Custom Paint Panels

Custom Painting

You custom paint panels in the last step in making custom door panels, other than reinstalling them on your vehicle!  Before continuing in the custom painting of your door panels, make sure that the body-filler has completely dried, has been sanded with 400 grit sand paper, and been thoroughly cleaned with soap and water.  Your door panels should be completely smooth and bump and pinhole free.  
cleaned custom door panels before primer

The first step to custom paint panels is to apply a high-build, sandable primer.
  • The idea here is to use a primer that will fill up the minute scratches in the body-filler left by the 400 grit sand paper and leave behind the perfect foundation for your first layer of paint.  The scratches left behind from sand will act as a "tooth" for the first layer of primer to grab on to for great adhesion. 
  • In my projects, I use the highest build primer on the market, Evercoat Slick Sand to custom paint panels.  It is more-or-less- a spray-able body-filler that is thin enough to spray with a primer gun.  Please note that you can use primer that is applied from a spray can.  Just make sure that it is sandable.
evercoat slick sand primer gun Evercoat Slick Sand

Apply your first coat of primer according to the instructions on the can.
  • Most manufacturers will suggest that you apply the primer in two or more medium wet coats.  If the manufacturer tells you to do this, you need to do so.  However, in order to sand the primer, after it dries you will need some thickness to be built up in order to be able to sand it smooth without going through the primer.  So, even if the can says two or more coats, I would suggest considering that to be just one coat (overall).
    primed custom door panel
After the first coat of primer has completely dried, according to the manufacturer's instructions on the label, scuff sand the primed area down with 400 grit sand paper.  Keep sanding until the primed surface shows little to no "orange peel."  Orange peel is the technical term for the look of the paint after it has been applied and resembles the texture of an orange peel (like a bunch of little demples, or splatter).  
400 grit sand paper
It is easy to sand right through the primer you applied, so don't bare down too hard with your sand paper.  If you happen to sand through your primer, like I did in the picture below, clean the area and re-apply primer in the areas that you sanded through. Then re-sand and continue to the next step to custom paint panels.
primer door panel

Clean and dry the area and apply your second coat of primer for your custom paint panels. After it dries wet sand the area 600 grit paper.  I suggest wet sanding your second coat of primer because the water/soap solution you use to wet-sand will actually lubricate the surface you are sanding and will make the area smooth on a molecular level!
wet sand your primerspray bottle for wet sanding sand paper backing pad600 grit wet dry sand paper

Next apply your third coat of primer and allow to dry.  This time you will want to wet sand the entire primed area with 600, or 800 grit sand paper.  After sanding with the 800 grit paper, your panel will be smooth enough (it will have a slight gloss afterwards) to create a flawless finish with your color paint (base coat).

Now for the color!
  • In order to continue the theme of my Impala's exterior paint, I decided to custom paint panels with the same black that is on the outside.  I then added some tribal licks to carry the theme.  If you want to paint the panels the same color as the outside of your vehicle, it may be difficult to find a spray paint that is the exact same color.  If you want it to be exact, you will likely need to go to the paint shop and purchase your color paint there.  
  • If you don't have the tools to apply your own color paint, especially if it is a paint that has to be reduced and catalyzed, you might want to paint the panels with a color that compliments another color on your vehicle's interior that is available in a spray paint can.   
Always follow the instructions on the can of your paint in order to apply it correctly.  
  • Do several light coats to avoid runs or sags
  • After each coat dries, according to the label instructions, continue applying coats of paint until the panel is fully coated.
door panels base coat custom door panels base coat
painted custom door panel impala ss
If you don't want graphics and are ready to make your door panels really look good, apply a clear coat for deeper gloss and protection according to the manufacturers instructions on the can.
If you want to custom paint panels with graphics like I did...
  • Allow the paint to fully cure, or dry, for at least 24 hours (or longer depending on the paint you used)
  • Use graphic tape, or pin-striping tape, to lay out your graphics
custom door panels, custom paint graphics
  • Using good quality masking tape, completely cover the panel, including the graphic tape you just put on the panel tto lay out your graphics.
tape off graphics
Take a pencil and lightly scribble over the graphic tape that is under your making tape.  This will create a line over the graphic tape that will show you where to cut with your razor blade.  
  • Don't press down very hard when you are cutting through the masking tape because you don't want to cut all the way through to the panel.  You only need to cut the layer of masking tape!
Carefully peel the masking tape away from your graphics to reveal the base color

graphics taped off
Now you can apply the graphics color to truly custom paint panels.  As always, follow the paint manufacturer's instructions to apply the paint
door panel graphics
I then picked up some stencils and painted on some skulls with a black paint.
skull stencil for airbrushing graphics custom door panel skulls
I removed all of the tape after painting the skulls and then applied 6 candy coats to match the theme on the exterior of my Impala SS.  I painted the entire panel with the candy in order to avoid having an edge on the graphics.
custom impala door panels
After I was satisfied with the look of my custom paint panels, I cleared them in several coats of clear.  
I then reinstalled all of the components in the door panel, including the new door speakers and reupholstered top half.

I was was happy to see all of my hard work come to an end revealing a one-of-a-kind set of custom door panels on my 1996 Chevrolet Impala SS.
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3115 N Cannon Blvd
Kannapolis, NC 28083

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