Welcome to the first step of painting your blaster! While this step doesn’t involve painting -it does however play an important part in how long your paint will last. Sanding turns your blaster from a slick canvas into a longer lasting paint-loving one. In fact, sanding isn’t only done to blasters before painting, it’s a widely adopted practice among painters in vastly different areas. It’s done to all types of materials before painting; metal, wood, and even ceramic surfaces.
But wait… I read somewhere that sanding isn’t necessary if I use a special spray paint...
There are those that argue you do not have to sand the surface if you use a plastic ready spray paint like Krylon Fusion. Funny enough, the company that makes Krylon Fusion suggests lightly sanding plastic surfaces before spray painting. Here in this painting plastic tutorial, they recommend lightly sanding. So contrary to what some may say —it is a good idea to sand.
What you will learn in this step
- When to stop sanding
- The different motions of great sanding
- How to sand tiny spaces
- What areas to pay attention to
What you need to get started
- Shell pieces of your blaster
- Good lighting
The type of sandpaper you use matters
The sandpaper you will need is this or this (either will work great). You will first use the 100 grit on all your pieces, then finish with the 220 grit.
I’ll go ahead and explain why this is done and what grit even means so you can be clear on the whole process. I’ll start with some stuff you may not know. If you do already, then feel free to skip over this.
Something you may not know is that sandpaper is classified by the amount of grit, or roughness, it has. The finer the sandpaper the higher the number will be. For example, 100 grit sandpaper would be finer than a 50 grit one.
So; the higher the number the finer it is, and the lower the number the rougher the grit.
To make your understanding even easier, the grits are segmented into 3 categories: fine, medium, and of course -coarse!
150–220 is fine, 100–120 is medium, and 40–80 grit is coarse.
The ways the pros do it is like this: they sand the project first with a rougher grade once, then do it all again with a finer grade. Doing it like this creates plenty of surface area for paint to stick to.
Before I tell you what grades you should use on your blaster, there’s something else you should know.
Aside from the amount of grit, there’s also different kinds of grit that’s important to note too. Not all of that bumpy stuff on sandpaper is created equal.
There are four main kinds of grits: Aluminum oxide, garnet, silicon carbide and ceramic. Each works well with different kinds of materials.
This part is important.
The best grit for plastic is silicon carbide, as it is tough enough to get the job done. It works well on metals, and it also works great on plastic.
So, make sure the sandpaper you use has a silicon carbide grit in it.
Other types will wear out too fast. Sure, you can get away with using one intended for wood, but you will go through much, much more of it than you would if you used one with silicon carbide in it.
Now that you know how sandpaper works, let’s get into why it’s used and then how to use it.
The purpose of sanding is to create more surface area for the paint to stick to. Sanding does this by scuffing up the shell, creating a surface that would look like the (clever analogy) if held under a microscope.
Some painters refer to this process as “creating tooth”. The ‘tooth’ being the microscopic gouges caused by sanding.
No matter what you call it, the objective is to create a surface area that has plenty of area to stick to. This will allow your paint job to last longer.
There are a couple things you will see as you sand.
As you sand you will notice the blasters natural color getting lighter. This is what you want. The glossiness shine will get duller too. That’s a good thing.
Both are good things. Your blaster will be ready for the next step in this guide when the top layer has.
You will notice that it takes little work to remove the shine. Really, all it should take is 15–20 minutes of light sanding to accomplish this step. You don’t even need to press down too hard. Let the paper do the work for you. All you have to do is guide it.
A good indicator you are pressing too hard is the amount of plastic dust you create. If you have more dust than you do shell then you probably did too much!
- Pick a good spot (with good light) - plastic dust from this step is unavoidable, so be sure to do it somewhere where it’s ok to leave a mess. You can lay out newspaper to catch most of the mess, making for an easier cleanup.
- Use a small piece of sandpaper - in the video you will see Kim using a small piece of sandpaper. She does this because a smaller piece is much easier to handle when working with smaller objects —in this case the blaster shell, and small accessories like the fip-up site.
- Use a circular motion when possible - on the flatter areas of the blaster you will want to use a circular motion to really do a good job. Smaller areas will require a back and forth motion, and sometimes an even smaller piece of sandpaper to get into smaller spots.
- Fold to reach crevices - Most blasters have indented detail lines all over them, and require a little ingenuity to get sanded. The type of sandpaper used in the video, and recommended above, can be easily folded and used in cracks. This is one reason that makes it great for sanding blasters!
After you have finished this step your blaster should be lighter in color and in shine. You will have accomplished this by first going over all your pieces with the 100 grit, then finishing them off with the 220 grit.