How to paint polycarbonate: 7 expert tips

Can you paint polycarbonate and how do you go about it? Model makers and hobbyists often paint clear plastic. For example, you might want to airbrush a miniature car made of polycarbonate or a host of other small objects. Some painters also use polycarbonate or perspex as a canvas. In this blog, we’re bringing you seven tips for painting clear plastic.

The basics of painting polycarbonate sheets

Even if you aren’t a model builder or crafter, you might wish to paint polycarbonate. Reasons to paint plastic include refreshing discoloured plastic, changing the original colour, or touching up worn areas or repairs. Whatever the reason, it’s crucial to read our instructions carefully before you begin painting polycarbonate. We also recommend always trying the paint out on a small, inconspicuous area first, before you proceed further.

Painting polycarbonate

# 1. Avoid solvents

If you’re going to paint polycarbonate, avoid solvents at all costs. If you use solvent-based paints, your polycarbonate sheet will soften and deform. Not the result you’re looking for!

# 2. Degrease the polycarbonate sheet

Like most types of plastic, the surface of a transparent plastic sheet is so smooth that it’s difficult for paint to adhere. It’s essential to make sure there isn’t a trace of grease on the sheet by cleaning it with lukewarm soapy water and Burnus anti-static cleaner.

Antistatic cleaner for polycarbonate

# 3. Sand the polycarbonate

The decision whether or not to sand your polycarbonate before painting depends on what exactly you’re going to use it for. For example, if you’re going to use the panel as a canvas and make a painting on it, you only need to degrease it as described in # 2. Make sure that no dirt remains, as this can cause scratches when you dry the sheet. An expert tip is to place the sheet, as long as it’s not too big, in an oven at 40 ° Celsius for 10 minutes. This removes all traces of moisture, and the heat improves the adhesion of the primer and paint.

Tip: Do you want to give the entire surface a solid colour? First, roughen your polycarbonate sheet with 200 grit sandpaper or sanding wool and then degrease it a second time.

Sand the polycarbonate

# 4. Use the right primer

For the paint to adhere well to the polycarbonate, using the correct primer is essential. Make sure you use a primer that is suitable for polycarbonate, and that you can paint over, such as Redox BL multi primer from Sikkens. A primer ensures good adhesion to the panel surface and creates an excellent adhesive base for the paint. Always read the instructions carefully before use.


Polycarbonate - primer

# 5. Lightly sand the sheets again

Resanding is only necessary when you intend painting the entire sheet in a solid colour, such as a clear plastic panel, a miniature car or other modelling objects made of polycarbonate sheet.

# 6. Use acrylic paint

to mask off part of the clear plastic sheet, use a good quality masking tape. It will create a clean masking line and won’t leave any glue residues on the polycarbonate. Various types of paint are especially suitable for polycarbonate. Tamiya polycarbonate paints are frequently used for painting small surfaces. These aerosols are specially designed for transparent, flexible polycarbonate bodies, such as those on RC cars. For larger surfaces, we recommend applying acrylic paint with a roller.

Tip: Are you going to spray? Observe the recommended spraying distance, ensure the correct ambient temperature and spray in several layers.

# 7. Allow the paint to dry

After spraying or painting, wait for the surface of your clear plastic to be dust dry. If you have used masking tape, you can remove it at this stage. Because the paint has not yet cured, the tape will come away easily, and you won’t pull the paint away with it. Then let the paint dry and harden thoroughly. Keep to the drying time as stated on the packaging of your paint. For spray painting, it’s advisable to finish the paint layer with a polyurethane-based clear coat. It will protect the paint layer and creates a more beautiful result.

Paint polycarbonat

Customised polycarbonate sheet

We offer clear polycarbonate in a range of sheet thicknesses in our webshop. We’ll saw the sheets to size for you free of charge with a minimum length and width of 10 x 10 cm. You’ll receive your order as soon as possible. If you have any questions about painting clear plastic sheets or regarding another project, please don’t hesitate to contact us.