Complete Guide to Blending Paintwork on a Car

Owner of the car selecting the color for the paint of his vehicle with a color card stack to make sure it matches

Getting paintwork done on your car is a process that every car aficionado looks forward to doing on their vehicle. However, the paint job does not always come out as well as you envision. Learning how to blend paintwork on a car can save you time and money because you can fix the paint on your own, especially if the paint chips off. But what is the best way to blend paintwork?

Achieving a great blend involves sanding, drying, and applying even coats of paint until you are satisfied with the color. There are plenty of tips and tricks that you can use to achieve a high-quality blend and get your dream paint job at home.

Painting your car is a time-consuming process that requires precision. So, read on to find out more about car paint blending and discover the ultimate guide to blending car paintwork.

What is Blending?

When you are repainting a car, the process of blending refers to putting color on certain parts of a repaired part of the car body by slowly decreasing the amount of paint added in a smooth pattern. Blending helps the paint job look, even, cohesive, and complete.

Another way to think about blending is that it is melting or combining colors to hide the color change in areas where the parts of the car body meet. The goal is to make the new coat of paint so well blended that it looks no different from the original paint.

Auto body shop paintwork technician painting the vehicle blending the color of two different body panels

The Importance of Blending

Learning how to blend on your own saves you thousands of dollars because you will not have to pay a car shop to do it for you. You can also take your time completing the paint job. Blending the paint to match the one your car already has is important because it helps you achieve a factory-quality finish with the spray paint you have.

The blending process also improves your chances of reproducing the color that is already on your car body more accurately. The better the paint job looks, the better your car will look overall        

When Should You Blend Your Car Paint?

Car paint should always be blended as you apply the touch-up coat to the body. If you do not blend while you do this, the final paint job will look uneven and unfinished.

Blending should also be used in the following areas:

  • In areas on the car body that are highly visible to people, like spoilers, doors, and the car hood
  • On parts of the car that you are replacing so that the new parts match the old ones
  • On car paints with a metallic or pearl finish because the orientation of the paint particles causes a glare
  • On damaged edges of car body parts as well as body parts adjacent to the ones being painted

Now that you know what blending is, why it is important, and when it should be done, let’s explore different techniques that can be used to blend car paint.

Noticeable color difference on two different body panels of a car due to poor blending paintwork
A noticeable difference between the two body panels where there was no blending in the paintwork. The trunk paint is more metallic which gives it more sparkle.

Car Paint Blending Techniques

There are many different strategies used to blend car paint. However, the three most popular methods are the standard method, reverse method, and wet-bed method. Each method has a different process to apply the paint and each has advantages and disadvantages.

The Standard or Normal Method

This technique is completed using 3 or 4 coats of paint and was the first method created when painting became more high-quality. The first coat of paint in this method is extended 4 to 6 inches onto the old car panel. Then, the next layer or coat is extended 4 to 6 inches past the first coat, and so until the paint job is complete.

Once the repair and blend area are fully covered with paint, use a color-correcting light to see if you missed any spots on the body to ensure an even job. The person doing the painting should always look at the places on the body where the paint blending stops. If the blend ends in a straight line, it will be more noticeable.

On the other hand, if the blend is done in staggered zig-zags or at an angle, it will not be noticeable. Using the staggered application to put paint where the body casts a shadow helps the blend look more seamless.

Using a Paint Gun to Apply Paint

Back in the days when car body paint was not so shiny and metallic, car detailers could save time by doing a 50% or 75% coverage with a new coat of paint. However, as metallic paint took over the market, painters realized that they needed to get full coverage for the best results.

To save time, detailers use a paint gun to apply each coat. However, they fan the paint gun at the end of the blending process which caused a poor metallic paint job and finish by casting visible streak lines on the body. Holding the paint gun perpendicular to the body yields significantly better results.

