How to Paint a License Plate

by Amy Lukavics
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wv license plate image by timur1970 from

Painting a license plate, whether you are doing it for restoration purposes or otherwise, isn't as easy as spraying paint on it and waiting for the paint to dry. Painting on metal requires a special procedure, because metal, especially metal that is exposed to various weather conditions, can rust pretty easily. If your license plate is showing cracks, chips or signs of rust, it's time to strip it down and give it a new paint job. And rather than paying a bundle to have it painted elsewhere, with the proper tools, you can paint a license plate in your own garage.

Step 1

Put on protective gloves and a fume mask. Remove all existing paint from the license plate, using some clean rags, a few clumps of steel wool and some paint stripper.

Step 2

Apply an even coating of etching primer, available at any automotive store, over the license plate. Allow to dry completely.

Step 3

Use a large, soft bristled paintbrush to apply a thick base coat of an epoxy paint of your choice. Allow to dry.

Step 4

Dip a small, soft bristled paintbrush into a second color of epoxy paint. Very steadily, graze the brush over the raised numbers on the license plate, being careful not to get any splatters or drips on the base coat. Use the side of the brush to get the raised edges of the numbers, and the tip of the brush to get the name of the state on the top of the license plate. Allow to dry.

Step 5

Spray a coat of clear, reflective spray paint over the entire license plate to seal and finish.

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