How To Apply Touch Up Paint

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Owning a car has its pros and cons, and one of the most common issues car owners face is the regular scratches, dents, bumps and grazes from objects and other cars.

In all honesty, it is almost impossible to avoid this. Your vehicle will be hit by car doors, bumped by shopping carts and pelted with little pebbles from the road. The result: scratches and chips in your paint.

When this happens, applying touch up paint to the affected area is our recommended solution. Touch up paint will help maintain your car’s beauty and save you expensive trips to the auto body shop.

Worried about applying touch up paint incorrectly? Worry no more, we’ve got you! This article will guide you through a detailed, step by step process to apply touch up paint like a pro.

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

Let’s start by saying that touch up paint is only necessary when the scratch goes deeper than the clear coat of your vehicle. You can determine the depth by running your finger over the body of the car. If your finger doesn’t get caught on the paint, the damage is shallow and only on the clear coat. If this is the case, you will want to refer to our paint correction article in order to remove these light scratches from the clear coat.

If the scratch goes deeper than the clear coat, then there are two different processes that you will want to follow, depending on how much surface area you need to fix.

If it’s a couple of scratches and just a small surface area (2 square inches or less), then using a touch up paint pen will do the trick. If it’s larger than that, then you may need to go through a full touch up paint process and essentially re-paint that portion 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:

  • Touch-up paint pen: The touch up paint pen reduces the impact of a scratch on the surface.
  • Car wash soap : This is a cleaning agent used to clean your car of any dirt.
  • Microfiber towels: This is a soft textured cloth used to clean your car without leaving scratches.
  • Claybar: The claybar is used to lift contaminants off the vehicle surface to provide a smooth surface for applying touch up paint.
  • 3,000 grit paper: The grit paper is used to clear out any dirt in the scratches.
  • 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 know what tools you’ll need, let’s hop into the simple steps to use a touch up paint pen.

1. Clean the area

Before doing any work on the car’s exterior, wash the affected area. Use quality car wash soap and clean microfiber towels to ensure you don’t damage the car.

2. Clear out the dirt

Use the abrasive tip of your pen or the grit paper to clean out the chip until you have a clean surface area to work with. Don’t scratch up the paint area or you’ll have more work to deal with.

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

Take out your paint correction pen, and carefully start applying the paint to the scratch. Be sure to start from the top so the paint drips into the rest of the chip. It’s best to start with a small amount, you can always apply more later; but if you add too much, it will be hard to remove the excess.

4. Let the paint dry

Once you’ve applied the first coat of paint to the scratch, let it dry for the amount of time listed on the pen’s instructions. A thin paint coat will dry faster but the weather and temperature will also play a factor in the drying time.

5. Apply Clear Coat

It’s possible your pen comes with its own clear coat. If it doesn’t, you can always buy a clear coat separately. Apply a thin layer of clear coat to this freshly painted area in order to protect it from sun exposure and future weather damage. Once you’ve done this, you can kick back and admire your masterpiece!

Applying Touch Up Paint To Large Surface Areas

If you have a large surface area to touch up, using a paint correction pen is likely not the most efficient and effective option for you. In this section, we will walk you through how to do a more in-depth touch up paint procedure to a larger surface area.

To begin, you’ll need:

  • Touch up paint: This is the paint used to fix damage on large surface areas on your vehicle.
  • Spray gun: A spray gun uses air pressure to apply paint on your car surface.
  • Clear coat: The clear coat is a protective layer that protects the base coat from weather elements, reducing the chances of scratches and hazing.
  • Standard needle and syringe: The plunger and small tip allows you to precisely apply paint to small areas.
  • Clay bar: A clay bar is used to remove foreign material from your vehicle’s surface.
  • Orbital sander: An orbital sander is used to remove paint on the car surface to create a smooth surface.
  • Polish: This gives your car a longer shine and cleaner finish.
  • Primer: This prepares the car for painting by smoothing rough surfaces on your car. It also stops the top coat from peeling.
  • Car wash soap: This is a cleaning agent used to clean your car of any dirt.
  • Microfiber towels: This is a soft textured cloth used to clean your car without leaving scratches.

    Now that you have your essentials, you’re ready to walk through the step by step process. Applying touch up paint can be tricky, so be sure to pay close attention. Improper application could easily result in a botched paint job.

    1. Wash the car and sand the area

    When preparing to apply touch-up paint to your car, start by cleaning and sanding the affected surface.

    Cleaning and sanding your car highlights the affected area and makes it visible for a thorough repair. It also helps you find other hard to notice areas that also require touch-up painting and lowers the possibility of having grit and dirt in the fresh coat of paint.