Holding a spray paint gun perpendicular to the body panel of the car being spray painted on a red car

The Reverse Method

After noticing problems with the standard method such as the halo, white blend line, and paint orientation issues, the reverse method of applying paint to cars was invented. It also helps make highly metallic colors such as gold, silver, and bronze easier to spray on the car body.

In this method, the first coat of paint extends 12 to 14 inches into the adjacent panel that is supposed to be sprayed. Then, each coat afterward is blended four inches less than the previous one until the paint job is complete. Staggered blending should also be used with this method.

A new coat of paint called the orientation coat was created to prevent the problems encountered with metallic paint jobs. It helps the paint fall into the right place on the body and reduces the chances of streaking

The Wet Bed Blending Technique

In this method, the painter applies a full coat of orientation to the panel of the car’s body that is going to be painted. Then, coats of paint are added on through the reverse painting method until the paint job is complete. This method is the best for preventing streaks when applying metallic paint, but it does not work unless the painting area is prepped before applying.

When Should Each Painting Technique Be Used?

The answer to this question depends on the difficulty of the paint job and the type of paint being used. The lead artist for every paint job will decide the method that will be most effective and yield the best result.

The standard technique typically works best when a non-metallic paint blends easily. Other colors with a metallic feel look best when the reverse technique is used. The wet bed technique provides the best results on the most challenging paint jobs.

Auto body car shop technician spray painting the side doors blending it via the reverse method

Methods Used to Paint Car Bodies

There are three methods used to apply paint to cars. Each one has different circumstances where it is used as well as unique steps.

Painting an Entire Car Part or Cut Painting

Applying color to an entire car part, without regard to the size of the surface that needs to be painted. This method needs a very accurate color adjustment to the part being painted and all the adjacent parts because it is a challenge to hide any color differences. It is used with colors that are easy to apply like plain colors or dark matte colors

Close up of an auto body technician spray painting a blue car holding the paint gun four to six inches away from the car

Partial Painting

This method involves applying paint or a clear coat to a specific area of the damaged part instead of the whole part. It is used in areas of the car body that have moldings or folds, as well as low visibility areas on the car. This allows each part to be separated visually without being tacky.

Partial car spray painting of a blad SUV with certain parts covered and taped off to make sure only a particular area of the body panel is spray painted

Painting with Blending

A painting technique where different parts of the car body are painted with related shades of paint and blended for a cohesive look. Depending on the size and location of the damage, different blending techniques are used, These techniques are different from the ones discussed earlier.

The blending of Color on the Same Car Part

This technique is used in situations where there is a small bit of or a medium-sized piece of damage that is distanced from the edge of the adjacent part. This leaves room for work to be done before reaching the edge of the damaged part. So, many people choose to do color blending directly on the part.

Doing this reduces the chances of color differences existing between adjacent parts and makes the overall color job more cohesive.

Partial car painting on the rocker panel of a white SUV

The steps used in this method are as followed:

  1. Add a layer of colored paint to a patch of the body you are working on. Then, degrade a small amount of paint without spreading it and apply the color evenly to the edges of the patch
  2. When the first layer is done, apply a bigger layer that covers the whole patch, degrading the paint slowly to the outer limits of the patch. Take care not to put color on the edges so that you do not struggle with color matching
  3. If you are using a metallic or pearl color, you can add a sprayed layer for better color adjustment and orientation of the paint particles once the second layer has dried
  4. Add the clear coat on top of this

Color Blending on Adjacent Car Parts

This method is used when the damage on the car that needs to be repaired is big and spaced far apart across the car body. Color is applied to the whole car part and blending is done on parts adjacent to the damage. This method also works for vehicle side parts because the color is applied vertically rather than horizontally.

