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By jt001
I thought this might become useful when we get to that inevitable point: painting our packs. A bad paint can ruin many weeks of hard work building our packs. Here's a guide that will help you achieve excellent painting results. I know it is a lot of reading, but you'll find great info here... whether you are a veteran or a rookie.

I’ve gathered this info from a book called “How to paint & wire your very own 5150 replica”, so I can not take full credit for this. It has great tips on how to prep your guitar for painting, which can also be applied to prepping your pack. I didn't include wood preparation prior to painting, given the case that your pack is made of wood, but I will gladly add it if requested. I hope you find this guide useful on your prep/paint endeavor.

We all know that we should use primer, but... how many layers? How do I apply it? Once it’s dried, when can I move to the next step? I’ve taken some excerpts from the book, as a reference guide when the time to paint comes, so you don’t end up browsing hundreds of threads for info.

Before getting into priming, let’s talk about different types of paint: lacquer and urethane (*and a few notes about Krylon).

Lacquer: lacquer has one main drawback; it takes several months for the paint to fully harden and cure. But, this is not a trait of aerosol lacquer; it’s a trait of all lacquer - whether you use a spray gun to apply it, or spray can.

Lacquer-based paint is very easy to use. However, after your clear coats have been applied (in case you'd like to clear coat your pack), you’ll need to let it sit for 2-3 months to allow the paint to cure and harden. Still, after waiting that long, the paint still won’t be rock-hard; it can take up to a year for the paint to fully cure and harden. Be careful not to rest it against anything that is rubber. Rubber can dissolve and soften lacquer.

Urethane: The only real drawback to using these specialty urethane paint is cost. They can get pretty expensive, but the curing time is way shorter. Urethane paints can be acquired at auto paint stores.

*Notes about Krylon:
Stay away from Krylon paints. Over the last few years or so, they have altered their formulation so that, after your clear coats have been applied, sanded, and buffed, micro-cracks will begin to appear. This has to do with possible chemicals that have been added to the paint to increase the shelf life or new EPA regulations. Unfortunately, whatever’s been done, it’s has ruined the quality of the paint.

So, you may be wondering why we’re spraying primer and not jumping straight to the paint? Well, for a couple of reasons: Primer helps to bond the paint to the body. The primer tends to make the paint stick nicely, eliminating any funky patches in your paint and allows you to see any flaws that you might’ve missed during the filling stage (epoxy putty, bondo, etc). The primer acts like a sealer too, because it fills any little dings or holes that may still be there. If you find that, after you’ve applied a couple of coats of primer that your pack doesn’t look anywhere near as flat and smooth as it should, don’t be afraid to continue sanding - even if it means that you remove all of the primer to help even it all out.

When applying primer, you’ll find that it dries very fast. You may find that, after spraying the entire pack, most of it is already dried. Still, you want to give yourself at least 30 minutes between coats to allow the primer to completely dry and settle. If you pay attention, you’ll notice a big difference in the primer from when you finish spraying to 30 minutes later. You’ll notice that it’s much more level. When applying your primer coats (as well as paint coats and clear coats) you want to avoid applying heavy coats as much as possible. Spraying thin coats allows the primer to dry faster with zero runs.

When priming/painting, it is a good idea to overlap each coat by about 50%. Start your first pass across the body, half on the body and half off. Run your first pass across left to right, followed by the next pass right to left, the next left to right, etc., overlapping each pass by roughly 50%. Zig-zag your way up the entire body this way. For the next coat, go in the opposite direction; for example, if you went left to right, right to left for the first coat, go up and down, down and up for the next coat; again, always overlap each pass by roughly 50%. Doing it this way helps to even out any inconsistencies in the spraying technique.

In between each coat, look for little surface bumps. If you find any, which most likely, you will, sand them lightly with 400-grit wet/dry sandpaper not using any water. Your goal is to try and cover the entire body with solid coat of primer and to keep the surface of the body relatively smooth. Expect to do roughly three to five coats of primer over the entire body. If you accidentally sand through your primer to sealer, just leave it. That won’t affect the paint. After your final coat, give the body one final light sanding with 400-grit wet/dry sandpaper dry to remove any bumps or blemishes.

You’ll be applying THIN coats of paint rather than trying to cover the entire pack in one application. Don’t expect it to be a solid black color until at least your third or fourth coat. Remember - putting your paint on in thin coats allows it to dry faster with less runs.

Continue with the same painting technique: go left to right, followed by right to left, etc., zig-zagging up the entire body this way, overlapping each pass by roughly 50%. Your next coat should be up and down, down and up, etc., covering the entire sides, front, and back of the body this way; again, always try to overlap each pass by roughly 50%.

Allow each coat to dry for at least an hour before applying the next coat (check your container for exact drying time they recommend). You won’t have to sand between coats unless you get a bad run or drip (below are notes on how to deal with a run).

