Spray painting arcade sticks


Any tips on how to spray paint my arcade stick and what kind of paint to use? The guide(s) that I found here aren’t exactly informative, and there seems to be lots of misinformed people giving out advice. Some information also seems to be outdated, but mostly it just feels scattered.

Basically I want to know what kind of spray paint I should look for, how I should sand paper the stick if at all, how many layers etc. I’m not sure if I can trust some random summer job dude over at the local market when it comes to choosing the correct paint.
I do have experience from spray painting miniatures, both metal and plastic, so I know basic spray painting techniques, I just have to find the correct paint!

I’ve been planning to paint my MadCatz SFxT Pro FightStick (still haven’t decided the color, it totally depends on the overall design), anyone have experience of doing that? I’m not sure how I should approach painting the sides of the stick with the curvaceous design. Other than the sides I don’t see any other problem in painting the thing.

Hope to get some answers, thanks!

IMO, the most important step (as with any paint job) is prep work. Proper sanding, cleaning and primer.

You’re right. I fear that I will sand it too much and end up damaging the stick, guess I just gotta use some very smooth paper very gently.

What about the primer, should it be some special paint or can I just use the same spray paint for primer as well as for the other layers?

It’s going to be the same as spray painting any other plastic. If the surface is smooth, you just need to use a scuff pad on the plastic before you spray the primer. If you sand too much, to the point where you damage the stick, you should probably not be painting your arcade stick. The main point of sanding the plastic is to give the primer something to stick to, a scuff pad will do this job.

Sanding after the primer and in between coats is the big thing. You also want to make sure you lay a good amount of clear down so you can wetsand it when you’re done. Unless orange peel is what you’re going for.

[Painting the FightStick (with Krylon or Vinyl Dye)](Painting the Fightstick (With Krylon or Vinyl Dye)

I have no idea “what I’m going for” as this is my first time spray painting something like this. I’m not even sure why you would sand after and in between coats, doesn’t it just ruin the coat? I just don’t know as I don’t have the experience. And what’s “clear” that you are referencing to? Just water or something that you use when wetsanding?

And yes Darksakul, that was the thread that made me confused in the first place. Most the people there seem to be experimenting (like I will probably end up doing too) and sharing their experiences etc but everyone use different paints/dyes tools whatever which makes it a mess. Also, I live in Finland so I don’t have any idea if I can find that stuff here at all, I don’t even know any shops that would sell spray paints other than hobby shops like Games Workshop.

The sides of the stick with the curvaceous design still poses a problem. Would be nice to see/hear if someone else have attempted to paint this stick cos so far I haven’t managed to find any.

Im going to be completely honest with you. You don’t seem to know the 1st thing about painting anything. That being the case, you’re most likely going to mess up your case. I would recommend reading up on how to get a great finish with spray paint and practice on scrap pieces before doing anything with your stick. We can try to help out as much as possible, but you’re going to need to do some more research on the technique.

Spray painting is a simple task that can go south quickly if you don’t do it correctly. That is assuming you want a mirror smooth finish from the paint.

You sand between coats so that the next coat has something better to adhere to. Also, if you’re OC like me, you wash after each sanding.

Clear coat is the final protective coat that you put over the paint.

I don’t know anything for sure, that’s why I’m asking questions in the first place. I wouldn’t be here if I knew how to do it right away, now would I? I am trying to research, but as I said, these forums at least are a pretty worthless place for that since there are no real guides for that. Just a bunch of people posting about their experiences with different tools, materials and techniques.

As I said, I’ve only spray painted miniatures before, and there’s no sanding them, rarely (never) even use several coats, so this is a new thing for me but I gotta start somewhere. The few things in common are mostly related to positioning of the can when spraying as well as getting a thin but smooth layer I guess. Wetsanding and sanding in general for painting purposes is a new thing for me.

But yeaaah. Still interested to hear from someone that has experience from painting a SFxT stick. (the new default for tournament eds I guess) Thanks for the help so far!

ps. You also got to understand that the English terms and especially names of different brands are confusing as hell as there are no such things here.

edit: People seem to be using vinyl dye mostly, and I’ve read that sanding isn’t necessary at all if you’re using it? Also, the SFxT Pro being black, should I first base coat it with white before using the vinyl dye? Techniques seem radically different depending on what you’re using.

if your paint is not a candy tone, you don’t need to make a white underlayer, solid or metallic color will cover on top of any color underneath, primer/ epoxy paint for first layer are usually greyish or brownish, at least from the brand available in my country, and after that primer layer properly dry and covering the entire surface, you might want to sand it a little with wet sandpaper, and dry it properly after that you can start spraying your actual color unless that color is a candy tone of which you will need a base either silver, metallic, or white, since candy tone is transparent that only add hue to the base color. Most important thing is time and patience, don’t rush it, play a game, watch a movie, or have a nap when waiting a layer of paint to dry, don’t sit next to it.

But personally I hate anything painted, when I’m going to rub and rest my oily sweaty hands on it regularly, or when the shape has many sharp corners and edges, where my hand will rub on it often , even with clear varnish coats I still have doubts that it will fade or chipped after sometime, and then it will look horrible.

People say that vinyl dye doesn’t rub off though since it’s not actual paint, it’s just a color which becomes one with the plastic.

