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Painting raised white letters on instrument panel

(-----) 2006

I have a car that is in the process of being restored. The dash has been disassembled and the various parts painted. The instrument panel originally had raised white letters. How do I recreate that?

Thank You

Barbara Packer
Old car Restoration - Fremont, California, USA


This is a fun job to do, it isn't difficult at all. It works for everything that has raised letters, from real car parts to models. I picked up the trick from model work.
What you need to do is paint the part, (or at least paint the letters) white first. I found enamel works best for this. The trick is to get enough paint on that it will stand up to this process, but not enough to fill the voids of the letters. Your paints must also be compatible with each other, and allow for recoating without lifting the first layer of paint.
After the white paint has thoroughly dried, then paint the part with your final part color.
You should wait for at least the minimum drying time of the final paint, but playing around with this waiting time may make the next step easier or harder.
What you are trying to do now is remove the top layer of black paint from JUST THE letterS, revealing the white paint underneath. This can be done abrasively, or chemically. The smaller the letters, the more careful you have to be; in those cases an abrasive solution may be best. A liquid solvent is difficult to keep out of the voids of the letters, where it will remove the black color. Solvents should also be spot tested on plastic parts to be sure it won't melt your plastic.
I often use wet 1200 grit paper for this job, wrapping the paper around a wood dowel and carefully rubbing JUST THE letterS until the white shows through. For really tiny letters on a plastic model, I once used lens cleaning paper that I barely dampened with turpentine.
Again, this works great in many situations, one of my favorites is fender and trunk emblems. The black paint between the letters of these parts is usually chipped and oxidized. Strip the part, repaint it completely black, then use this method to remove the black paint from the metal/chrome letters.

Marie Aponte
- Lake Havasu City, Arizona, USA


In the dark ages people with show cars used to paint the raised letters on tires white with the filter end of a cigarette. Very little paint and a tap tap action, not a rub.

James Watts
- Navarre, Florida

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