When you’ve covered the entire body with a nice, solid black color (or silver if you plan to weather it), look it over for any obvious flaws or runs and handle it with the method laid out below. Make sure that your color is solid and that you can’t see any primer.

After you’ve done any sanding of runs or other touch-ups, respray if necessary, then allow the body to dry for at least three days before proceeding to the next step. This will give the paint ample time to dry and completely settle. If you used urethane enamel or real auto paint, one day will be fine before proceeding.

If you live in an area of the country where you get rain and snow, painting outdoors will be difficult. You DO NOT want to be painting when it’s raining or drizzling. Water hitting the body while you paint will cause air bubbles and imperfections, which may be difficult to fix. If you’re scheduled to paint on a day when the weather is bad, don’t paint that day. Wait as long as you have to in order for it to be clear and dry.

All runs should be removed as best as possible before applying additional paint. If you find a run that looks like it may be a problem, start by taking a small piece of 400-grit wet/dry sandpaper with no water and, with a delicate touch, try to remove as much of it as you can, rubbing in the direction of the drip with light pressure. Be very careful not to go down to primer or wood (if your pack is made out of wood). Proceed with caution. It doesn’t have to be absolutely perfect; just try to level it out as best as you can.

As long as you’ve taken out the meat of the run, you’ll be okay to move on. Also, don’t worry that the paint will be dull in that area. That will be undetectable once we spray our clear coats. If you happen to go through to primer when trying to remove a run, simply spot spray the area to put a solid color back in place. In fact, if it’s on the top (or side), spray just in the area of the sand-through. Just shoot a copy of sprays on it and let it sit for an hour. Come back and do it again. Repeat until the color is solid again. Keeping your pack flat will help to build up the paint without it running.

By this point, you’ve probably got the “applying thin coats” down. So, just continue to do that when applying your primer/silver (if you want to weather it later on) /black, etc. And don’t forget... THIN COATS! THIN COATS! THIN COATS! Why? Because paint in an aerosol can is very thin (very watery) so that it can spray nicely without clogging the nozzle. That's why you should apply 4-5 thin coats of paint.

Allow at least 30 minutes between coats. If it’s humid outside, bring your painted stuff indoors IMMEDIATELY after every coat. This will minimize, if not, eliminate “fogging”. Fogging is when your colors look cloudy in certain areas. That’s as a result of the moisture in the air getting trapped in the paint. You can see it easily on mid to dark colors. Allow it to sit for 24 hours.

If you want to add clear to your pack/wand, this is next section is for you.

Aerosol paint is probably 70% thinner/reducer. This evaporates very quickly after spraying it on. Its purpose is to allow the paint to flow freely through that tiny nozzle. If the mixture was 70% paint to 30% thinner, the paint would get clogged in the nozzle.

Before you begin spraying the clear, have a look at the shell to make sure there are no bits of dust or debris on the surface. If you find anything, carefully remove it so that it doesn’t get trapped underneath the clear. You can use a can of compressed air, if you have one. You can use the sticky side of some masking tape to lift little bits of debris off, too. Once you start spraying on the clear, anything that was there that didn’t get removed will always be there.

Also, after you’ve applied all of the coats of clear, the ridge of different levels of color will still be evident, so don’t worry about that. It’s not until you sand the clear coats that this ridge will go away. When applying your coats, don’t be concerned with any coats that don’t have a nice, consistent look to them. All of that will get fixed later. Wet sanding eliminates the orange peel look and gets rid of all irregularities in the paint.

Applying Catalyzed Urethane Clear Coats
If you’re using the AEROMAX 2-Stage clear, or something similar, you won’t need to apply nearly as many coats as you do when using aerosol lacquers.

However, here’s what you need to know about applying urethanes: A new coat doesn’t bind to previous coats the same way that lacquers do. So, when applying coats, you want to apply a new coat while the previous coat is still a little tacky. Here’s a little guide for urethane clear coats:

Apply 2 tack coats - or dust coats - roughly 2 minutes between each coat
Apply 3 wet coats (medium coats) - roughly 5 minutes between each coat

Sand the body down using 320-grit dry - no water. It’s necessary to remove the shine from the finish and to create a texture (or a tooth) to the surface for the new coats to stick to.
Apply 2 tack coats - or dust coats - roughly 2 minutes between each coat
Apply 3 wet coats (medium coats) - roughly 5 minutes between each coat

Normally, this is enough clear, but there are times when I need to apply a little more. So, I’ll just repeat Day 2 for Day 3.

Although my time between medium wet coats is roughly 5 minutes, this is something that is hard to determine for every situation - especially when you spray outside. Temperature and humidity can really change your flash time between coats, so if you’re going to use urethane, you have to be on top of how your paint is drying when you’re applying it.