    To clean the car effectively:

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

    • Thoroughly wash the car with soap and water
    • Use 80-grit sandpaper to remove old paint around the affected car surface area
    • Use 180-grit sandpaper to remove rust or surface damage
    • Finally, use 320-grit paper to remove your previous 180-grit scratches

    2. Check for and remove rust

    Next up is to check for and remove rust. This step is important because it ensures that you don’t apply touch up paint to a rusted surface. Applying touch up paint to a rusted surface will result in a poor paint finish and leave your car continuing to rust under a fresh coat of paint.

    To avoid this, check if the metal is faded in the scratched area. If it’s dark red or brown, then the area is rusting. Any discolouration should be removed using sandpaper. Alternatively, you can use pumice if sandpaper isn’t available.

    Using a clay bar will also help you get rid of any foreign materials on the car. Start by shaping the bar into a flat oval that fits your fingers. Next, spray lubricant onto the clay and the car area that you want to treat. Then, gently wipe the clay back and forth across the affected area.

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

    We want to remove grease and wax because it ensures the protectant bonds properly with the body and makes paint durable. To do this, wipe down the section of the paint that you are working on with some rubbing alcohol and a microfiber towel. To test if your car is wax-free, pour some water on the surface you just cleaned. If the water doesn’t doesn’t flow off the paint easily, the wax has been successfully removed!

    To complete this step, clean the de-waxed area with water and soap using a microfiber towel. By doing so, you will rid the dewaxed surface of any rubbing alcohol that you used (we don’t want this to affect the touch up paint finish).

    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, excess exposure to sunlight makes the car paint fade or look washed. Your car’s factory paint might no longer be an exact match in terms of hue.

    With your paint color or paint code in hand, visit your neighborhood auto parts shop for some touch-up paint. If you’re unable to find a matching color at an auto parts shop, you can get in touch with the car dealership.

    While it is important to get the exact paint match for your vehicle because it ensures the paint looks uniform when the job is done, it can be challenging to find an ideal color match for light-colored cars. If you are having trouble selecting the right color, speak with an auto paint expert.

    6. Test the paint

    Testing the paint is a simple trick that will help you know if the paint you bought still matches the hue and shade of your car.

    To test the paint, you can use a standard needle and syringe to apply a little touch-up paint to a hidden part on your automobile to see if the paint matches. If it doesn’t match, you might need to go to an auto-body shop to get recommendations on the right paint to use.

    Shake the paint canister properly before testing it. This will guarantee that the consistency and true color are original.

    7. Apply primer

    It’s important to clean the affected area properly before applying the primer. For best effect, cover up the areas you’re not painting and tape down any edges with tape.

    Use a paint sprayer to apply two to three coats of primer to the bare metal until it’s completely covered. Hold the nozzle of the sprayer 6 – 8 inches away from the surface of the vehicle and pull the trigger to begin releasing the primer. Move the sprayer back and forth slowly over the area you’re painting. Once this is done, you can apply the touch up paint.

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

    Use the needle and syringe to apply two to three coats of touch-up paint on the affected surface. Once you do this, the retouched area will seem more pushed out than the surrounding paint.

    It is best practice to wait until the first coat of touch-up paint has completely dried before applying the next, ensuring that the applied paint doesn’t run down the sides of the car to stain unaffected areas.

    9. Apply the clear coat

    Once the touch-up paint has dried, apply the clear coat using the attached nozzle. The clear coat should be applied in light, thin layers, allowing each layer to dry completely in between.

    If you want to apply it more efficiently use a paint spray gun. The paint spray gun has a high and low setting. For the best clear coating result, set the paint spray gun to low pressure and apply. You need to avoid the high pressure because this can blast off the touch up paint and force you to repeat the previous step.

    10. Polish the entire car

    Polishing your car helps integrate the touched-up area with the rest of your car’s painted surface by removing heavy scratches from the entire vehicle and restoring fading paint.

    Give the touchup paint and clear coatings a few days to harden. After that, apply polish to the whole area. Once you complete the process, your car is guaranteed to shine brighter than ever!


    When your car paint gets chipped, it’s important to get it fixed with touch up paint. To do this correctly, you’ll need to find the right paint color and get the essential materials. Once you have the necessary tools, start by applying the primer followed by the base coat. Next, use touch up paint to fix the affected area before applying a clear coat. You can complete the process by polishing the entire car surface.

    If you ever need a professional touch, you can give us a call at 425-243-9155, send an email
    or simply schedule online and we will come to you and have your car’s touch-up professionally handled!

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    These blogs are meant purely for education and demonstration purposes. It contains only general information and may not account for specific issues related to your particular vehicle or situation. All content provided on this blog is for informational purposes only. Read full disclaimer.

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