Do You Need Clear Coat for Touch Up Paint? (Perfect Match)

Do You Need Clear Coat for Touch Up Paint? (Perfect Match)


Whether you’re going to be touching up the paint on your own car or someone else’s, you must follow certain steps if you expect to get the best outcome.

The application of a clear coat is important when it comes to original paint jobs, but many painters are confused as to the necessity of a clear coat when it comes to applying touch up paint.

Here is an in-depth overview so you can get the best results possible from your touch up job.

Do you need clear coat for touch up paint?

Adding clear coat is important for the best results. Clear coat will affect the color of the paint and help it to match the original color. Clear coat is also important to help protect the touch up color paint beneath.

There are some touch up paint kits that don’t require a separate clear coat. The clear coat is already added in with the paint. Mixing the clear coat and the color coat paints simplifies the touch up process and helps the paint to better match the true color of your vehicle’s paint.

Do you have to put clear coat on touch up paint?

It’s not absolutely required but clear coat does affect the tint of the touch up color. Touch up paint kits are designed so that the color will look most like the color on your car or truck if the clear coat is applied.

Clear coat also gives a layer of protection to the touch up paint to help it last longer.

Ultimately, touch up paint is designed to make a scratch or rock chip blend in so it’s less noticeable but it also helps prevent rust from developing if bare metal is exposed. Touch up paint alone will prevent rust and help minimize the ugliness of the scratch or chip.

Vehicle Paint Layers & Scratches

Can you mix touch up paint with clear coat?

Depending on the base coat you’re using, you can mix touch-up paint with clear coat if you choose. Some touch up kits are designed this way to make applying touch up paint easier.

It’s best to find a touch up kit that has the clear already premixed with the color to avoid needing to determine how much to mix yourself to ensure the final color matches correctly.

How do you apply clear coat and touch up paint?

types of car scratches
Image Credit: DetailDIY

The touch up paint process can vary slightly depending on the touch up paint kit that you decide to use. No matter which touch up kit you decide to buy, follow their directions as closely as possible. The following steps are a good general guide for fixing deep scratches and rock chips.

Steps to apply touch up paint:

  1. Sand down the edges of the scratch with some 2000 grit sandpaper so that it no longer catches your fingernail
  2. Clean with rubbing alcohol to remove any oils or anything that might prevent touch up paint from adequately adhering
  3. Apply thin layers of touch-up paint, allowing it to dry well between layers until the touch-up paint is layered higher than the surface of the original paint
  4. Wet sand or compound the touch-up paint layers down until you can run your finger across the area and the transition from the touch-up paint and the original paint is smooth
  5. Apply 2 layers of clear coat touch up with a small amount of overlap onto the original paintwork
  6. Wet sand or compound the clear touch up so that it is level with the original car’s paint
  7. Clean again with rubbing alcohol
  8. Polish the entire panel

ChrisFix on YouTube created an amazing video of the entire process. I highly recommend you watch it to get a detailed explanation. Chris breaks down each step and how to get some truly amazing results.

How long must I wait after applying the touch up paint to apply the clear coat?

Paint cure times will vary between different touch up kits, so it’s best to follow the manufacturer’s recommendation here. If you don’t have directions on hand or haven’t purchased your touch up paint kit yet, here is a general guide. You should wait at least a half-hour after painting to begin applying the clear coat. If you plan to apply multiple coats of the finishing product, you should wait a minimum of 20 – 30 minutes in-between each coat to let it dry.

When can I apply clear coat after touch up paint?

It’s important to ensure that the color coat touch up paint is completely dry and sanded smooth before applying the clear coat. You’ll also want to ensure that you’ve cleaned the panel thoroughly with rubbing alcohol before you apply touch up paint clear coat. Follow your touch up kit manufacturer’s recommendations for paint cure times. It’s not uncommon to come back the next day to apply a few layers of clear. Although, 30 minutes or so is usually adequate.

How do I get a smooth finish with touch up paint?

Getting a smooth finish starts with sanding down the edges of the scratch or paint chip with 2000 grit sandpaper so that you can run your finger over the scratch or chip and not feel any roughness. It should be a smooth transition.

Once you’re satisfied that the scratch is smooth, fill it in by applying thin layers of touch up color. Continue layering until the color layers are higher than the original paintwork.

