The Rocketry Forum

Help Support The Rocketry Forum:

Jed Cole

New Member
Sep 23, 2018
Reaction score
Hi all,
I've never done a spray paint job with any sort of precision before, so I hope you'll excuse that I don't know a lot. I just want to be as informed as possible to do as close to perfect a job as I can.
My team has a 12ft long rocket with a 7.78" diameter fore section that transitions to a 6.00" diameter aft section. The aft section and fins are made from carbon fiber, the transition section between the fore and aft is made from 3D printed ABS, and the fore section and nosecone are made from fiberglass.
We've made a design and want to paint it ourselves with as close to a mirror finish as we can get. I was hoping for some guidance on how to prep, paint, and finish it, as well as maybe guidance on what materials to buy to get the job done well.
I was thinking we could use our laser cutter to cut out a stencil, but the stencil would have to be able to be laser cut, and bend so it could stick well to the body and get a good seal. I also don't know if I would want to use painter's tape in addition to the stencil, or if there are any good stencil blanks that would be good to use for a case like this.
From what I can tell, and please correct me if I am wrong, my best guess as to what I want to do is this:
  • Clean the rocket with water and let it dry
  • Sand with a rough grit
  • Clean it with rubbing alcohol and wipe it down with a tack rag
  • Use a pvc primer on it and let dry
  • Sand with a finer grit? (not sure what grit to use)
  • Put on the first layer of paint
  • I'm not sure if I should sand again and/or apply more coats
  • Clean off and put on stencils (again not sure how to secure and tape)
  • Paint in stencils and let dry
  • Fine grit sand?
  • Clean and apply clear coat with either epoxy (not sure what type) or clear gloss spray paint
  • Wet sand?
If you have any tips on best practices, order of operations, how many coats to apply, how to clean, how to ensure an even coat with no dripping, how to hold the rocket while we paint it, when to wet sand, what sand grit to use, what paint and/or epoxy to use, what stencil and/or tape to use, how to get a good seal on the paint/stencil, or really any tips at all we would appreciate it. Sorry for the long-winded post, but really any help would be appreciated.
I also know that a paint gun would be best to use, but those are very expensive, and we can't really get one right now. So we're stuck using store-bought spray cans.


Pop lugs, not drugs
Oct 15, 2016
Reaction score
Huntsville AL
Mirror finish eh?
Calling @Nathan

Mirror finishing requires making the underlying surface as flat as possible. Filling in voids with spot putty or filler primer, sanding, prime, fill voids, sanding, repeat until satisfied etc...
When the coats of paint start going on, obey the temperature and humidity constraints of the paint, as well as giving more than suggested recoat time.

Then finer sanding up to 2000 grit, clear coating, etc.... Nathan is the man to talk to for that part.

That fine a paint job isn't my style though, I like to spend more time flying them than painting
(is this an IREC or SLI rocket?)


TRF Supporter
Apr 20, 2012
Reaction score


Well-Known Member
Jan 18, 2009
Reaction score

Sooooo...you gonna get this thingy painted before Wednesday?

Latest posts