Scuff And Prep Before Painting

Scuff and prep before painting tutorial we’ll cover prep required on painted, clear coated metal, fiberglass surfaces before you can add your art work. Written by Don Johnson, brought to you by Airbrush Technique Magazine

This is in general geared toward those rending art on motorcycles, helmets, cars, trucks and the like when the surface has already been base coated and cleared.

This takes into account any wax or other substances have already been cleaned from the surface and you are ready to scuff the surface for paint adhesion purposes. The key word here is SCUFF not scratch so a certain degree of care should be taken when prepping a surface for adding your artwork, airbrushing.

The first rule when looking to prepare a surface for custom painting is READ THE TECH SHEET, the second rule is READ THE TECH SHEET for the paint product you will be using. You can save yourself a lot of heart ache by following those simple rules before you jump into any project. In very general terms the procedure as out lined below will work but please check, read the tech sheets that go along with the paint products you will be using.

It this tutorial we’ll be going over using Scotch Brite pads for the purpose of scuffing the surface. As I stated above what we want to accomplish here is to scuff the surface (clear coat) we DO NOT want to scratch the surface there is a huge difference. . To just take after the surface with a Scotch Brite pad you might get away a couple times but sooner or later it will bit you and you’ll end up with a surface covered with scratches, not good. To help avoid that end result you will find the following very helpful.


Comet and scuff pad

Pictured above (house Comet cleaner) is what I have been using for over ten years now with my Scotch Brite pads and good old H2O, I’ve had zero ill effects. The Comet acts much the same as the Scuff It product pictured below.


3M Scuff IT

For those of you with deeper pockets than mine there is a 3M product made just for use with Scotch Brite pads, “Scuff It”. “3M™ Scuff-It™ is an outstanding new prep gel that is designed to clean, degrease and abrade automotive surfaces prior to painting.Used in conjunction with Scotch-Brite™ pads, the Scuff-It™ gel lubricates the pad to ensure a consistent scratch pattern that will greatly improve the adhesion of the paint. Rinses cleanly with water. Convenient “wedge” tube fits into technician’s pocket for easy use.”


Scuff surface

Following along with the Comet method you need to keep your surface wet all the time apply a bit a Comet to the area you intend to scuff and gently have at it with the Scotch Brite pad.


scuff metal surface

The key with this method is to keep the surface wet all the time and rinse the Scotch Brite pad out often. You want to avoid the pad getting a build up of gunk as that will produce scratches.


completely scuffed, prep surface

Pictured above is our scuffed motorcycle tank all ready for us to add our artwork to. No big scratches a nicely scuffed surface to which the paint should have no problem adhering to. You can see on the masking covering the gas filler hole how shiny that area still looks against our nicely scuffed surface.

Pretty simple basic stuff but if done in correctly the greatest art work, graphic’s will not cover the mess underneath them. Your paint is only as good as what you apply it over get off to a great start and scuff the surface correctly.

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