How to Paint a Car With a Roller

Updated April 17, 2017

You have repaired all the bumps, dings, dents, holes, and rusted areas on your automobile. You have washed the entire car thoroughly, and rinsed it until all traces of soap are gone. You have “masked”, or covered, the areas that do not need to get paint on them. You are now ready to apply the automotive primer paint and the automotive paint.

You know that you do your best painting work with a paint roller, rather than spray painting. Therefore, you are going to put the primer and the paint on with a roller.

Decide which area of the car you will paint first.

Wipe the entire surface of the area that you are going to paint first with denatured or rubbing alcohol that has been poured onto a cloth or paper towel. This will ensure that all soap residue has been removed. Dry the surface with a cloth or paper towel, then allow it to air-dry for a few minutes.

Thin the automotive primer until it is liquid enough to be spread with a paint roller, but still thick enough so that it will not run.

Dip the roller into the automotive primer and remove the excess so that it will not drip.

Beginning at the masked area on one side, and going from left to right, roll the primer onto the prepared area in one smooth motion. Do not use a back-and-forth motion.

Continue to move the roller across the area being primed, again in one smooth motion, not back and forth, until all the primer that was on the roller cover is gone.

Re-load the roller with primer paint, and repeat Steps 5 and 6.

Wait approximately thirty seconds, then repeat Steps 4, 5, 6, and 7. Continue until you have rolled primer paint over the same area about three or four times.

Move to the place where the roller ran out of paint, and repeat Steps 4, 5, 6, and 7, remembering to overlap slightly onto the previously- primer painted area.

After you have completely finished with the area that you chose to primer paint first, move to the next area to be primer painted, and repeat Step 2.

Repeat Steps 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 until the entire car has been primer painted.

Allow the primer to dry for at least forty-eight hours.

Use fine-grit sandpaper (about 500 to 600-grit) that has been moistened with water to sand all primed areas until the surface is completely smooth. (This is called wet-sanding).

Remove any sandpaper grit that may remain with a clean, wet cloth, and then thoroughly dry the sanded areas.

Determine that the surface is perfectly smooth and even (no high places, bumps, or other imperfections), and fix any imperfections if you need to. Do this by filing or scraping down high places and bumps, then wet-sand the surface again, beginning with 300-grit paper and ending with 500-600 grit sandpaper.

Allow the primer paint to dry for 48 hours.

To prepare the car for the automotive paint itself (in other words, the top coat), repeat Steps 13 and 14.

Repeat Step 2, then repeat Steps 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, and 11.


Keep the primer paint and the top coat paint at the same consistency that you have determined is the best during the entire process. Adjust it as needed while you work.

Change roller covers after you have primer-painted the car.


Wear a filtration mask while roller-painting the car. Unless you are using an extension handle on the roller, you will be fairly close to the paint, and the fumes can start irritating your nose, mouth, or eyes.

Also wear the filtration mask, as well as gloves and long sleeves when using the sandpaper. This will keep sandpaper grit from getting into your nose and mouth, and metal shavings from getting on your skin.

Wear proper eye protection when using the sandpaper. This will prevent sandpaper grit and metal shavings from getting into your eyes. You may also wish to wear eye protection when painting, to avoid getting primer and paint splashed into your eyes.

Things You'll Need

  • Automotive Paint Primer Coating
  • Automotive Paint
  • Paint rollers with very soft covers
  • Fine sandpaper
  • Sandpaper “brick” or holder
  • Water
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