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If you fancy yourself as a car restorer or a DIYer of sorts, at one point in your life, you'll have to repaint your car to fix chip-offs or give it a new look. The color is just one of the things that you have to consider for the paintjob. You also need to be familiar with the different options for automotive paint.

The different types of car paint

Acrylic lacquer

Acrylic lacquer is not only the oldest form of automotive paint but also the cheapest. It's very easy to apply, as it comes in an aerosol spray can. However, this chips off quite easily. Harsh UV rays and chemicals can easily ruin it, making it a temporary fix rather than a long-lasting paintjob solution. In some places, the use of acrylic lacquer is even prohibited.

Acrylic enamel

Unlike soft lacquer paints, acrylic enamel can turn into a hard shell or finish when it dries. The only trouble with enamel paints is that they're not easy to apply and they're also more expensive. They require more work and can be a bit challenging for a DIYer. Although these paints are also packaged in aerosol cans and can be used with spray guns, professionals often bake acrylic enamel for a tougher finish. A clear topcoat may be required for enamel paints, specifically on certain colors.

Acrylic urethane

Acrylic urethane is quite expensive. This shares some traits with both enamel and lacquer paints. It can dry to a hard shell like enamel, yet it can also be painted on the surface quite easily like acrylic lacquer because it lays down well. This makes it quite easy to use for DIYers. Urethane can be used on its own or may be applied in a multiple-stage painting system, which requires a protective clearcoat. Mixed urethane paints should be applied quickly. If there are leftover paints, these should be disposed right away. Since urethane can be very toxic, you must wear proper gear when repainting your car with this. Aside from gloves, you should also wear coveralls and a respirator for precaution.


Non-toxic water-based paints are the most flexible of all types. These can be applied on metal and primer. They can also be used to retouch existing paintjobs. Water-based paints are usual options for adding graphics or for repainting the vehicle with a different color. Like lacquer and urethane paints, non-toxic water-based paints can be laid down easily and can create a very smooth finish. They're very easy to apply, especially for home mechanics or DIYers that do their car remodeling and repair on a garage. You just have to add a clear urethane topcoat as a layer of protection for these paints. The only real disadvantage with water-based paints is the limited color options.

A few reminders

  • When touching up the paint or repainting a part of the vehicle, make sure that the color is a perfect match.
  • Know the best way to apply the paint, if a two-stage system would be a better option or if you need to add a clearcoat for best results.
  • Make sure that you apply the coat evenly so that the paintjob will come out as smooth and polished as it can be.