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How To Paint Car Emblems Without Removing Them

Orange Ford Mustang with the rear decal emblem logo taped off ready to paint or apply vinyl

When any car comes off the production lines, all the emblems look the same. Blacking them out will create a subtle appearance, while painting it a random color to match the rims, or the interior, will make it stand out.

Taking the emblems off the car may seem like the best way to accomplish the task, but the job can quickly be done without going through that much trouble. Let’s take a look and learn how.

Painting A Car Emblem Without Taking It Off

Painting the car emblem while it is still on the car is not a big problem if you take the time to prep it correctly. It is like any other painting job; preparing the emblem, and the surrounding areas will be the main deciding factor upon how the finished job looks.

Isolating The Car Emblem

The first step in the process will be isolating the emblem from the rest of the car. You will need to carefully run the tape around the outer edges of the emblem. Make sure that the edge of the tape runs right alongside the emblem but does not cover any of it. If the emblem has some inner curves that allow the car’s paint to show through, that will also need to be taped off.

Now that you have a good barrier along the paint, you will need to place plastic or paper around the emblem. The point of this is to protect the paint on the car, so do not be afraid to cover the entire area, and if in doubt, cover the paint out even further. The paint that is going on the emblem needs to be prevented from hitting the original paint on the car unless you want to have a section of your vehicle that looks like tye dye.

Sand The Car Emblem

You will want to start sanding the entire emblem with 180 grit sandpaper. It is best to complete this job by hand to ensure that even pressure is used throughout the sanding process. Sand the emblem slowly until there is no shine left on it. The chrome should be taken down as far as it needs to be to achieve this goal. If it has any shine, keep sanding.

The next step will be to smooth it out, so going down as deep as you did the first round is unnecessary. Use some 240 grit sandpaper and smooth the emblem with short, even strokes of the sandpaper. Once again, it is best to complete this task by hand.

Power sanders make the job faster, but you cannot feel the pressure amounts used, and you will have far less control. The bottom line is to leave the power tools for other projects.

Clean The Car Emblem

Next up will be to clean the emblem. The oil from handling it and the dust from sanding it must be removed. Use some mineral spirits and a clean cloth to make the car emblem completely clean. You will want to use a good amount of liquid, but not so much that it drips down and loosens that tape and plastic (or paper) from the lines around the emblem.

The best way to accomplish this task is to pour the mineral spirits directly onto the cloth and then wipe down the car emblem. You may still get a few small drips, but it is much better than having a stream of spirits getting underneath the tape and causing a bubble where the paint could end up going into.

Close up of a man cleaning the front hood Mercedes-Benz emblem logo with a brush

Prime The Car Emblem

Once the mineral spirits have dried, a thin coat of primer will need to be sprayed on. Use a can of spray primer made out of high-quality urethane. Dust the emblem and let it dry. Apply another heavy coat on the emblem, and let that dry.

Once dry, you will need to wet sand the emblem to ensure that the final paint job is nice and smooth. Use some 220-grid sandpaper, then smooth it out with a round of sanding using some 400-grit paper.

Spray another coat onto the emblem and repeat if needed, but if the process was done correctly up to this point, you should only need to coat the primer three times, with the first round being a light amount.

Seal The Car Emblem

Once the primer is completely dry, it will need to be sealed with a couple of coats of primer-sealer. Use a spray can version and coat the emblem with one good coat of the sealer. Once it has dried, wet sand it with 220-grid sandpaper.

After applying the first coat and sanding, wipe the emblem off with a clean cloth and spray on another coat of the sealer. Let it dry all the way, and wet sand it again before moving on to the next step.

Paint The Car Emblem

Once the sealer is dry and sanded down, it is time to apply the color of paint that you have chosen for the job. This process will be like when you applied the primer, with a few minor differences. Coat the emblem with one even spraying and let it dry. Wet sand with 1000-grid sandpaper, finishing off with some 1200-grid.

Repeat these steps four times, ensuring that each coat covers the entire emblem. Do not be afraid to overspray a little because the plastic or paper will protect the car’s paint job. The point is to cover the entire emblem, leaving no undone spots. Apply a thick coat of paint sealer, and the job is done.

VW Volkwagen Karmann Ghia with a customer-painted front hood logo emblem decal in red color


You should now have a brand new painted emblem that is the color that was chosen. Carefully peel the paint off. Slowly and steadily so it does not end up peeling any of the paint off with it. Even though the tape was carefully placed along the edges of the emblem, if you pull the tape too fast, it will take the paint on the tape, along with some on the emblem, off in one huge patch.

Painting a car emblem without removing it from the vehicle is no different than if you were painting a section of the car itself. The preparation steps are the most imperative because, without them, the job will not turn out as well as you had hoped. Take your time, do the job correctly the first time, and it will look like a professional was present the entire time.

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Ernest Martynyuk

An automotive enthusiast who's been tinkering with vehicles since I was 15-years old. Repairing automotive electronics has been my main job for over a decade now and have a passion for everything technical regarding cars.

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