How to Paint a Pinewood Derby Car to Give It the Ultimate Finish

How to Paint a Pinewood Derby Car to Give It the Ultimate Finish

SAFETY FIRST: Ask an adult to help with tools you haven't used before.


Sandpaper and paint can turn a block of wood into a sleek pinewood derby racer that looks as smooth as steel. The trick is using the right materials and allowing plenty of time.

Don’t wait until the last minute! For best results, you’ll need to start at least a week or two before the race. You’ll also need help from a trusted adult.


  • Coarse, medium and fine-grit sandpaper
  • Liquid sanding sealer (sold at hobby shops)
  • Enamel paint
  • Decals or self-stick numbers (sold at stationery stores or hobby shops)
  • Clear gloss paint
  • Floor wax paste



Step 1: Begin by wrapping sandpaper around a block of wood 1 inch by 3 inches. Without a block of wood for support, sandpaper can leave dips and gullies in the pinewood body.

Round the corners of the pinewood with coarse sandpaper. Change to medium-grit paper for smoothing rough edges. Finish with fine sandpaper to remove any sanding marks.


Step 2: Just painting the pinewood won’t hide the wood’s grain. Apply two coats of liquid sanding sealer. Let the sealer dry overnight before sanding it lightly with fine-grit paper.

If the grain still shows, apply two more coats of sealer. Let it dry overnight and sand again. Repeat the process until the grain disappears.


Step 3: Choose a color for your racer. Then apply two to three coats of enamel paint to the pinewood body. Spraying the model with paint from an aerosol can is easier than using a brush.

If you use a brush, dip only the lower third of the brush into the paint. Use single, smooth strokes instead of dabbing the paint on the model. Blend the strokes so they can’t be seen.


Step 4: Place a race number on the car. Seal and protect it by spraying the entire model with clear gloss paint. Some clear paints might make the numbers curl. To make sure yours works, test it on a decal or number stuck to scrap plastic before spraying your racer.


Step 5: Let the clear paint dry for at least a week. Then cover the model with floor wax paste and polish to a high gloss. The wax will protect the car and help give your racer the look of shining steel.


This project requires help from an adult and lots of time and patience.

Instead, you can always just paint your car with one layer of paint from your local hobby store. It takes only a few minutes, and it still looks great.

The important thing is to have fun and do your best.