Paint Your Car With a Roller for Under $100

$50 Corvair paint job applied with a roller

It used to be a joke. Someone would see a really bad paint job on a car and comment, "He must have used a roller!" Well, maybe it's not a joke anymore. In their July issue, Hot Rod magazine painted a '62 Ford Falcon with Rust-Oleum and foam rollers. The result, while not show car quality, was as good or better than some bargain paint work costing considerably more. No, you wouldn't do this to your classic Mustang but if you have a reliable older car that looks a little weather beaten, this could be an option.

In the last few days, another article has popped up, of a '66 Corvair painted the same way. It actually looks like this paint job was the inspiration for the project in Hot Rod. The whole story started on the Moparts forum where the Corvair owner describes the process and finally put the photos on his site where everyone could see them.

The process isn't very complex but it is labor intensive. You thin the Rust-Oleum 50/50 with mineral spirits, set yourself up with a selection of foam rollers and brushes and go to work. Seven coats with lots of hand sanding in between and a power buffing after a week. The end result is pretty impressive.

His cost, not including the buffer he bought, was about $50. The magazine came in at $98. I bet a lot of guys just started looking at their old beater, thinking how it might look with a fresh coat of paint. Very cool idea!

Link: $50 paint job via Autoblog


  1. Jim777 says

    This technique for painting a car does work very well, better than most people would believe. It’s very inexpensive and adds a lot of value to a car if the paint looks really bad to begin with.

    The key is the “color-sanding” which is taking 1500-2000 grit sandpaper and hand sanding the entire car between every 2-3 coats of paint. This is done to get the uneven “orange-peel” look of the paint out. Even if you spray a car, it will need to be sanded down after the coats of paint to smooth the paint out. THIS is why a real paint job cost $3000. It’s a lot of labor to get it right. You’ll have to put about 10 total coats to get a good paint finish and it’s going to take a lot of hand work sanding but if you take the time and do it right you’ll have a really great looking paint job that looks AS GOOD or better than a $3000 paint job.

    I would much rather take my time and effort and paint my car with a roller myself and get fantastic results than part with $3000. Just think of the value your adding to the car that you can get back when you sell it!

  2. gooberhead says

    This process if VERY labor intensive. Repeated painting/sanding/painting is required. Time and patience are the key. I tried this technique and the results were initially poor due to my lack of patience. So I revisited the process and put down 5 coats of paint over the course of 5 weeks (allowing each coat to dry for 1 week before wetsanding) and the results were much better.

  3. says

    I sprayed my Ford Thunderbird with Rustoleum Smoke Grey & a $10 Harbor Freight gun. Paint looks great! Wound up with orange peel, but that was a result of technique. The paint was thinned per the can (2 ounces acetone to 8 ounces of paint). The last coat went on with a little more thinning, a little more air, and a little less fluid — resulting in less orange peel.

    Preparation was 60 paper with an orbital sander to get the clear coat off, then 220 wet/dry.

    After two weeks in the Florida sun, still looks great. Total cost of consumables (paint, tape, thinner, et all) was less than $40.

    Still need to sand down the orange peel.

    Will post back with results after six months.