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How to Paint a Bike – Helpful Guide for your Individual bicycle painting

how to paint a bike


You want to give your old bike a new look? There are several ways to paint a bike – a very good and very practical way is to airbrush it. But how exactly does it work and what should you consider? What are the pros and cons of DIY painting for bicycles? In this article we provide you with all the answers to these and many other questions. We also show you how to do it in our step by step guide.




Reasons for a new or individual bicycle painting

Why a bicycle needs a new coat of paint can have many reasons. Often it is too bad to throw away a fully functional bike just because the paint has too many scratches or flakes.

Some bike lovers are emotionally attached to their bike, but find the colorful style old-fashioned over the years. For others, the complete makeover of an old bike is a creative hobby. Last but not least, passing on a child’s bike among siblings or relatives is often a reason for a colourful makeover.

With a little patience and skill, the right tools and a professional approach, you can easily repaint a bicycle.

bicycle paint



You need this material to paint your bike

To give your bike a new look you need one thing above all: the right colour. But you also need a lot of tools to do the paint job in the best possible way.


Preparations for bicycle painting

Before the new paint can be applied, your bike must first be dismantled in large parts and sanded down.

For disassembly you will of course need appropriate tools. Most of the necessary screwdrivers and spanners may already be available. If not, you can buy these tools at any hardware store or order them online.

To sand down the old paint you need sandpaper. If you don’t want to sand, but rather remove the old paint chemically, a stripper is needed at this point.

Not only should the old paint be thoroughly removed, it is also advisable to make all parts of the frame to be painted grease-free. You should have a degreaser at hand for this. In particular, white spirit is suitable for this, but glass cleaner can also be used.

In addition, you should have masking tape ready to protect the parts of your bike that must not get paint off. A large painter’s foil serves as a base and protects the surroundings from paint mist.

For the sake of your health, you should not do without a protective mask, goggles and disposable gloves. It may also be advisable to wear a protective suit to protect your clothes from the paint mist.


Suitable varnish

For painting a bicycle frame you can use any paint that adheres to metal. These are, for example, car paints or special paints that have been specially developed for painting bicycles.


Product recommendations will follow…


Product recommendations will follow…


The choice of lacquer also determines whether your bike has a glossy or matt look. The indications “glossy” or “matt”, which are applied to most paint cans, give you an idea of how the paint will look when it is completely dry.

Always make sure that the colour selection is of good quality. In addition, never use different brands of varnish together, this could result in unpleasant reactions with each other.


painting a bike


Painting from the can

An obvious way to make the paint application as even as possible is of course to work with a paint spray can.

A spray can contains the prefabricated paint mixture in the desired shade and is equipped with a spray head. After thoroughly shaking the paint, you can start spraying immediately.

When working with a spray can, make sure that the correct distance is maintained between the spray head and the bicycle frame. In addition, the paint should be applied in several thin layers. Both points help to prevent the formation of a nose.

During the spraying process, the spray can must always be held vertically to create an optimal spray pattern. Before taking a break, the spray can should be turned upside down and sprayed until no more paint comes out, this is the only way to prevent the spray head from sticking.

The last spray bursts from an almost empty spray can usually produce a very uneven spray pattern and speckles. Therefore, do not spray the paint can completely empty. Finish the work a bit before and start a new can to avoid unclean spots on the frame.


Painting with the airbrush gun

For painting with an airbrush gun, in addition to the airbrush gun and the appropriate compressor, you need an easily atomized, i.e. diluted paint.

The airbrush gun should be suitable for the application of paints (solvent-stable seals!) and have a correspondingly large nozzle. The working pressure of the compressor must be between 1.5 and 3 bar.


Product recommendations will follow…


Product recommendations will follow…


A paint applied by airbrush is, like the paint applied by spray can, very even and without visible lines. Since a very fine mist of paint is applied by airbrush, several layers must be applied here as well. If you also keep to the recommended spray distance of approx. 25cm from the bicycle frame, the risk of paint noses is very low.