Do a couple of tests to determine when a coat is still tacky and when it’s dry. Spray a coat and allow it to dry - but check it ever minute by pressing your finger into it. Time this coat and watch when the coat has completely dried. You want to be able to spray your next coat while the previous coat is still tacky. Using this test will give you an idea of how much time to wait between coats. The clear shouldn’t be wet - just slightly tacky.

I hope that helps! :)
User avatar
By mburkit
Yeah, I don't know what krylon did, but I've had those micro cracks happen to me in recent years. When I did my first proton pack back in 2003, I had absolutely no problems. I used krylon on my most recent pack because I still had paint left over from other projects so I kept using it. Next time, I will move on to another brand.
User avatar
By jt001
I am painting mine with Rust Oleum's Painters Touch. I first applied primer, then silver, flat coat and on top of that one, a semi-gloss as my finishing layer. I won't be adding clear, since I am planning on weathering it. I think the semi-gloss will be enough :)

I was looking for Rust Oleum Professional line, but I couldn't find it. It cures in 8 hours. Painters Touch takes 24 hours to cure, or at least dry.
User avatar
By Bob Wobbaz
This would've been a great help when painting my pack, some really sound advice here! Totally agree with the thin coats, much better to build it up that way, why rush the job when you've spent months building? The other thing i'd add to this is try to make sure between coats that the temperature you're spraying at is consistant, otherwise it can lead to paint wrinkling, trust me, had this firsthand and it was a pain in the ass
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By jt001
What kind of primer is recommended - a "basic" primer or a sandable primer?
I'd suggest a sandable primer, but I believe you can sand any primer. It's a good idea to dry sand with a 400 wetsand sandpaper (did that make any sense? LOL) sometimes, to get rid of some imperfections that may appear.
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By jt001
In an uncontrolled environment such where I live, Puerto Rico it can be a pain to paint. PR is a very, very humid place! Bringing stuff indoors doesn't always do the trick. I believe I have little areas with a little fogging. The approach to take will depend on how would you like to finish your pack. Do you want a spic and span pack? Lightly weathered? Heavy beatting?

If you'd like a brand new pack, then you should sand the area and repaint, but if you are aiming for a more weathered look, you can use that fogging to your advantage! I'd sand it lightly with a dry 400 grit sandpaper and paint it again with thin coats. Try a small affected area first and see how it reacts. Don't forget to bring it inside if it's too humid, and try to paint under the same conditions, if possible.

In my case, I can see a little foggin' in the cyclotron area... and I love it!!! Given the new game release, you have to vent your pack to avoid overheating, so it seems the cyclotron is a very hot area. You know like those black ceramic range tops? The area that receives more heat gets a little dull after sometime. Mine is not that dull, but to me, looks pretty good :)
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By B-Rad
Big Thank You! I've only put together one kit before and know I didn't get everything. But also never knew the correct process and what to look for, getting one of colins trap kits this will help tones.

Thanks for the write up!
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By jt001
You are very welcome! Glad I could add my bit to this awesome community :)

If you guys need also help on working with wood, how to get rid of the grain, etc; let me know and I'll add it up.
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By Bradester
I would like to add my 2 cents regarding painting clear or somewhat clear plastic parts Black. Simply, give the interior of the plastic 2 coats of Black before you paint the exterior. Why? The blacks will look blacker, less bleed-thru of interior lighting; and if the items gets chipped, the chip won't show nearly as bad because of the black paint on the inside. It only takes a few extra moments to do, and you don't have to worry of runs in the paint or flaws because none of them will show on the exterior anyways.
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By jt001
Bradester: I agree!!! Thanks for chiming in! :)
Great write up, I'd love some tips for weathering too though. What are the most common methods?
Regarding weathering:

I've been a fan of 3 methods for a few years. Some offer instant gratification and others weather in a more natural way over time. You can use dry brushing, masking (or using liquid mask for big chunks... one member here used mustard as the same principle and got awesome results) and adding a silver layer before painting black (liquid mask should be used before adding black paint). You add a silver layer, add liquid mask wherever you'd like big chunks of silver showing, let dry and paint black.

If you are good with an airbrush, that opens a whole new spectrum of possibilities. I am not very good, as I have not practiced that very much, but there are a lot of videos and tutorials on that area. Personally, I love how a good airbrush weathered piece looks. It is something very hard to achieve with regular dry brushing techniques because you can use different layers and colors to achieve a more natural look.

Dry brushing: Instant gratification! Using a brush, you dab it on silver paint, and remove the excess using a paper towel. Dab it here and there: corners, edges of round areas, beveled places. In other words, those areas that get a more constant use, or those corners that are always in contact with other areas. A little bit of sanding on corners should give you great results.

