Answers to all of the questions you might have when painting your bike
Is one can of paint enough to cover a whole bike?
One 400ml can of paint will cover a typical frame and fork without problems if you apply it with proper technique needed for Spray.Bike. Be sure to consult the spray distance recommendations and base coat recommendations for each color as spray distances vary greatly. Spray.Bike recommends a base coat (either white metal primer, Marylebone, or Whitechapel) if you are painting with any of the Fluro colors.
Do I need to disassemble the bike before painting?
Yes. You will want to remove all the parts and mask off any areas where a part goes back on the bike.
How do I hang the bike while painting?
Spray.Bike recommends finding some way of suspending the frame so that you can paint it without having to set it down. Various methods will work: a bike stand, a rope through the head tube hanging from a tree or garage rafters. Make sure you access all areas of the frame. Get creative if necessary.
How many coats of paint is best?
More paint is not better and too much paint will make your finish less durable. Spray.Bike recommends that you use the minimal amount of paint to get the job done. Unless otherwise noted on the product page, one coat of paint is recommended. A coat being one layer of paint (not one entire can) with a trip back to cover any light spots are areas that were missed. They recommend painting the bike and letting it sit for about 30 minutes. Take it into different light and touch up any light spots. You do not need to add more layers if there is good coverage.
I have an old metal bike I want to re-paint, do I need to strip my bike down to the bare metal before painting?
Compared to chemical stripping off all the old factory, painting over an existing paint job is preferable both in terms of both prep work and durability of the new paint job. A sanded factory paint job will act as a primer. Chemical strippers can leave a residue that prevents Spray.Bike from properly adhering. Sand blasting is an acceptable way to remove old paint, however you will want to use a primer (Metal Primer or Cold-Zinc Primer) as your first coat.
How do I prep a metal bike?
All bikes are different and Spray.Bike encourages you to do some independent research before you start. Generally, they suggest prepping metal frames by wet sanding with about 220 grit sandpaper. The goal is to provide a rough, clean old coat of factory paint for the new paint to adhere to without exposing the raw metal. Basically, the sanded factory paint acts like a primer. Spray.Bike recommends cleaning your frame with rubbing alcohol before you paint. Never use acetone or an acetone based cleaner on your bike and never use rubbing alcohol over Spray.Bike.
How do I prep a carbon bike?
All bikes are different and Spray.Bike encourages you to do some independent research before you start. Generally, they recommend prepping your painted carbon bike by wet sanding with 600 grit. The goal is to provide a rough, clean old coat of factory paint for the new paint to adhere to without exposing the raw carbon. Spray.Bike recommends cleaning your frame with rubbing alcohol to clean before you paint. Never use acetone or an acetone based cleaner on your bike and never use rubbing alcohol over Spray.Bike paint. Applying one light coat of Carbon Primer after the frame has been sanded and cleaned can help with durability and adhesion.
What grit sandpaper should I use?
All bikes are different and Spray.Bike encourages you to do some independent research before you start. Generally, they suggest prepping metal frames by wet sanding with about 300 grit for metal bikes and wet sanding carbon with 600 grit for carbon bikes. The goal is to provide a rough, clean old coat of paint for the new paint to adhere to without exposing the raw metal or carbon. Spray.Bike recommends cleaning your frame with rubbing alcohol to clean the bike before you paint. Never use acetone or an acetone based cleaner on your bike.
How do I know if I need primer?
You only need Metal Primer (aluminum or steel) / Cold Zinc (steel) if you are down to the exposed metal. You only need Carbon Primer if you are painting over raw carbon fiber or a resin composite frameset. If your bike is prepped for paint and still has the factory paint, you do not need primer. If you bike has some exposed metal after sanding and some original factory paint, Spray.Bike recommends priming the entire frame.
My steel frame has some rusty spots, how do I deal with that?
The best thing to do is to sand down the rusty areas, starting with steel wool (or similar) and working to about 300 grit sandpaper. Try to remove as much of the rust as possible. Ideally you want that area rust free and smooth with the rest of the frame. Clean with soap and water and wipe down with rubbing alcohol. Spray.Bike recommends a coat of Cold-Zinc Primer to help prevent further rust from developing. If that rusted area is still rough after sanding and priming, you can use Spray.Bike’s Smoothing Putty to help build up the area / sand back so its smooth with the rest of the frame.
