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The Auto Painting Process

Auto Repair
Auto Body Repair & Painting
Local Auto Body Repair & Painting in your area

More than any other car repair, auto painting is considered an art. This is because considerable effort and expertise must be taken to properly mix car paint colors and apply them in a smooth, effective manner. Whether you are interested in standing out from the crowd with a custom paint job or you're simply trying to fix a paint job after a collision, you may be curious about the professional auto painting process. The basic procedure is outlined below:

Pre-Cleaning Process

Prior to painting, the body shop expert must first prepare the exterior surface for proper paint adhesion. This begins by removing the original finish through sandblasting or grinding. Once the bare metal of the vehicle is completely exposed, the entire surface will be cleaned with a metal conditioner that removes all unwanted contaminants from the surface. Wax and grease removers are also necessary to allow for proper paint adhesion.

Once the surface to be painted is properly treated, the auto painter will use masking paper and tape to cover adjacent car components such as windows and plastic materials. This masking will eliminate the possibility for paint to adhere to unwanted places.

Adding Primer

Prior to painting, primer is applied to the vehicle's body to further improve paint adhesion and prevent rust. Once the primer is dry, the surface is block-sanded to level the primer surface. To ensure consistent sanding of all areas, a guide coating of colored primer is typically applied. Depending on the level of imperfections in the car's body, priming and sanding may need to be repeated two to six times.


Professionals use compressed air guns to apply auto paint. After mixing the paint to properly match the vehicle's intended color, a coat of sealer is first applied to the bare metal. Once dry, slow, steady strokes are made with the compressed air gun to evenly apply each coat of paint. For adequate results, 12 to 24 coats are required to complete the painting process. Generally, six to eight coats are applied successively, with the painter allowing a bit of time for drying between each coat, and then the vehicle paint is left to dry overnight. The auto painting is generally completed the next day with a second application of coats.

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