.

We find Amazon is the cheapest place to pickup whatever you are missing and have added some links to what we use ourselves, so you can find things quickly and get them next day.

Cleaning your truck is the first step

The car must be spotlessly clean and free of dirt. Use detergents to clean the car top to bottom, and then follow up with grease removers.


After the car has been cleaned, it’s time to begin sanding. An air sander (preferably a dual-action sander) should be used to remove the old paint from the car.

This kind of sander will not cause body damage because it removes paint without digging like other sanders and grinders.

truck painting preperation sandingEvery trace of paint must be removed to create a perfect palette for your new paint job. Automotive detailing tape or masking tape can be used to cover and protect other parts of the car, including plastic moldings and windows.

In addition to removing the old paint, all traces of rust have to be sanded off. Rust will spread if ignored or untreated, and the last thing you want is body rot happening beneath your spiffy new paint.

Repair minor rust spots

You can repair minor body flaws on the car’s surface using fillers. Shape the compound with care using a sanding board, then follow up with a glazing compound. This step will help to ensure a smooth-as-glass finish on your ride.

How to paint a truck – preparation guide

If you are unsure of any of the preparation steps, take a look at this easy to follow video tutorial which should answer any questions.


mask off before spray paintingAfter the whole truck has been initially cleaned, then sanded, a final cleaning takes place and the vehicle is ready to be masked.

In this step, every part of the car that shouldn’t be touched by paint is covered and protected.

Remember, you will be using high-grade automotive paint that doesn’t wash off with water. Cover your windows, every light and reflector, all window rubbers, all chrome, tires, wheels, door handles, wipers.. take a good look at what needs to be masked.

If you don’t want even the tiniest bit of over spray on it, cover it up! The tools and materials needed for masking are available at automotive supply warehouses, hardware stores and online.


paint job primerPriming is an essential step to providing a good foundation for your new paint. A flawless prime coat will help you to achieve a perfect paint job. Valspar epoxy is a good primer choice, combining dependable filling capabilities with minimal shrinking.

After the primer has been applied, a second coat in a contrasting colour should be applied on top of the first layer. This will serve as a sanding guide. The primer should be sanded to a smooth finish, but don’t sand too vigorously or you could actually damage the body of the car. When the priming is complete, a sealer is applied and a final sanding takes place.

How to prime your truck and mistakes to avoid

In this video, we show you common mistakes in priming your truck so you do not have to do it twice and how to prime your truck the right way, the first time.

Finishing off

In finishing off your trucks painting, it is essential to achieve uniform colour. The spray gun should be held ten to twelve inches away from the body to avoid streaks and runs. This is necessary when applying the basecoat, final coat and clear coat.

Regardless of the type of truck you drive, a new paint job can turn it into a real showstopper.

Truck Bass Paint Job

Pickup truck painting can be a time consuming task, but you can do it if you take it step by step. The creative energy will be good for your soul, and the compliments you receive will be great for your confidence.

Painting a truck Gangnam Style

This is actually the easiest step in painting a truck and what more could you want than a time-lapse video with Gangnam Style track.  It just works, check it out!

HVLP Spray Paint Guns

HVLP stands for high-volume, low pressure. They are more efficient and cause less over spray than standard spray paint guns.

If you do a lot of spray finishing, an HVLP spray paint gun can save you money over the long run because you will use less paint. You can use your shop air compressor’s powerful air output to run a spray paint gun.

HVLP Spray Paint GunsA trigger operated spray paint gun takes paint or finish and mixes it with high pressure air. The paint is atomized and sprayed out in a cone shape to produce a neat and controllable pattern. An experienced painter can produce very nice finishes smoothly and with a professional look.

HVLP spray guns are widely used in automotive shops to produce factory quality finishes.

Its all about the finish

Most HVLP spray paint guns allow you to change out nozzles for different types of finishes. Examples are lacquer, stains, paint and varnishes. However, thick latex paints are not advisable. (You can’t use your HVLP spray paint gun to paint the house.)

Most spray guns have a 1 quart cup that attaches below the nozzle and others have a top mounted cup. These are referred to as gravity feed spray paint guns. HVLP spray paint guns require large amounts of air to operate for continuous spraying. The paint gun manufacturer should tell you in the specs how much air is required to operate their gun.

One important thing to be aware of is that HVLP sprayers cause lots of over spray and will make a mess.

Protection is always advisable!

safety firstIt is very important to wear paint coveralls, breathing protection and eye protection. Also, masking and wheel covers are important to protect the car you are painting.

HVLP spray paint guns are not precision instruments. It is more like a shot gun approach to painting. They are very good at applying a professional finish but they also blow paint everywhere.

Body protection is very important when using HVLP sprayers. You can get away with minimal protection when painting a room in your house, but with these tools you need to make sure your whole body is well covered before you begin spraying.

As they put out so much and in such fine mist, breathing protection is absolutely mandatory. Tiny droplets of paint will be suspended in the air and you will inhale them without a respirator mask on.








Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: