How to Suede Paint a Rat Rod


The textured look of traditional automotive body primer has worked its way into the hot rod enthusiast aesthetic. Back in the old days, builders and enthusiasts would prime the bodies of their custom cars and they would often stay looking that way while they saved up the cash for a sweet paint job. This has become so commonplace over the years, that the matte "suede" finish has become a desirable trait in custom paint jobs.

Things You'll Need

  • Automotive body or parts
  • Tinted primer
  • Spray booth
  • Spray gun
  • Air compressor
  • Mask or respirator
  • Determining your desired color can be tough, as you are limited to a more subdued color palette due to the gray color base of automotive primer. Lots of builders prefer the look of the traditional gray or black high-build primers, while others will want to tint the gray primer to a soft, almost pastel shade of their favorite color.

  • Remove all chrome and other materials, and sand the parts that you intend to paint. Set up a clean area to spray. Make sure that you are in a well-ventilated area and have the proper respiratory protection. Apply the first coat and let it dry completely -- this usually takes about 10 to 15 minutes. Once the previous coat is dry, apply the next coat. High-build primer is pretty forgiving, but you will want to apply at least three steady coats to cover up any burrs or imperfections on the surface.

  • Let the primer dry overnight. Some builders like to add a clear coat to protect the finish, but that can take away from the texture and feel of the final look.

Tips & Warnings

  • Suede finishes are much more susceptible to fading and rust, especially if they have not been clear-coated.

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  • Photo Credit street rod show image by jimagez from
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