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[Guide] Painting Patterns (with Spraypaint)

24910 Views 30 Replies 16 Participants Last post by  VulcanX
I'm gonna throw this up here after getting a few requests to post a guide showing how I painted my case for my Urban Recon Case Mod.

Linky: [Completed] Urban Recon

To begin with, this type of painting is not just limited to camo designs. Any design you can draw up can be applied to your case. It just takes a little creativity and lots and lots of patience.

I decided on a digital camo design for my case which is probably one of the more difficult designs being that the patterns need to be at right angles to each other and thus, precision and patience are key.

The first key to any good paint job is Preparation.

Use common sense and prepare your work area. Use drop cloths and tape up stuff you don't want paint to get on.

Preparation also includes purchasing the correct supplies -
  • Good quality bonding primer (I used gray primer as one of my colors)
  • If doing multiple colors, choose a flat NON-ENAMEL paint (it will simply say 'Flat')
  • Clear Coat in the finish of your choice (flat enamel, matte, satin, semi-gloss, high gloss)
  • Sandpapers (220-400 for prep sanding / 600 for paint sanding / 800, 1000, 1500, 2000 for color sanding)
  • Sanding Block
  • A spraycan handle to make it easier on your fingers
  • Rubbing Compound for finishing the clear coat
  • Light finishing compound / cleaner wax for the last finishing touch
  • Cotton terry towels / microfiber towels

You'll want to sand down any glossy surfaces and possibly even sand off all the existing paint from whatever surface you want to paint. Sanding off all the paint is not a 100% necessary step although it will yield better finished results. As long as you use a QUALITY bonding primer, you only need to remove any rough areas as well as gloss. This guide is geared toward the average user who is just going for a good looking paintjob and not a masterpiece.

320 Grit or even 220 grit can be used to remove glossy finishes with ease. If using 220 grit you should follow up with a 400 grit paper to smooth out some of the coarse scratches the 220 leaves behind.

Be sure to remove all dust from your surfaces. A damp paper towel or tack cloth work well for this.

Once your sanding is done you ready for the next step...


You'll need to mask areas you don't want painted. (Front panel LEDs, screens, gadgets, small screw holes, wires, etc)

Using a high quality painter's tape is a good idea. Scotch Blue Painter's tape is good for this step. (I used the super low tack purple Scotch Painter's tape)

An easy way to tape up intricate areas is to lay tape over the entire area and go back over with an exacto knife, trimming the edges. (Thats what I did below)

Once your work area is prepped and your parts are prepped your ready for your primer coat.

Remember, with spray paint a few light coats is always better than a one heavy coat.

Lay your parts out to be primed

Apply your primer

Be sure to follow the instructions pretaining to drying times when applying multiple coats. I applied 2 coats of primer.

Drying times are as follows for Rustoleum Painters Touch:
  • Dries to the touch in 20 minutes
  • Can be handled in 1 hour
  • Fully Dry in 24 hours
  • If recoating, recoat within 1 hour or wait 24 hours before applying another coat
Stenciling 101

There are two different ways to use stencils to your advantage for this type of painting:

1) Applying 'male' stencils after the base coat has been applied and painting the second coat on. Anywhere that a stencil has been applied will allow the base coat to show through when removed. Repeat the process with multiple colors and coats to get the effect you want.

Example of a male stencil applied:

The stencils were cut out of 2" wide painters tape (super low tack) and took a LONG TIME to do. I had to draw (or trace) a pattern onto the painters tape and then cut out that pattern with an exacto knife.

Then, apply them, paint, wait for that to dry (FULLY) then apply more stencils and repeat. (Remember, lighter coats will make sanding easier!)

This way is the best (if you have the time) because you will get better results however, it takes the most time and patience since you have to cut stencils for each piece and for each coat.

An alternative is to purchase pre-cut adheasive stencils (which I would do next time if I had to do it again lol). Pre-cut adheasive stencils are available for painting just about anything but will be somewhat pricey. A pack of stencils to paint a paintball gun runs about $20. I probably would have needed 3 sets of those, tacking on another $60 to the cost of this project.

2) Using a 'female' stencil to apply patterns ontop of patterns. This entails cutting out a pattern, discarding the cutout portion and using the remaining 'female' design to apply the pattern in multiple positions and colors.

The second way is 'quick and dirty' since you will be painting patterns overtop of each other and can quickly fill in and balance out the pattern. This can be easily messed up since you will most likely be painting over some areas that are still wet. This can result in smearing. The best way to do this is apply a few patterns wait the 20 minutes and apply more patterns until you get the design you want. It may be quicker but you have to make sure the stencils stay in place and don't smear your painted patterns.

Now that you've got your pattern the way you like it, let the paint fully dry. I would recommend at least 24-48 hours (depending on humidity) before sanding the paint. The paint needs to be fully dry to sand because the colors could smear and or blend together if not fully dry.

Clear Coat Preparation

Now that the paint is completely dry, you can remove the adhesive stencils (if you used option 1 to do the patterns, if you used option 2 you can begin sanding the paint)

CAREFULLY remove the adhesive stencils exposing your pattern. You may still need to use a 'female' stencil to fill in or even out some areas. Areas that are taped up (LEDs, switches, control panels, etc.) don't need to be evened out since the tape/paint will be removed at the end.

Sanding the Paint

You will need to sand down imperfections in the paint such as drips, rubs, smears, lines where the stencils were. You can use 400-600 grit sandpaper to remove these imperfections. Any imperfections that don't get taken care of now will be MUCH MORE NOTICEABLE once the clearcoat is applied. Once again, be sure to remove all dust fromt the surface before continuing.

