How To Prep Your Car For Paint

Paint Preparation Prevents The Need For Costly Paint Correction

By Chris Shelton   –   Photography By Brian Brennan, Glenn Sinon & Chadly Johnson

If you’re like me, you learned that masking keeps color from going places where it wasn’t supposed to go. If that’s the case, we have great news: You’re right.

- Advertisement -
02 Ackman begins by back taping the backside of the cowl’s pinch weld
Ackman begins by back taping the backside of the cowl’s pinch weld. The adhesive side faces forward.

But if that’s all you thought masking was good for, you’re only half right: Masking also protects the surfaces that you’re painting. If you’ve ever blown dust into a freshly painted surface while spraying rockers or ’jambs, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Read More: A Legendary Candy Paint Job On This Special 1959 Thunderbird

03 He then back taped the windshield opening
He then back taped the windshield opening. Yes, we know this is a back window. Use your imagination to see it as a windshield.

“So, masking has two folds to it,” collision-tech instructor and former PPG rep Glenn Sinon says. “One is that you do not want the paint that you are spraying to go where it shouldn’t go. You’re trying to mask everything off so that none of it gets on any other surface. But masking also prevents the sprayed paint from dislodging dust and debris that settles in a vehicle during construction,” he adds. “I don’t care how much cleaning and scrubbing and blowing that you do, you never get it all. Whatever you don’t get ends up in the paint you just sprayed.”

- Advertisement -
04 Then Hill and Ackman pulled a sheet of plastic masking film up over the top of the windshield
Then Hill and Ackman pulled a sheet of plastic masking film up over the top of the windshield.

Read More: Edog Design’s Traditional Lowrider Truck Goes Hard in the Paint

We reached out to a few shops renowned for their finish quality to show us just how they employ masking to protect painted surfaces. They include the Hot Rods By Dean crew (Ken Hill and Ken “Spike” Ackman) who prepped the 1965 Chevelle, Tony Curiel at MetalWorks Classics and Restoration in Eugene, Oregon, who prepped the 1955 Chevy,  and Sinon who showed us how he masked his 1972 Maverick for graphics.

05 Ackman then trimmed around the perimeter of the windshield
Pressing the film into the tape locks it in place. Ackman then trimmed around the perimeter of the windshield.

Read More: Inflatable Spray Booth Makes it Easier To Paint Like a Pro

“By doing a lot of very effective masking and taping you can minimize the amount of debris that ends up in your paint,” he maintains. “The less debris that lands in your paint, the better the job will turn out and the less work you’ll have to do.

- Advertisement -
06 Hill introduced the film to the tape he applied to the cowl then trimmed everything
Instead of letting the remainder of the film drop, the pair taped it to the cowl. Hill introduced the film to the tape he applied to the cowl, then trimmed everything. That effectively seals the cowl, engine compartment, and front suspension, aka the holy trinity of dust collectors.
07 Hill repeated the back taping technique this time around the door opening
Hill repeated the back taping technique, this time around the door opening.
08 He then chased the perimeter with more paper tape
He then chased the perimeter with more paper tape. This isolates the inside of the door and the door’s jamb from the perilously dusty interior.
09 Taping the door openings effectively seals the interior of the car from the exterior
Taping the door openings effectively seals the interior of the car from the exterior yet lets the door shut entirely to facilitate long, consistent strokes.
10 We don’t have photos showing it but Hill and Ackman also masked the entire bottom of the car
We don’t have photos showing it, but Hill and Ackman also masked the entire bottom of the car. They also ran the masking to the floor to prevent kicking up dust from under the car.
11 They masked the back window and trunk opening using the same technique that they employed on the cowl and windshield
They masked the back window and trunk opening using the same technique that they employed on the cowl and windshield. This effectively isolates the areas intended for paint. It also makes cleanup a whole hell of a lot easier (potentially no overspray!).
12 Here at MetalWorks the 1955 Chevy began with an entirely stripped body shell so no need for bagging
Here at MetalWorks the 1955 Chevy began with an entirely stripped body shell, so no need for bagging. Instead, he masked off every penetration through the firewall.
13 Then following suit on the interior by masking every hole in the dash
Then following suit on the interior by masking every hole in the dash.
14 Instead he masked the floor and interior roof
Tony Curiel didn’t tape off the door openings because the dash needed color, too. Instead, he masked the floor and interior roof.
15 Rather than try to clean the underside perfectly Curiel just masked the area as he did elsewhere
The chassis may not be there, but the bottom of this shell inevitably picked up heaps of dust since it was finished. Rather than try to clean the underside perfectly, Curiel just masked the area as he did elsewhere.
16 Overspray really doesn’t matter on the inside of a door especially if it gets skinned with insulation
Overspray really doesn’t matter on the inside of a door, especially if it gets skinned with insulation. But any air blown into the door is likely to displace dust, which inevitably ends up in the finish. So, he masked those holes, too.
17 Doubling the paint thickness impairs the film’s toughness a bad deal on the more vulnerable edges
Doubling the paint thickness impairs the film’s toughness, a bad deal on the more vulnerable edges. So, Curiel isolated the hood’s sides and painted them separately.
18 Just as Curiel did he also masked the entire trunk
Just as Curiel did, he also masked the entire trunk. But instead of bagging it, he masked the various surfaces. That maintains access to the underside of the pinch weld.
19 Now the paint can be blown off with impunity
Don’t forget to mask your fixtures, like this rotisserie. Now the paint can be blown off with impunity.