So yeah I guess these are the steps that I’m going to follow:

  1. Sand the stick very gently with fine paper, 1000 or something. ( Got to be careful here as some people say that you shouldn’t even sand at all if you’re using vinyl dye)

  2. After that it’s time to properly clean it to remove grease oils and stuff

  3. Let it dry

  4. Start spraying the whole thing with several thin layers (3-5), wait few minutes in between every layer. (Waiting time seems to change depending on the product you’re using, normal paints usually have longer waiting times)

  5. Let the whole thing dry for a few days - 1 week

  6. Optional: Apply a clear coat of some sorts

I still gotta find out if a base coat is needed for vinyl dyes, thought I read somewhere that it doesn’t matter really since it should cover any color.

Regardless if Vinyl Dyes become one with the plastic.

I would still sand the plastic to have the dye have a better way of seeping into the plastic.

  1. Sand with a 220 grit to 400 grit paper on the bare plastic.
  2. Clean off any dust or left over sand with tooth brush + hot soap water. Rinse off the soap water next. Let the water dry, then proceed to get a tact cloth to remove any excess dust.
  3. Apply high filler primer or preferably the expensive automotive paint adhesion spray (Bulldog is a well known brand) Let the primer age for a day or 2 depending on what it says on the can.
  4. Apply thin coats of the paint desired. 1-3 thin coats until the stick is completely covered. Again let that cure for a day or 2.
  5. Next very lightly wet sand the paint coat with 800-1000 grit to the point where you’re barely touching the paint job and maybe 2 strokes (1 back 1 forward, done)
  6. Clean with hot soap water again and use tact cloth like step 2.
  7. Apply another coat of paint with the 1-3 thin coats and let that cure for a day or 2.
  8. Now you can spray on hard enamel clear paint. Thin coats as usual and let it cure for a day.
  9. Take 600 grit sand paper and lightly wet sand (I would recommend a sanding block so you get an even sanding on flat surfaces and go easy on corners because paint gets sanded off easily on corners) 1-2 strokes (1 back 1 forward).
  10. Take 800 grit sand paper and lightly wet sand. 1-2 strokes (1 back 1 forward)
  11. Repeat step 2.
  12. Spray another coat of hard clear enamel paint and cure again.
  13. Repeat steps 9, 10, 12 about 3-5 times.
  14. On your 6th or 4th coat you’re going let that cure and instead of sanding with 600/800 grit, you lightly wet sand with 1000 grit (1-2 strokes) to 2000 grit (3-4 strokes).
  15. Step 2 again and you’re ready to polish.
  16. Get Meguire’s Ultimate Compound and a microfibre cloth. Then proceed to dab some of the compound onto the cloth and start rubbing around the stick in circular motions for about 5 minutes.
  17. Let the compound set for about 4 hours to a day.
  18. Get some Meguire’s Ultimate Polish and a microfibre cloth. Again proceed to dab some of the Polish and start rubbing in circular motions for 5 minutes.
  19. If some areas look a bit gritty then get some 2000 grit sand paper and lightly wet sand that out with some more strokes and repeat 16, 17, 18 again.
  20. Get your shirt or towel and give a final rub on the stick and then you can pad yourself on the back.

Tedious but the several coats give an extremely durable coat to the point where if you ding the stick, it will leave a dent but the paint will be intact.

Thanks for the guide DonkeyBlonkey!

That does sound a little too much though to be honest. I’m not necessarily after the best paint job in the world, simply just want another color on my arcade stick.
If nothing else than that sounds expensive as fuck, I didn’t plan to spend money on anything but ~1 can of paint and maybe some sandpaper if I need it, but that’s it. That’s why I liked to hear about people who just did 2-5 layers of the vinyl dye and be done with it. Oh well we’ll see, I guess you can’t really go wrong with spraying several thin layers and sanding in between.

I suppose “clear enamel” is some sort of clear coat or gloss finish of some sort? That also seemed to be optional as the result might already be nice with just the dye.

Using a clear enamel helps protect the paint so it wouldn’t rub off, chip or ding as easy than you just leaving the paint as is. I didn’t wet sand any of my sticks because i was in a rush but had i did, it might have came out different, maybe even better. But you MUST put that clear enamel on it helps in the long run.

clear coat is there to laminate your paint, not just for the smooth glossy finish look because you can also get a matte clear coat, it has to be done if you want to have the paint to be long lasting, how many layers…that completely depend on you and how often you would imagine yourself polishing your case in the future because polishing using compound will take some of the clear coat, that’s why some prefer to have thick clearcoat so it will seal your paint real deep and withstand multiple polishing sessions in the future

Clear enamel leaves a gloss finish but it’s mostly used to create layers of durability onto your stick.

If you’re not careful (or don’t polish it) clear coat can make the finish look worse. Learn to wet sand/polish your clearcoat.

Will do. Can you add several layers of the clear coat in the same way as paints? So failing one layer might not be the end of it all, just sand it and add another layer on top?

Thank god for having 2 sticks, lol.

Yes you can.

Also, if you do happen to sand too hard and sand through the paint into the plastic, just respray paint and let it age, then resume with the clear coat. Hence why I said to lightly sand. You do this so you don’t take off the layer but create some way for the next layer to adhere/seep into. This allows the layers of clear coat to just stack and become one with each other and on the 5th or 10th coat, create an incredibly durable finish.

The Meguire Compound + Polish helps make the stick look more presentable but also adds another layer of durability as it coats the whole thing with almost a sealing agent.

Just to be safe, try to remove the parts from inside the stick and put them in a bag or something. Sand, paint and polish your case till you got it down (using Donkey’s method) and give the insides a good cleaning and just put everything back together without worrying that paint, water or polish may seep into your stick.