Best Automotive Touch Up Paints: Easy Fixes for Little Scratches
Automotive touch-up paint makes fixing shallow scratches a breeze
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PUBLISHED ON April 30, 2019
Small scratches in the paintwork are an annoying reality of car ownership—they happen, sometimes when you least expect them. The good news is they’re easy to fix by yourself with the right product. In this guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know to find touch up paint that will work for your car. Read on to find out more about the best automotive touch-up paints out there.
- Best OverallTouchUpDirect Exact Match Preferred PackageSummarySummaryOne of the best touches up paint kits on the market, this one will deliver great results at a fraction of the cost of professional painting.ProsProsColor match guarantee, environmentally-safe, and comes with built-in brushes for easy application. It’s a complete kit for doing a great touch up job.ConsConsPrice point. Although much cheaper than letting a professional do it, this product still costs a bit more than other touches up paints on the market.
- Best ValueTouchUpDirect Exact Match Preferred PackageSummarySummaryComes in a variety of basic colors, including the standard white we reviewed. Quick and easy to use.ProsProsEZ-touch nozzle gives you a 360-degree spray pattern for smooth and even coats, large touch ups made easy, and close to perfect color match.ConsConsAerosols have a tendency to get everywhere, making them harder to direct. The universal formulation means that the color match probably won’t be 100-percent perfect.
- Honorable MentionCarfidant Scratch and Swirl RemoverSummarySummaryFor shallow scratches, this scratch remover will do the trick without having to purchase a touch-up paint that might not match.ProsProsEasy-to-use formulation, buffing pad included in the package, restores the shine and luster of your car’s paint and removes small scratches with professional-grade chemicals.ConsConsIf your car is plagued with deep scratches, this product won’t do. It really does work best for small and shallow scratches that can’t be felt with your finger.
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Benefits of Automotive Touch Up Paint
- Save time. When you’ve got a scratch on your car, the last thing you want to do is wait around for ages to book an appointment with a body shop or detailer and then have to wait again while your car is in the shop. With a touch-up pen, you can cover up the scratch in minutes instead of hours or days.
- Convenience. If you take your car to a body shop, you might have to leave it there for a few hours or even a few days. That means you’re out of a car for a little while, which can be a major inconvenience. Touching up your paintwork DIY style is just so much more convenient.
- Money Saver. Costs quickly add up when you let a professional work on your car. Automotive touch-up paint that you apply will do the same job, all while saving you cash in the process.
- Car care. Choosing to fix that small ding, chip, or scratch will do a lot for your car’s overall “health.” Touching it up with a bit of paint will help preserve the overall paint job and keep out rust.
- Ease of use. If you’ve got a high-quality product, touching up your car paint with a pre-made formulation will give you similar results to body shop work with much less hassle. Touch up pens and other specialty formulations make the whole process super easy.
Types of Automotive Touch Up Paint
One of the most common formulations out there, aerosol paints are easy to use but offer messy application results than other varieties. If you choose to use an aerosol, keep in mind that the spraying distance matters—the further away you hold the can, the more dispersed the color will be. Overall, these work pretty well, but other applicators are more user-friendly.
Touch Up Pens
The most common type of automotive touch-up paint out there, touch up pens often come standard with a new vehicle purchase. Most car manufacturers also make them in the exact colors of their vehicles, giving you a perfect match fairly easily. The downside here is that they work best for really small chips or scratches—anything too deep won’t be filled by the rather thin formulation.
Paint Brush Touch Up Kits
A couple of different varieties of paintbrush automotive paint exist on the market. Some have a finer, felt-like tip, while others mimic a brush with fibers. Both can work well, depending on the overall quality of the product. Just keep in mind that these tend to apply thickly, which can make matching the rest of your paintwork a little difficult.
Having been around since 1938, Dupli-Color makes great products designed to mask dings and scratches on your car. A couple of universal formulations are also made, making Dupli-Color products suitable for almost every car out there. Popular products include the Universal Black Gloss Perfect Match Paint and the Universal White formulation.
