11 Steps To Achieve Excellent Quality Auto Paint Finish

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  • Post last modified:September 20, 2021

Auto body paint is one serious job, which is why it’s often reserved for professionals. But there’s no stopping any car owner from doing a DIY, especially if they’re up for the task.

If you’re looking for a way to amp up your exteriors to eliminate wear or change the color to meet your personality, auto paint is your best bet. The right combination of prep work, painting tools, and skills can spell the difference between an epic disaster to a quality sleek finish for your ride.

To help you out, here are steps to follow so you can achieve an excellent quality auto paint finish:

11 Proven Steps to Get Achieve Excellent Paint Finish

auto paint

#1. Prepare Painting Equipment 

Proper painting equipment is on top of this list. Make sure you have all these essentials for your paint job.

  • Sanding tools: Dual Action (DA) orbital air sander, as well as a sandpaper 120 or wet/dry sandpaper 400 to 600
  • Masking materials: newspaper, masking tape, or weatherstrip tape
  • Spray gun: make sure it’s clean and free from any issues. To be sure, you can service your Fuji Spray Auto V8 spray gun pattern control so you won’t get dry paint. 
  • Air compressor
  • Primer, color paint, and clear coat
  • Paint thinner
  • Cleaning solvent and rag
  • Safety equipment: face mask and googles
  • Body repair tools (optional): carbide cutters or conditioning discs

#2. Surface Preparation 

Once you have everything in your garage, it’s time to prep your car. For exterior paint jobs, you’ll need to remove everything–trim, mirrors, bumpers, grille, and other items around the areas you’ll be painting.

Now, it’s on to cleaning. Wash the car’s surface with water and detergent, then apply wax and grease remover. Do a deep clean to remove all traces of dirt, then wipe dry.

#3. Sanding 

Here’s where you need the sanding tools mentioned above. The dual action (DA) orbital air grinder exposes the bare metal and allows the paint to adhere. You can then follow up with sandpaper 120. To remove excess fillers and rub away rust, use coarser sand pads.

#4. Masking

Masking covers portions of your car and seals it off from paint. You can use newspapers to cover the windshield and tires. For narrow joints and trim around the windshield and window moldings, use weatherstrip tape or masking tape. Experts also recommended covering the car’s underside to keep these areas away from the paint.

#5. Prepare Your Spray Gun  

After all the surface prep, it’s on to using the painting tools previously mentioned. Car experts suggest you have three spray guns–one for primers and surfacers, another for basecoats, and a third for clear coats. If you’re on a budget, you can make do with less, with one specifically for clear coats.

To enhance your car’s look, ensure that your spray gun matches the type of paint you’ll be using. Some spray guns are more suited for solvent-based paints and others for water-born auto paint. Auto shops now use water-based paints to comply with environmental regulations and for health reasons, hence you probably should, too.

#6. Attach The Correct Nozzle

Before you start spraying, it’s essential to attach the correct nozzle so you won’t get dry paint and ensure proper coverage.

Car paint experts follow this general rule in fitting spray gun nozzles:

  • 1.7-2.2 for heavy-bodied primers 
  • 1.4-1.6 for basecoats
  • 1.3-1.7 for clear coats
  • 1.4-1.6 for sealers and single-stage urethanes

#7. Apply Primer

excellent auto paint quality

Hold the spray gun 6-8 inches perpendicular to the car’s surface. This distance reduces dry spray and eliminates orange peel.

Apply the primer with a brushstroke technique by moving your entire arm over the panel’s total length. Allow the primer to completely dry.

If you’re working with just one spray gun, make sure you clean it thoroughly with paint thinner before switching to other paints.

#8. Wet Sanding

Next, you’ll need to use 400 to 600 grit sandpaper to even out the surface. Wet sanding uses water and sandpaper to even out the surface of your car for a mirror-like finish. Rinse the car with warm water and dry it with a sponge.

#9. Start With A Base Coat

Applying the base coat is the next step. You’ll need to follow manufacturer instructions when using your desired car color. Choose from solid colors or you can go all out to infuse colored sparkles for added depth.

Solid-colored auto paint is often the go-to solution because it’s inexpensive and requires minor touch-ups. Solid paints also prevent paint from chipping due to the weather, and they don’t need an additional clear coat.

However, if you like a little flair to your car’s exterior, you can choose metallic or pearlescent paint. The difference between the two is the material added to the paint. Metallic particles reflect light and give your ride a sleek finish, while ceramic crystals in pearlescent paint allow it to change color depending on what angle you look at the car.

To achieve your desired shade, you’ll need to apply two to three coats. Base coats dry within 20 minutes to an hour, so you better have the time and patience when you’re doing an auto paint job.

#10. Top With Clear Coat 

A clear coat is a finishing touch to your car’s paint job. The final coat makes your vehicle shiny and protects it from poor weather conditions and the sun’s UV rays.

Auto paint professionals recommend that you have a separate spray gun for a clear coat. This won’t only save you time and effort cleaning your spray guns in between paint changes, but it also guarantees that you don’t accidentally leave paint in your spray gun and clog your sprayer or drop a glob of undesirable paint on your panel.

Just like base coats, you’ll need to spray several layers of clear coats. The clear coat won’t only act as protective layers but also prepares them for buffing.

#11. Buff For A Show Car Finish 

If you want your car to sport a show car finish, you’ll need to devote more time to make it truly shine. Buffing requires several rounds of wet sanding with finer grits of sandpaper and using a buffing wheel three times. A polishing glaze is added to seal in the car’s newfound luster.


Quality auto paint finish requires several steps. It begins with preparing adequate painting materials, followed by a thorough cleaning process and dry sanding. Masking protects car parts from being sprayed over. The painting process requires a primer and multiple layers of both base and clear coats. Wet sanding prepares the car for buffing and applying the polishing glaze.

An excellent car paint job requires not only suitable materials but also the proper technique. More importantly, it entails an eye for detail and the patience to produce a car show finish.