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Painting a motorcycle?

Joined
Dec 11, 2017
Messages
403
Location
DFW
I tried searching the forums and didn't find much. Has anyone painted their own bike?

My Versys is factory blue and I don't like it. It would be much prettier in the factory green color to me. Any advice is welcome, but I've decided this is a project I will do at home instead of paying someone to do it for me due the cost. One place I asked wanted 150 per piece painted with 5 pieces of plastic, that comes to 750 bucks plus tax. I went ahead and purchased a factory green gas tank for my bike so I wouldn't have to worry about painting that.

If you have done it yourself, what equipment did you use and what paint specifically?
 
Joined
Dec 11, 2017
Messages
403
Location
DFW
I literally have zero knowledge on this, but wondered, have you looked at wraps?
I've considered wraps, but don't really care for the idea. Knowing myself, I'd end up with bubbles everywhere with a wrap.

My wife is familiar with air brush in general on things other than autos so either she will do it for me or she will tell me what I'm doing wrong.
 
Joined
Jun 4, 2013
Messages
101
Location
Celina, TX
First Name
Paul
Last Name
Burns
Look into plasti-dip. I've not done it, but have read many success stories, i.e. it's easy to get good results. YT has tons of videos on how to do it. Very popular on cars and motorcycles, and seems to last. And if you don't like it, just peel it off and try another color.
 
Joined
Oct 31, 2012
Messages
949
Location
Houston, TX
Shooting auto paint is mostly a labor intensive exercise. Most of the work is done before you even grab the spray gun. Removing the parts, cleaning the parts with soap and water, then degreaser, then silicone remover. Then wet sanding the substrate with 220 then 400, then possibly 600. This gives a surface full of microscopic nooks and crannies for the new paint to adhere well. Followed by more soap and water washing, degreaser and silicone remover.

Then comes the primer. Most often, you'll need a primer sealer to act as a barrier so your new top coat doesn't react with the old paint underneath to cause problems. That is usually an epoxy primer like PPG's DP series of primers. I usually use the dark grey DP40(?). If the surface is rough, you may need a primer surfacer. You can use any high-solids primer and just wet sand between coats to build up the thickness. The best primer for this though is a 2K urethane primer surfacer. That is a 2-part primer you have to mix just before shooting. It works well for flexible parts that will crank the typical primer.

Next is the color coat. There are basically 3 types. Single stage is where the color coat is also the top coat, without a clear over it. This is rarely used these days, but still available if you really wanted it for some reason. Otherwise, it's used mostly for painting areas (like under hood) where appearance and outright durability isn't as important. 2-stage is the most popular color + clear. Then there are 3-stage, which are your candy or pearl colors. These have a metallic or pearl base coat, followed by a transluscent and semi-transparent color coat, which let some light through to reflect off the base coat. You can create some spectacular effect with 3 stage, but it is not easy to shoot right. The semi-transparent color coat has to shot very uniformly, or else you get blotches of lighter and darker areas. On top of all that, of course is the clear top coat, which is almost always a high solids urethane clear.

Paint materials are not hard to get. Any auto refinish job shop can supply all the stuff I listed above. Different mfr have different refinish systems. Unless you know what you are doing, it is best to stay within one system to guarantee compatibility. I started with Dupont Centari back in the late 80s. Then I shot PPG's excellent Deltron urethane line for the longest time. I still do, but auto paint has gotten expensive, so on some jobs, I save some money going with Sherwin William's systems. Their color matching is not as good as PPG, but for overall job doesn't matter as much.

Speaking of color matching... that is the biggest problem with paint motorcycles. Most job shops do not have paint codes for motorcycles, unless you get lucky and have an automotive (car application) crossover. This is only possible if it's a Honda or BMW color code that is used in both motorcycle and car. Otherwise, you are stuck with places like Colorrite. Prepare to bend over. Not that auto paint is cheap, by any means, and it has gotten more expensive over the years, but monopoly tends to get even more ridiculously expensive. If you are painting the whole bike, consider picking an OEM car color you like. Then you can find out what the paint code is, and take the color code to any auto paint job shop.

As for equipment, I started with a 1/2HP Sears Craftsman direct drive air compressor and only one Sharpe detail spray gun. I've painted a whole car with that set up. I wouldn't recommend going that basic, but it is possible. These days, I've got a 7.5HP 80 gal dual stage air compressor, and about 4 different gravity fed guns, for different primers, color, and clear paint. You can start with anywhere in between the two.

