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How to Get a Better Match with Touch-Up Paint

June 22, 2015 3 min read

Even when you're using factory matched touch up paint, it's possible that your actual paint color won't match up. This can be frustrating, especially when you've made sure that you've found the right match. What went wrong? We'll explain a few of the reasons why your paint may not match -- and what you can do about it.

Why Touch Up Paint Doesn't Match

There are a few different reasons why your touch up paint may not match your existing factory paint. These include:

  • Difficulty replicating factory finish: When you use touch up paint, you may be simply painting on a layer or two of paint. But in the factory, your car is sprayed several times, producing a different finish.
  • Fading from the sun: Your touch up paint will be the original factory color -- but the paint on your vehicle might not be that same shade anymore. After sitting in the sun and being subjected to weather, the paint on your vehicle may have faded slightly, making it a lighter shade that the original, unfaded color of the touch up paint.
  • Metallic finish: Metallic paint colors can be more difficult to match accurately, as they include small reflective flecks of metal in the paint. If they're not distributed well throughout the touch up paint, it can look different than the existing paint when applied.

How to Get a Better Match

It's not always easy to get an exact match on touch up paint, even if you're using the factory finish. But don't panic: if it's still wet, wait a while, as it may blend better when the paint has dried. For others, simply waiting a few months to allow the new paint to fade with the sun and outdoor elements may produce a better match. There are steps you can take in the application process that make a difference as well:

  • Use your factory paint code: When purchasing touch up paint, always order paint that matches your vehicle's factory paint code.
  • Always test first: Before applying paint to say, your driver's side door, test on an inconspicuous section of your vehicle first. This will allow you to double check your color match as well as get a feel for application.
  • Properly prep your painting area: You should wash your vehicle and use wax and grease remover to make sure you're getting right down to the paint. If there is rust or any texture, be sure to lightly apply sandpaper before painting.
  • Shake paint before applying: Paint may have natural separation, so remember to shake it well for at least a full minute before you begin. Metallic paint in particular will have flecks included that need to be distributed.
  • Fake a factory finish: In the factory, your vehicle is painted with multiple thin coats. So that's exactly what you should do with your touch up paint. Apply several extremely thin coats with a light hand to blend in the new color. Each coat should be just slightly larger than the last for optimal blending.
  • Apply paint with a toothpick: For very small chips, dip a toothpick in paint and apply a small amount of paint to the ding. Avoid trying to completely fill the ding with each layer -- simply let it dry for a few hours, then apply a bit more until you've applied several layers that match up.
  • Use a clear coat: Your factory finish has a base coat and clear coat, so adding this step can help you avoid painted sections that stick out as different.
  • Paint in the shade: Ideally, you'll want to paint your vehicle in the shade without high humidity conditions. You should at least avoid direct sunlight to allow the paint to dry slowly.
  • Paint a larger area: If you're still not happy with the way your touch up paint looks, it may be necessary to repaint a larger area.

With careful application, and an accurate shade of paint, you can ensure that you'll get the best touch up paint match for your vehicle. This is a great way to protect your car's finish from rust and outdoor elements, plus it keeps your vehicle looking great.