How to Apply Touch up Paint on a Car


How to Apply Touch up Paint on a Car

Owning an automobile comes with its set of advantages and disadvantages, and one common challenge confronted by car owners revolves around the frequent occurrence of scratches, dents, bumps, and grazes caused by various objects and other vehicles.

In all practicality, it's nearly inevitable to escape such incidents. Your vehicle is susceptible to encounters with car doors, encounters with shopping carts, and the impact of small pebbles from the road, all contributing to scratches and chips in your car's paint.

In such situations, our recommended solution is the application of touch-up paint to the affected areas. Utilizing touch-up paint serves to preserve the aesthetic appeal of your car and eliminates the need for costly visits to an auto body shop.

Concerned about the possibility of incorrectly applying touch-up paint? Put those worries to rest because we've got you covered! This article will walk you through a comprehensive, step-by-step process, ensuring you can apply touch-up paint with the finesse of a professional.

Paint Correction vs. Touch Up Paint Pen vs. Full Touch Up Paint

Let's clarify that the application of touch-up paint becomes essential only when a scratch extends beyond the clear coat of your vehicle. To determine the depth of the scratch, run your finger over the car's body. If your finger doesn't catch on the paint, the damage is superficial and confined to the clear coat. In such cases, you may refer to our paint correction article for guidance on addressing these light scratches on the clear coat.

However, when the scratch penetrates deeper than the clear coat, the recommended course of action depends on the extent of the affected area. If it's a few scratches and a small surface area (2 square inches or less), using a touch-up paint pen is the appropriate solution. For larger areas, you may need to undergo a complete touch-up paint process, effectively repainting that section of the vehicle.

Let’s dive into these two different touch up paint processes below.

Applying Touch Up Paint With A Touch Up Paint Pen

If you’re looking to quickly apply touch up paint for a small scratch, it won’t be too difficult and you can likely accomplish this by yourself. To begin, you’ll need:

1. Touch-up paint pen: The touch up paint pen reduces the impact of a scratch on the surface.

2. Car wash soap : This is a cleaning agent used to clean your car of any dirt.

3. Microfiber towels: This is a soft textured cloth used to clean your car without leaving scratches.

4. Claybar: The claybar is used to lift contaminants off the vehicle surface to provide a smooth surface for applying touch up paint.

5. 3,000 grit paper: The grit paper is used to clear out any dirt in the scratches.

6. Clear coat : The clear coat is a transparent, glossy coating that enhances the look of your paint and protects it from the environment

Now that you're equipped with the necessary tools, let's delve into the straightforward steps for using a touch-up paint pen.

1. Clean the area

Prior to commencing any work on the vehicle's exterior, thoroughly wash the affected area. Employ high-quality car wash soap and clean microfiber towels to prevent any damage to the car.

2. Clear out the dirt

Utilize the abrasive tip of your pen or the grit paper to meticulously clean out the chip until you achieve a pristine surface area to work on. Be cautious not to excessively scratch the paint area, as this may lead to additional work.

3. Apply The Paint Starting at the Top of the Scratch

Retrieve your paint correction pen and begin the application of paint onto the scratch with precision. Initiate the application from the top, allowing the paint to naturally flow into the remaining part of the chip. Start with a modest amount; you can always add more later. Applying too much initially may make it challenging to remove any excess.

4. Let the paint dry

After applying the initial coat of paint to the scratch, allow it to dry for the duration specified in the pen's instructions. Keep in mind that a thin paint coat will dry more quickly, although the weather and temperature conditions will also influence the overall drying time.

5. Apply Clear Coat

If your pen includes its own clear coat, that's great. If not, you can purchase a clear coat separately. Apply a thin layer of clear coat to the freshly painted area to shield it from sun exposure and potential weather damage. Once you've completed this step, take a moment to sit back and admire your masterpiece!

Applying Touch Up Paint To Large Surface Areas

If you're dealing with a substantial surface area that requires touch-up, relying solely on a paint correction pen may not be the most efficient and effective option. In this section, we will guide you through a more comprehensive touch-up paint procedure suitable for larger surface areas.

To begin, you’ll need:

1. Touch up paint: This is the paint used to fix damage on large surface areas on your vehicle.

2. Spray gun: A spray gun uses air pressure to apply paint on your car surface.

3. Clear coat: The clear coat is a protective layer that protects the base coat from weather elements, reducing the chances of scratches and hazing.

4. Standard needle and syringe: The plunger and small tip allows you to precisely apply paint to small areas.

5. Clay bar: A clay bar is used to remove foreign material from your vehicle’s surface.

6. Orbital sander: An orbital sander is used to remove paint on the car surface to create a smooth surface.

7. Polish: This gives your car a longer shine and cleaner finish.

8. Primer: This prepares the car for painting by smoothing rough surfaces on your car. It also stops the top coat from peeling.

9. Car wash soap: This is a cleaning agent used to clean your car of any dirt.

10. Microfiber towels: This is a soft textured cloth used to clean your car without leaving scratches.

With your essentials in hand, you're prepared to navigate through the step-by-step process. Applying touch-up paint requires careful attention, as improper application could lead to a flawed paint job. Let's proceed with diligence.

1. Wash the car and sand the area

When getting ready to apply touch-up paint to your car, begin by cleaning and sanding the affected surface.