Make sure you wear a good respirator meant exactly for spraying auto paint. There is a lot of nasty chemicals in autopaint you don't want in your lungs. I've probably lost a lot of brain cells from inhales some of it back when I started and didn't know any better. This is one area i would definitely not cheap out on.

If you've followed me so far and your head isn't spinning, you might give it a shot. A lot of it is patience, stick-to-it-ness, and bucket after buckets of elbow grease. Took me a long time to get "good" at it, but it is the single most satisfying auto-related skill/hobby I've ever taken on.


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Joined
Apr 26, 2006
Messages
4,453
Location
Seabrook, TX
First Name
Dave
Many times, all the parts (fender, covers, tank, etc) can be purchased in the factory colors.
 
Joined
Feb 1, 2005
Messages
3,444
Location
Texas
I took a class at the local community college for automotive body paint and repair. They let you bring in your own "project" to practice on. This was my old saab. But for I think it was a couple hundred bucks for a semester, I got 8 hours in the shop every saturday, a paintspray booth, all the tools, and instruction on how to use them. Besides tuition I had to buy the paint and sand paper and some of the consumables. That was it.

Sorry about the photobucket watermark, I haven't even tried to get my photos back from them...

bodyspray.jpg
 
Joined
Sep 4, 2017
Messages
667
Location
Katy, Republic of Texas
First Name
Nolan
Having an already green tank will make color matching much harder. It is usually easier to paint everything from the same paint batch for complete color match.
 
Joined
Sep 4, 2009
Messages
12,204
Location
Arlington
First Name
Tim
Last Name
Shelfer
I was under the impression that all of the color on the Versys is in the plastic cladding and fenders. If so, the easiest way to get there would be to buy new parts - or old parts on EBay - and swap them. Or find somebody who hates that Kawasaki green who'd be interested in a swap.
 
Joined
Dec 29, 2017
Messages
4,659
Location
George West
First Name
Brian
Shooting auto paint is mostly a labor intensive exercise. Most of the work is done before you even grab the spray gun. Removing the parts, cleaning the parts with soap and water, then degreaser, then silicone remover. Then wet sanding the substrate with 220 then 400, then possibly 600. This gives a surface full of microscopic nooks and crannies for the new paint to adhere well. Followed by more soap and water washing, degreaser and silicone remover.

Then comes the primer. Most often, you'll need a primer sealer to act as a barrier so your new top coat doesn't react with the old paint underneath to cause problems. That is usually an epoxy primer like PPG's DP series of primers. I usually use the dark grey DP40(?). If the surface is rough, you may need a primer surfacer. You can use any high-solids primer and just wet sand between coats to build up the thickness. The best primer for this though is a 2K urethane primer surfacer. That is a 2-part primer you have to mix just before shooting. It works well for flexible parts that will crank the typical primer.

Next is the color coat. There are basically 3 types. Single stage is where the color coat is also the top coat, without a clear over it. This is rarely used these days, but still available if you really wanted it for some reason. Otherwise, it's used mostly for painting areas (like under hood) where appearance and outright durability isn't as important. 2-stage is the most popular color + clear. Then there are 3-stage, which are your candy or pearl colors. These have a metallic or pearl base coat, followed by a transluscent and semi-transparent color coat, which let some light through to reflect off the base coat. You can create some spectacular effect with 3 stage, but it is not easy to shoot right. The semi-transparent color coat has to shot very uniformly, or else you get blotches of lighter and darker areas. On top of all that, of course is the clear top coat, which is almost always a high solids urethane clear.

Paint materials are not hard to get. Any auto refinish job shop can supply all the stuff I listed above. Different mfr have different refinish systems. Unless you know what you are doing, it is best to stay within one system to guarantee compatibility. I started with Dupont Centari back in the late 80s. Then I shot PPG's excellent Deltron urethane line for the longest time. I still do, but auto paint has gotten expensive, so on some jobs, I save some money going with Sherwin William's systems. Their color matching is not as good as PPG, but for overall job doesn't matter as much.

Speaking of color matching... that is the biggest problem with paint motorcycles. Most job shops do not have paint codes for motorcycles, unless you get lucky and have an automotive (car application) crossover. This is only possible if it's a Honda or BMW color code that is used in both motorcycle and car. Otherwise, you are stuck with places like Colorrite. Prepare to bend over. Not that auto paint is cheap, by any means, and it has gotten more expensive over the years, but monopoly tends to get even more ridiculously expensive. If you are painting the whole bike, consider picking an OEM car color you like. Then you can find out what the paint code is, and take the color code to any auto paint job shop.

