Best Automotive Touch Up Paints: Easy Fixes for Little Scratches
Automotive touch-up paint makes fixing shallow scratches a breeze
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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.
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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 2020
- 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.