How To Compare Different Automotive Paints

Whether you've decided to paint your own car or are asking a professional paint shop to give your car a new color or coat of paint, it is always helpful to know a few things about the paint you will be using. The first thing you should know is that it is generally not advisable to mix paint from different paint manufacturing companies. While you may be satisfied with the color blend that results from mixing paint from company A and company B together, you need to understand that each manufacturer has a different chemical process for producing their paint. That being said, it is safe to assume that these paint companies make their paints in such a way that they will work best with their own line of colors. Mixing paints from different companies could give you problems with pain adhesion, paint bonding and flaking. Historically, paint jobs that come from a mix of two paint companies' products have problems with durability, cracking and peeling.

There are four major types of car paint readily available in the market today. These are water-based paints, urethanes, enamels and lacquers. Distinguishing these paints by their properties is also quite easy.

  • Lacquer type car paints were very popular back in the twenties and thirties. They are distinguished by their high rate of glossiness, and are very cheap compared to the other types of paint. Being an old type of paint, however, it does not have the durability of its more contemporary brethren, and can chip or flake easily in adverse environmental conditions. Lacquer paint is also designed for the easiest application - however, it is generally no longer recommended due to its durability issues.
  • Enamel car paints come next, and were designed to be more durable than the lacquer variety. Professional car painters bake the enamel paint after applying it on the car body, which results in a thick, durable paint shell. One caveat, however, is that these enamel paints are harder to apply than enamel paints, which could pose a problem for the amateur painter. Some enamel paints require a two-coat system when applied, such as a base coat first then a clear coat after for added protection. Single-coat enamels are available as well, but it may be better for you to have a professional do the application, just to be on the safe side.
  • Urethane paints are currently the most popular paints available in the market today. These paints are considerably more expensive than the lacquer or enamel types, but can be applied as easily as the lacquer variety. When using urethane paints, you are essentially looking at three products in order to apply the color: you will need the base color, followed by a reducer which is applied to the spray gun to thin the paint for easy application, and a catalyst, which is used to accelerate the paint's drying time. Urethane paint is also highly toxic, so be sure to use gloves, a facemask and clothing that cover all areas of your skin before applying the paint. Also, once the urethane paint has been mixed, it must be applied to the car directly as soon as possible, and unused paint must be discarded immediately.
  • Water based paints are the latest thing in car paint - being water based, they are non-toxic and are best suited to the amateur car painter. However, since this is new technology, the line of colors available in water-based paint is still expanding, so at this point in time your color options may be limited somewhat.


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