The Fundamentals of Painting A Motorcycle

Painting the motorcycle is a process within a process.

Before we get into specifics with aerosol and spray gun paint, lets talk basics for a minute.

Fundamentally, painting your bike is about getting the correct amount of paint onto your bike using consistent, even layers.

Read that again, because if you can simply focus on this one outcome you can get good results without much practice.

This video is a great intro to auto painting, which is very similar to motorcycle painting. Take a look and get to know some of the concepts. They share some great tips:

A great paint job does have a lot of different variables:

  • Ambient temperature
  • Humidity
  • Use of Primer
  • Clearcoat
  • angle, speed, and amount of paint applied in each pass
  • and more

Types of Motorcycle Paints

In the world of Motorcycle Paints there are 2 types: 2 stage and 3 Stage. The main difference between the 2 is that 3 stage paints use a basecoat-midcoat system to produce a specific color, where as 2 stage is simply a single basecoat color. Both types require a clear coat over the top, the final "stage" in the 2 or 3 stage paint process.

2 Stage Paints:

2 stage paint is a step of from the old single-stage paints. 2 stage paints separate the color from the clear stage, making the clear finish much better quality. This allows you to get a good uniform basecoat applied before adding the protective clear on top.

3 Stage Paints:

3 stage paint has more depth than a 2 stage, and can appear as almost multi-colored. This effect is accomplished by the 3 layers of basecoat/midcoat/clearcoat that use an almost translucent color in the midcoat to achieve different tones. The middle layers can have an additional color and/or pearl dust, mica and metallic flakes that can allow light to be reflected off of the base coat and the various elements differently than if the same elements were simply mixed together in regular paint. The midcoat color changes the color of the basecoat, and adds the sparkle or color shifting effect of the pearl, metal or mica flake.

Reproducing an exact match of a 3 stage paint is almost impossible. Slight variation in any of the three different processes can result in major differences in the finished paint job!

Always do a sprayout!

A SPRAYOUT!!! A sprayout can save everyone a lot of time, money and frustration. It takes five minutes, but can save hours. Here's how to do it:

A sprayout is the very most important thing you can do before painting your vehicle. It helps determine how much paint you need, how to apply the paint, and gives you a feel for using the paint. You cannot expect good results without first doing a sprayout.

Motorcycle paint shop

A sprayout is simply testing the color before you apply it to the actual repair job. If you are using a touch-up pen, just test the color on a piece of scrap you may have lying around. If the color takes a base color, test the entire application. Make sure you feel comfortable before attempting the actual repair by practicing the entire application.

If you are using any method of spraying the color, test the color on a sprayout card or on anything that you can accurately see the color. A piece of scrap metal is perfect for this if you do not have access to a spray-out card. Remember, you have to apply the clear too. It won't look the same without it.

If you are sending your parts and paint to a body shop, make sure they are willing to do a sprayout. Any body shop worth its weight will automatically perform a sprayout, but make sure they do it. Also, bring them a part of the vehicle with you so that they can obtain a proper match when the do the spraying. A body shop cannot be expected to match a color when they do not know what it looks like.

Here is how ProSpray does its sprayouts:

You can learn more about using aerosol motorcycle paint or using a spray gun to paint your bike.