Another very big advantage of airbrush painting is that the colours are freely mixable, thus enabling completely individual colour shades. On the other hand, in the case of spray cans, one must fall back on the available pre-mixed colours.

However, the same applies to the mixing of colours: Always use paints from one and the same brand! This is the only way to avoid incompatibilities such as lumping or lack of miscibility.

The airbrush technique is not only suitable for the uni-coloured base coat.  With the airbrush you can turn your bike into a real work of art. An infinite choice of colours and airbrush stencils help you to conjure up brilliant motifs on the bike frame. If you are artistically talented yourself, you can let your imagination run wild with airbrush.




Step by step instructions for painting the bike yourself

The old bike is waiting for a new look. The right colour is chosen. The tools are ready. How does it go on now?


Preparation of the workplace

The first thing we recommend is to find a well-ventilated, dust-free place where your bike can dry undisturbed for several hours. If you have a garage at your disposal, this is definitely a good place to be. However, if you have chosen the winter time to beautify your bike, you should make sure that it is not too cold in the garage. Many paints are not suitable for application at very low temperatures.

The work surface should be covered with painter’s foil over a large area. Firstly, it protects the surroundings from unwanted paint mist and secondly, it prevents the loss of small parts when dismantling the wheel.

how to paint a bike frame


Dismantle bicycle

Before you start painting the bike it is necessary to completely disassemble your bike. As far as possible until you only have the frame to be painted left.

Attachments such as bottle holders, luggage racks or similar are very easy to remove. The wheels, handlebars, saddle, bottom bracket cranks, chain and brake are also usually easy to remove. If individual parts cannot be removed because you don’t have the special tool or because they simply cannot be removed, you can also tape them off.

You should pack the tiny parts in labelled plastic bags immediately after dismantling. That way you can’t lose anything and save yourself a lot of searching when assembling.

painting a bike frame


Grind off and degrease old coating

Next, all stickers should be removed. If they are too tight and cannot be removed easily, you can warm them up with a hair dryer, or alternatively with a heat gun, which will loosen the glue and the labels can be removed. If this is still not possible with your fingers alone, use a spatula to remove the edges of the stickers.

Now it is time to sand down the old paint. This can be done with a fine sandpaper (320 or 400 grain). To avoid unnecessary sanding dust, it is recommended to use wet sanding. At the end of this step the old paint does not have to be completely removed, but it should be sanded down to a clearly matt finish.

The grinding work is certainly very complex, but really necessary. Those who want to do without manual work in this step can use a grinding machine or even resort to the chemical alternative of stripping. However, it should be mentioned that stripping old paint usually ends up in quite a mess. In addition, the stripped paint must be disposed of in hazardous waste!


Degreasing and smoothing out unevenness

In order to prepare the substrate optimally for the new paint application, it should now be degreased. You can use benzine or glass cleaner for this. It is important that all parts to be painted are free of grease. Small scratches and unevenness can be evened out with a special putty.



It is essential to cover all areas of the bike which should not receive any paint. In this step, all holes and threads should also be taped or closed with screws so that they are not covered or glued by paint. For masking you can use paint masking tape or tape and foil.


Priming and painting

It is helpful to hang up the bicycle frame to be able to paint it easily. So you can walk around the frame and work on it evenly from all sides. It is also helpful to thread a rope through the main tube to hang the bicycle frame from the ceiling.  If you can’t hang the frame anywhere, use a bicycle mounting frame. A good alternative could be to put a broom through the main tube and fix it to a table.

Before starting the painting process you should put on your protective clothing, such as safety goggles, breathing mask and protective gloves.

how to re paint a bike


The primer

For some paints it is necessary to apply a primer. This improves the adhesion of the paint. But a primer is also very helpful when light colours are to be applied over dark colours. In this case a white primer supports the colour brilliance of the new, light colour.


