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Frame Painting For Newbies

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Frame Painting For Newbies

Old 09-05-23, 09:21 AM
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Frame Painting For Newbies

Hello everyone! I'm looking for guidance regarding painting bike frames.


I currently have 3 old (1960's, early 1970's) Schwinn Cruisers that I'm in the process of restoring. While I would love to restore one of them to its original specs (original paint, stickers, etc), I know it won’t be possible. I'm saving that particular bike for when I either become comfortably proficient with painting, or I can find a professional restoration expert.

I would like to take the time to learn how to paint these bikes so that they look good. For one of these bikes I'd like to customize it (frame and fork will be the only original parts; all other parts will be aftermarket). This bike looks like it has been spray painted several times by the previous owner, so I'm looking to remove all the paint and give it a custom (non- factory original) paint job.

I'm starting from scratch. I'd like to find video tutorials on painting bikes, advice on spray guns, nibs, etc.

I tried searching for businesses/shops that specialize in bike painting, but they either don't get back to me with a price, or (the online shops) the prices are way more than I can affird ($700+). I would much rather buy the equipment and learn to do it myself.
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Old 09-05-23, 11:06 AM
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You don't indicate your location. Have you considered powder coat? Schwinn cruisers weren't exactly known for their fine paint jobs, and I think a powder coat would be a good match.
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Old 09-05-23, 02:17 PM
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This is a Schwinn American that I stripped the paint on, pained it first with Rustoleum rusty metal primer then Rustoleum Aluminum paint. Then waited a week and sprayed it with two cans of Duplicolor Chrysler Intense Blue to mimic Schwinn's Sky Blue. It is real close. Some say an exact match. Don't remember who I got the decals from, but I remember them being water slides. Over this will go a two part clear coat. I have a gun and compressor however, there are 2k sprays available in spray cans if you don't have a paint gun and compressor.

I liked Schwinn's Flamboyant paints. They looked good and they have that '70's look if that is what you are going for. I've also come to appreciate their solid colored paints as well. Not as flamboyant as their Flamboyant paint, but still good looking.

I also painted this Schwinn Continental with Campus Green paint.

It was decaled and then clear coated with a two component automotive clear coat.

I also have a Schwinn Heavy Duti that I painted with Rustoleum Rusty Metal Primer then Rustoleum Black. That was done 40 years ago ago, and it still holding up ok.

Duplicolor paint is expensive compared to Rustoleum but it is better. They do have good colors and they have spray nozzles with a fan pattern rather than the traditional cone pattern of most spray can nozzles. I did notice that Rustoleum has an indexting nozzle system on their new spray paint cans. I also bought House of Kolor paint that TCP Global packaged into an aerosol can for me. I used Aluminum colored paint for the flamboyant base (again) and it came out great. Excellent paint even in a spray can. Beautiful color and easy control with the nozzle provided.

The frame builders here can fill you in on paint guns and compressors. I have an amature set up that works well for me. I bought my spray gun from TCP Global as well.

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Old 09-06-23, 06:07 AM
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I'll second the recommendation to have it powder coated. My local powder coater charges around $150 for a single color with clear on a frame. That includes stripping any finish that is already on the frame.

Painting a bike frame is not easy with a spray gun. There are a lot of tube intersections that will easily get overloaded with paint and run. There are also spots like the underside of the seat tube/seat stay junction that are hard to get paint into, especially with a large automotive sized spray gun. I have painted a number of frames with this detail spray gun from Harbor Freight tools. https://www.harborfreight.com/adjust...tail+spray+gun It works fine for a $14 spray gun. I use base/clear paints from TCP Global. Spraying the base is pretty easy and there is not much chance of runs with that. The clear is where you have to be really careful not to get runs.
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Old 09-07-23, 07:54 AM
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Nikon, what area of the country are you located? i'm a pro builder and painter that hangs out here sometimes. Done right, wet paint is the ultimate look. Even doing it yourself it can be expensive just for the materials. I like to use House of Kolor paints because it has all the best options. "painting" should really be called "sanding" because you will spend a lot more time in prep than spraying.

To describe all that is required to do a good job is a bit more than most will be willing to read so i'll just skim the subject. After getting rid of the old paint (or sanding it well down) primer is applied and then sanded. Next I apply a sealer. This helps cover up bare sanding spots and provides a consistent undercoat for the color coats. And it helps with adherence too. A chip is most likely to occur between the primer and color coat rather than between the primer and bare steel. After I put on the color coats, I apply some undercoat clears that protect the color and when sanded provide a smoother surface for the top clear coats. This is when decals are applied and they will probably require their own clears to bury them so they don't leave an edge. And finally the top clear coats are applied to give that glossy appearance. Sometimes if one makes a boo boo the final clears can be buffed out. I use very fine sandpaper and 3 grades of buffing compound for that job.

Because I am a pro, I use pro grade spray guns (I have 7 or 8). It is possible to get a good quality one in the $100 range if your budget is tight. And it can be used for all the different paints if you choose a 1.3mm nozzle size.