As for equipment, I started with a 1/2HP Sears Craftsman direct drive air compressor and only one Sharpe detail spray gun. I've painted a whole car with that set up. I wouldn't recommend going that basic, but it is possible. These days, I've got a 7.5HP 80 gal dual stage air compressor, and about 4 different gravity fed guns, for different primers, color, and clear paint. You can start with anywhere in between the two.

Make sure you wear a good respirator meant exactly for spraying auto paint. There is a lot of nasty chemicals in autopaint you don't want in your lungs. I've probably lost a lot of brain cells from inhales some of it back when I started and didn't know any better. This is one area i would definitely not cheap out on.

If you've followed me so far and your head isn't spinning, you might give it a shot. A lot of it is patience, stick-to-it-ness, and bucket after buckets of elbow grease. Took me a long time to get "good" at it, but it is the single most satisfying auto-related skill/hobby I've ever taken on.


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What a nice color. You might want to mention temperatures also. I screwed up a paint job because it was too cold.
 
Joined
Dec 11, 2017
Messages
403
Location
DFW
MidlifeCrisis, thanks for the info. I'm looking at colorrite now to see what they've got to match the factory green from Kawasaki. it looks like they have a match, but I have no idea how much paint I'll need for 5 pieces of plastic.
 

OldTLSDoug

Living the Dream.
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Joined
May 1, 2008
Messages
2,720
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Glen Rose
First Name
Doug
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Basinger
I did some painting with Color rite. Worked great matched pefectly. I used the spray cans. Had some issues with a wonky batch of primer but they made it right. All the prep is key, then proper color sand and buffing at the end. This was my first try at painting.

Also it was done with their spray cans.

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Joined
Oct 31, 2012
Messages
949
Location
Houston, TX
What a nice color. You might want to mention temperatures also. I screwed up a paint job because it was too cold.
Of course. Especially here off the gulf coast, humidity can screw up just as easily. Since I don't have an A/C'ed paint booth, I prefer to shoot paint at the crack of dawn, when the air is calm and bugs aren't active yet. But even though the lower temp might be good, humidity can be high, which can condense on the work pieces if they even a tiny bit colder than the ambient air. You also have to dry the compressed air going into the gun, or that'll mess up the spray paint too.

Anyhow, paint reducers come in different temp range, typically Low (60-75F), mid (75-85F) and high (85-95F). They will flash (evaporate) at different rates when exiting the spray gun, so if you pick the wrong temp range, you'll either get runs (too wet) or orange peel (too dry). Slower reducer is tricker to lay down proper, but will flow out better for a better DOI. Distinctiveness of image, which is literally how well you can see yourself in the reflection, and the industry measure of how flat/smooth the finish is.

Also, these days, the refinishing industry has to comply with EPA regulations on how much VOC can be emitted when spray painting. Quite often, than means less reducer mixed with the color paint, which makes it more difficult to shoot right. Pros learn to compensate for it, so they are okay with it. Thankfully, most paint mfrs will offer instructions for us DIYers to mix at higher ratios to make it easier to get a good finish.

Heck, I could write a book on spraying paint. I've gotten some good help from folks willing to give me pointers, but a lot of it is just from doing it. The very first job - a rear deck spoiler for a VW Golf GTI - I had to paint, wet-sand, repaint some 5 times before I got it right.

MidlifeCrisis, thanks for the info. I'm looking at colorrite now to see what they've got to match the factory green from Kawasaki. it looks like they have a match, but I have no idea how much paint I'll need for 5 pieces of plastic.
The color mid-coat is what you buy only for the particular job. They typically come in pint and quart cans. I think you can even buy 1/2pint for very small touch ups, but I've never done that. For 5 small pieces, a pint is probably enough, but... if you are starting out, you'll need to practice on some other scrap material first. A quart is usually not 2x as expensive, more like 1.5x, so it may be good to get a quart, just in case.

Urethane clears I usually buy gallon cans, as they can be used on any job. Every mfr will tell you to use their clears with their base coat... and if you are starting out, that is what you should do, especially if you go with the water-based stuff. I cut my teeth shooting oil-based, and I prefer to stay with it. Most urethane clears are compatible with most oil-based mid coats.
 
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