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How to Create a Rust Rod Paint Job

by Alex Smith

Creating simulated rust on your hot rod is not a complicated process. It is mostly a matter of layering different colors of paint to create the final look. As most cars have iron or steel in their frames, the most convincing rust effect is simulated iron oxide, which uses a number of colors in the red/orange/brown family. Before you begin it's a good idea to take a close look at real rust to see how the colors work together.

Step 1

Sand the areas to be painted to ensure good adhesion. Typical places you might find rust on a car are around the wheel wells, in the cracks of doors and windows, on flat surfaces such as the hood and any other places where water can pool.

Step 2

Paint a layer of primer onto the sanded areas.

Step 3

Sprinkle fine sand onto the primer while it is still wet to help create a corroded texture. You can also use more coarse sand in the centers of the rusted areas to provide more varied texture.

Step 4

Allow the primer to dry overnight to permanently bond the sand to the car.

Step 5

Use a brush to stipple dark brown paint irregularly onto the rust areas. Allow some of the sand to show through. Allow the paint to dry.

Step 6

Stipple terracotta paint onto the exposed sand, feathering it lightly over the dark brown. Be careful to avoid obvious brush strokes. Allow the paint to dry.

Step 7

Spray water onto the rust areas, then lightly stipple on blue-gray paint. Allow the water to cause this layer to run and smear. This layer should be very thin: use a paper towel to blot off any excess. Allow the paint to dry.

Spray more water onto the rust areas and lightly stipple on dull orange paint over the terracotta. This layer should only be in a few areas as it accents the rust. Again, blot off the excess with a paper towel.


  • Stippling is a painting technique in which a brush or sponge is tapped against a surface to create random blobs of paint.

Items you will need

  • Sandpaper
  • Primer
  • Sand
  • Paint
  • Paint brush
  • Water sprayer
  • Paper towels

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