Applying Touch-Up Paint Like a Pro

You and your car are bound to go on some exciting adventures together. While those adventures almost always lead to amazing memories, you’re also bound to endure damage to your vehicle from time to time.

Some of this damage will require professional help, but not every scratch, scrape, or paint chip needs that level of attention. In fact, most of those small scratches you see throughout your car’s exterior can be fixed all by yourself with automotive touch up paint.

It makes for a fun and exciting DIY project, but you’ll also gain a valuable skill that continues to pay off in the future. You can even teach your kids this skill as they grow up, that way they don’t take unnecessary trips to the repair shop when they get their first car.

Contrary to popular belief, the process for applying touch-up paint to your vehicle is rather easy and only becomes easier the more you do it.

Don’t worry if this is your first time and you don’t know how to apply touch up paint. We’re going to guide you through this process and make sure you have all the right tools to get the job done right -- the first time.

Preparing Your Vehicle for the Touch-Up

If you want to learn how to apply touch up paint properly, it’s imperative to first clean the exterior of your car. The last thing we want is any dirt, debris, or bugs to get mixed in with the automotive touch up paint. You’ll also notice that cleaning it allows you to get a clear look at where the damage is -- as well as helping you spot damage you didn’t notice before.

There’s two ways to go about this -- minimum effort and maximum effort. There’s no right or wrong way here. The maximum effort involves cleaning the entire car, while the minimum effort involves cleaning just the touch-up area.

If you have the time, go ahead and give your car the full treatment before proceeding onto the next step.

Now that you’ve decontaminated and polished everything, get the vehicle as dry as possible before putting the wheels back on the car. Once dry, move the vehicle to a more confined area, such as back in the garage. You’re now ready for the next step.

Assessing the Damage

You’ll notice you can spot the paint damage much easier now that the car has been cleaned thoroughly. Before you move forward, you should do a quick sweep of the car to ensure you’re not missing any paint damage. When you look closely, you never know what you’ll find -- or where. When looking at paint damage on a car, you’ll have several different types of damage. One of the most common is paint transfer, which is when the paint from another car or object is left behind on your vehicle. You might also have a chip in the paint, as well as paint peeling off.

As you assess the damage, you’ll likely have to remove the paint transfer, the peeling paint, and any other scuff marks that weren’t removed during the decontamination. This can be done one of two ways -- chemically or mechanically.

For new vehicles, it’s best to use the chemical first and then try the mechanical method if that doesn’t work. Older vehicles could endure more paint damage when chemicals are used, so it’s best to go straight to the mechanical method in that case.

If you’re using a chemical, always test it on a small area of the car first to make sure it doesn’t damage the paint. As for the mechanical method, you can use a microfiber cutting pad to remove the extra scuff marks, scratches, and knicks.

You don’t have to use a machine if you don’t have one. Instead, manually (but carefully) remove the rest of those ugly marks.

How to Apply Touch Up Paint

By now, you’re left with just the scratches, chips, and cuts from the car’s impact. This is where you finally get to address those deep wounds on the car and make the vehicle look complete again. Before we jump into that, however, we must first understand the three main rules when applying car touch up paint. They are:

1. The main purpose of touch-up paint is to reduce the risk of further damage (oxidation) to the affected area -- not to make your car look brand new. That’s not to say it won’t look better, but don’t expect it to look perfect.

2. You’re not going to paint the touch-up paint on your vehicle. Instead, you’re going to drip or dab it onto the affected area so it takes the correct form or shape.

3. As much as you want to do this over and over again until it’s perfect, it’s important to know when to stop. Remember, we’re trying to slow the rate of oxidation -- not make it look perfect.

Once you’ve taken note of those three rules to applying touch-up paint, you’re ready to start applying it. There are several tools that come in handy here, so we’ll go over some of the most popular:

Toothpick - you can use the end of a toothpick to dab some paint on the affected area. It’s a cheap way of getting this job done with something most of us already have laying around.

Paint Pen - the paint pen looks much like your ordinary pen, but has a tiny crevice near the point where you place the touch-up paint. As you dab it, paint is released from the crevice.

Airbrush Pencil - similar to the paint pen, but is more ideal for longer scratches opposed to the small circular scratch marks.

Airbrush w/ Compressor - very similar to the airbrush pencil, but better-suited for larger areas and works best on non-metallic surfaces.

Needle & Syringe - one of the most precise and effective tools when applying touch-up paint, the needle and syringe is easy to use and cheap!

Much like we prove with the toothpick, you can really use anything to apply touch-up paint. The key here -- and the reason why we suggest using one of the above methods -- is being accurate and careful.

When using the needle and syringe, simply configure the right-sized tip onto the barrel and plunger. Press the plunger all the way in and bring it back to suction up the right amount of paint into the barrel. When filled, practice on your hand or a scrap piece of metal so you can get the pressure right.

You can also use a scuff pen to further prepare the area before you apply the touch-up paint. This gives you an even-more precise look. Once the paint has been applied, you can further clean your car by focusing on the interior while the paint dries.

Now that you have dry paint, you can apply a clear coat on top of the paint and follow that up with further protection. You can also use glue to fix any broken plastic parts around your vehicle -- your syringe will come in handy for this.

If you need further assistance with your paint damage, feel free to contact us at Clarity Coat and one of our highly-trained professionals will be happy to assist you!

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