How to Paint a Pinewood Derby Car, A Guide to Success

Embark on the thrilling journey of transforming your pinewood derby car into a masterpiece with our comprehensive guide on how to paint a pinewood derby car. From selecting the perfect paint to mastering painting techniques, this article will empower you with the knowledge and inspiration to create a car that stands out on the track.

As you delve into the world of pinewood derby car painting, you’ll discover the essential materials and tools, the art of preparing your car for a flawless finish, and the secrets to choosing the right paint for optimal performance and aesthetics.

Materials and Tools

Before embarking on the artistic endeavor of painting your pinewood derby car, it is essential to gather the necessary materials and tools to ensure a seamless and successful process.

To achieve a vibrant and durable finish, you will require the following materials:

  • Sandpaper in various grits (120, 220, 400)
  • Wood filler or putty
  • Primer
  • Acrylic paints in desired colors
  • Paintbrushes of various sizes
  • Clear coat

In addition to these materials, you will also need the following tools:

  • Sanding block
  • Stirring sticks or brushes
  • Masking tape
  • Paint tray or palette
  • Safety goggles

Preparing the Car: How To Paint A Pinewood Derby Car

How to Paint a Pinewood Derby Car, A Guide to Success

Before painting your pinewood derby car, it’s crucial to prepare the surface properly. This involves sanding and priming to ensure a smooth, even finish that enhances the paint’s adhesion.


Sanding removes any rough edges or imperfections on the car’s surface. Start with coarse sandpaper (around 120-150 grit) to remove major bumps and then gradually move to finer sandpaper (220-320 grit) for a smoother finish. Sand in the direction of the wood grain to avoid scratching the surface.


Priming creates a barrier between the wood and the paint, preventing the wood’s natural oils from seeping into the paint and causing discoloration. Choose a primer specifically designed for wood, such as latex or oil-based primer. Apply a thin, even coat of primer and allow it to dry completely before painting.

Choosing the Right Paint

When selecting paint for your pinewood derby car, several options are available, each with its advantages and disadvantages. The choice of paint depends on factors such as durability, ease of application, and desired finish.

Acrylic Paint

Acrylic paint is a water-based paint that is easy to apply and dries quickly. It is available in a wide range of colors and finishes, including glossy, matte, and metallic. Acrylic paint is relatively inexpensive and can be cleaned up with water.

However, it can be less durable than other types of paint and may require multiple coats for full coverage.

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Enamel Paint

Enamel paint is an oil-based paint that is more durable than acrylic paint. It provides a hard, glossy finish that is resistant to chipping and scratching. Enamel paint is available in a wide range of colors, but it can be more difficult to apply and requires longer drying times.

It also has a stronger odor than acrylic paint and requires mineral spirits or paint thinner for cleanup.

Lacquer Paint

Lacquer paint is a fast-drying paint that provides a high-gloss finish. It is available in a wide range of colors and is very durable. However, lacquer paint can be more expensive than other types of paint and requires special equipment, such as a spray gun, for application.

It also has a strong odor and requires a respirator for use.

Color and Finish

The color and finish of the paint you choose will depend on your personal preferences and the desired look of your car. Bright, bold colors will stand out on the track, while darker colors can create a more sleek and sophisticated look.

A glossy finish will give your car a shiny, reflective appearance, while a matte finish will create a more subdued look.

Painting Techniques

Applying paint evenly and smoothly is crucial for a flawless finish. Start by using a small brush to paint the details, such as the stripes or numbers. For larger areas, switch to a larger brush. Hold the brush perpendicular to the surface and apply even strokes, avoiding drips or smudges.

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Brush Sizes and Strokes

  • Small brushes (00-2):Ideal for intricate details and fine lines.
  • Medium brushes (4-6):Suitable for larger areas and blending colors.
  • Large brushes (8-10):Best for covering large surfaces quickly and evenly.

Use smooth, even strokes and avoid applying too much pressure. If you notice any drips or smudges, gently wipe them away with a clean brush or tissue.

Design and Creativity

When designing your car, keep in mind that a visually appealing car will attract attention and make a statement on the track. Consider the following tips to enhance your car’s aesthetic appeal:

Incorporate creative design elements to make your car stand out. Experiment with different color schemes, patterns, and details to create a unique and memorable look.

Design Inspiration

Here are some design ideas to inspire you:

  • Use bold colors and contrasting patterns to create a visually striking effect.
  • Incorporate aerodynamic elements into your design to improve the car’s speed and performance.
  • Add decals or stickers to personalize your car and make it truly unique.

Finishing Touches

Once the paint has dried completely, it’s time to add the finishing touches to your pinewood derby car. These steps will help protect the paint and give your car a polished look.

The final step in painting your pinewood derby car is to apply a clear coat or sealant. This will protect the paint from scratches and wear and tear, and it will also give the car a glossy finish. There are a variety of clear coats and sealants available, so be sure to choose one that is specifically designed for use on wood.

Applying a Clear Coat or Sealant, How to paint a pinewood derby car

  1. Apply a thin, even coat of clear coat or sealant to the entire car.
  2. Allow the clear coat or sealant to dry completely before handling the car.
  3. Once the clear coat or sealant is dry, you can add decals or other embellishments to your car.

Outcome Summary

With your newfound painting prowess, you’re now equipped to unleash your creativity and design a car that reflects your unique style. Experiment with different color schemes, patterns, and embellishments to make your car the talk of the race. Remember, the journey of painting a pinewood derby car is not just about aesthetics; it’s about creating a work of art that embodies your passion and determination.

Key Questions Answered

What type of paint is best for pinewood derby cars?

Acrylic and enamel paints are commonly used for their durability and vibrant colors.

How do I achieve a smooth finish when painting my car?

Sanding the car thoroughly before painting and applying multiple thin coats of paint will help create a smooth surface.

What are some tips for designing a visually appealing car?

Consider using contrasting colors, adding decals or stickers, and experimenting with different patterns to make your car stand out.

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About the Author: Jason