The actual painting of the bike

If a ready-to-spray can is used, it must be thoroughly shaken before starting work in order to achieve an optimum colour result.

If you work with an airbrush gun, your desired colour must now be mixed and possibly diluted according to the manufacturer’s instructions. The mixed paint is then filled into the airbrush gun and is now ready for use.

Both the spray gun and the spray can should be moved smoothly over the surface to be treated. Make sure that the distance to the bicycle frame remains constant. In addition, never stay too long with the paint mist on one spot, it can cause unattractive paint noses.

It is best to paint in several steps until the old paint is finally covered in all areas. The paint should dry for approx. 15 to 30 minutes between the individual painting steps.


bike paint


Embellish with airbrush or decals

Once the new paint is completely dry, you can customize your bike as you wish.

If you are already working with an airbrush gun, you can now use it to apply your own motif or lettering to the frame. Even if you have applied the base colour with a spray can, there is nothing to stop you from decorating with airbrush art.

Of course it is also possible to attach decals to the frame. Mostly this is done with a transfer foil and is quite easy to do.


Apply clear lacquer

To make the new paint weatherproof and also to protect it from scratches, it can be sealed with a clear lacquer. The clear lacquer should be applied in 2 to 3 layers for an optimal result.

Special care is required when working with clear lacquer. It tends to run off very quickly and to form a nose. If, despite the greatest care, a mishap occurs, wait until the varnish has dried and carefully sand the nose of the varnish with fine sandpaper. Then apply the next layer of lacquer and compensate for the fault.  Avoid trying to wipe off any running varnish with a cloth. That way it can only get worse! The clear lacquer should dry for at least 24 hours.


Fitting and repairing wheels

Allow your new paint to dry and cure thoroughly for at least 24 hours. During this time the frame should not be touched or moved. It is also advisable to keep it away from dust as much as possible. Once the paint has hardened, you can remove the masking tape and remount the bike completely.

Some accessories can be adapted to the new paint right now. For example, colour-coordinated handlebar grips, a chic saddle or unusual tyres round off the new look.

Tip: Now is also the perfect opportunity to replace closure parts and make necessary repairs. Also the readjustment of the brake can be done immediately.

how to spray paint a bike




Paint your bike yourself or have it painted?


Advantages and disadvantages of professional painting




  • In any case, professional bicycle painting saves a lot of time. Not only can you leave the sanding and painting in professional hands, but the biggest part of the disassembly and assembly work is done in the workshop. Most of the time, the bike only has to be freed from attachments.
  • In addition, the professional powder coating is much more robust than the self-applied paint.



  • A clear disadvantage, however, is that there is little scope for individuality with most providers. Often only the choice of colour is possible. Letterings, motifs and patterns are either not possible or are associated with high extra costs.

How much does it cost to have a bicycle painted?

Unfortunately, bicycle painting is really very expensive and therefore hardly worthwhile for an old bike. The prices vary a lot and mostly depend on the effort the customer’s request generates and the model to be worked on. The cheapest suppliers start at around 150€.


Advantages and disadvantages of self-painting




  • There are no limits to the colour design, as well as individualisation through patterns, airbrush motifs or decals.
  • Also in terms of price, painting a bike yourself beats the professional version by far. Usually one can of paint is completely sufficient to give the bike a new shine. Spray paints that are suitable for bicycle painting are available for about 8€. Extremely good products, where you can even do without primer, are still under 20€.



  • It is quite clear that it is very time consuming to paint a bicycle yourself. But that is already the biggest shortcoming of the matter.

We hope that after reading our article, your old bike will not end up on the bulky waste, but under the spray can and will be polished by you with some colour and creativity.


You feel like polishing up a wheel but don’t have one that needs a refresher? No problem: just browse through the flea markets in your area! You will certainly discover great old models with an extraordinary frame that are available for little money. With a cool colour and chic accessories, these models will quickly become a designer piece.



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