Do a Good Base Coat Clear Coat Paint Job

Base coat/Clear coat painting is more difficult than acrylic enamel because the paint has a tendency to run. You can get that perfect glossy finish with some patience and the right tools. Be aware that this procedure uses harmful chemicals, so make sure you wear the proper protective gear, such as a respirator.


  1. Remove or tape off any windows or non-painted trimming on the vehicle. Anything that you do not want to be the same color of the car when you are done should be removed to avoid accidentally spraying them with paint.
  2. Strip off the old paint in the places that need it. You can do this by using paint remover or by simply sanding all of it off the vehicle. If the paint is good, then you only need to sand it with 360 grit sandpaper. You should be down to bare metal when you are done.
  3. Spray only the places that you fixed with primer. No exposed surface that you plan to paint should be left un-primed. Let the surface dry completely before you begin painting.
  4. Wipe down the entire surface. You can use a painting prep solvent to remove any grease, wax or oils on it.
  5. Spray the entire surface with your base coat paint. Hold the sprayer 6" – 10" from the surface and spray in smooth and level strokes, overlapping strokes by about 50 percent. Check the paint manufacturer's instructions about drying times before sanding.
  6. Wet-sand the base coat until you get a smooth finish. This may not be a good idea for a metallic color because it could remove metallic flakes from the base coat.
  7. Spray the entire surface with your clear coat paint. Let it dry completely before sanding. More than one coat may be needed to get full coverage on some metallic paints
  8. Use a buffer and buffing compound. Polish your clear coat and make your paint job shine.



  • Higher pressure may help to reduce runs and improve the flow of the clear coat.
  • 2-3 coats of base coat should be sufficient for coverage. Be sure to allow the solvents in the paint to "flash-off" between coats to prevent drying problems.
  • Don't just dip the sandpaper in water. Let it soak for a minute or two so it's nice and wet.
  • If you make any mistakes (such as beading of paint), you can always sand it down and start over at the top.
  • After your first coat of base paint dries, apply another one. Try spraying several very thin coats of base paint to avoid runs or drips in your paint's surface. Try this with the clear coat paint as well.
  • "Flash-off" is the evaporating of the solvents in the paint. 5-10 minutes between coats is recommended based on temperature. A hazy finish means the paint has flashed-off.
  • Use a rubber block when sanding. This will prevent you from applying uneven pressure to the sandpaper and sanding through. Rubber sanding blocks can be bought from a hardware store or vehicle paint shop.


  • Use of protective equipment is required. Follow paint manufacturer's requirements.
  • A paint booth may be needed for most painting jobs. Follow all State and Federal requirements.
  • Paint and solvent mixing should only be done in a well-ventilated area away from flame sources.
  • Do not sand with dry sandpaper or a sandpaper with a low grit rating. Wet sanding should be done using 2,000 grit (or higher) sandpaper. This will prevent swirling the finish of the base coat and get rid of any 'orange-peel', 'FLA (Fat Lady's [Rump])' or bumps in the paint.

Things You'll Need

  • High-grit sandpaper
  • Water
  • Bucket
  • Buffer
  • Buffing compound
  • Body Filler
  • Rust Converter
  • Primer
  • Spot Glaze [for pin holes]
  • A source of constant dry air [compressor rated for spraying]
  • A good spray gun [HVLP]
  • Latex or other disposable gloves
  • Respirator
  • Dust mask
  • Painting safety suit as required
  • Safety eyewear

Related Articles