Car Paint Application Methods & Tools 

No matter how well-built a car is, it will never be complete without it’s paint. It’s the difference between finished and not, glossy and sandy, rust/ weather damage susceptible and protected. 

But that’s just talking about the final finishing touches on a new car. What about the difference paint makes on older cars?

Think of the thousands of older vehicles you see on the road, their paint dulling- bleached from the sun, faded from the weather beating it’s taken over the years. With a new coat of paint or a few touch ups, that car can be brought back to life.

No matter if you’re touching up or doing a full paint job at your home or an auto body shop, without employing the right method, and without the right tools, the end result will not be ideal. 

Here’s what you need to know...

How to Apply Car Paint 

First, it’s important to determine what type of paint job you will be doing. Will you be giving the vehicle a full paint job? Are you stripping the top coat or going all the way to the base? Or is this just a touch up? Are you adding pinstripes to the body?

Each type of paint job will require different techniques, as well as different tools. Below we’ve broken down each method and what to use them for. 


Spraying is the most common automotive paint application technique for a reason, and not just for manufacturers and auto body shops. This technique is versatile and economic, both in time and cost, and is a much easier way to deliver consistent, quality finished. 

Spray methods are better applied in full-body paint jobs, and aren’t often used for touch ups or smaller, more detailed work. 

The spraying method is achieved using a paint gun that hooks up to an air compressor. The gun delivers an even pattern of paint depending on the gun tip used. 

[H4] High-volume, low-pressure (aka HVLP)

HVLP are the most common spray guns and can be used with a variety of different paints. They are easier to operate and clean, and deliver high transfer efficiency.

These spray guns use a high volume of low-pressure air that is heated to produce a mist that creates little overspray and won’t yield the common cloud of vapor like other spray guns. 

You’ll also find that these spray guns make it easier to control application pattern, desirable with high-solid paints. 

There a lot of benefits to HVLP spray guns, but it's important to recognize that because of the higher efficiency with the transfer of paint to the surface, painters will need to be more experienced with this kind of equipment.

Trying to decide which paint gun you need, check out our guide, “How to Choose a Paint Gun”.

Non-spray Automotive Paint Application Methods

  • Dipping

  • Brushing

These techniques may not be the most common way of applying auto paint by manufacturers and auto body shops, who do full-body paints much more frequently, but they are still widely used for smaller jobs. 


This method is mostly used by larger body shops or manufacturers because it requires dipping an entire piece into a tub of paint. 

It’s great when you want to coat a part entirely, and is mostly employed for primer and other base layers before the sandpaper is applied to the surface. 

Because it’s not typically feasible for smaller shops or home shops to keep tubs of paint and have the right machinery to dip the pieces, it’s not a method that attracts many auto painters.

For home shops or smaller projects it’d be practical for smaller parts and protective coatings. Just be wary of drips from the paint run-off.


Brushing, as you might imagine, uses a brush to apply the paint. There are a lot of reasons why this method isn’t often employed, but just like we use paint brushes to get into the corners and around door moldings when we paint a room in our homes, the brushing method has its purposes.

The times/areas you might need to employ the brushing method include:

  • Small areas

  • Hard to reach places

  • Areas covered after repairs

  • fine detailing work

  • Touch ups

Without the right brushes for the type of jobs listed above, you might end up with brush stroke marks, inconsistencies in the paint, or pulls from the brush hairs. 

Types of detailing brushes

For a quality brush job, the right brush is imperative.

How to apply car paint & do your own touch-ups:

With the right tools and a steady hand, it’s fairly simple to do your own automotive paint touch-ups. In most cases, you’ll be able to swipe the paint over the scratch with a fine detailing brush, and that’ll complete the job.

Anything larger than a pencil eraser will require more steps:

  1. Find a match for your car's paint color
  2. Clean the repair area with soap, water, and wax remover
  3. Apply primer
  4. Apply basecoat
  5. Apply clear coat
  6. Apply cutting cream to make it shine
  7. Wait 30 days before applying wax

Other Items you May Need 

During the automotive paint application process, there are a few other tools that may be needed and/or helpful:

What you need in your auto shop or home shop depends entirely on what types of paint jobs you’ll be doing. For whatever projects you’re undertaking, Auto Body Toolmart has everything you need.

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