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How to Paint a Camper Exterior in 5 Easy to Follow Steps

Writen by Tom Hank

Fact checked by Joseph Varney

how to paint a camper exterior

When your RV looks brand new, its luster is enough to make any RV enthusiast look in your direction. But as time passes, that sheen goes away. Painting RV exterior will give your vintage trailer a new look, which might already be a long time coming.

So how to paint a camper exterior? First, you need to prepare the RV for painting. Then, give the vehicle a good wash. Let the wet paint dry, and proceed to give your camper a fresh coat of paint of your preferred color.

At first, you might think that this project is reasonably easy to accomplish. However, failure to apply certain details might make you commit to costly mistakes. Therefore, you should keep reading to learn more about painting a camper exterior.

Table of Contents

What You’ll Need


The first step to relatively any DIY project with your RV is to gather the necessary materials and tools. In this section, you will know the tools that you need to use in painting RV exterior.

Primer: Many beginner RVers make the mistake of applying a fresh coat of paint on their vehicle’s exteriors without using a primer first. However, you need to use a primer for three reasons.

First, primer helps block stains from bleeding through the paint. Next, it gives the paint a surface to adhere better to as opposed to the original exteriors of your camper. Finally, primer promotes a better chance of one-coat coverage.

Make sure to pick the right primer type for your RV. For example, if your camper has a fiberglass exterior, purchase a primer that can adhere well to that material and avoid drips.

Choice of paint color: Choosing the right automotive paint color can be the most grueling task for many rig owners. It is because there are hundreds of paints available to select.

Still, you can narrow down your choices by asking yourself the following questions:

  • What is my favorite color?
  • What are the colors that I like to wear on my clothes?
  • What is the theme of my RV?

Additionally, consider complementing your color choices with compatible hues and tones. For example, if you like blue, you may want to add a touch of green highlights in certain areas to make the overall design ‘pop.’

Furthermore, some house paint options are not ideal for a camper’s exterior paint. Ask your local hardware or paint store to help you with the right paint to use to avoid committing to costly mistakes.

Painter’s tape: If you want to make pinstripes on your RV or have a unique design in mind for the upcoming paint job, you should use painter’s tape.

Take note that you can use conventional masking tape for this job. However, the results are not going to be as clean as when you are going to use painter’s tape.

Many masking tape models, particularly the inexpensive ones, leave jagged edges when removing them from surfaces after a paint job. Furthermore, some masking tapes do not adhere well to certain surfaces, causing the paint to bleed.

On the other hand, painter’s tape will stay adhered to RV surfaces, especially to aluminum and fiberglass. Plus, it will leave a clean, straight line when removed.

Painting tools: You can choose to use a standard paint brush or roller for this task. But it may take longer than expected to complete the entire project. Instead, you may want to consider investing in a paint gun.

A paint spray gun can spray shower paint on your camper’s exterior while you’re using a quick yet smooth motion with the device. Still, it also means that you might make a mess to the floor since the paint can get in other areas.

If you are going to use a paint gun, make sure that you properly mask the areas that you do not want to be painted. Additionally, you may want to add extra layers of old newspapers on the ground to catch the overspray.

Step-by-Step Instructions


Keep in mind that the time required in painting a travel trailer depends on the size of the vehicle and how quickly you can work.

Generally, it may take about 3 days to complete a paint job on a regular-sized travel trailer. However, it may take longer if you have a large camper or fifth-wheel vehicle. Furthermore, some steps may vary if you are painting a vintage camper.

Take note that patience is still important if you are wondering how to paint a travel trailer exterior. At times, it can be frustrating because it can take a long time to finish. But be patient, and you will enjoy the smooth finish of your hard work.

With that said, here are the steps that you need to follow to paint a camper exterior:

Step 1: Prep the Camper Skin

While it may not seem like an important step, prepping the exterior of a travel trailer is one of the most important steps for the entire project. Doing so will help keep the work looking great and will also prevent it from getting damaged during use.

First, clean the travel trailer using a soapy water solution. Cleaning will help remove dirt and dust particles, which would otherwise make it difficult for paint to adhere to your rig’s surface.

Also, remove old paint using a paint scraper. Remnants of a previous paint job can make you repaint the whole thing if you are not careful.

Then, make sure that the surface is dry before you proceed with the next steps. With the dried paint, you will be at a lesser risk of making mistakes as you would when you are applying paint on a wet surface.

Step 2: Mask the Surface


Use painter’s tape to tape off the areas that you do not want to paint, such as a camper window.

For the windows, you may want to cut some trash bags and tape them to the size of the window. Then, secure the bags with painter’s tape so they do not flap around while you are painting.

Additionally, you can use painter’s tape to mask accessories that you do not want to paint. Some items that may come to mind are the door handles and side mirrors of the vehicle.

Step 3: Apply the Primer


If you own or have rented a paint sprayer, you can make the painting process easier and faster than using an angled brush or roller. Make sure to read the instructions on how to use the device properly.

Fill the paint spray gun’s container with primer. Then, spray the surface of your camper exterior by waving the gun side-to-side. Make sure that the distance between sways is not massive to allow the primer to be consistent.

Additionally, stand about 6 to 8 inches away from the surface. Standing too close to your camper may create bubbles, especially when you are using oil-based paints. On the other hand, standing further away will make you waste paint.

Once finished, wait for the primer to dry before applying a new coat of paint.

Step 4: Apply Paint on the Camper Exterior

Now that you have gotten the hang of using the paint sprayer, use the same spraying technique when applying your first coat of paint. Make sure that you follow an even coating on the surface. Also, do not forget areas like the slide outs, roof, and corners.

Wait for the first layer to dry before applying a second coat as you paint the exterior. This waiting can take a few hours or days, depending on the size of the project.

Step 5: Apply a Top Coat and Remove the Tape


Although it can be an optional step, applying a clear coat on the paint can help protect its looks over extended periods. At this point, you can either choose a matte, glossy, or semi-gloss paint finish.

Wait for the final layer to dry slightly before removing the painter’s tape. Do not get too excited and remove the tape slowly. Removing the tape too late can cause uneven surfaces from the paint job to form.

Once finished, you can stare and marvel at your camper’s new paint job.


Did you like this guide on how to paint a camper exterior? Do not forget to leave a comment and share this article with others to help them with their camper painting projects.

Having the option to paint a trailer allows an owner to customize their camper’s appearance. Do it properly, and the paint job can make your camper, travel trailer, or fifth wheel stand out more than others.

Remember, use a primer and make sure that the paint is compatible with your camper’s exterior. Follow all the steps, and you will not have to worry about repainting the entire vehicle’s exterior soon.

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