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Picking the Right Paint for Your Car


Thinking about repainting your car? We know this process can be daunting (and in most instances it’s probably best to go to a specialist automotive paint garage to get your vehicle looking shiny and new).  But if you’re determined to do it yourself, we’ve come up with some guidelines which will help you to understand what you should be looking for in terms of paint products and tips on how to carry out the job.

About Car Paints

Essentially, car or automotive paints are made out of these principle components:

  • Solvents (or thinners): are used to reduce the viscosity of the paint for ease of application. These days, water-based paints are starting to replace volatile organic compound (VOC) paints.  The content of hydrocarbons and other components in these paints are deemed to be harmful to the environment and so content is regulated by the Paint Product Directive (see more information below).
  • Pigments: are the prime colours used on the vehicles
  • Binders (or resins) – the polymers which hold the pigment in place
  • Extenders: larger pigment particles which are added to improve adhesion, strengthen the film and secure the binders
  • Additives – used to modify the basic properties of the paint.

Waterborne VS Solvent-based Paints

As mentioned, generally there two types of car paints: solvent based and water-based.  As it says on the tin, the latter has water-based properties; whilst the former is made up of solvent-based compounds.  The benefits and disadvantages of each can be found in the table* below:


Water-Based Paints Solvent-Base
Low VOC of around 10%, fewer odour problems High VOC of around 84%, odour problems
Environmentally friendly, less health risk High risk of irritation, damage & may cause cancer
Typically made from acrylic resin (water-based lacquer) or an acrylic urethane (sold as water-based polyurethane) Typically made from lacquer, urethane or enamel



As the table shows, water-based paints are deemed safer for the environment and so tend to be the preferred choice for most automotive paint shops and individuals looking to paint their car themselves.

Car Paint Application

When it comes to automotive paint application, there are generally two preferred methods. Each of these methods use primers as the bonding agent, with the primer creating a bond between the vehicle surface area and the paint.

Single stage application:  this method requires an all-in-one paint where the gloss and colour are mixed together and applied in one go to the whole vehicle.

Two-stage application: this is a more labour-intensive method as the base coat is applied first, followed by a layer of clear coat to protect the colour.   Drying time has to be allowed between each application but this method will give you a longer lasting finish than method one.

 Types of Automotive Paint Finishes

As you probably know from when you first purchased your car, there are a number of different paint finishes which you can choose from.  The most popular that we sell at IPS to both automotive paint spraying garages and retail customers include:

  • Solid paints: these are usually applies using the single step method so the easiest and quickest to apply
  • Metallic paints: similar to solid paints, the difference with a metallic finish is that a powdered metal is added to the paint which is what gives it a shine.
  • Pearlescent paints: this type of paints uses “mica” in the mixture to give a depth and shimmer to the end product.
  • Matte paints: these are popular with classic car owners who are looking to emulate the look from the pre-war days. Matte paint is tricky to apply and so is best done by a professional automotive paint spraying garage.

Independent Paint Supplies

Independent Paint Supplies is a Swansea based, family run paint and coatings supplier to the automotive sector, among others.

For further advice or guidance on how to select and apply automotive paint for  your own vehicle, call us today on the number below or visit our shop  at Unit 2, St John’s Court, Upper Fforest Way, Enterprise Park, Swansea:

Auto paint