Applying Clearcoat

The clear coat I used dries pretty quickly and the instructions say you can recoat anytime after 30 minutes.

The best method I found was to apply a few light coats of clear, let it dry, then apply a few heavy coats of clear.

I applied 3 coats of clear coat until I could see it starting to build up a little bit. A quick sand with 800 grit sandpaper will provide some extra bite for the next heavy coat and remove any imperfections in the clear.

This next method only works when the parts are laying flat and *close to* level. I carefully applied a heavy coat of clear (enough to make the surface look very wet and glossy - this won't work if the parts are not flat, the clear will just run off). Then I let that dry for the recommended 30 minutes. As the clear dries it kind of self-levels and make a glossy finish in certain spots and a not-so-glossy finish in other spots. This is caused by imperfections in painting, parts not being level, wind, overspray, etc.

No cause for alarm though. A few more heavy coats will blend everything together and give you this:

In the above picture you can clearly (no pun intended
) see how the clearcoat has formed a nice glossy finish and is glossy throughout the piece. You can also see the 'orange peel' effect where the reflection of the sky and building meet. This is a normal effect of applying clearcoat and will be removed in the next step.

You will need to allow the clear to cure for a few days before beginning to remove the orange peel. (I waited 3 days)

Colorsanding the Clearcoat

Stuff you'll need:

800 - 2000 grit wet/dry sandpaper. You can find this at most automotive stores. I found mine at wallyworld (walmart) for $3 a pack. (5 sheets - one grit) I chose 800, 1000 and 2000 grit paper.

800 Grit removes orange peel pretty quickly. 1000 grit helps to remove the 800 grit scratches and 2000 grit helps the rubbing compound to work better.

You could also go with 1500 and 2000 grit if the orange peel isn't as pronounced.

Sanding block to get uniform sanding job..

You will also need a medium-to-light rubbing compound. This will remove swirl marks and fine scratches and help polish your clearcoat.

*And when you're done your case you can polish your car's clearcoat!

You really really should wet sand during this step. The water helps to keep the paper from clogging and makes the process easier.

After sanding with the 800, you should notice the orange peel start to come off. If you hold the piece at an angle to a light source you will see the 'dimples' as the orange peel is removed, then no dimples as the orange peel is completely gone. Now you can swtich to 1000 grit then to 2000 grit (still wetsanding)

Patience is the key here, the more effort you put into this step, the better it will look after polishing.

Now wipe off your pieces with a damp paper towel and then dry completely with a cotton towel or microfiber cloth.

Follow the instructions for applying your rubbing compound. I used a quarter size drop on the piece and then polished in a circular motion until the compound was dry. (turning the cloth or using a clean cloth to assist in the drying).

A final buff with a microfiber cloth and voila!

You can clearly see the reflection of the lamp and lightswitch with no noticeable orange peel.

You will now need to wait a few weeks before applying a hard wax finish.

You can apply the same techniques for finishing flat enamel, matte, satin and semi-gloss. The only difference will be the degree of refelection you get. Colorsanding just makes the surface ultra-smooth and doesn't increase or decrease the degree of reflection.

There you have it, a do-it-yourself spray-painted case with a decent finish to boot!

Have fun!

*Edit - If I missed anything super-important, let me know!
1 - 20 of 31 Posts

· Registered
1,214 Posts
Amazing job.Great!
  • Rep+
Reactions: Swiftes

· Premium Member
7,133 Posts
great guide man! amazing paint job.

· Premium Member
5,723 Posts
nice +rep. Question, can denatured alcohol be used in place of rubbing compound?

· Premium Member
4,941 Posts
nice +rep. Question, can denatured alcohol be used in place of rubbing compound?
Well no because the rubbing compound is not used to clean it is used to bring out a shine and "rub" away faint scratches..rubbing compound is a very fine abrasive.

· Premium Member
3,975 Posts
Discussion Starter · #10 ·

Originally Posted by theCanadian View Post
nice +rep. Question, can denatured alcohol be used in place of rubbing compound?
The rubbing compound is key to bridging the gap between the 2000 grit sanding and the final polishing.

I used a medium rubbing compound. You can use a medium -> light -> ultra fine rubbing compounds for the ultimate finish. Each one is a finer and finer grit eventually polishing out any scratches that you could see with the naked eye.

A cleaner wax is a wax and cleaner (ultra-fine mild abrasive) which helps to reduce any tiny marks and provide a wax finish.

Standard finishing wax is just that.

There are plenty of types of finishes you can use after the rubbing compound. Some polishes/waxes say they will go a year without another application but I find the best thing to use is good old paste wax.

The only thing i've found thats better than standard Turtle wax (paste) is Turtle Wax's synthetic paste wax. It's phenominal! (Although it's $16 a can

· Premium Member
4,896 Posts
Very nice guide!

We'll have to get this added to the modders manual.

· Premium Member
3,975 Posts
Discussion Starter · #14 ·

Originally Posted by Pao
View Post

Very awesome man. I'm going to have to sticky this thread for myself, as I want to paint someday as well.

Great job, case look absolutely stunning!

Thanks! I'm quite pleased with the results

· Registered
496 Posts
Excelllent comprehensive guide, this guide takes the mystery out of painting letters and designs into your paint. Great job. +

· Premium Member
5,723 Posts

I thought about doing that .... huge amount of time need to do it right. I kneel before you.

· Premium Member
3,975 Posts
Discussion Starter · #20 ·

Originally Posted by theCanadian
View Post


I thought about doing that .... huge amount of time need to do it right. I kneel before you.

Haha mine's hardly done "right", more like "quick and dirty"

Thanks for the compliment though
1 - 20 of 31 Posts
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