How to Spray Paint a Football Helmet: A Step-by-Step Guide

Bob Thomas


Transform your football helmet's look with a fresh coat of paint.

Whether you're changing team colors or just want to show off your personal style, spray painting your helmet is an easy and cost-effective way to make it uniquely yours.

In this comprehensive guide, we'll walk you through the process step by step, sharing expert tips and tricks I've learned as a qualified painter and decorator.

Quick Summary

  • Clean and prep the helmet
  • Sand the surface
  • Apply primer
  • Apply the base coat
  • Apply the clear coat
  • Allow ample drying time
  • Reassemble the helmet

Gather Your Materials

To get started, you'll need the following items:

Mild soap and water
Used for cleaning the helmet before painting
Microfiber cloth
Used for wiping the helmet after cleaning
Fine-grit sandpaper
600-800 grit, for sanding the helmet surface before painting
Painter's tape
To mask off areas of the helmet that should not be painted
Spray primer
To create a base layer for better adhesion of the spray paint
Spray paint
Color of your choice, used for painting the helmet
Clear coat spray
Protective layer applied after the paint has dried to protect and seal the paint job
Respirator mask
For safety, to avoid inhaling paint fumes
Safety goggles
For eye protection while spray painting
To protect your hands while painting the helmet

Clean and Prep the Helmet

Before you start painting, it's essential to clean the helmet thoroughly. Dirt, grease, and grime can prevent the paint from adhering correctly, so take your time with this step.

  • Disassemble the helmet by removing the face mask, chin strap, and any decals or stickers.
  • Mix a solution of mild soap and water.
  • Using a microfiber cloth, gently clean the entire surface of the helmet.
  • Rinse the helmet with clean water and allow it to air dry completely.

Sand the Surface

Sanding the helmet helps the primer and paint adhere better to the surface.

  • Put on your safety goggles and gloves.
  • Use fine-grit sandpaper (600-800 grit) to lightly sand the entire surface of the helmet.
  • Wipe away any dust with a clean, damp microfiber cloth and let the helmet dry completely.
  • Mask Off Areas You Don't Want to Paint
  • Use painter's tape to mask off any areas you don't want to be painted, such as logos or vent holes.

Apply Primer

Primer creates a smooth surface for the paint and helps the color adhere better.

  • In a well-ventilated area, put on your respirator mask.
  • Hold the spray primer 10-12 inches away from the helmet and apply a thin, even coat.
  • Allow the primer to dry according to the manufacturer's instructions, usually around 30 minutes.

Apply the Base Coat

Now it's time to apply your chosen color.

  • Shake the spray paint can for about a minute to mix the paint.
  • Hold the can 10-12 inches away from the helmet and apply a thin, even coat.
  • Allow the paint to dry for 15-20 minutes before applying additional coats if needed. It typically takes 2-3 coats for full coverage.
  • Let the paint dry completely according to the manufacturer's instructions, usually around 24 hours.

Apply the Clear Coat

A clear coat adds a protective layer to the paint and gives the helmet a glossy finish.

  • Shake the clear coat spray can for about a minute.
  • Hold the can 10-12 inches away from the helmet and apply a thin, even coat.
  • Allow the clear coat to dry for 15-20 minutes before applying additional coats if needed. It typically takes 2-3 coats for the desired finish.
  • Let the clear coat dry completely according to the manufacturer's instructions, usually around 24 hours.

Reassemble the Helmet

Once the helmet is completely dry, carefully remove the painter's tape.

  • Reattach the face mask, chin strap, and any decals or stickers.
  • Inspect the helmet to ensure everything is securely fastened and in its proper place.

Tips for a Professional Finish

  1. Always work in a well-ventilated area when using spray paint and primer.
  2. Make sure the helmet is free of dust and debris before applying each coat.
  3. Apply thin, even coats to prevent drips and ensure a smooth finish.
  4. Give each coat ample time to dry before moving on to the next step.
  5. Take your time and be patient. Rushing the process can lead to a less-than-desirable result.

