The Painting and Livery Process

People often ask us "How is a truck painted?" In this article, you can read all about the painting process employed here at Sneddon Signs. We continually invest in the latest equipment, plant and technology, and by combining premium quality products with over 100 years combined experience in commercial vehicle painting we consistently produce high quality, long lasting paintwork. So if you've ever wondered how a truck is painted, here you can see the steps we take to transform the look of a vehicle.

Photo of Disab tanker
Vehicle having it's graphics removed and being cleaned

This tanker has had it's graphics removed and you can see the pipe tray sitting beside the vehicle, having just been removed, as well as mirrors, locker doors etc on the cab.

Stripping and Cleaning

The first stage of the painting process is that all graphics and badges are removed and the vehicle is thoroughly steam cleaned and then cleaned again with degreasing agents. After this the vehicle is 'stripped' where any removable parts and body panels are taken off the vehicle for painting. This ensures a factory standard paint finish.


Next we go on to masking the vehicle - any parts which are not to be painted but cannot be removed (glass, some plastic areas etc) as well as the interior of the vehicle are 'taped up' and covered with masking paper in order to protect them from overspray. Larger areas are covered with thin plastic sheeting which covers entire chassis without needing to be joined, helping to guarantee no overspray will leak through. In some cases we also use 'slime' which is a liquid masking agent sprayed on to areas such as the chassis or body of a rigid vehicle. This liquid mask is removed after painting by steam cleaning the area.


The brown paper and red tape is used to cover any parts which aren't to be painted such as glass, plastic or in the case of a multi-colour livery the base colour is also covered with masking tape or paper.


The paintwork is flatted down using abrasives incluing DA sanders, scotchbrite pads and other systems. Any damage is repaired at this stage in the process - you can see the filler on the front wing which is sanded smooth before painting.

Preparation and Repairs

Once masked, the team can get to work 'rubbing down' or 'keying' the vehicle with a range of abrasives, both manual and air-powered, in order to allow the paint system to properly adhere to the existing paintwork or substrate. This is one of the most important stages of the process, as the new paint finish will simply flake off if it cannot properly adhere to the substrate or old paint.

At this stage, any damage is repaired, including stone chips, door dings or any accident damage. Where possible damage is repaired using panel beating techniques, or minor dings are simply filled with body filler. With the cost of replacement parts decreasing, it is often cheaper to replace parts instead of repair. Our team will be able to advise further in this situation.


This is where the magic happens, but in reality this part of the process is one of the shortest stages. Tens of hours of prep work often only equates to a few hours painting however great skill and attention to detail are required.

The vehicle is moved into one of our commercial spray booths where all dust is blown off the vehicle, it is cleaned with tack-rags and given a final degreasing wipe. The chosen paint system is then sprayed on to the vehicle.

In most cases the vehicle's shell is painted separately from any panels that are removed, simply because the spray booth is not large enough to accommodate both the shell and panels - usually the panels alone are enough to fill one booth!

We employ a number of different paint systems depending on the job however in general there is a combination of primer, undercoat, colour and laquer, with each step usually requiring 2 or more coats. In between each coat the paint is allowed to cure, then 'de-nibbed' where any dirt or dust in the paint is flatted back before the next coat is applied.


Between coats. This vehicle is about to get 2 coats of laquer

Once the paint booth shutter comes down the vehicle will never look the same again - the next time it sees daylight the new paint will have been applied. This truck is about to get a faded colour change before 2 coats of laquer are applied.

Chassis being primed on this vintage Scania 111

The wheels are removed and the vehicle set on axle stands over our pit, allowing excellent access for our painters.

Chassis and Wheels

After the cab is painted the chassis comes next, simply because the cab is much easier to mask up and protect from overspray. In order to paint the chassis the wheels are removed (and often painted as well) before all parts of the chassis, axles and equipment are stripped, prepped, cleaned and painted following the same process as above. The chassis and wheels are often the first part of the vehicle to show rust, this is removed back to fresh metal before painting.

De-masking and Polishing

After the new paint has been sprayed the vehicle is 'baked' to fully cure the paint, ensuring a super high gloss finish. The vehicle leaves the spray booth and the masking is removed, and any area which needs polishing is polished using a wet sanding and 3 stage polishing system - any dirt or overspray is removed and the paintwork is checked for a flawless finish.

Photo of a painter polishing a van bonnet

Once the masking is removed the vehicle is checked over in case any polishing is required.

Volvo FH tractor unit in the process of being 'built up'

Panels which were removed to be painted are refitted, badges have new double sided tape applied and are refitted and all other finishing touches are attended to. Just the grills and trims to go on this truck then off to the graphics team.

Rebuilding and Finishing Touches

All the parts of the vehicle are now reunited. Any panels which were removed at the beginning of the painting process are now refitted, and all the minor details are attended to. Things like badges, trim finishers, lights and registration plates are also fitted back on to the vehicle at this stage. While many of these items are not essential, a vehicle is never truly finished until it can wear it's badges with pride!


Now that the the vehicle has been completely repainted it is handed over to the graphics team. All our graphics are designed, manufactured and installed completely by our in house staff. Whether it is our first vehicle for a new customer or the first of a new model for a long time customer, photos are taken of the truck after painting and the design is superimposed on to this image.

Once the customer approves the artwork it goes in to production, where any printed graphics are printed, outgassed (dried), laminated and cropped. Self coloured lettering is cut, weeded and has application tape applied to aid fitting.

The fitting team then clean the vehicle again before fitting the graphics and wrapping any parts which need to be wrapped. The vehicle is given one final inspection to ensure the finish reflects the quality we strive to achieve for each and every job, and any minor snags are cleaned up before handing the vehicle back to the customer.


All our design work is carried out in house and the full livery is created by our incredible design team. The paint work is just as vital as the graphics, and both come together to produce the finished livery for the vehicle.

Get in touch

If you have a project you’d like to discuss or would like to find out more about the services we can offer, please don't hesitate to contact us