Pro Tips on How to Apply Automotive Touch-Up Paint
Is this your first time applying touch-up paint?
We always recommend you test the paint compatibility by first spraying an inconspicuous part of the vehicle. If after 20 minutes there are no chemical reactions and the tested area is compatible, then we can complete the repair to the entire surface area.
We highly recommend you to try this entire process in one small insignificant area from start to finish before repairing the entire surface area(s).
1. Safety First!
Wear approved automotive paint gear. Approved automotive paint respirator, goggles, and gloves to protect yourself from chemical hazards. Automotive touch-up paint including primer and clearcoats are EXTREMELY hazardous. Keep away from children! Call a physician IMMEDIATELY if swallowed. Keep out of direct sunlight and heat over 120F. DO NOT STORE IN CAR and avoid freezing. Contains HAZARDOUS Waste. EPA requires proper disposal. Use with adequate ventilation. If you experience any dizziness, discontinue product use immediately and call physician. This product contains chemicals known to the state of California to cause birth defects, cancer and other health problems. The main thing here is to use the product with adequate ventilation. Use an approved automotive paint respirator and WEAR safety goggles when handling automotive paint to protect your eyes!! This includes the primer, paint and clearcoat.
2. The preparation before we actually apply the paint.
Paint Compatibility Warning
Do not spray our paint over enamel paint that is less than two years old. If your vehicle was painted at any other paint shop within the last two years then our paint will lift the current paint. If in doubt, you can paint a small inconspicuous part of the car and check for any reactions or inconsistencies.
Spray Can Information
You will need a small container of automotive lacquer thinner. Do not use regular lacquer thinner sold at Home Depot as it has to be automotive lacquer thinner. Do not use old thinner! If it is more than a couple of months old, use it to clean or prep, but do not use it to thin your paint as it will create a disaster on your vehicle! Both the paint and clearcoat must be thinned so read the instructions on the paint can for further instructions and measurements.
Do not use spray nozzles from another spray can! Swapping nozzles can puncture and damage the plunger system and the paint can unusable. All spray cans are 12.5 ounces and provide excellent coverage of about six square feet (with two wet coats) so you can estimate how many cans you will need by measuring the square footage of the area you are painting.
To avoid paint dripping from the spray can and nozzle we recommend wrapping the spray can with a rag to catch any unforeseen drips. We also recommend frequently checking the spray can and nozzle for excess build up. If a big wet drip falls right into the center of your work, DO NOT try to wipe it off as you will only make the situation worse. The best thing to do is just let it dry and wet sand the drip away, followed by an additional coat for that area.
Clean and Protect the Area
Wash the area with soap and water, then use a wax and grease remover or equivalent product (some painters have suggested tar and insect remover, available at the supermarket) before starting the project. You may wish to use masking tape (automotive quality only!) all around the scratch or chipped area to prevent accidentally marring the surface.
Paint Spraying-Humidity and Temperature Warning!
Ideal painting humidity (below 50%) and temperature (around 70F). Make sure you do not spray in wet or humid conditions! To test the humidity, spray some of the clearcoat and see how it dries. If it dries with a whitish haze or streaks, it’s too humid to paint!
3. Now we prepare the surface area before we actually apply the touch-up paint.
Let’s start by scuffing the surface area with wet and dry sandpaper. The first thing to do is determine if the scratches have started to rust. If there is bubbling beneath the paint then this is too far-gone for touch-up paint! We will need to remove all traces of rust by using 220 grit sand paper or a wire brush and apply any of our rust conversion products to the bare metal.
After sanding the area with 220 grit (as described above in Rust Prevention) now we need to spray sand with #600 grit sandpaper. If you are spraying a panel such as a door, you must decide how far you are going to paint and scuff the entire area. See below for additional information.
For a perfect adhesion we recommend the use of our Adhesion Promoter when spraying non-metal surfaces. After the area has been sanded smooth, apply a layer of Adhesion Promoter to the entire surface that we are spraying including the area we are applying the clearcoat to. After applying the adhesion promoter we can apply a layer of primer.
4. Now we can apply the touch-up paint to the required surface area.
The Primer is made to stick to unpainted surfaces and cover small imperfections so apply primer if you have an unpainted surface either bare metal, plastic, or rubber. Primer has a tendency to shrink so let it dry according to the manufacturers instructions, and apply several coats to achieve a smooth surface. The professionals use lots of primer.
