If you’ve just bought or built your first Radio-Controlled vehicle and all that’s left to do is paint it, you’re probably looking at all the different types of paint and techniques available and are wondering which one is ideal. Brush-applied or sprayed? Enamel or acrylic? There are quite a few decisions you’ll have to make when deciding on the best RC body paint and technique for you. The most common way to apply paint to your RC vehicle is by brushing it or spraying it. Most experienced hobbyists use a combination of painting techniques, depending on which parts they’re painting.
For overall body painting, you’ll get the best results with acrylic and enamel paints. Both of these paints bond well to a variety of materials, including hard plastic, metal, fiberglass, Lexan, and carbon-fiber. Acrylics are easier to thin, dry faster and they don’t release toxic fumes. Enamel, on the other hand, takes longer to dry and releases some toxic fumes, but it also imparts a smooth finish even when brushed on. If your RC body is made of Lexan, you’ll definitely want to stick with enamel and acrylic paints. Lexan is a tough material for modeling, and it’s commonly used due to its exceptional durability. If you use any other type of paint on Lexan besides acrylic and enamel, it will probably crack and flake off.
And while you can use a brush to apply body paint, this method is reserved for detail work like lettering, pin-striping, numbering, etc. This is due to the fact that getting a glossy and smooth finish is almost impossible, which is what you want when you’re using RC body paint. Spray paint is for ensuring a smooth and even finish on the RC vehicle. There are many different spray paint options, ranging from inexpensive bottles to bottles that are priced at over $20. Most of the time, even the more affordable options are great, with the most popular RC spray paint manufacturers being Tamiya and Pectra.
Spray painting is one of the most easy-to-learn RC body paint methods that will give you fast and great results. There are many different types of spray paints available, but most enthusiasts recommend using products made specifically for use on Lexan or other polycarbonate plastics. While other types of paint may provide decent results, you should probably not risk it and stick for paints made for plastic RC bodies from the aforementioned brands.
But before you use spray paint, you need to prepare the body of your RC vehicle in order to make sure it looks good and lasts for a long time. In order to do that, you should clean the body thoroughly using warm, soapy water, then make sure it dries properly. Handle the body from the outside at all times to prevent oils from your hands touching the surface about to be painted. Even minimum amounts of oil can prevent the paint from sticking to the body. If the paint is made for Lexan, it will probably adhere better to the RC body if you scuff it. Use steel wool or fine sandpaper to lightly scratch the surface about to be painted. However, be careful as to not scuff areas of the RC body, like the windows, which aren’t going to be painted, so the scratches will show.
Further, make sure you properly shake the spray can before spraying paint. Contrary to what many people think, this is incredibly important in achieving an even and opaque finish that all RC owners strive for. Additionally, make sure the paint is warmed, which you can do with the help of warm water. But make sure the water is warm and not hot, otherwise, the can could explode. In order to avoid sudden splatters and spurts, and to ensure you’re applying appropriate pressure, start by spraying away from the vehicle onto some paper or cardboard.
When spraying, don’t try to cover the entire surface in one coat. Instead, spray a very thin, light coat. Let it dry, then add another thin, light coat, and then another, and do that as many times until you get the coverage you want. Generally, four or five thin coats are better than two thick coats of paint, as there will be less chance of the paint running and bleeding under the masked areas. This will also prevent the paint from flaking or chipping when dry. Many enthusiasts recommend having the first few layers thin and light, while the laters can be slightly thicker.
If your can is slowly getting emptier, don’t try to get every last drop of paint out of it, as much as that may sound wasteful. The last few sprays usually come out in uneven spurts and that can ruin your paint job before you’re even done with it. Instead, what you can do with that paint is use it for small spots that could do with a touch-up after the paint on the body has completely dried. Just spray some paint in a small container and use a brush to carefully touch up missed spots. However, don’t do this before the sprayed paint is completely dried, or you just risk making a big mess.