The steps used for this method are as follows:

  1. Put on the first layer of paint on the damaged part and extend it over slightly to the parts around it
  2. Wait for the first layer of paint to dry, add on a second layer, then color in the adjacent parts blending the paint from the damaged part to the end
  3. Once this coat dries, apply the effect coat to the damaged part but not the surrounding area
  4. Apply a clear coat to finish the job
Auto body car shop technician spray painting a blue hatchback in the paint booth
Clear-Coat Blending

If you wish, you can blend the clear coat layer that you apply at the end to prevent paint from building upon the surface of the car body. To blend the clearcoat, add the first layer of paint onto the color blended body until it almost reaches the original paint. Then, add a second coat in such a way that the difference between coats is almost unnoticeable.

Learning the techniques that can be used to apply and blend paint onto a car is just the first step of the process. You must know the steps to be able to apply paint properly on your own. These steps will be covered in the next section.

Auto mechanic spray painting clearcoat on a black car in the paint booth

How To Properly Apply and Blend Paintwork On Any Car

Knowing the right process to follow for any DIY paint job is key to a successful outcome that you will be excited about. Just like with any project, the first step to applying paint onto any car and blending it is planning and prepping the surface to be painted.

Plan Out the Blend You Want to Achieve

Start the planning process by deciding which panels you want to blend before you begin painting. A solid plan ensures that the job will have the desired result and that the final product will last longer.

If the repair is on the body, blending should be done to the center of the panels surrounding the damaged area. Hood repairs require the base coat of paint to be blended off and over a crown in the adjacent panel.

Attaching paper and tape to the select body panels that will be repair and spray painted with blend

Strip the Area You Need to Paint Until It Is Bare Metal

This will give you a chance to deal with any corrosion, rust, or any other damage that may be on the car body. You can achieve this step using any of the following methods:

  • A stripping or cleaning disc- they come in several sizes to fit any job and can remove both small and large amounts of paint from the surface of the  car
  • Media blasting- removing paint by putting ground, sharp media in an air compressor. This method requires a huge amount of precision and caution
  • Chemical stripping- removing the paint by brushing a liquid paint stripper on the body of the car. Once the paint is lifted by the chemical, a scraper can be used to brush off the leftover paint

Once the paint has been stripped off, you can prepare the car body for the new coat of paint.

Front hood of a Mercedes-Benz stripped to the bare metal ready for primer and paint

Scuff and Prep the Car For the New Coat of Paint

The new paint needs a smooth surface to adhere to. You can ensure the new coat goes on well by using one of two methods:

  • Air sanding- using an air sander is faster than other methods but runs the risk of leaving an uneven painting surface
  • Block sanding– this is a slow and time-consuming method that leaves a smooth blank canvas for you to work on

Once the area has been sanded down, you can use scuff pads and prep liquids for an even more complete job. Scuffing will prevent the paint from becoming delaminated later.

A portion of the car taped up with paper scuffed and prepped ready for paintwork

Try To Repair any Damage to the Car Body

Doing this will ensure a smooth and clean painting process. Damage includes anything from dents to rust spots. You can make repairs using one or a combination of any of the following tools:

  • Hammer and Dolly- using these tools is a basic way to fix dents anywhere on the car body. The dolly is held behind the damaged area while the hammer strike returns it to its original shape
  • Stud Welder- is also used to remove dents from the body. A tool is used to weld small pins to the damaged area and then a slide hammer is used to pull out both the pins and damaged metal parts. Then the area is made smooth again for painting through sanding or a different method
  • Inflatable dent remover- balloon-like dent repair tools that are placed behind the damaged area and inflated slowly. Then the pressure of this blowing process pushes the dented pieces to the surface
  • Body filler- once the damage has been repaired as much as possible, body filler is applied to fill in the hollow areas. Before using filler, prepare the area to be filled with sandpaper.