For deeper scratches we recommend a product called polyester putty. The putty is applied in several thin coats to slowly build up the surface to smooth. We recommend our Etch Primer and it can be applied to unpainted surfaces, existing paint (as long as you have sanded the paint), and even over body filler. We also highly recommend using a final coat of primer over the putty.
Basecoat Paint Spraying Technique
Tape surrounding areas to protect against over-spray. Use a tack rag to pick up any foreign matter on the vehicle. Spray evenly and overlap each coating. Some colors will require more paint so two coats should be sufficient but sometimes a third is necessary.
The painted area should be evenly wet with no dry spots. Two wet coats should be sufficient and let the first coat dry for approximately 20 minutes before applying the second coat. Before applying the final clearcoat we recommend cleaning any dust and sanding out the imperfections and by wet sanding the area using 1000 wet and dry sandpaper.
Follow this wet sanding with one final spray of paint over the area and let it dry thoroughly before applying the clearcoat. Usually the basecoat paint will dry overnight and now we can apply the clearcoat.
If you have spider veins throughout the paint then we either sprayed the paint too far away, or the temperature was too hot and the paint dried before it hit the surface. Our only solution is to reapply the paint closer to the surface and wait until the temperature is above 80 degrees.
Blending Techniques for Metallic Paints
Blending the paint into adjacent panels will achieve a much nicer and less noticeable repair especially for metallic paints. If you apply too much paint to the surface or do not wait long enough between coats, the metallic flake in the paint will become uneven. The final coat of metallic paint should be sprayed farther away from the surface to let the metallic flakes go on as evenly as possible. The distance will depend on your paint color, temperature, humidity, etc. so be sure to practice off the vehicle first!
Techniques for Tri-Coat
Any paint color that has the word “Tri-coat” in the description will need three different steps to achieve the correct color matching. The basecoat is the main color coat so let’s make sure this thoroughly dries for a minimum of 2 hours. Next, apply the midcoat layer. The spray paint can will either have (a check by the word Tricoat) or (a #2 on the label) to identify it. This midcoat color goes on very thinly and feathered out past the basecoat to avoid paint layer lines. We highly encourage you to practice a few times before actually applying the midcoat layer. Finally, you apply the clearcoat to achieve the correct color. The best was to spray tricoats is to spray the entire panel to the edge so there are no paint layer lines.
Clearcoat Paint Spraying Technique
Let’s make sure we apply enough clearcoat. If we do not apply enough we could end up trying to polish the basecoat and this will just never shine, and we will never know until the final stage of this entire process. If this was to happen our only solution is to reapply more clearcoat and rubbing compound to the area again.
Do not spray the clearcoat in the sun or any area that has been exposed to the heat of the sun. If the surface area is hot we will have to let it cool down otherwise the clearcoat will dry with a dull finish.
We will spray the clearcoat directly over the paint by slowly feathering the paint beyond all edges of the repaired area. If necessary, wet sand out any imperfections with 1000 grit, then apply a final clearcoat. The professionals will often paint to a boundary such as the edge of a door, a panel line on your car, or a molding. The idea is not to leave a paint line right in the middle of a panel.
Let the clearcoat dry for at least three days, and now we can use our automotive rubbing compound to smooth and shine the area.
If you have a whitish haze or white streaks throughout the clearcoat it means the humidity was above 50% when we started the basecoat painting. Our only solution is to wait until the humidity is under 50%, then we scuff down the clearcoat, apply more basecoat, and reapply the clearcoat.
5. Let’s make our hard work shine through.
Always test the rubbing compound in an inconspicuous place to check for surface compatibility and chemical reactions.
We recommend applying a medium duty rubbing compound application, this will create the best possible deep gloss shine. The rubbing compound is an extremely fine liquid sandpaper that makes the clearcoat shine through. A heavy duty rubbing compound will only dull the surface and a polishing compound is just not the same thing as rubbing compound.
With a clean soft cotton rag apply a small quantity of rubbing compound onto the vehicle and in a circular motion smooth and shine the surface. Using paper products or dirty fabrics will scratch your paint surface.
After completely applying the rubbing compound across the entire surface you will need to buff with another clean soft cotton rag for a high gloss shine. The rubbing compound can also be applied by machine but be careful it is very easy to burn the paint! You get the same results by hand but it will definitely take longer.