Painting A Pair Of Skis: Painting

Step 4: Painting

After you are done sanding make sure to wipe down the skis really well.  I would recommend using rubbing alcohol but when all you can get your hands on is some fingernail polish remover, it will do just fine.  After those things are looking spick and span and dust free you are ready to start spraying.  The key is to do a lot of light coats.  Make the coats too thick and the paint will run.  The spray can said to wait 1 minute in between coats.  I ended up doing a lot of very thin coats.  I went through the entire can the first day.  To dry them I took them inside the house.  Drying will go a lot faster if they are kept in a place where it is warm and dry.  After 24 hours of drying they looked pretty good at first glance:


However after I took a look at it more closely I noticed something. When you look at the skis in the direct light you can see my sanding mistakes. I ran that orbital sander too fast and did not spend enough time with the 220 grit. This made for some imperfections that I could just not live with.


I couldn’t stand to look at those sanding marks so I decided to put some more coats of paint on to hopefully cover up the mistake. So I took some “000” grit steel wool to the skis and then proceeded to put another can of purple spray paint on them.

Now it is time to get to the design.  Next I printed off my design in real size by printing on 12 separate pages and then taping them together.  Then I cut ski sizes pieces of contact paper and carbon paper. They look something like this:


Next step is to take the contact paper and ever so carefully stick it on to the skis.  For this it helps to have an extra set of hands.  Have one person hold the paper at one end holding the paper just above the skis.  The other person then sticks the paper down on one end and makes their way to the other end, sticking down the paper as they go.  After it is all down rub it like crazy (insert 6th grade joke here) make sure to get all of the air bubbles and wrinkles out of it.

After that is done the next step is to tape down your carbon paper and design to the skis.  Make sure that you put the correct side of the carbon paper on the skis (the dark side).  It would be incredibly frustrating if you spent over an hour tracing just to find that you are an idiot who put the paper on upside down.  Now sure who would do something like that, not any of you for sure.  Make sure the design gets taped down well, you don’t want that paper sliding around at all.  Use lots of tape.



Next comes the tracing.  Grab you some sort of utensil that has a defined sharp point, but not so sharp that it will cut through your paper.  Also grab a ruler (or if you have a really steady hand just go for it).  Myself I started with the ruler.  After a while I realized that it would be faster to just freehand it.  If you want your lines to be straight you will have to have a really steady hand for this.  Take your time, especially around the edges.  It is important to note that you will only need to trace out one color of your design.  After you paint you will not be able to see anything anyways.



Now it is time to start cutting.  Get you an exacto knife with a fresh blade on it.  I tried to use a ruler but once again opted to just freehand it.  Put the coffee down, slow your breathing and connect with your inner surgeon here to keep those hands steady.  Use a light amount of pressure, it doesn’t take a lot.  When you go to take the paper up, start at the corners.  After you have peeled off all of the paper where you want your first color, go back and press down all the contact paper to make sure there are no wrinkles or air bubbles.  After that you are ready to paint again.



The Krylon spray paint states to wait at least 24 hours between coats of paint.  I suggest to follow this rule.  Wait at least 24 hours if you have allowed them to dry inside, more if it was cold or wet where they were drying.  I sprayed right at 24 hours and it was fine until the last coat (details later on).  Just to be safe, wait at least 1 day.


After that has dried you can remove the contact paper.  VERY SLOWLY.  Take your time, do not get in a rush, and it should come off with no problem.


At this point it is vital that once more you decide to change your design choice and color selection.  I am sure you have not bought enough cans of spray paint.  Talking to some women can help you with design and color choices but in the end, just buck up and make a decision.  You are a competent, intelligent, creative, soul, you have every ability to pick 4 colors that go well together.  Confidence is key here.

Now we are starting to get somewhere. At this point a little voice inside you will be screaming at you to just stop while you are ahead. This voice will says things like: “those skis look great right now, don’t risk it by trying to do more,” “you are bound to screw it up, just cash out right now before you ruin a perfectly good pair of skis.” You need to ignore this voice. Find that voice inside you that pushes you to greatness. The one that says “you can do anything,” “if you really wanted to you could make a pair of skis from scratch, much less paint them,” “you are meant to do amazing things.” It is this voice that you need to learn to listen to. If you are a Zarse you have listened to this voice since you are born and it has served you well. Continue on.