Can I use Spray.Bike to paint my mountain bike?
Absolutely. Although Spray.Bike is an amazing consumer spray paint, it is still spray paint and, especially on a mountain bike, expect it to get scratched up. Chain slap on a mountain bike can be particularly difficult on paint jobs, use of a chain stay protector can help protect the frame from rapid wear.
What is the correct distance from the frame to spray?
- Solid colors: spray surface from a distance of 2-4 inches
- Pocket Clears, Frame Builder’s Smoothing Putty, Frame Builder’s Transparent Finish, Frame Builder’s Cold-Zinc, Frame Builder’s Metal Primer, Frame Builder’s Carbon Primer, Frame Builder's Metal Plating: spray surface from a distance of at least 8 inches
- Keirin Flake and Keirin Sunlight: spray surface from a distance of at least 12 inches
- Frame Builder’s Top Wax: Spray onto a paper towel or soft lint-free cloth and apply gently
How long should I wait between coats of Top Coat?
Drying times vary on product, how thick the paint was applied, temperature and humidity. Generally, Spray.Bike suggests 7 days before building the bike in order to let the top coat cure. They suggest 2 to 24 hours dry time between Top Coats. Cooler temperatures, thicker paint and humid conditions will increase drying times.
Fluros seem tricky to work with, any tips?
The Fluros are a little tricky to work with due to their high powder content. The biggest mistake people make with them is painting too far away. You want to get nice and close, 2-3 inches from the frame. This seems too close, so practice a bit first to get the feel. Spray.Bike suggests trying to make it drip to see where that point is. If you are getting a rough, orange peel effect, it means the paint is basically drying before it hits the frame. It could be too hot (check website for details) or you are painting too far away. They also suggest a light colored base coat (Metal Primer, Cold-Zinc Primer, or any of the light colored paints) to help the bright color pop. Additionally, rubbing the paint down with parchment paper about 20-30mins after you paint will help compress the paint.
A few tricks to working with the Fluros:
- Make sure you shake the can for 3 full min, you need to be able to hear the ball inside moving around freely
- Optimal temperature for Fluros is between 55-65° Fahrenheit (Do not paint when it is over 75°)
- Sometimes the cans spray gunk for the first few seconds, shake it again for a few seconds and then spray again until you get a nice flow of color
- The biggest mistake people make is that they paint too far away. practice spraying 2-4 inches from a wall or other object to the feel of the spray distance before starting on the frame
- Always spray out first to get a nice flow going before spraying the frame
- If the paint gets "spitty" shake the can for a few seconds and get a nice flow going again against a wall or other test object before taking it back to the frame
- Keep the can upright while you spray as much as possible. It doesn't like to spray upside down, so flip the frame while you are painting, not the can
- Paint one nice coat, let is sit and come back to in in about 30 min to see if you have any light spots, ideally under different light conditions (take it outside or inside) Touch up the light spots if necessary
- 20-30 min after you finish painting rub the frame down with parchment paper to smooth and compress the paint
- A few coats of Top Coat and smoothing out the finish help the fluro color pop
- Flip the can upside down and spray until the paint stops coming out to clean the can after each time you paint. you don't have to do this in between every time you spray, just if you are finished painting and going to leave it for longer than a day
Do I need to sand in between coats?
You don’t but you can. If you do, Spray.Bike recommends a fine grade sandpaper and being careful not to blend colors together.
Help, my nozzle is clogged!
This does happen, remove the nozzle from the can and scratch off the dried paint on the outside of the nozzle. Replace the nozzle on the can, shake the can well and see if you can get it spraying. Sometimes you need to hold the nozzle down to see if you can get the cogged paint to blow through. This is usually enough to get the paint spraying again. If that doesn’t work, you can swap the nozzles from other Spray.Bike cans so long as they are the same color.
Can the Keirins be used as a top coat?
Yes! The Keirin is Transparent Gloss Top Coat but with suspended bits of metallic colored flakes (in the Flake) or glass dust (in the Sunlight), so it is great as a top coat. Generally, Spray.Bike suggests 7 days before building the bike in order to let the Keirin top coat cure.
Can I use Spray.Bike Top Coat to protect my raw frame?
