How to Paint Over Decals

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Sand the decal before you prime it.
Sand the decal before you prime it. (Image: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Decal removal can be a tedious task fraught with potential unseen problems. Sticker adhesives are often too powerful to remove without the help of powerful cleansers that can damage underlying surfaces. If you need to paint, but are unable to remove existing decals from the surface you are working on, paint over the stickers, using the proper techniques. Unfortunately, decals are not suited for adhesion and require specific preparation before they will accept paint. Prepare thoroughly, or the decals will inevitably shed their new finish.

Things You'll Need

  • Water-based degreasing soap
  • Coarse sponge
  • Rags
  • Shop towels
  • 220-grit sandpaper
  • Professional painter's tape
  • Dropcloth
  • Latex primer
  • 2- to 3-inch polyester paintbrush
  • Latex paint

Wash the decal with a water-based soap, using the sponge. Rinse the decal with a damp rag. Dry the sticker with a towel.

Lightly sand the sticker with a fine 220-grit sandpaper. Stop when the decal feels slightly rough. This promotes adhesion.

Cover areas next to the decal with painter's tape.

Coat the decal with latex primer, using a soft polyester paintbrush. Apply gentle pressure to prevent runs. Allow the sticker to dry for two hours.

Clean the soft polyester paintbrush with water.

Coat the decal with latex paint, using the clean soft polyester paintbrush. Apply gentle pressure to prevent runs. Allow the sticker to dry for two hours.

Tips & Warnings

  • Do not paint an unprimed decal, or the paint will peel.
  • Do not prime an unabraded decal, or the finish will flake.
  • Do not abrade the decal, using sandpaper with a grit lower than 220, as this may damage the sticker.

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