Making custom products for Fiat, Dodge, Jeep, Chrysler, and Alfa Romeo cars, MOPAR’s touch up paints are some of the best on the market due to its factory quality and fit. Founded in 1937, this company is still going strong, with best selling products like the Black Touch-Up Paint Pen.
An online company, TouchUpDirect makes innovative complete paint kits for almost any car out there. For more than a decade, it's color match guarantee makes it a popular choice for all your automotive paint needs. Some of the company’s popular choices include the Exact Match Kit and the Essential Package (both come in a wide range of colors).
Automotive Touch Up Paint Pricing
- Under $15: You’ll find a number of easy, universal options in this price range. The quality does vary, so watch out for murky formulations and over-promising color matches. There are also a couple of scratch-fix only pens out there that can work—they just don’t deposit color.
- $15-$30: At this price point, you’ll see a wide variety of kits, aerosols, and pens available. Many of them do a decent job, but the more quality ones will have a multi-step process that includes a primer and clear coat to seal in your work and match the rest of the paintwork.
- Over $30: A worthwhile investment for getting your car fixed properly, this price range includes the best paint kits out there, complete with masking tape and more. The quality of the paint and applicators tends to be better overall.
When looking for the perfect car touch up paint for your vehicle, it’s important to make sure the final outcome will match well with the factory paint. A number of different companies make universal color matches for black, white, and silver cars that work well, but your best bet is to buy a genuine or manufacturer-approved product to find the perfect color match.
As always, the applicator and the application matters. Paints that come in aerosol form are difficult to handle and tend to get a little bit all over the place, whereas touch up paint pens and paintbrushes focus product more directly where you need it. We recommend one of the latter two to make the whole process as painless and streamlined as can be.
A number of touch up paints come in kits with multiple steps. This is a good sign for a quality product and will leave you with the best results. Usually, these kits contain a primer, paint, and a clear coat to seal the deal. The finished product will look much more seamless than a one-step paint pen could ever deliver.
- UV Clear Coat: Check that the clear coat included in your paint kit (if applicable) is UV proof. This will help the touch-up work last longer, preventing further chipping and rust from settling in.
- Formulation: Paints in aerosol form tend to be more watery, while jar paints tend to be thicker. The consistency matters for an even paint job that can also fill in the scratch or chip properly. You’ll want something that strikes a good balance between these two consistencies.
- Drying Time: Keep in mind that freshly applied paint, no matter how small, needs time to dry properly to stick. The amount of time this takes varies by formulation and by manufacturer, so check the product for exact recommendations and don’t expose your car to water during that time.
Best Automotive Touch Up Paint Reviews & Recommendations 2019
Best Overall: TouchUpDirect Exact Match Preferred Package
First things first, this product comes in a wide variety of colors and styles to suit your vehicle, so make sure you pick the right color when purchasing. The Preferred Package from TouchUpDirect is one of the company’s best-selling kits for touching up your car’s paint. It includes everything you need to do a professional-quality job without breaking the bank: primer, paint, and clear coat, as well as grease wipes and gloves to help with the application.
The kits are made to be intuitive, with built-in brushes in each of the jars to make the application of the product as simple as possible. It’s made for normal, everyday wear-and-tear kind of scratches, as well as dings and scuffs that aren’t too deep. The formulation itself is safe, waterborne, and environmentally-friendly, which is an awesome benefit if you’re regularly using chemical products for your car. The color match is guaranteed, leaving you with the ultimate peace of mind when it comes to touching up your car.
A definite drawback is the price point. Although clocking in at almost double of other touches up options, this kit is still much cheaper than getting a professional paint touch up done and can deliver almost the same results. If you’re looking for a quality product to touch up your car’s paintwork, this is the perfect pick for you.
As a universal paint, this one does well to match a number of (slightly) different shades of white. This easy paint is an acrylic lacquer aerosol paint, making it quick to dry. The formulation is unique in that it blends easily with the existing color, matching it almost perfectly. An adjustable EZ Touch nozzle gives you 360 degrees to work in and a wide spray pattern that delivers smooth, even coats.