There's also a method that I didn't mention at the top. Under regular circumstances I finished a prop and then weathered it. With my pack, I took a different route. Once everything, or most of it was painted, I decided to assemble it, even if some of the stuff had yet to be attached, holes had to be drilled or in some cases: areas to be re-painted. I even drilled, filled, sanded, drilled again and then paint some areas when the pack was fully assembled.

Why? Because in real life, most of the time we do not take everything apart to fix something. Many times we remove what just seems necessary to reach the part that has to be fixed. Take mechanics for example. They don't dismantle the whole car just to fix a radiator! They just take apart what seems necessary so they can reach whatever has to be reached. In the process some parts might get dints and scratches. Like a little paint scratch here while replacing a pedal on a bike, or when a tool slipped and did a scratch there... that is real weathering in the happening. To me, the packs should/must go under regular maintenance, changing parts here and there without taking the whole thing apart, so that adds to the weathering. Most of the real props get weathered like that: stuff has to be re glued or reattached on set. While attaching some parts, a few areas will get scratches... real scratches, and that adds a natural looking touch.

Most of the problem with weathering is overdoing it. Once you over do it is VERY hard, sometimes impossible to fix it back, so one has to be real careful. A good practice is to weather a bit today, leave it like that, look at it and wait till the next day to add some more. Don't do it all in the same day or you might end up over doing it.

Look at real weathered stuff. Things that get constant use. Use reference pictures. There are also different types of weathering: one created by constant use, another one created by the lack of use like unreachable areas, dust, rust, decaying areas, dull paint. What are the areas that get more exposure to the touch and what other areas are more exposed to the elements? What exactly makes something look weathered? Is it lack of paint? Glossy areas that had turned matte? Yellowish areas? Always study what exactly makes an object look weathered. Weathering affects materials in different ways. Metal ages different than fiberglass, rubber, plastic or wood.

I love that rusty, used, beaten up look, but that is real hard to achieve correctly. Even more difficult than creating a pristine piece!
User avatar
By jt001
You are welcome!

Actually both! Liquid mask is a blue gel that you apply to certain areas that you don't want paint to stick. It's basic function is just like masking tape. You apply it, let it dry and paint over it. Once the paint has dried, all you do is peel back the gel (which turns into some kind of rubber blob) and expose what once was masked

Here's a better example. Let's take this Fett helmet (that does not belong to me, It appears to belong to Alex Englemann). You see that huge silver ding? You could do that in 2 ways. Either paint the whole area green and then apply silver to it, or paint the helmet silver, apply liquid mask to the ding, paint the helmet green and then remove the gel, exposing the silver. The great thing about liquid mask is that given it's gel state, it's easier to recreate chipped paint. With masking tape you would need to cut lots of tiny pieces and place them next to each other to achieve a similar effect.

The other dings can be reproduced with dry brushing, but I don't think that technique was used on that helmet because the chipped paint look is very pronounced.

Here is a great article on weathering and the basic differences between dry brushing (it helps highlight raised details) and washes (accentuate engraved areas). This is a great piece of weathering reading material!

Here's the helmet with an example of what can be done with liquid mask.


You should give the airbrush a try (not on the pack first). You'll be amazed how much details can be achieved with it. There are also great videos on youtube both on airbrushing techniques and airbrushing weathering. You know, after posting this, I think I'll give my airbrush another run! :)

Here are some airbrush weathering examples I found on the web. This could change your mind! You should also check the Alclad 2 thread I made. It is a realistic metal paint that can only be applied by airbrush. Here's the link: ... =2&t=13935 And here's what you could do with Alclad 2:


Airbrush weathering:



Here's a before and after

User avatar
By Deadohiosky
That Boba Fett helmet is ill. Im gettign really excited about trying this now, thanks for going so indepth too. This weekend Im gonna have to try some of these techniques.

Seems like a pack would take a lot of liquid mask tho! I saw someone on this board, I forget who, applied a layer of silver, then black, then sanded off the black to weather it. I cant actually imagine that working, atleast not when I attempt it lol.
User avatar
By jt001
As we speak, I'm applying some liquid mask to the Ion piece, and will try to post pics later on :)

I'll be careful with the Krylon. Since they've changed formulas, I've heard nothing but bad things about it :)
User avatar
By jt001
Sorry for the late reply!

As promised, here are some progress shots using liquid mask.

This is the little fella. It is made by a company called Microscale and it's called Micro Mask. I first taped the brass rods and used a little brush to paint the whole surfaced with liquid mask.




Liquid mask applied and drying. Once dried (takes about 30 minutes, probably shorter) After that, with an X-acto knife I removed all the pieces that required paint (middle area) and used regular semi-gloss spray paint.



Sit and wait for the paint to dry :p That's why I couldn't post earlier... weekend getaway with wifey :)


Now, just peel back the mask, which had turned into a rubbery layer.



Final piece






And that's it :)

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