Depending on your design choice it might be possible to just use painters tape to do the rest.  If not then put on another sheet of contact paper and go at it again.  For me, I went with the painters tape.


Believe it or not there are actually several types of painters tape.  I got the kind with the least amount of adhesive to increase my chances of it not pulling up my fresh coats of paint.  This was a good decision.  There was no bleeding and the tape did not lift up any paint either.

After it is taped you are ready for another coat of paint.


Remove the tape.  Again – VERY SLOWLY.  Now we are starting to get somewhere.


The last thing I wanted to do was put her name at the top and bottom of the skis.  For this I got the contact paper out again and repeated the first process.  I printed out her name in a font I liked and then taped it to the skis with the carbon paper and contact paper below it, traced it ever so carefully, then cut with the knife.



It is at this point where I had my first and only major problem.  I waited about a day since the last coat of paint, maybe 22 hours.  I then took my last color and sprayed it over the name.  To my dismay I found the paint wrinkled up on me.


I am not sure what caused this.  I think it might have been a curing issue.  I might not have waited long enough to spray.  However the paint did wrinkle on the original purple color, which had been painted several days before hand.  Not sure.  It might have just been a bad can of paint.  Either way it was no good.  This is Thursday night.  We leave for KC Sat morning and I work all day on Friday.  The best choice here is to sand down the paint over the letters, wait several days, go buy a new can of paint, and then try again.  I however went another route.  I really needed these skis to be done by Christmas so I went to Hobby Lobby once again and purchased some craft paint.  Craft paint is water based and my Krylon spray paint is oil based.  Not a good idea to combine the two, but I am in a pinch so I decide to give it a whirl.  The way I see it if it is left up to the paint alone to withstand the harsh conditions of skiing then we are screwed because it has no chance.  The only chance the skis have of protection is the clear coat I will put on last.  So really it does not matter if the craft paint sticks to the Krylon very well because I will be sealing it anyways.  I guess time will tell if that theory works out.  So that is what I did.  I took the skis to the fire station with me the next day and worked on them in between runs.  The craft paint did not do too well.  When I tried to remove the contact paper the paint wanted to act like a piece of wax and just all come up.  I had to cut with the knife as I lifted up.  After I got the contact paper up I had to go back and touch up the letters by hand with a very fine tipped paint brush.  It ended up not looking too bad as long as you were a few feet away from it.



(Picture taken after clear coat was put on)

Bam. There you go. Not too bad if I might say so myself. They are not quite finished yet but they will do for Christmas morning.

After the Oooohhs and Ahhhhs of Christmas came and went there was just one last (very important) thing to do. Clear coat. Just make sure the skis are very clean, get a high quality (Purdy) paint brush and put on a light coat of polyurethane.  Make sure to brush very slowly to prevent air bubbles from forming. Then make sure you have a completly dust free environment for them to dry in.  I made myself a little dust free shield for them to dry in.


Follow the directions on the can. Wait 3-4 hours, then take some “0000” grit steel wool and lightly sand the surface. Clean it off very well again and repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat……. Stop repeating when you feel like what you have on there will protect the skis when the idiot next you in the lift line runs over them with his freshly sharpened skis, while in freezing temperatures and they are covered in frozen water. In my opinion you keep repeating until you get bored. If you can manage to keep a steady hand and most importantly keep your patience you will end up with a product similar to this:


Good luck to you.


About Scott Zarse

I am a Firefighter for the Dallas Fire Department, I have been married for three years, no kids yet. Loving life here in Dallas.
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3 Responses to Painting A Pair Of Skis: Painting

  1. Mary Hunter says:

    Hey I wanted to ask you how well did the color stay on the skis? Is there a way not to use spray cans but some sort of paint and then use a clear coat? I would like to do something with brushes (like draw birds and other small details) do you think that is possible?

  2. P Enemy 03 says:

    The Hardware Store recommended a finish of “clear marine varnish” for my project. Keep up the good work.

  3. George says:

    I don’t know if you post on here anymore, but I was hoping you could give me an idea of how your project withstood the elements now that it has been some time since they were finished and I assume you’ve put them to use. Did they stand up to the snow and the slopes at all? How long? Any other method you may recommend now or some sort of protection to give after a run? Any advice you could share would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for all of the details in your post!

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