Can You Spray Paint Plate Carrier


Last updated: September 1, 2023

Learn the skills and insights of spray painting plate carrier in this detailed painters’ guide.

Spray painting plate carrier

Plate carriers are amongst the most popular ballistic equipment for military and law enforcement personnel. They are also used by civilians in tactical loadout to protect the body from ballistic harm. 

When it comes to customizing plate carriers, many people swear by dye colors. If you’re here, you’re probably wondering if you can also use spray paint. 

In this write-up, we will cover everything you need to know about spray painting plate carriers and how to do it properly.

Can You Spray Paint Plate Carrier?

Yes, you can. Spray painting plate carrier is a nice way to update the color and give it a distinctive look. However, it must be done with the right paint, ideally nylon or specialized fabric paint.

What Is A Plate Carrier?

A plate carrier, or simply “P.C.,” is a type of bulletproof (or tactical) vest used to carry armor plates. The armor plates are also known as ballistic plates, and their primary function is to protect the user against rifle fire. 

Plate carriers are typically worn by military men but can also be used by civilians for any tactical loadout. 

As the name suggests, there are two parts of a plate carrier – the plates and the carrier vest. The plates provide all the protection and are usually inserted into the pockets of the carrier. This means that if you remove the plate, you’re basically left with nothing but a nice-looking vest. 

So, when painting the plate carrier, it’s actually the carrier vest we are painting, not the plate inside. The best usually comes with numerous pouches where you can attach your tactical gear to.

What Kind Of Paint Should You Use For Plate Carrier?

As earlier indicated, plate carriers consist of two parts – the plates and the carrier portion. While the plates are made from hard materials such as steel or ceramic, the carrier portion is usually made up of several layers of silk fabric, nylon, or denier polyester. 

Since all these are fabric materials, any high-quality fabric spray paint can be used to spray paint a fabric-made plate carrier. You can also use fabric dye, especially if you want to start light and work it up to a darker color. 

Avoid products with fewer color pigments as they provide poor coverage, causing you to use more paint. 

How To Spray Paint A Plate Carrier?

Spray painting a plate carrier is a pretty straightforward process. If you’ve ever used spray paint before, then it shouldn’t be too hard. However, they’re a few things to keep in mind. Here are steps to follow to paint a plate carrier.  

Surface Preparation

Before adding color to the plate carrier, ensure it’s clean and completely dry. Any dirt or moisture on the surface can interfere with the paint. 

So, the first thing you should do is wipe any dirt or oil on the material. Use a damp cloth.

Secure all the buckles and straps and remove all detachable parts (if any), and set aside. 

After cleaning, allow the carrier to air dry. 

Cover the areas you’re not painting

Most of the time, you won’t be painting the entire plate carrier, especially buckles and straps. To conceal those areas you don’t want to paint; you can use masking tape

Don’t skip this step. Otherwise, the entire project could get messy. In fact, it’s also a good idea to mask the interior of the plate carrier if you don’t wish to change the color. 

Apply a primer

Once you’ve masked the plate carrier, the next step is to prime the surface. A primer helps the paint to stick better and ensure even coverage. Any good metal primer will work fine as long as it’s compatible with the paint. Ideally, you want to use a primer with rust-inhibiting properties. 

Some spray paints come with primer built into the formula. If you’re using one of such products, you can skip the priming step. Generally, it’s best to apply a primer before painting. 

Proceed with the paint job

Allow the primer to dry completely, then apply the spray paint. As indicated earlier, use a high-quality fabric or nylon spray paint. Remember to give the can a good shake before you start spraying. 

Spray back and forth, overlapping with even strokes. It’s best to start at the top and move down to avoid any inconsistency in the paint job. Always wait the recommended time before layering the next coat.

Remove the mask

After the last coat, allow the paint to completely dry. Once that is done, you can gently pull off the masking tape. 

How To Wash A Plate Carrier After Painting It

Cleaning a plate carrier after painting should be done with care to avoid ruining the paint job. Here are the steps to follow: 

What You’ll Need

  • Warm water.
  • Soap.
  • Bucket.
  • Brush.
  • Soft cloth.

  • Remove paint residue

Similar to painting, if you want to do a good job when washing a plate carrier, you have to prep the surface. This usually involves scraping off any paint residue on the surface with a brush. This should be done gently to avoid scraping off the main paint job. 

  • Proceed to wash the plate carrier

The next step is to wash the plate carrier. Here, you can use warm water and a soapy solution. Pour the warm water into a bucket and add the soap; dip a brush inside, then use it to scrub the plate carrier. Be gentle, and don’t apply too much force. Once you’re done, rinse off the soap with fresh water. 

  • Allow the plate carrier to dry

Once you’re done rinsing the plate carrier, gently dab it dry with a soft cloth. Make sure the cloth is lint-free. Allow the plate carrier to air dry.

If you notice any stubborn spots, you can repeat the whole process again until you’re satisfied with the result. 

NB: Whether you’re painting or washing the plate carrier, always prioritize safety. Make sure you wear other gear for protection, such as gloves, an overall, and a breathing mask.

How Long Does A Plate Carrier Last After Painting It?