This product is great for larger touch-ups and color matching vehicle accessories. You also get a lot of bang for your buck, as the large can provides lots of product payout, giving you plenty to work with. For best results, you should use this paint as step two of your application process, over the top of a good automotive paint primer and before a final, UV-protecting clear coat.
Keep in mind that this particular paint is made for white cars. However, Dupli-Color makes the exact same product in a variety of shades and finishes to match your car. The downside of this almost universal color is that the match is usually not 100-percent perfect, something you likely won’t notice on small scratches but might when you’re painting a larger area. Still, it’s a great value product that works like a charm in most cases.
Honorable Mention: Carfidant Scratch and Swirl Remover
When the scratch is shallow and small, a scratch and swirl remover will do the trick to restore your paint job to its original quality. That’s why we’ve included Carfidant’s excellent product as our honorable mention. It’s absolutely universal, since there is no color that needs to be matched, and super easy to use, delivering great results in a short amount of time. An included buffer pad makes applying the specially formulated product a simple task, “erasing” the scratch in the process.
Another great benefit of this product is that it can restore the gloss and shine of your overall paintwork. Application to non-damaged areas will result in the removal of water spots, oxidation, dirt, and other contaminants, making your car shine like new. The company also prides itself in the safety and quality of the formulation, since only professional grade chemicals are used and unnecessary color dyes and scents are left out. That also makes this product safe for all paint types and colors.
The only downside we noticed is that this product won’t work well with deeper paint scratches. These likely need to be filled and painted over, and since this product cuts away color rather than depositing it, it only works for shallow scratches. That being said, if your car only has minor scratches, this should work well for you.
- Remember to always use automotive paint in well-ventilated areas only. It’s easy to forget that these paints emit fumes that can be dangerous to your health, even when the amount you’re using is relatively small.
- For the best results, you’ll want to wash and polish your car before starting the touch-up process. The polishing step will help smooth down the edges around the paint scratch or chip, making the touch-up blend better.
- Always use a sealing top coat for your new paintwork. Some kits come with one already, but if yours doesn’t, make sure to have some on hand to seal in your hard work and protect it from the elements.
- If you’re a first timer, practice applying the paint on a different surface first. This will also give you a chance to check the color match before applying the product, avoiding any surprises in the process.
- Choosing the best painting conditions will improve the quality of the paint job. You’ll want a space with low humidity, without direct sunlight, and warm enough for the product you’re using to work properly (usually above 60 or 70 degrees).
- Work in thin layers to achieve the best results. This will help avoid paint bulking and harsh edges, making the overall blend that much better.
Q: Can I use touch up paint to fix paint peeling?
A: Paint peeling is usually caused by your clear coat wearing off. To protect your car’s paintwork from further damage, the best thing to do here is to skip the touch-up paint and repaint the whole area where flaking is occurring.
Q: I’ve got rust on my car. Can I use touch up paint to cover it?
A: That’s not the best idea, unfortunately. Once you’ve got rust on your car, the only thing you can do is slow the spread. You’ll want to completely remove any visible signs of rusting and apply touch up only over a clean and prepped surface.
Q: Can I detail my car after a paint touch up?
A: You’ll want to wait a bit before you go in for that detail. Touch up paint needs time to set and settle after it’s been applied. A good rule of thumb is to wait about a month after the application before detailing your car.
Q: How long does touch up paint last on my vehicle?
A: If the touch-up work was done in ideal conditions with good techniques and quality products, the touch up should last you at least a year or two. Professional touch up work tends to last a little longer, with many boasting four years or more as the standard.
Q: Can I wax my car after touching up the paint?
A: Wax is great for protecting your car’s paintwork, but it can get in the way of doing a proper touch up paint job. If you’re touching up a paint scratch or chip, make sure to remove any old wax still on the car before proceeding with the touch-up. Once done, we recommend you wait at least a month before you wax your car again, to give the paint time to cure.
Our top pick is the TouchUpDirect Exact Match Preferred Package for its overall quality, great paint match, and completeness. The kit includes everything you need to touch up your car the right way.
If you’re looking for a budget option that won’t break the bank, check out the Dupli-Color Universal White Perfect Match Aerosol Paint. Keep in mind that this product comes in a couple of basic colors.