I have 5 Chicago made Schwinn Super Sports in my shop some of my local students are using to learn how to paint (I teach painting as well as frame building). H of K has paint that closely matches the Schwinn colors for the 60's and 70's.
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Old 09-08-23, 09:03 AM
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Doug gives a very good if short description of the process. The big factor, IMO, with painting is balancing the expectations with the abilities/budget. I have had Doug paint a few of my bikes (and I will say he was painting as I did all the sanding and prep) because I do want the best looking result and also have good durability. The two part paints he usually uses (HoK and the beloved Imron) can have a deep luster and the chemical curing hardens the paint so chipping is less than single component paints can attain.

The tooling costs are high for this method though. Air compressors (and the electrical service capacity), air lines and oil filters, spray guns and cleaning products can be more than a few hundreds of $. The paint, it's hardener and primer won't be cheap and likely will only be available in quantities suitable for a dozen bikes. Then there's the practice time and consumables to get comfy enough to try an actual frame.

The far more common way newbie/home painting is done is with spray can paints. These paints and primers are available in single component low cost versions (like Rust-Oleum) or two part paints (the can has the two components separated by a barrier which one breaks and then shakes the mix up before spraying) more often found in the automotive paint supply stores. Without a doubt these two part paints are more durable than the cheap single part paints but a single can costs 2-3 times what the cheap stuff does and the working time of the now mixed with the hardener paint is limited. For a best job with these paints/primers figure on needing a can+ per layer. Count the layers and do the math.

As Doug mentions "painting" is really far more about the prep than the tooling or materials. To get the results you see proudly shown here and on line takes a lot of time. When Doug has painted my frames we took a week working near full time on them each. A pro will reduce this time as they are far more efficient as the prep work than I am. A total newbie would likely take longer than I do. The actual time in his spray booth for all the coats was less then 2 hours over the week.

(Although one aspect of the "how long to make a ..." is that one gets better at seeing stuff sooner than one gets better at doing the work, early on. I kept track of my hours to make a frame early on, at around 25 hours (before paint). Now 45 years later I take 2-3x longer as my skills of making my job easier are not as refined as my ability to see how the brazing/mitering/finishing looks. This is one of the reasons why I have never hung out my shingle). Andy
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Old 09-08-23, 10:53 AM
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Originally Posted by dsaul
Painting a bike frame is not easy with a spray gun. There are a lot of tube intersections that will easily get overloaded with paint and run. There are also spots like the underside of the seat tube/seat stay junction that are hard to get paint into, especially with a large automotive sized spray gun. I have painted a number of frames with this detail spray gun from Harbor Freight tools. https://www.harborfreight.com/adjust...tail+spray+gun It works fine for a $14 spray gun. I use base/clear paints from TCP Global. Spraying the base is pretty easy and there is not much chance of runs with that. The clear is where you have to be really careful not to get runs.
I like this econo-route. Wonder how y'all get in all the tight spots. Chemicals or fine sand blast?
Harbor shows a nice little sand blaster for cheap. 18 oz. Portable Sand Blaster Gun Kit (harborfreight.com)
On their detail sprayer, it seems like a prudent idea buying a 2nd unit. Spare parts and canister and all.
Great tips on this thread. The thing that worries me most involves creating the proper desired color.
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Old 09-08-23, 01:22 PM
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my limited experience is that it cost way more than you would think to paint a frame and it is lot of work to get it to look good I would go powder coat

also spray paint from hardware or auto stores can may a great looking result, but it will not be as durable as if you use auto paint. (depending on wear you live you can get auto paint put in spray cans)

good facemask with filters is first purchase (60 buck or so and my not be really enough for auto paint)
paint stripper
rags, brushes, sand paper ,tack cloth gloves, miscellaneous
sprayer of not using spray cans (I used a pre-val sprayer one bike to spray auto paint)
acid etch primer, sandable primer, color coat, clear coat

easily 150 to 200 before auto paint
  1. take bike all apart
  2. strip paint, anything left will show
  3. degrease
  4. mask
  5. acid etch primer
  6. sandable primer
  7. sand, may need to do another coat of sandable primer
  8. color coats 2 to 3 with proper respray time between
  9. clear coats 2 to 4 depending again proper respray times

that is what I recall anyway
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(looking for Torpado Super light frame/fork or for Raleigh International frame fork 58cm)

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Old 09-12-23, 04:26 PM
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Rather than retype it all, it's easier to refer to reply #10..

Frame Painting: 1K or 2K Clear Coat?
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Old 09-12-23, 04:50 PM
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Originally Posted by Doug Fattic
... "painting" should really be called "sanding" because you will spend a lot more time in prep than spraying.
I'm not a pro like Doug but can concur; the one bike I stripped down and repainted, I spent ages preparing before applying the first primer coat.
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Old 09-12-23, 06:46 PM
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Well, it seems that Nikon Fan posted on 9/5, and hasn't been back since 9/6. Funny how that works...

I was going to post that painting a bike frame is no different from painting a car. All the materials, and process steps are the same. Only difference is the shape of the object being painted. I'll stop here, since our OP apparently has better things to do than read our responses...
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Old 11-10-23, 09:41 AM
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hi there. i have seen a lot of TITANIUM COLOR bike frames out there, painted alloy frames, not actual titanium material frames.

for exaample the FNHON GUST and STORM models of folding bikes, they come in this awesome TITANIUM COLOR.

does anyone know what colors (varnish) to mix to get this look?

i have looked everywhere on the net and youtube and cant seem to find a tutorial.

i thank you in advance!
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