One of the best parts of the RC car hobby is the vast array of body styles available to let you transform your machine into an entirely different model. There’s one catch though: RC bodies arrive clear, so you have to apply the paint yourself. The good news is it’s easy! The paint goes on the inside, and all the gloss comes from the plastic, so no real skill is required to get a killer factory look. A little care and patience is all it takes. Now let’s get this Pro-Line 2017 Ford F-150 Raptor True Scale body painted!
Step 1. Get the Right Paint!
Sure, you can go to the hobby shop, grab a can of paint, and spray it on. The problem is that, if you don’t use paint that was made specifically for Lexan, you may have issues with the paint flaking off. Lexan paint is designed to adhere to that type of plastic and flex with the body. If you use anything else, you run the risk of the paint flaking off later down the road. Paint is available in spray cans or in bottles that are ready
Optional. Scuff the Body for the Best Paint Adhesion
Lexan paint is designed to stick well to the bodies that we use in RC, but there’s one step that you can do to make sure it has an even better grip on that flexible plastic: scuff up the inside of the body to increase surface area and give the paint something to hold onto. Scotch Brite pad is the best tool for this job. It easily conforms to the body and gives it the plastic just the right amount of bite.
Step 2. Wash before Painting
Before you start prepping for paint, wash the inside of the body to remove any fingerprints, mold release from the manufacturing process, or dust if you scuffed the inside of the body. Dawn dishwashing soap is the best for this job because it does a great job of cleaning the Lexan. Just a few drops inside the body are all you need. Wet your hand, and spread the soap all over. Rinse thoroughly, and dry the body completely.
Step 3. Apply the Window Masks
All bodies come with window masks that are cut to match the shape of the windows on the inside of the body. When placing a mask, you will want to line up a corner with the matching corner of the window, and while holding the other end in the air, rub your finger across it while slowly lowering the free side. This will keep any air bubbles from forming in the center of the mask. Once the mask is in place, rub the edges to make sure they are thoroughly stuck in place.
Step 4. Mark the Body Post Locations
If your body doesn’t have premarked locations for your vehicle’s body posts, mark the locations now with a permanent marker. Position the body over the posts so that it’s lined up correctly, then make a mark where the post touches the body.
Step 5. Paint It!
Now that you have the window masks on, you can start spraying paint. When painting a hard-plastic body, it’s done on the outside, so the paint finish is important to get right. Lexan, however, gets its great finish from the untouched smooth and shiny outside surface that it has once you remove the overspray film. For this reason, getting the finish right isn’t important. What is important, however, is to apply only as many coats as you need to get complete coverage. This is done by applying several light coats and letting each dry for about 15 minutes in between. Light coats will prevent runs and won’t build up too much paint under the body, which can pull off when you remove masking tape or window masks. Once you have built up three mist coats, you can give the body one final heavy coat to even out the paint job. Give the paint an hour or so to dry before moving on to the next step.
Optional. Paint Details on the Outside
Sometimes there will be details on your body such as fender flares, truck beds, and so on that will look better with a semigloss sheen. That is something you can accomplish by painting the body on the outside. The overspray film applied to the body to keep paint off of the exterior can be used as a mask. Using a sharp blade, cut along the edges of the areas that you want to have semigloss black, and remove the overspray film from that area with a hobby knife. Mist the paint onto the exposed sections in light coats until you have full coverage. Allow the paint to dry, then remove the rest of the film.
Step 6. Add the Decals
Depending on the body you’re working with, the decals may be precut so that you just peel and stick, or you may need to trim the decals yourself. For tiny decals, use the tip of a hobby knife to position the artwork so that your fingers don’t block your view. For larger decals, leave most of the backing in place until you’ve got the decal lined up the way you want it, then peel off the rest of the backing and stick it down. Work slowly from one end of the decal to the other to avoid wrinkling the decal or trapping air bubbles under it.
Painting a Lexan body is easy if you just take your time and follow a few rules. Now that you have mastered the art of a single-color paint job, you’re ready to tackle something a little more complex. Now get that body mounted up and enjoy some RC time!
By Kevin Hetmanski