Once that’s dried, sand it down with some 3000 grit sandpaper to blend it in with the original vehicle paint. Just like when we sanded the scratch or rock chip, we want to be able to glide our finger over the scratch and it feel completely smooth.

After you’re done with the paint color, repeat the process with several thin layers of clear coat. Sand those down with 5000 grit sandpaper and make sure it’s as smooth as possible.

Last, polish the entire panel with polishing compound to blend the work you’ve done in with the rest of the panel and restore the shine.

Don’t forget to reapply your paint protection coating of choice: wax, paint sealant, or a ceramic coating. These will protect your hard work and help keep your finish looking pristine. But be sure not to apply any of these for at least 30 days to allow the touch up paint time to fully cure.


Should I use a rubbing compound after applying touch up paint?

Rubbing compound is a great way to get a very smooth finish. If you refer to Chris’s video, rubbing compound can be used after all of the sanding, but before polishing.

You may even prefer to omit the last sanding step and replacing it with a similar grit rubbing compound.

Just know that rubbing compound is coarser than polishing compound liquid and you’ll still need to come back with your polish to finish the job.

Are touch up paint pens effective?

Touch up pens can be a great way to repair minor imperfections of the paint on your car in a quick and easy manner. However, if the area that requires touching up is too large or there is extensive damage to the paint or clear coat, then touch up pens won’t be effective.

If your car has anything more than minor scratches, then you would be better off avoiding touch up pens and taking your car or truck to your local body shop and have them sand and spray the panel again.


Does touch up paint need primer?

Touch up paint doesn’t usually need primer if the scratch or chip is small. Primer is designed to help car paint properly adhere to panel being applied. Scratches and chips are usually small enough this isn’t an issue, and the touch up paint will adhere to the adjacent original factory paint.

Often, the scratch or chip hasn’t penetrated the original paint all the way through to the primer. If there’s no bare metal or plastic exposed, there’s no need for primer at all.

Can clear coat be touched up?

If you have scratches that are only in your clear coat and haven’t penetrated through to the color coat beneath, you don’t need to touch it up. You can polish these scratches out.

If you’re dealing with more severe clear coat damage where there is no clear coat at all, you may be able to touch up that area with a few thin layers of clear.

For larger issues associated with clear coat failure, you’re probably better off taking your vehicle to your local body shop and asking them for help.

How long does it take clear coat to dry?

The time that it takes clear coat to cure and dry varies, as it depends on the specific circumstances. These circumstances include:

  • The specific products that were used
  • The temperature
  • The weather and environment

Despite these factors, the average amount of drying time that it takes for clear coat is 24-48 hours. If you decide to restore the paint and clear coat in cold temperatures, then it could take substantially longer than 48 hours for the clear coat to dry.

How can I make clear coat dry faster?

There are some helpful ways to accelerate the drying of the clear coat if you don’t have the time to let it dry on its own. The first tip entails you opting to use an accelerant. These accelerants contain special ingredients that enable your clear coat to dry quickly. Another option is to choose a quick-drying clear coat. There are numerous types of clear coats available, and if you don’t have 48 hours or possibly longer to wait for traditional clear coats to dry, then you should consider purchasing one of these. Just make sure that it will work with automotive paint.

Professionals at body shops use heat to cure the paint and clear coat. While you may not have access to professional automotive equipment, you can still ensure that the vehicle is in a warm environment, since cold will keep it from drying as fast.

Can you use a heat gun to dry clear coat?

It is possible to use a heat gun when drying the clear coat on your car, but since heat guns are used to remove paint, you want to ensure the temperature isn’t too hot.

Start out with the lowest temperature and slowly increase it until you get the desired effect. Even at its lowest temperature, you should ensure that the heat gun is held at least two inches away from the surface of the vehicle, or it could damage the paint and make the situation worse.

Can you let clear coat dry in the sun?

Depending on the type of clear coat that you use on your car, drying it in the sun could pose a problem.

While body paint mechanics use temperatures as high as 140 degrees to cure paint and clear coat in record amounts of time, placing a freshly painted car in direct sun could end up causing the clear coat to dry too quickly.

If it dries too quickly without having time to cure, then this could negatively impact the entire paint job, causing the paint to be easily rubbed off.



Hiring a professional to perform a touch up paint service can be expensive. By performing the body repairs yourself, you can save a great deal of money. 

However, if your car is relatively new, or you don’t feel comfortable performing such an extensive job, then you might want to hire an expert.

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