Once the damage has been repaired and filled, it is time to start the first step of the actual painting process, priming

Auto body car mechanic using bondo to repair the rear door and quarter panel before primer and paint

Prime the Car Body to Take On Paint

The type of primer used for a paint job depends on how much of the old paint has been removed. Applying primer ensures the durability of the new coat of paint. Types of primer available include:

  • Epoxy primer- is the most common primer that works with all other paint. Has the best results when used on bare metal
  • Self-etching primer- a lacquer-based primer that works best for small paint jobs. Is a strong adhesive when added to metal that is prepared well. This primer cannot be used on enamel coats because it will lift them
  • Sprayable polyester primer- builds on paint extremely well and fills in small damaged areas with no problem
  • Urethane primer surfacer- used after epoxy or self-etching primer to make the bodywork nice and smooth

Once you have your primer on, it’s time to start the painting process.

Pickup truck bed spray painted with primer ready for color paintwork with protective tape and paper

Add Base Coat

Add the base coat according to the instructions on the paint that you chose. The base coat is used to decrease the amount of paint needed to achieve full coverage on a paint job. Apply the base coat to the areas of the body that have been repaired first, expanding the coverage area of each coat as you go.

Add base coat until all of the areas that have been primed are covered. Remove the masking tape from the body areas that need to be blended and apply a base coat to all the necessary panels extending 2 to 3 inches into them until there is a smooth blend.

Allow the base coat to dry for 30-45 minutes after it is applied

Car body painter adding the first base coat to the top of a black car

Add Topcoat

Choose the type of paint you want to use for the job and set it to work by adding it to the car body. Use the same method described with the basecoat to achieve a smooth and even blend.

Add Clear Coat

Add the clear coat according to the instructions for the brand you chose, using the same method as the other two coats to blend it. Extend each coat a little further than the one before it for a tapered edge. Do not add clearcoat to an area unless it has been scuffed properly to avoid the risk of paint peeling off when exposed to the sun.

Add the Finishing Touches

Get rid of dirt and imperfections accumulated while painting, and sand down the entire car until the paint looks smooth and there are no visible blemishes. Finally, cut and buff the paint to create a shiny and metallic appearance.

Although painting your car yourself is a time-consuming and labor-intensive process, following the steps above to the best of your ability will produce a paint job that will rival professional car detailers.

Auto body mechanic adding clearcoat to the side of a light blue car via spray paint in a car painting booth

Common Mistakes Encountered When Blending Car Paint

If you are applying and blending paint on your car for the first time by yourself, mistakes are inevitable. Here are some common mistakes people make when blending paint and how to fix them.

Errors in Color Matching

When you want to blend car paint, you have to first look at the paint code to see what paints are used on your car. Paint codes can be tricky to follow because there can be at most 10 versions of the same code, which increases the difficulty of picking the right one.

Even if you use the paint code, the new coat of paint will not always match the old one. Make sure to test similar paint codes for consistency.

Various car metallic paint samples on a stand with a car in in the background

Taping Near the Repaired Area

This makes the process of blending paints difficult. A large painting area is needed for the new paint to blend seamlessly with the old paint.

Temperature

When a car is not kept warm during painting, the new paint is prone to condensing off of the car and therefore losing its adhesive quality. It is best to wait until a car is warm to apply paint and prevent this from happening. If you do not wait for the car to be warm enough, the new paint will have a texture similar to an orange peel.

If you do what you can to avoid these rookie mistakes, your car paint blending project will have a positive and successful outcome.

Infrared lamps for drying and warming up parts of the car for ceramic coating and paintwork

Conclusion

To blend paintwork on a car properly, you have to prepare the surface through sanding and drying, and apply even coats of paint until the desired color is achieved. Doing this on your own is a time-consuming yet satisfying process that gives great results when done well. The most common mistakes during the process are color matching errors, as well as not painting on a warm car.

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Welcome to Motor Hills!

Subscribe now to get access to the top 10 helpful articles!

References:

Spotlight Automotive

Sinnek Academy

ERA Paints

Body Shop Business

Eastwood Garage

Vehicles Service Pros

Blending techniques

Ernest Martynyuk

An automotive enthusiast who's been tinkering with vehicles since I was 15-years old. Repairing automotive electronics has been my main job for over a decade now and have a passion for everything technical regarding cars.

Leave a Comment