In this guide, we’ll show you how to paint an AIO cooler. Your all-in-one (AIO) liquid CPU cooler is often the centerpiece of your PC’s aesthetics, with RGB-lit pumps and fans included on many models these days. The pump/waterblock unit sits on your CPU, so it sits at the heart of your PC, which makes the lighting really stand out.
However, while your cooler might have all the necessary paraphernalia for RGB lighting and cooling your CPU, a black cooler sticks out like a sore thumb in a white PC, and vice versa. Thankfully, you don’t need to fork out for a whole new cooler just to color-match it to the rest of your system – it’s a simple job to spray-paint your cooler in any color you like, and it’s relatively cheap as well.
At Custom PC, we’ve been modding PC cases and components since 2003, giving us loads of experience in the art of customizing your system to make it your own. We know exactly what tools you need and which methods work best.
1. Clean the radiator and pump
The radiator and pump will have oils from your fingers, plus general muck from handling and manufacturing, that can impact the paint finish, so it’s important to clean them first. Use warm water mixed with a drop of washing-up liquid, along with a microfibre towel to wipe the surfaces, before drying them thoroughly.
2. Mask areas not to be painted
Use Frog tape to mask areas you want paint-free, such as screens or RGB lighting areas. Spraying the radiator fins is possible, but you’ll need to use very thin coats to avoid hindering their thermal transfer. It’s also possible to spray the tubing, but flexing it too much can crack the paint, so only do this if the tubes won’t be bent at extreme angles.
3. Wear protective gear
It’s important to protect yourself while spray painting, so you’ll need to wear protective gloves and goggles, as well as a face mask or respirator. These are important even if you’re spraying outside.
4. Spray primer
Place your cooler on a small box and start by spraying primer. This provides a smooth adhesive layer for the color coat. You only need a thin coat, so apply three layers using a back-and-forth motion – go from side to side, covering 30cm per second, from 40cm away. Allow each layer to dry for five minutes before painting the next one.
5. Sand primer
Inspect the primer finish after three coats to ensure it’s smooth. If there are any imperfections, sand them down using 1,200-grit sandpaper, wipe the surface with a dry microfiber cloth, and then apply another coat.
6. Spray color coat
The next job is to apply your chosen color coat, applying four layers using the same spray method as we used for the primer in Step 4. Ensure the layers are light enough to avoid the paint running.
7. Spray clear coat
Allow the color coat to dry for an hour, then apply the clear coat using the same motion as before. Again, aim to apply light coats, as the angular surfaces of the cooler can make it easy for the paint to run. Aim to completely cover the painted areas three times.
8. Remove the masking
Once you’ve finished with the clear coat, wait five minutes for it to set, and then remove the masking. Don’t leave the masking on for longer than this amount of time, as the clear coat can tear if it fully dries.
9. Allow cooler to dry
Be careful not to touch any painted areas, as the clear coat can be soft until it cures. Let it dry in a well-ventilated area, as it will emit fumes for at least 48 hours while it dries.
And that’s your painting job all done. All that’s left to do now is to enjoy looking lovingly at your PC’s interior with your newly matching AIO cooler. For further PC case customization ideas, you’ll also want to check out our full guide that shows you how to paint your PC case. If you’re planning a new paint job as part of a new build, then you’ll also want to read our full guide on how to build a gaming PC, which covers every step of the process.