Late Spring is Touch-Up Time: How to Touch Up Car Paint With Professional Results Staff
by Staff

Does your car’s paint need some work? Follow these tips from AutomotiveTouchup for professional-looking, affordable results.

Your vehicle looks great, except for a few scratches and dents. Or, perhaps you have some larger auto body work that needs to be completed, but you’re reluctant to drop all that cash at the local shop to have it done. It’s a common story. The good news is that you have options. You can learn how to do the work yourself, in your own time, at home. It isn’t as hard as it may seem, and you can help your vehicle maintain its value over time, while you save money.

What’s the first step? Getting the right paint. There’s a simple yet important process to follow, in order to do this. Complete, invisible restoration is the goal and AutomotiveTouchup, an online e-commerce specialty touch up paint manufacturer, can help you get there. By working online exclusively, AutomotiveTouchup is able to keep its overhead low while providing customers like you with products at the lowest possible cost, yet the highest quality.

Color Code: Find a Perfect Match

How do you know it’s an exact match? To get you started, AutomotiveTouchup will first provide you with a custom-formulated precise color match for your vehicle from its comprehensive library of OEM colors. To find your vehicle’s color, you will need to do a quick check for the color code. You could order your paint by color name if you know it, but there are a few problems with this. Car manufacturers often use several different names for the same color code, and they can differ from brand to brand. It’s confusing. For example, GM brands share paint codes and shades but each brand may get a different name; Ford/Lincoln/Mercury share paint codes and colors, yet with different names; Honda and Acura share paints with unique names; Scion/Toyota/Lexus share paint colors and codes yet can have different names and each brand may have a color that is unique to the brand such as Scion’s Torched Penny and Ford’s Mystichrome. (Who knew?) The paints, however, go by different names.

So, color codes are the way to go. Yours could be located on the inside of your vehicle’s door, or in a few other places. You can use Automotive Touchup’s company website to help you find it. If you can’t locate yours, just provide Automotive Touchup with your vehicle’s make, model, name, year and the color name of the paint, if you have it. They can then supply you with examples of paint codes to search for.

Not certain? Don’t worry, the color code will be verified before shipping.

Choose From Pen, Bottle and Aerosol Paints

The size and scope of your project will determine the kind of paint you need and which tools. Paint pens are best used to fix small dings, thin scratches, and chips made by rocks. Essentially, they cover anything that’s smaller than the back end of your pen.

If you have a bigger, but “still small problem”, bottles of paint can cover regions larger than small scratches. The area should be no bigger than a dime. You choose between half-ounce and two-ounce bottles to get the job done. If you have leftovers, store them according to the instructions to keep the paint for future use.

For larger projects, AutomotiveTouchup markets aerosol paints. A single 12-ounce can will cover about six square feet, and you can purchase these products in pints, quarts and gallons, depending on your needs. Enjoy the pro-grade spray tip for a finely tuned application with professional results. Next thing you know, your neighbors will be lining up for your handy help on weekends.

Test Color First

Measure twice, cut once, isn’t that the saying? It’s the same story with paint. You will need to do a color test first before painting your vehicle. Automotive Touchup provides you with a test card to do this, as an easy-to-use color preview tool. Follow the how-to video on their website for exact instructions. This way, you can view your vehicle’s existing paint alongside the touch-up color.

Watch the Weather Conditions

If you’re using an aerosol spray to complete your work, remember to avoid the cold. Spraying should be done in about 70 to 80 degree F weather. You should also do it when skies are dry, ideally with humidity levels of 50% or less.

Prep the Repair Area

It’s true, usually, you’d want to use car-specific soap on your vehicle to get it clean. This is the one time to avoid it. Car soap often contains wax. Use dish soap instead, such as Palmolive, to clean the area you need to paint. Dry the region completely with a lint-free towel, and apply some prep-solvent. This will ensure your vehicle’s touchup area is free from any oils, wax or silicone.

Need to Sand?

For projects that involve paint pens and bottles, you may not be sanding. It depends. If you are covering a large swath of metal and using aerosol paint, however, sanding is in order.

