Planning is everything. Whether you are part of a complex team building a new skyscraper or doing something as simple as building a shed, planning will make the work flow more quickly and the process flow more smoothly. The same is true of painting your RC car. If you want a professional paint job, you don't need to be RC's answer to Salvador Dali, but you do need to plan your paint jobs. By planning, you can paint two, three or even 10 great-looking color paint jobs your first time out.

Words: John Hauser

So you have a new body. What will your car look like when it is done? That is all up to you. If you are a fan of touring cars (NASCAR, JTCC, JGTC, BTCC, WTCC, V8 Supercars) Prototype (ALMS, LMES, 24 hours of Le Mans, 12 hours of Sebring) or rally (WRC) you may want to produce a race-inspired paint job, or if you are more of an import tuner, you may want a design to take to the street. Either way, you'll have to plan the design.

Painting in the Cyber Age
The Cyber Age has hit the world of RC painting. On our own site,, and others, you can find
templates of bodies. These templates are images of the actual RC car bodies, digitized and saved as black and white line drawings that you can then import into Microsoft Paint or another graphics program. Once imported, you can use the painting program to design your paint job, trying different lines and colors until you achieve the look you are going for. One of the great benefits of using a computer template is that, if you screw up, you can always hit the Undo button and start again. The downside is that not every body is available as a template, and if your computer drawing skills suck, it's not easy to make one.

Traditional Design
All that is required to visualize your design the traditional way is a Sharpie marker and some high-content isopropyl alcohol. Simply draw out your design on the car using a Sharpie marker. You can use the isopropyl alcohol to correct mistakes by rubbing them off with the alcohol on a paper towel. Most bodies today have overspray film, and the marker design will peel right off when you are finished painting the body.

While some people may frown, one of the proven methods of learning to paint and expanding your skills is to try to duplicate someone else's paint job that you admire. If you go to art school, you'll be required to attempt to duplicate the masters, and with RC car painting, you'd be wise to follow the same course. You have to be able to duplicate before you can innovate. Not only will it push your skills, it will force you to plan your design in a different way: in reverse. Usually, you'll have pictures of the paint job, so your job in the design process is to deconstruct the paint job. Deconstruction has two major parts. The first is figuring out which graphics make up the paint job and how they were done, and the second is deciding which colors need to be in which order.

With whatever method you use to paint your car, you will need to consider several factors.

1. Do you have all the tools and paints required to complete the paint job?
2. How many colors will you use?
3. Do your colors work well together?
4. What masks will you need and use?
5. What masking material will you use?
6. What decals will you use?

In addition to the included decals and masks, you may want to add additional graphics. For a replica paint job, you will need replica masks and decals. Where will you get them? Several companies, such as Slixx, Auto Graphics, and various RC car manufacturers, such as Kyosho and Tamiya, make replica decals, though the RC companies generally only sell their decals with the body. For other graphics, you'll have to create your own decals or paint masks. XXX Main and Parma both make tons of masks to complete your paint job.

Once you know what your colors, masks, and decals are, you can decide which is the best overall masking material, or you may decide to use a combination of masking tape, liquid mask, and/or vinyl.

Working with colors is more esoteric. Some people have the ability to combine colors extremely well. Many people are just horrible at it. If you fall into the latter category, look for help; it's all over the place. Check out other people's paint jobs and see what works well. Look at packaging on store shelves, etc. Companies pay professionals to combine colors that jump out. This is a great starting point.

If you have all your materials and tools laid out on your workbench. Where to begin? Follow these simple steps to create a killer street body or an outstanding replica racer shell. Remember, about 70 percent of the success of painting a killer body comes from planning and taking your time, so don't be intimidated; pushing your painting skills can produce great results.

STEP 1 Wash the body with water and warm dish soap, and dry it with a lint-free towel.

STEP 2 Trim the body following the body lines, and cut out the front wheel wells. Now line up the body posts, and mark their location with a permanent marker. Now score the Lexan on the marker spots so your body maintains the body post locations after you peel off the overspray film.

STEP 3 Transfer your design from the computer or picture to the body. I work with liquid mask; this means I need to draw out everything on the body. If you are using vinyl masks to create part of the image, now is the time to put them on in the same order they will appear on the body. For example, if flames are the main focal point, but there will be a skull creeping up behind them, put the flames on first and then the skull mask. Again, you want the masks placed in the order they will appear on the body.

STEP 4 If you are using a decal as a main focal point, you will want to plan the paint job around the decal to make sure it fits and looks correct on the body. Even with sponsor decals, incorporating them into the paint job can make the car look like a 10 instead of an eight. Luckily, most bodies these days come with overspray film on them, and you can use that to make your painting life easier. Cut out the decals, and tape them on the body where you want them to go. Then, design the paint job to incorporate the decals. Later on you can actually stick the decals to the finished body where you planned to.

STEP 5 Once the design is finished, apply your masks. Lay them down, remembering that the first one you lay down will be the most prominent, so you have to think in layers. If you work with liquid mask and are using precut masks such as those from XXX Main or Parma, apply the mask first, and then coat the rest of the body with four thick coats of liquid mask.

STEP 6 Now that the body is masked, it's time to fire up your airbrush or cans of paint. Warm your cans or bottles of paint in warm water to make them spray a finer mist. As a general rule, you want to paint the dark colors first and then the light colors, but this rule can be broken easily by backing a light color with white, then silver, and then white again. This will make the light color opaque. One rule I stick to is to try to paint all the chrome paint last because of its lower adhesion level. Begin by painting the first section. Once that section is dry, back it with white or silver, whichever is appropriate. Allow the paint to dry.

STEP 7 When you are ready to move on to the next section, carefully peel up the next section of masking. If you find the paint lifting (usually a result of spraying the paint too thick), use a hobby knife and follow the edge of the mask. This will allow you to lift the mask without lifting the paint. Now paint that section of the body. Then back it and let it dry. Repeat step 6 until the painting portion is done.

STEP 8 All finished? Not yet, Skippy. It's time to peel up the overspray film and apply the decals, aligning them in their locations. If you are mounting a particularly large decal, you can spray window cleaner on the location of the decal and use the wetness to align the decal. Once the window cleaner dries, the sticker will stick just as well.

STEP 9 Going back to the markes you made in Step 2, use a reamer to open up the holes for the body posts. Once that's done it's time to cut out the rear wheel wells. On some cars, the location is marked; on others, you have to cut them out using a guide. I use a spare wheel as a guide. Set the car on a flat surface with the body on, take a spare wheel, and hold it against the body aligned with the rear wheel. Use your marker to trace the tire, and use your Lexan scissors to cut out the wheel well. Use the Bolink Body Wash to clean off any excess marker marks.

STEP 10 Mount the wing if the body requires one. I use Shoe Goo to mount the wing first, and once it is dry, I use the supplied screws to secure it. You can also use Shoe Goo to mount the side dams on the wing.

STEP 11 Let the body dry for a few days to make sure the paint is not only dry, but also cured. Take it outside, mount it on your car, and post a picture of it up on our Racers' Rides forum at!

As I said, if you go slow, plan your paint job, and take your time executing the plan, your chances for success significantly increase over just slapping some paint down on the body. All too often, people say they don't have the talent to create a multicolor body with a cool design, but the reality is, anyone can create a killer-looking body; you just have to put the effort into it. The reward will be a wicked shell you will be proud to race and display.

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