Creativity and personal style is woven into the culture of FPV. We all have unique quad setups but a lot of us fly the same radios, goggles, and an d other gear. Some pilots outfit their radio transmitters with anodized switch hardware, kickstands, long-range modules, over-sized batteries and upgraded antennas and gimbals. One of the best ways to personalize your FPV gear is to give it a custom paint job. Custom painting FPV gear can be a challenge if you’re not prepared. Whether you’re painting your radio transmitter, goggles, or any other plastic FPV accessories, we can help you with a few tips on applying a show-stopping paint job using a spray can.
The 5 “P”s of Painting:
Plan – “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”
Prep – Get the surfaces smooth and free of contaminants
Primer – Use a good primer for plastic, white or grey is preferred
Paint – Select a paint color that you will like for more than a few days
Preserve – Preserve your paint from scratches and fading color with a gloss, semi-gloss, or matte finish clear-coat
When deciding what gear to paint, you should consider that you will have your radio or goggles disassembled during the time that it takes to finish the painting and curing. Some people will rush the paint job because they have to get back out and fly. One of the easiest ways to work on a paint job and remain flying is to purchase a spare shell for your radio or goggles.
Taranis X9D Shell
Replacement Taranis shells are online from many retailers:
ImmersionRC rapidFIRE Module Cover
ImmersionRC now sells Gloss White and Unpainted rapidFIRE Module covers. Why not paint it at the same time you’re painting your radio transmitter for a matched set?! Take your time and follow some of the pointers below and you might just amaze yourself with the final result.
Spray Can Painting Tips
Weather can affect the outcome of your painting project. Ideally, temperatures should be between 50°F and 90°F, and relative humidity below 85%. Avoid painting in direct sunlight and hot, humid weather. Make sure you have a drop cloth or something to catch over-spray and try to paint in a ventilated area. Ensure a smooth and even application by testing your paint and painting technique on a scrap surface or inconspicuous area before beginning your project.
Preparing your parts and the surface for the paint is key. Make sure to remove all parts that will not be painted. Mask off any areas that are press fit or have tight tolerances so that the paint build up doesn’t prevent re-assembly. For example, the gimbal rings and trim toggles on the Taranis QX7 radios will require masking, or slight sanding after paint. On the X9D you will want to be careful of paint build-up in the buttonholes.
For most painted or molded plastic parts, you should use 2000 grit sandpaper to roughen the surface and remove any oils from the injection molding process. Paint will not stick to oil or glossy surfaces so remember to give it a final clean with an ammonia-based cleaner, or use paint thinner on newer plastics. Let it air dry and use a lint free rag to wipe off any dust immediately before painting.
Use a white or grey primer that is made for plastic. Spray from about 8 inches back. Never start or stop spraying directly over the object – you get the most consistent spray “mid-stream”. Begin with a very light coat. You can use a horizontal or vertical motion but make sure to be consistent with your strokes.
Use roughly 2-3 light coats of primer and take note of the recommended time between coats. Remember that “less is more” when painting. You DO NOT need full coverage of the object in your first coat. The more restraint you use in trying to cover the object in one coat, the better your paint job. You can ensure a smooth, even application by testing your paint and painting technique on a scrap surface or inconspicuous area before beginning your project. Wait at least 24 hours before applying base color.
Selecting your color is the fun part. You can use any paint as long as you have used a primer meant for plastic and apply a clear coat. It is always good to use the same brand of primer, base color, and clear-coat to prevent any unexpected chemical reactions when curing. The curing process is important for a great-looking finish.
Use the same painting technique used with the primer when you lay down the base color. The final result will always be better when applying multiple light coats. A light dusting across the entire surface may look splotchy, but be assured that this is perfect for a first or second coat. By the third light coat you will start to see more uniformity in the color. Again, remember not to saturate the entire part in color in one pass as you will start to get runs and drips. The more coats you apply, the darker the color will appear. A pro-tip is to turn the can upside down between coats and spray for 5 seconds. This helps prevent the spray tip from clogging. Wait at least 24 hours before applying clear coat.
When you feel you’ve gotten the color and coverage even (somewhere between 3-6 very light coats of base color) it’s time to add a clear coat to preserve the finish. Clear coat can be purchased in a gloss, semi gloss, or matte finish depending on your preference. I like to use Krylon Crystal Clear for a high gloss finish.
When spraying clear coat you can be more liberal than with the base color and lay down a nice, wet coat. Strive for full and even coverage when applying clear coat, but make sure not to apply so much that you get drips. 3-4 coats of clear should be more than enough. Let the final coats cure at least 48 hours. If it’s tacky, it’s not cured. Be patient with the drying process and re-assemble your gear slowly to make sure you don’t chip or crack your fresh paint.