Generally speaking, primer will cover 180-320 grit sanding scratches. Stay within these grades of sandpaper. Sand the area and clear out any rust or surface irregularities. Then, move on to wet sanding. For this, you use 600 grit wet sandpaper to cover the area in which you will be putting your basecoat. In the space in which you will be blending your touch up paint with the existing paint, (the blend panel), use something finer, such as 1000-1500 grit wet sandpaper. You’re looking for a smooth finish.

If you’re dealing with new plastic parts, use a fine scuff pad over the area. New metal parts need to be gone over with a medium or fine scuff pad, depending on the paint being applied. Use medium for topcoating with solid colors. Apply a fine scuff pad for pearls and metallics.

Mask for Best Results

By touching up the paint on your vehicle, you’re trying to make your life easier. Masking your vehicle when applying paint can be tricky, however. Consider these tips. You do want to prevent the good areas of your vehicle from being painted accidentally when you spray the region that needs fixing. Overspray isn’t your friend. Limit your tape lines when masking off adjacent panels. In small areas, use 1 ½ or 2-inch masking tape and never apply tape mid-panel, or you will leave a line once it’s removed. If you absolutely have to apply tape in the middle, avoid spraying directly against the tape’s edge. This will help ensure the best results. Tape lines are difficult to fix, and so prevent them from taking hold in the first place.

Create a tape line first, and then secure paper over it. When spraying, beware of heavy coats of paint leaking through your newspaper, if you’re using it. And be especially careful when working indoors- you don’t want to paint the entire vehicle. It can be a good idea to mask your vehicle fully with plastic sheeting to prevent overspray from tainting areas that don’t require fixing, when indoors.

For additional tips on how to get professional results, see AutomotiveTouchup’s how-to video, “Masking Techniques”.


Priming your vehicle is straightforward. If you’re coating plastic or fiberglass parts with aerosol paint, you’ll use plastic parts adhesion promoter first, before priming. Two light coats are enough. This is only done when using aerosol paint and isn’t needed when using paint in pens or bottles.

Next, shake your primer well and apply it over your sanded areas. As a general rule, apply three or more coats. Let each dry for 5 to 10 minutes in between. Once your final product has dried for an additional 30 minutes at the end, sand the primer with 600 grit wet sandpaper. You can use plain old water to clean off any dust that results. Let it all dry once more. Replace the dusty masking tape and paper. Use a tack rag to collect any remaining lint and debris.

Paint and Blend

You’re almost there! Double check your color match. Shake your paint well and spray a test panel with basecoat and clearcoat to do this. Cover your area with medium coats, waiting 5 to 10 minutes between each, for drying. Wait an additional 30 minutes before using a clearcoat.

What about lines and blending? Automotive Touchup provides useful how-to videos on the best approaches to making lines disappear in your paint. The goal is to blend your new paint thoroughly with the existing color for a flawless look.

What about tri-coat paint repair? There are a few more steps to painting, with this process. Tri-coat means the vehicle manufacturer used a groundcoat plus a very transparent color with a higher density pearl on top, for a specific effect. There are usually three steps to follow. They include a base or groundcoat, a midcoat and a final clearcoat. Practice this method before trying it out on your car.

Finish With a Clearcoat

Make sure you’ve waited at least 30 minutes for your basecoat color to dry before applying your clearcoat. Shake your aerosol, pen or bottle well and apply two to four wet coats. Wait 5 to 10 minutes in between layers for drying and up to 20 minutes for bottles and pens. Allow your clearcoat to dry entirely overnight. Wait a full 24 hours before applying any rubbing compound. This will bring out a high level of gloss on your vehicle.


  • Check your color match and paint technique by practicing your touch up, first. You can do this on a glossy sheet of paper or extra metal, such as a can.
  • Avoid applying heavy coats as they can drip. Stick to many layers of light coats.
  • Always apply paint in a well-ventilated area.
  • Store your paint properly, in a cool, dry place, (ie, not your vehicle).
  • Wait at least 30 days to wax your vehicle after touching up.
  • Avoid spraying primer, paint and clearcoat in direct sunlight.
  • Remember, it can take your project longer to dry in cooler weather.
  • Use a respirator mask and safety goggles.
  • Keep all products away from children.

Here are a few videos from the AutomotiveTouchup Youtube channel to get your confidence up: Staff Staff

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