Cleaning and sanding serve to accentuate the affected area, ensuring it is clearly visible for a comprehensive repair. This process also aids in identifying other less noticeable areas that may also require touch-up painting, while simultaneously reducing the risk of contaminants such as grit and dirt interfering with the application of the fresh coat of paint.

To clean the car effectively:

1. The affected area should be cleaned with water, car-cleaning soap, and a soft microfiber towel

2. After washing the affected area, make sure to dry it with a microfiber drying towel and even let it air dry for a bit just to make sure it is 100% bone dry

To sand the car effectively:

1. Thoroughly wash the car with soap and water

2. Use 80-grit sandpaper to remove old paint around the affected car surface area

3. Use 180-grit sandpaper to remove rust or surface damage

4. Finally, use 320-grit paper to remove your previous 180-grit scratches

2. Check for and remove rust

The next step is to inspect for and eliminate rust. This is a crucial measure to ensure that touch-up paint is not applied to a rusted surface. Applying touch-up paint over rust can result in an unsatisfactory paint finish and allow your car to continue rusting beneath the fresh coat.

To prevent this, check for signs of fading or discoloration in the scratched area. If the metal appears dark red or brown, it indicates rusting. Any discoloration should be removed using sandpaper, or alternatively, pumice can be used if sandpaper is unavailable.

Additionally, employing a clay bar can help remove foreign materials from the car's surface. Begin by shaping the clay into a flat oval that fits your fingers. Then, apply lubricant to both the clay and the area you wish to treat. Gently wipe the clay back and forth across the affected area to eliminate contaminants.

3. Use rubbing alcohol to remove grease and wax from affected areas

We aim to eliminate grease and wax as it ensures proper bonding of the protectant with the body and enhances the durability of the paint. To achieve this, wipe down the section of the paint you are working on with rubbing alcohol and a microfiber towel. To test the absence of wax, pour some water on the cleaned surface. If the water doesn't flow off the paint easily, the wax has been successfully removed!

To conclude this step, clean the de-waxed area with water and soap, using a microfiber towel. This ensures the removal of any residual rubbing alcohol, preventing it from affecting the finish of the touch-up paint.

4. Find out your exact car paint

Before you purchase any new paint for your vehicle, you’ll want to find your car’s “paint code”. To do this, look in the door jam, close to the VIN number. If you still can’t find the paint code, you can search for the car color, model, and phrase “paint code” on google. This should provide you with helpful information to find your exact car paint.

5. Purchase matching touch-up paint color

Over time, prolonged exposure to sunlight can cause car paint to fade or appear washed out. The original factory paint on your car may no longer precisely match in terms of hue.

Armed with your paint color or paint code, pay a visit to your local auto parts store to acquire some touch-up paint. If you can't find a matching color at an auto parts shop, consider reaching out to the car dealership.

While obtaining an exact paint match is crucial for a uniform appearance after the job is completed, it can be challenging, especially for light-colored cars. If you encounter difficulty selecting the right color, seek guidance from an auto paint expert.

6. Test the paint

Conducting a paint test is a simple trick that can confirm whether the paint you purchased matches the hue and shade of your car.

For the test, use a standard needle and syringe to apply a small amount of touch-up paint to a concealed part of your vehicle. Observe if the paint matches the original color. If it doesn't, consider seeking recommendations from an auto-body shop for the correct paint to use.

Ensure you shake the paint canister thoroughly before testing. This step guarantees that the consistency and true color remain authentic.

7. Apply primer

Prior to applying the primer, it is crucial to thoroughly clean the affected area. For optimal results, cover up the areas you are not painting and secure any edges with tape.

Employ a paint sprayer to administer two to three coats of primer onto the bare metal until it is entirely covered. Position the nozzle of the sprayer 6 to 8 inches away from the vehicle's surface and initiate the primer release by pulling the trigger. Gradually move the sprayer back and forth over the painting area. Once this step is completed, you can proceed to apply the touch-up paint.

8. Apply the touch-up paint to the affected areas

Utilize the needle and syringe to apply two to three coats of touch-up paint to the affected surface. After completing this step, the retouched area may appear slightly raised compared to the surrounding paint.

To achieve the best results, wait until the first coat of touch-up paint has thoroughly dried before applying the next layer. This precaution helps prevent the applied paint from running down the sides of the car and staining unaffected areas.

9. Apply the clear coat

After the touch-up paint has dried, proceed to apply the clear coat using the provided nozzle. The clear coat should be applied in light, thin layers, ensuring each layer dries completely before the next one.

For a more efficient application, consider using a paint spray gun with high and low settings. Opt for the low-pressure setting to achieve the best clear coating results. Avoid using high pressure, as it may strip off the touch-up paint, necessitating a repetition of the previous step.

10. Polish the entire car

Polishing your car serves to seamlessly integrate the touched-up area with the rest of your car's painted surface, eliminating heavy scratches from the entire vehicle and restoring faded paint.

Allow a few days for the touch-up paint and clear coatings to harden before proceeding. After this period, apply polish to the entire area. Upon completion of the process, your car is certain to shine brighter than ever!


When your car paint experiences chipping, it is crucial to address it with touch-up paint. To execute this task properly, you must identify the correct paint color and gather the essential materials. Once equipped with the necessary tools, initiate the process by applying primer, followed by the base coat. Subsequently, utilize touch-up paint to rectify the affected area before applying a clear coat. Complete the procedure by polishing the entire car surface.

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