The Many Types of Car Paint Finishes

Aug 17 2017

Henry Ford once wrote in his autobiography of the Ford Model T, “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black’. It’s a common misconception that the Model T was only available in black. In actual fact, during the first years of its production, it was sold in grey, green, blue and red. The quick-drying black was only introduced in 1914 to save time on the production line.

Thankfully, cars come in a rainbow’s worth of choice now. If you like a good choice of paintwork when choosing your new motor, then the 2015 Bentley Flying Spur W12 should satisfy your wants. Offered in an incredible 107 different hues including 16 silvers, 11 blacks, 14 whites and beiges, 15 golds, oranges and browns, 18 reds, 11 greens and 22 blues.

Bentley colour options

Bentley will match the colour to anything you want. As an example, Glacier Blue was developed after a customer looking for the perfect shade asked Bentley to match the tones of a utensil found in her kitchen! Of course, the Flying Spur W12 is an expensive car and the majority of manufacturers of other luxury marques will not offer anywhere near that amount of choice.

Regardless of the price of the car though, the colour often has a lot to do with the vehicle we end up buying. Whether it’s a favourite shade, one that reminds us of a memorable place, cars we’ve owned in the past, or maybe it’s just the same colour we get every car in. Over the last few years, manufacturers such as MG, MINI, Citroen, Fiat, Vauxhall and others are recognising the need for individualism. Offering certain models with duo-colours and being able to mix and match decal packs to the point of being able to change them to another style.

Volkswagen even sells the Beetle in retro colour and wheel combinations, reminiscent of the various Bugs from decades ago. Vinyl wraps have become massively popular, especially amongst supercar owners wishing for a car colour change. To respray a Lamborghini it could easily cost upwards of £30,000, whereas a vinyl wrap is relatively inexpensive at around £5,000. For a ‘normal’ car you can pay from just £600 rather than £2,000 for a respray.


Many of us spend plenty of time and money washing, polishing and waxing our cars, so it can be a massive shame and a gut-wrenching experience when it gets scratched or chipped. Thankfully, Chipex has the answer, with their brilliant car paint touch up repair kits which have a 100% colour match guarantee and is used by satisfied customers worldwide.

Why it’s important to match the type of paint?

Whether you’re wanting to repaint your car or fix some scratches and chips, each paint type has its own distinct characteristics so it’s highly important to determine the type of paint already used on your car. On newer cars, most paint jobs are going to be urethane-based as enamels and lacquers are becoming a thing of the past. However, with multiple different paint types, finishes and colours it can be difficult to determine exactly what type you need.

With the Chipex Find your Colour Code tool you have two options to determine which type of paint you need to use. The first option is simply to enter the make or manufacturer of your car which will then give you the contact information you need for them to tell you your specific car paint code. The second option is using our colour code location guide to find where on your car the colour code is printed. Once you’ve got your code you’ll easily be able to find your Chipex paint kit.

We cannot emphasise enough how important it is to determine and purchase the correct paint type and colour to touch up your car. The one exception to this rule are cars that have been stripped down to the metal in preparation for a completely new paint application.

What types of car paint are there?

If you’re unsure about the different paint types and finishes, we’ve put together this guide to help you.

Waterborne Paint

Waterborne paint is primarily comprised of water and contains around 10% solvent. This type of paint is growing in popularity as its the most environmentally friendly option.

Solvent Paint

Comprised of a solvent base such as a lacquer, urethane or enamel, solvent paint is the traditional paint type that’s been used for decades.

Solid Paint

Solid paint is the most inexpensive choice that’s used on the majority of cars. This type of paint is a no-cost basic, solid colour, normally in white, red, blue or black. Solid paint is applied with a single coat of paint followed by a lacquer to protect it from chips and scratches.

As solid paint is quick, easy and cost-effective a lot of them have an ‘orange peel’ finish which doesn’t look great. Plus, they have very limited colour options.

Metallic Paint

Metallic paint is similar to solid paint, however, a small quantity of powdered metal is added. The metal paint particles reflect more light than solid paint colours which adds a sleekness to the car. It also hides minor damage better than solid paint will.

When metallic paint is damaged though, it can be hard to match the paint exactly, even by professional body shops.

Pearlescent Paint

Pearlescent paints are made with ceramic crystals rather than metal particles, which reflects and refracts the light. This type of paint splits the finish into two different colours, giving the paint a unique sparkle that changes depending on the angle of the car.

While pearlescent paint can make your car stand out from the rest, it doesn’t come cheap. It can also be hard, expensive and time-consuming to replace if it gets damaged.

Matte Paint

Matte paint is fairly uncommon and doesn’t suit every style of car, but if done correctly it can add a premium, high-end look. A matte finish prevents the paint from reflecting any light, giving it a flat look that’s popular amongst high-end cars.

Matte paint finishes are, unsurprisingly, expensive and the damage on this type of paint shows up more than other paint types. It can also be difficult to maintain as it needs specialised products.

How to identify car paint types?

To identify the type of car paint currently on your car, whether it’s urethane-based, enamel or lacquer, first try to identify the paint code. This can be done by either contacting the manufacturer, a local auto paint supply store, or locating the paint code on the car.

If you still can’t determine the specific paint type used, you may need to test a small spot on the car. It’s best to test an area that you plan to repaint as this method requires a lacquer thinner.

First take a clean, white cloth and wet it with the lacquer thinner. Rub a spot of paint to test the reaction. If the colour wipes off straight away, it’s an enamel paint. If it takes some vigorous rubbing with the cloth before the paint wipes off then it’s a lacquer paint. If nothing wipes off onto the cloth then the paint is urethane-based.

Car paint coats

Paintwork defects such as scratches, chips, road rash can be repaired by either using touch up paint if the damaged area is small, or by repainting the entire car. If you’re planning on doing a standard car paint job yourself, you’ll need to set aside plenty of time and find a place to safely store the car as it could take several days.

After preparing the car, making sure it’s clean, smooth and touch dry, you’ll need to prime it. Apply the primer from the roof down in thin, even coats. If an area of the car has a thicker amount of primer it could cause the paint to run. Typically you’ll need 2-3 coats of primer. Each coat will take approximately 10 minutes to apple per panel and will require anywhere between 20-60 minutes to cure between each coat.

Apply the paint in the same manner as the primer. Starting from the roof down and painting thin, even layers. You’ll need at least 3-4 coats of paint and again it will require between 20-60 minutes for the paint to cure between each application. Before you apply the last coat of paint, make sure you remove any powdery residue with a clean cloth.

You’ll then need to apply 2 or 3 coats of a clear coat lacquer to protect the paint. Once the clear coat has dried check the paint job for any imperfections and inconsistencies. If you find any you can sand back the area and repaint.

How Chipex car paint touch up kits work on different paint types

The Chipex touch up paint repair kits have been designed to work on all makes and models of car. It’s suitable for every type of paint including solid, metallic and even achieves very good results on the most difficult paint finish, pearlescent, making it the best DIY repair kit on the market. Chipex will effectively remove or reduce the visual impact caused by road and traffic damage, while also preventing rust forming on exposed metalwork.

These paint kits work predominately on stone chips, however, they also work exceptionally well on various types of deep scratches, light scratches, scuffs and key scratches. With clear and simple, user-friendly instructions and a complete set of accessories, you can achieve a seamless, professional finish.

Take a look at how Chipex works for more information on our DIY paint repair kits.