Glenn Sinon’s entry differs from the others in that he’s shooting graphics over a cleared-and-sand finish. But the fundamentals remain largely the same: Keep the new paint from going where it shouldn’t and protect it from what’s liable to be blown in from the rest of the body.

His is a next-level technique that makes it easier to apply, alter, and remove masking. First, he tapes off the hard lines (where the paint ends) with vinyl. But then he overlaps most of that tape with a wider strip of paper tape. The reason? It’s a lot easier to land the masking film on a wide line than it is on a narrow one. That way he can remove masking separately from the tape that defines the edge.

20 Sinon laid out his graphics in blue and green vinyl tape
Sinon laid out his graphics in blue and green vinyl tape: green to define the outermost edge and blue to define the implied pinstripe as Ford did on its Grabber Mavericks
21 Then he overlapped part of the green vinyl tape with a strip of wide yellow paper tape
Then he overlapped part of the green vinyl tape with a strip of wide yellow paper tape.
22 Finally he brought the masking film up to the fatter yellow tape line
Finally, he brought the masking film up to the fatter yellow tape line. It’s much easier to land the masking to a wide strip of tape than to a narrow one like the vinyl tape.
23 He completely bagged the engine bay then used the same taping technique to isolate the cowl for its graphics
He completely bagged the engine bay, then used the same taping technique to isolate the cowl for its graphics.
24 The white tape and some blue vinyl tape define the graphics
He repeated the technique for the rocker stripes. The white tape and some blue vinyl tape define the graphics; the yellow paper tape merely increases the size of the target for the masking film.
25 Sinon bagged the entire body then just as he did on the cowl cut out the area that he wanted to expose to paint
Sinon bagged the entire body then, just as he did on the cowl, cut out the area that he wanted to expose to paint.
26 Just for giggles this is how Sinon masked the interior It’s almost too nice to tear out!
Just for giggles, this is how Sinon masked the interior. It’s almost too nice to tear out!

Is All Masking Tape The Same? Paper vs Plastic

Shop for Masking Tape and you’ll face two choices: paper or plastic—and neither material is objectively better than the other. The only thing that has the potential to make one better than the other is the application.

Historically speaking, paper was the gold standard for masking films. It’s a renewable and recyclable material that just happens to isolate surfaces very well.

Paper Masking Tape

Paper-based masking film isn’t just paper, though; manufacturers coat it, usually with polyethylene or polypropylene to block solvents from bleeding through. MetalWorks uses Norton’s Paint Check, which has a surface treatment that attracts paint and holds it from flaking off.

Plastic Masking Tape

Poly-based films dispense with the paper entirely. These gossamer-thin films readily conform with very little effort. Because these films unfold into tarp-sized sheets, they can cover a vehicle entirely.

“I grew up in a body shop so I’m a plastic guy,” Glenn says. “With the paper, you end up with a lot of folds. Well, those folds are gonna trap dust that blows back out when air hits it, thereby making your finish that much dustier.

“This stuff also has a coating on one side so you can spray right onto it and everything sticks.”

Yet Glenn used a paper-based film for the interior masking. “In the interior it was a lot easier to use the paper. I could rip a 6-foot section of it and push it in there,” he says. “Trying to bag all that with plastic sheeting would’ve been a nightmare.” MR

- Advertisement -

Related Articles

Search Our Site

More Modern Rodding

2024 Barrett-Jackson Cup Top Five Finalist Revealed – 1960 Buick Invicta

From the Cal Auto Creations Comes Muti-Award Winning X60...

Modering Rodding News: GUNIWHEEL, X-60 Buick Invicta, Giveaway at Triple Crown of Rodding

  GUNIWHEEL Supports Operative Talent GUNIWHEEL is proud to announce its...

2024 Barrett-Jackson Cup Top Five Finalist Revealed – 1968 Ford Mustang

From the Shop of East Bay Muscle Cars Comes...

David’s Dream 1938 Ford Coupe Build

David Burgard’s Good-Looking Hot Rod Ford Coupe By Dale Moreau ...

2024 Barrett-Jackson Cup First Look At Competitors

Country’s Best-Looking Hot Rods, Trucks, and More Compete For...

How To Fix Quarter Panel Rust

Patch Panel Install For Rust Repair on Your Vintage...
More Modern Rodding

2023 Triple Crown of Rodding Presented by PPG

It’s Where You Can See it All … Literally. By...

Rodding Around – Industry News

Shadow Rods Model T Named Goodguys’ Street Rod of...

Parting Shot: Lady Luck II The Iconic T-Bucket

The Legendary Lavender Pearl 1923 Ford Model T By Brian...

Classy Oldsmobile 442 Looks, With Modern LS Power

LS Swapped Rally Red 1970 Oldsmobile 442 Built By...

GM A-Body Coilover Conversion Guide

Aldan American Offers Bolt-On Coilover Kits For GM A-Bodies By...

Old Anvil Speed Shop Built Scudellari’s 1929 Ford Roadster

Building a Traditional AV8 By Ryan Manson   -   Photography By...