What kind of paint do you use on a Skoolie?

In today’s blog post, we will answer the following question: What kind of paint do you use on a Skoolie? We will review two common options and discuss their properties. We will also give you a few tips on painting your Skoolie with success. 

What kind of paint do you use on a Skoolie?

To paint your Skoolie you need a special paint that is used in the automotive industry, it is called 2-component polyurethane paint (2K), which consists of paint and a catalyst to make it dry faster, although some people also use 1 component (1K) and ensure that it gives them the best result.

With 2K 2-component polyurethane paints we recommended using a spray gun as they dry faster, although you can also use a roller. For 1-component 1K polyurethane paints, a roller is used since they take longer to dry and the stops to wet the roller are not so noticeable.

Keep in mind that you may need to mix a little thinner with the paint.

Ideally, you should read the manufacturer’s instructions and adapt to what it says both in use and in drying times.

What are 1K paints or varnishes and are they used for Skoolies?

When we see the 1K symbol in paints or varnishes it is indicating that it is a single component product or, in other words, it does not need another component for drying and hardening. Its composition is based on synthetic resins, pigments and high solvent content. 

When a 1K paint or varnish is applied on a sanded Skoolie, the solvent in the topcoats evaporates easily allowing the resin-pigment mixture of the first few microns of paint to dry quickly. This behaviour is commonly referred to as “touch dry”. However, the full thickness of the paint is not really cured. The inner microns remain fresh and uncured due to the slow evaporation of their solvent as the top layers are dry.

Therefore, although the surface layer dries quickly (approximately 30 minutes at 20º), the total cure will be carried out depending on the microns applied, in many cases waiting up to a week. A trick to know if the paint or 1K varnish is completely dry is to check if when we approach the painted surface it has stopped emitting the smell of solvent.

What are 2K paints or varnishes and are they used for Skoolies?

In paints or varnishes where we see the 2K symbol, it is indicating that for drying and hardening, another product called hardener or catalyst is required. Generally, its composition is based on polyurethane resins, pigments and low solvent content.

 Before applying 2K paints or varnishes on a sanded Skoolie, we must mix component A (product, varnish or paint) with component B (catalyst) in the proportion indicated by the manufacturer. Its drying is produced chemically through the molecular combination of both components that result in a structure of extraordinary hardness and resistance. This allows the full cure of the paint or varnish thickness to be faster.

What are the differences between 1K 2K paints for Skoolies?

Once the characteristics of 1K paints and varnishes and 2K paints and varnishes have been understood, their most notable differences are:

  • In 1K paints and varnishes, the surface microns dry faster than in 2K paints and varnishes. However, the total curing time takes place earlier in 2K paints and varnishes as this process is a chemical reaction.
  • In hardness and gloss, there are also notable differences between 1K paints and varnishes and 2K paints and varnishes. Thanks to component B (catalyst) in 2K paints and varnishes of the polymerization that is carried out on their solids (resin + pigments), a layer of paint or varnish of high gloss and extraordinary resistance to chemical agents is obtained even in smaller thicknesses. 
  • 1K paints and varnishes allow us to use the gun, roller or brush. Its slow and progressive drying facilitates its brushing: if they are applied with a brush or roller, several passes can be made over what has already been painted in order to stretch and homogenize the layer. 
  • However, when 2K paints and varnishes are mixed with hardener, their drying is faster and the only way to get the layer stretched and homogeneous is by spraying it through a gun or spray.
  • Finally, there is also an economic difference between 1K paints and varnishes and 2K paints and varnishes. If there is any advantage in 1K paints and varnishes over 2K paints and varnishes, it is that they are cheaper because they do not need another component and can be applied with more painting tools apart from the spray gun or spray.

Best 1K paint for Skoolies:

Best 2K paint for Skoolies:

What kind of paint do you use on a Skoolie without sanding it?

If you want to paint or repaint steel without sanding it, you will need to opt for water-based paint. It is an emulsion or dispersion paint based on water and diluted in water, hence its name. It is ideal for painting unsanded materials. 

However, you will find that some substrates, especially those already painted or varnished, will need a little surface chipping. It’s not about sanding, it’s about light rubbing to improve grip.

There are several types of water-based paint:

  • Multi-surface paint: Resistant and washable, it clings very well to smooth surfaces, both horizontal and vertical, for a successful and harmonious result without effort.
  • Resin: Perfect for painting surfaces of all kinds without sanding, whether vertical or horizontal, the resin consists of a mixture of a coloured resin with a binder base. Very easily applied with a roller, however, you will need two to three coats for optimal coverage.
  • Metal renovation paint: Very resistant, this paint has the same characteristics as the paint for raw steel, varnished or painted, with few details. Only available in a satin version, it is easy to wash and can paint all types of metals, including a Skoolie. 


In conclusion, depending on the Skoolie size and the time available for drying, we can choose between 1K paints and varnishes and 2K paints and varnishes. The important thing is to be clear about their differences and advantages over each other. We are sure that after reading this post your choice will be much easier.

If you also want to add stripes of other colours to the paint of your bus as a decoration, you can help yourself with protective tape and paper. Just like you covered what you didn’t want to paint in previous steps. This is the easiest way to work in these cases. 

Another recommendation for this is to get a slightly finer paint sprayer if you want to be more precise on the details. Therefore, you must purchase paint of different colours according to your preference.

In conclusion, this is what you should know about how to paint a bus. We guarantee excellent results in your work if you apply all the steps correctly!

If you have any comments, questions or suggestions on how to get a bus painted, please let us know!

FAQ on What kind of paint do you use on a Skoolie?

How much does it cost to get a bus painted?

Getting a school bus painted can cost anywhere from $1000 to $3000, depending on the type of paint you choose, the size of the bus, and whether you hire a professional or do it yourself.

Do I need to sand my bus before painting?

It is preferable to sand your bus before painting. Sanding and cleaning the damaged surface of rust is enough because then you will cover and refine this in the painting process.

How long does it take to paint a bus?

It can take up to five days to paint a bus. Considering you have to clean, sand, make some repairs, paint one or more coats and retouch it – take it easy and do it properly. 

Can I paint my bus yellow?

Although there is no law to prohibit you to paint your bus yellow, in most states, it is expected to paint your Skoolie a different colour.