How to paint over motorcycle decals

Written by brenda priddy
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How to paint over motorcycle decals
Painting over a motorcycle decal is simple. (motorcycle image by Bionic Media from

While many decals come pre-laminated and do not require additional paint over the decal, some users may want to add paint over their decals either for added protection from the elements or for adding shading and colouring. If you want to add paint over your decals make sure to purchase decals that are not pre-laminated. Many decal companies will allow this customisation option. Once you have the correct kind of decal, the right paint is equally important. Always use paint designed for use with decals and on vehicles, never lacquer-based paint.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Spray bottle
  • Dish soap
  • Sanding block
  • Waterproof 1000- and 2000-grit sandpaper
  • Small bucket
  • Rubbing compound
  • Soft cloths
  • Car decals
  • High solids auto body spray paint

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  1. 1

    Fill a spray bottle with water. Place one drop of dish soap inside the bottle. Fill a bucket with water and place an additional drop of dish soap in the bucket.

  2. 2

    Spray the surface of the vehicle where you want to place the decal with the spray bottle. Keep the surface of the area wet while you work. Dip the sandpaper in the bucket of water and place on the sand block. Lightly sand the area with the 1000-grit sandpaper. After a few seconds of sanding, follow with the wet-2000 grit sandpaper.

  3. 3

    Work a rubbing compound over the area to further smooth the paint. Work the compound into the paint with a soft cloth until the paint shines again.

  4. 4

    Place the decal over the vehicle according to the package directions. Allow the decal to dry overnight.

  5. 5

    Spray one very thin coat of clear paint (or coloured paint if you want to change the look of the decal or add other shading) over the surface of the decal and the surrounding area. Before this coat fully dries, apply one more thin coat. Allow the coats to dry for about one hour.

  6. 6

    Apply two medium coats of paint over the same area. Allow each coat to dry for an hour before applying the next coat. Add one final thick coat of paint over the decal. Allow the area to dry for 24 hours before touching the area with fingers or any other substance.

Tips and warnings

  • Never use lacquer-based paint over decals. The paint will react with the decal and cause it to peel, bubble or become discoloured. Always use a paint designed for use with decals or other vehicle paint.

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