Rustoleum Roll On Paint Job: Achieving a Professional Finish on a Budget

Achieving a fresh, new look for your car doesn’t always mean an expensive trip to the professional paint shop. We can explore economical DIY alternatives, such as using Rust-Oleum paint and a roller for a complete car makeover.

This method may require a good amount of elbow grease and patience, but the payoff can be a car that appears revived—at a fraction of the cost.

A hand holding a paint roller applies Rustoleum paint to a surface, creating a smooth and even finish

We often hear about Rust-Oleum for its robust protection against rust and corrosion on metal surfaces. Applying Rust-Oleum to our vehicle’s exterior not only can protect it from these elements but also provides a fresh, clean appearance.

Preparing the car’s surface is key—we need to sand down any rough spots, clean the area thoroughly, and apply a primer to ensure that the topcoat sticks and has a uniform look.

It’s a process that calls for meticulous attention to detail, spreading multiple thin coats and sanding in between.

We can’t expect a job that matches the glass-like finish of a professional, high-end paint job, but with careful application, the result of our efforts can be a car that we’re proud to drive without breaking the bank.

Preparing the Surface for Painting

Proper preparation of the vehicle’s surface is essential for a successful Rustoleum roll-on paint job. It ensures that the paint adheres well and lasts longer, while also giving a professional-looking finish.

Assessing Paint and Body Work

Before diving into sanding and priming, we assess the body work to determine the extent of prep work needed. This step identifies any areas requiring attention, such as dents, rust spots, or previous damage.

Body Work Assessment:

  • Check for rust and remove it.
  • Fill dents and uneven surfaces with body filler.
  • Ensure the body is free from all contaminants.

Steps in Sanding and Priming

Once the body work assessment is complete, we begin sanding. Sanding removes old layers of paint, creating a smooth and stable surface for the primer to adhere.

Sanding Process Priming Process
1. Start with coarser grit sandpaper to remove rough spots.

2. Progress to finer grits for a smoother finish.
1. Use a Rusty Metal Primer on bare, rust-prone metal.

2. Apply even primer coat(s) to all surfaces.

Masking tape is applied around areas we don’t want painted. Clean metal primer is applied on bare metal areas to ensure strong paint adhesion.

Always working in a well-ventilated area, we methodically apply the primer, allowing for ample drying time before the next steps. The aim is a uniform, clean base for the topcoat.

Choosing the Right Paint

When considering a Rustoleum roll on paint job, selecting the appropriate type of paint is crucial for durability and aesthetics. We’ll guide you through the details of enamel and urethane paints, as well as how to choose the right colors and gloss levels for your project.

Understanding Enamel and Urethane Options

Enamel Paints:

  • Durability: Enamel paints like Rust-Oleum are known for their durability, making them a common choice for projects that require a tough, long-lasting finish.
  • Application: They are often favored for ease of application and their forgiving nature, especially for DIY automotive paint jobs.

Urethane Paints:

  • Finish Quality: Urethane paints tend to yield a higher-quality finish, being more resistant to chipping and fading over time.
  • Curing Process: They also have a different curing process that may require more professional tools or environment to achieve the desired result.

Tip: For a more durable and professional finish, urethane might be the better choice, albeit at a higher cost and complexity in application. For a budget-friendly, robust finish, enamel paints like Rust-Oleum can be quite adequate.

Selecting Colors and Gloss Levels


  • Variety: Rust-Oleum provides an extensive color palette, ranging from gloss black to vibrant shades suitable for automotive and tractor paint projects.
  • Match: It’s crucial to choose a color that not only matches your vision but also complements the vehicle’s style and purpose.

Gloss Levels:

  • Finish Type: The level of glossiness in the paint can affect both the appearance and maintenance of the painted surface.
  • Choice: Gloss finishes are more reflective and easy to clean, while matte finishes hide imperfections better but may require more upkeep.
Remember: The choice between enamel and urethane paints largely depends on the desired balance between cost, ease of application, and finish longevity. The ultimate decision in color and gloss level should reflect your personal style and the functionality of the vehicle.

Application Techniques

When undertaking a roller paint job with Rustoleum, precision and technique are paramount. Whether you choose to roll on the paint or use a spray, each method has its distinct advantages that cater to diverse needs and preferences.

Roller vs. Spray Paint Methods

Roller (Foam Roller)

Using a foam roller for a Rustoleum paint job is a highly affordable choice that is well-suited for a budget paint job. It’s a method that eschews specialized equipment like a spray booth or spray gun, which can be costly and require a lot of space.

Our key steps when rolling on paint are:

  • Surface Preparation: We ensure the surface is clean of old paint and rust, often using sandpaper or chemicals.
  • Priming: It’s crucial to use a primer, such as Rust-Oleum’s Rusty Metal Primer, before applying the topcoat.
  • Application: We utilize foam rollers and foam brushes for edges to apply the paint evenly. Thinning the paint with mineral spirits can improve the smoothness of the application.
Spray Paint (Spray Gun, Spray booth)

Spray painting, on the other hand, might be faster and can yield a more professional finish if we do it correctly. It requires more preparation, but here’s what we keep in mind:

  • Equipment: A quality spray gun and access to a spray booth are essential to protect the surrounding area and achieve a fine finish.
  • Technique: We maintain a consistent distance and spray pattern to avoid drips and ensure even coats.
  • Ventilation: Proper ventilation is must-have due to the fumes from oil-based primers and paint.

Finishing and Protecting the Paint Job

After applying multiple coats of Rustoleum paint and allowing adequate drying time, the next crucial steps are wetsanding and polishing. These processes not only provide a smooth finish but also ensure that the freshly painted surface is more durable and resistant to the elements.

Wetsanding for a Smooth Finish

Wetsanding is an important step to achieve a smooth and even surface. We typically begin with a higher grit sandpaper and progressively move to a finer grit. Here’s how we do it:

Wetsanding Process:
  1. Soak sandpaper in water for at least an hour before starting.
  2. Start with a lower grit such as 600 to remove any orange peel or runs in the paint.
  3. Move up to a higher grit, up to 1500 or 2000, for a smoother finish.
  4. Keep the painted surface wet to avoid damage and scratching.

Polishing and UV Protection

Polishing not only brings out the luster in the paint but also adds a layer of UV protection.

Using a compound and buffer, we achieve a high gloss finish:

Polishing Steps:
  1. Apply a small amount of polishing compound to the surface.
  2. Use a buffing machine at medium speed to evenly distribute the compound over the paint.
  3. Increase the speed to bring the paint to a high gloss.
  4. Finish by applying a UV protective coating to shield the paint from the sun’s harsh rays.

This makes our Rustoleum paint job look professionally done and extends its lifespan by protecting against fading and oxidation caused by UV exposure.

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