This depends on the quality of the paint, how well you applied it, and the storage conditions (specifically, temperature and humidity). This is why it’s extremely important you choose a high-quality product. 

Low-quality paints don’t offer the same level of protection and tend to degrade sooner. Likewise, if you don’t allow the paint to dry properly, it will not adhere well and will likely peel off before you know it. 

In general, with the right paint and technique, your plate carrier can potentially last up to 10 years. But you don’t need to wait for that long before you give it a fresh coat. You want to repaint it at most every five years to enable it last longer. 

Can You Spray Paint A Black Plate Carrier?

Yes, you can, but it’s quite tricky, especially if you’re planning to use a lighter color. This is because the dark color of the carrier can show through the new paint. These color differences make it difficult for the new coat to show its true color. 

As a result, you will need to bleach the material, then apply several coats of paint to achieve the desired hue, which translates to more time and expenses. 

The best thing you can do is to paint the plate carrier with black or use a lighter shade of black (2-3 times lighter). This is much easier than using a different paint color with a sharp contrast.

Otherwise, if you wish to proceed with a light-colored paint from a different family, then prime the surface beforehand. Ideally, it should be a white stain-blocking primer. 

Make sure the surface is free of dirt and grime before you even start priming or painting.

Is Nylon Spray Paint Good For Plate Carriers?

You can use nylon spray paint for plate carriers as long as it’s compatible with the material. You can check the label just to be sure. The good thing about using nylon spray paint is that it’s non-toxic and easy to clean up. 

Like every other spray paint, it is easy to use, which makes it perfect for DIY projects. Besides plate carriers, the paint also works for wood, metal, plastic, and other materials. You can also choose a suitable color to match your plate carrier. 

The paint seems to last and doesn’t fade or peel easily when correctly applied.

Is Fabric Spray Paint Suitable For Plate Carriers?

Yes, it is! Although plate carriers are made from fibers (such as Chirocon and Kevlar) that are difficult to break, they are still ordinary fabric vests. 

The main difference from regular vests is the armor plate, which provides bulletproof protection. In order words, you can also use fabric spray paint on the material. But you should be mindful of the formula. 

Except for cotton, which seems to take most fabric paint, most fabric materials require a specialized version. So, before using any fabric spray on a plate carrier, be sure it’s meant for the material. Otherwise, you can test it on a scrap carrier if it’s available. 

Whenever you use any fabric spray on a plate carrier, it must be allowed to stay for at least 72 hours before washing again. 

Tips for Spray Painting Plate Carrier

  • When using spray paint, ensure your workplace is well-ventilated to reduce the impact of harmful spray paint fumes. Always wear gloves and a respiratory mask. A good overall is also recommended.
  • At the end of every project, always remember to clean the nozzle to prevent clogging. Simply detach it and soak it in hot water or paint thinner. Alternatively, you can turn the aerosol upside down and spry till nothing comes out.
  • Ensure your prep the pate carrier adequately before painting. Make sure it is free of dirt and grime. It should be completely dry. Otherwise the paint will not adhere well.
  • When painting the plate carrier, spray in a continuous motion, going back and forth and overlapping. Don’t spend too much time on any spot to avoid any drips.
  • Make sure the primer you are using is compatible with the spray paint. Some spray paints come with primer in-built. In this case, you may not need to apply a separate coat of primer.
  • Spray the carrier from different angles to ensure you cover every area and avoid patches. Your hand should start moving before pushing down the trigger.
  • It is always a good idea o test spray a scrap materials before moving on to the main project. This informs you of what to expect beforehand.

FAQs – Spray Painting Plate Carrier

Can you dye a plate carrier?

Yes, the dye sticks well to the plate carrier. Just bleach the carrier, then paint it with your desired color dye. You could also use spray paint if no dye is available but make sure you don’t bleach it too much to avoid damaging the fabric permanently. For the best results, use a color that is darker than the base (plate carrier). 

Can you wash a plate carrier after painting it?

Yes, you can, but it has to be done with care to avoid ruining the paint job. You can use warm soapy water and a brush, but avoid applying too much pressure while scrubbing the plate carrier. On no occasion should you place a plate carrier in a dryer or washing machine, as this could potentially shrink it.

Does spray paint stick on clothes?

Yes, spray paint sticks on clothes as long as you use the right fabric paint. Ideally, you want to choose a product that is compatible with your fabric. Oil-based spray paints don’t usually stick well to fabric on their own. You may need to apply a primer for better adhesion.

Does spray paint permanently stain clothes?

Spray paint is usually permanent on clothes once dried. So, the best chance to remove it is when it’s still wet. Otherwise, it’s unlikely the stain will come out of the cloth. You can try using solvents such as turpentine, acetone, or something stronger to dissolve the paint, the only problem is that there’s no guarantee your fabric will survive such harsh chemicals.

Content Summary – Painting plate carrier

As you can see, it’s easy to spray paint plate carriers as long as you use the right product. You can use nylon spray paint or any other specialized fabric paint. 

Spray painting plate carriers is a great way to customize it, as most carriers come in standard black or tactical grey. It’s best to focus on the flat parts and avoid the straps and other “bendable” parts, which can cause the paint to crack and flake off. 

Finally, ensure the surface to be spray painted is clean and dry before priming or applying the paint.

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