Spray.Bike’s understanding of using clear coat over raw steel is that it is nearly impossible to permanently prevent rust, and their clear coat certainly won't entirely do that. It will definitely slow down the development of rust however, and if you are willing to intermittently brush out some rust and re-spray clear it will probably remain a cool looking finish. They recommend sandblasting or sanding with a somewhat coarse grit and cleaning with rubbing alcohol (never acetone) before spraying.
Can I paint over a powder coated frame?
Probably. However, it can be difficult to get a powder coated frame well prepped for painting, especially if it has a hard clear powder on top. If you can get the frame sandblasted, that’s best. If not Spray.Bike recommends sanding through the top coat, making sure the frame is roughed up and well cleaned for the best chance of adhesion.
Can I paint a raw titanium bike?
Titanium is a wonderful material for bikes, however, it is notoriously difficult to get paint to adhere to it. Theoretically, Spray.Bike should work as well as any type of paint, as in the end it is composed of pigment and an emulsifier (just in combinations that work well for a spray paint.) The question is really about what type of preparation is needed for any paint to adhere to titanium, and that is where Spray.Bike doesn't have a good answer. There are various etching processes that are recommended to get titanium ready for paint, but Spray.Bike doesn't have direct experience. From working with steel and aluminum, they assume that sand blasting is a good prep for the underlying surface as that seems best with the other materials. Primer usually helps with the other materials too, so that is probably a safe bet to maximize performance. The bottom line is that it will likely work as well as any other paint, but the durability may be unsatisfactory.
Can I use Spray.Bike to paint other bike components?
Yes is the short answer. Painting metal parts can be a little tricky though, as there are a wide variety of finishes that are commonly employed in component manufacture. Many parts are anodized alloy, which is a surface that is quite difficult to get paint to adhere to. Others are polished, which also leaves a slippery surface. With a bit of prep work, mostly careful sanding and cleaning, you can probably get paint to adhere to most aluminum parts. Durability is another question though, as parts often take even more abuse than the frame/fork, and painting components often results in difficulties with durability. Spray.Bike recommends using their Metal Primer before painting and being ok with a little trial and error.
Can I use your paint on plastic or fiberglass?
Yes, but the durability depends to some degree on how flexible the plastic is. Spray.Bike recommends sanding and cleaning the surface first and applying a coat of Carbon Primer to act as an adhesive helper and to help in allowing the paint to flex without it cracking.
I want a design on my bike. How long should I wait before adding paint masking?
Spray.Bike recommends making sure the paint is fully cured (~2 hours) before adding any sort of adhesive. That said, if you can wait longer, that's better. 24 hours is amazing, so letting it sit overnight is great.
What sort of masking do you recommend?
Spray.Bike recommends using the yellow 3M Automotive Refinishing Masking Tape. If you have digital designs you want to have made, they suggest calling your local sign shop and seeing if they can print your design on High Bake Paint vinyl or a low-tack vinyl. You can use stickers but sometimes the adhesive can be very strong and leave adhesive residue or pull the paint if not fully cured.
What if I mess up?
You might mess up. It's okay. It's not the end of the world and we make mistakes too. There are lots of ways to make mistakes when painting a bike, especially if you have never done it before, but there are also lots of ways to fix it. Spray.Bike doesn't think that should prevent you from a fun creative endeavor and making the bike your own. Generally, if something gets messed up (you touch the frame when it's wet, the masking pulls, you get a drip in your clear coat, the paint ends up textured or you just decide you want to start over) there are ways to make it right. Often times, it means sanding down the area that needs fixing, masking off other areas and painting it over again.
How long should I wait before building the bike?
Spray.Bike suggests 7 days before building the bike in order to let the top coat cure. Again, this varies. Thicker paint, especially top coats and Keirins, increase curing time as does temperature and humidity. Generally, the longer you can give it to cure, the better.
Can I return the bike back to its original factory paint job after I paint it?
You can lightly sand the paint off, but you will not be able to take the frame back to its original condition.
Anything else to know?
It's common sense, but it's smart to be cautious with breathing paint fumes. We use respirators and always paint in well ventilated areas. Be careful with temperature and humidity ranges as this can affect paint adhesion and performance more than almost anything. Don't paint when it's hot, moderately cold, or raining or humid. Be ready for your DIY project to come out totally awesome, but rarely exactly will it turn out exactly how you expect it. Now have some fun painting your bike!