Frequently Asked Questions Section (FAQs)  

Q. Is spray painting a football helmet safe?

  A: Yes, spray painting a football helmet is safe as long as you follow the proper steps, use quality materials, and allow the paint and clear coat to dry completely.

Make sure to work in a well-ventilated area and use proper safety equipment like a respirator mask, safety goggles, and gloves.

Q. Can I use any spray paint on my helmet?

  A: It's best to use spray paint specifically designed for use on plastics and automotive applications.

These paints are formulated to adhere better to the helmet's surface and are more durable and resistant to chipping or peeling.

Q. How long does it take to paint a football helmet?

   A: The entire process, including disassembly, cleaning, sanding, priming, painting, applying the clear coat, and reassembling, can take anywhere from 2-3 days, depending on the drying times for each coat.

Q. How many coats of paint and clear coat should I apply?

  A: It typically takes 2-3 coats of paint for full coverage and 2-3 coats of clear coat for the desired finish.

Always allow each coat to dry according to the manufacturer's instructions before applying the next coat.

Q. Can I paint over the existing paint on my helmet?

  A: Yes, you can paint over the existing paint as long as you properly clean and sand the surface first.

This ensures the new paint adheres correctly and provides a smooth, even finish.

Q. What if I make a mistake while painting my helmet?

  A: If you notice a mistake or blemish in the paint, such as a drip or a missed spot, let the paint dry completely.

Then, lightly sand the affected area and reapply the paint as needed.

Q. How can I maintain the paint job on my helmet?

  A: To keep your painted helmet looking its best, avoid exposing it to extreme temperatures or harsh chemicals.

Clean it with a mild soap and water solution and a soft cloth, and store it in a cool, dry place when not in use.


With a little patience and attention to detail, you can successfully spray paint your football helmet, giving it a fresh, custom look that reflects your personal style or team colors.

By following this step-by-step guide and using the proper materials and techniques, you can achieve a professional-looking finish that will make your helmet stand out on the field.

Suggested Products:

Rust-Oleum Painter's Touch 2X Ultra Cover Spray Paint for Plastics: Provides excellent adhesion and coverage specifically designed for plastic surfaces, ensuring a durable and long-lasting finish on your football helmet.

Krylon Fusion All-In-One Spray Paint for Plastics: Bonds directly to plastic surfaces without the need for primer, offering a quick and convenient solution for painting your football helmet.

Rust-Oleum Automotive Plastic Primer Spray: Formulated to create a strong bond between the paint and plastic surfaces, this primer ensures a smooth and even finish on your football helmet.

Krylon Fusion All-In-One Plastic Primer: Designed for use with Krylon Fusion All-In-One spray paint, this primer provides excellent adhesion and prepares the plastic surface for a lasting and vibrant paint job.

3M Automotive Performance Masking Tape: Resistant to solvents and moisture, this masking tape helps protect areas you don't want to paint, ensuring clean and sharp lines on your football helmet.

3M SandBlaster Fine Grit Sandpaper: With a 600-800 grit, this sandpaper is ideal for scuffing and smoothing the helmet's surface, improving paint adhesion and ensuring a professional finish.

3M Professional Half-Mask Organic Vapor Respirator: Provides reliable protection from paint fumes, allowing you to spray paint your football helmet safely and comfortably.

3M Safety Goggles: Designed to protect your eyes from paint particles and overspray, ensuring your safety while painting your football helmet.

Microfiber Cleaning Cloth: Soft and gentle on surfaces, this cloth is perfect for wiping down your football helmet before and after sanding, preventing scratches and ensuring a clean surface for paint application.

Rust-Oleum Automotive Clear Coat Spray: Provides a protective and glossy finish for your football helmet, sealing the paint and keeping it looking fresh and vibrant for longer.

About the author 

Bob Thomas

A fully certified interior decorator and house painter , Bob Thomas brings immense expertise and knowledge amassed from many years of hands-on experience with residential, commercial and specialty painting and decorating projects of all sizes and scopes.

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