If you’ve thought about doing your own painting on a project car or your main vehicle, you might have looked into auto body paints. Chances are you’ve had some questions about the various types. At one time you really only had one choice, but today there are many options. They fall into four basic categories, though: acrylic lacquer, acrylic enamel, acrylic urethane and water-based.
The original form of automotive paint, acrylic lacquer has been around for a long time. There are some places where it’s illegal, though. Overall, this is the cheapest auto body paint you’ll find. It is also very easy to use. The main disadvantage is that it has a tendency to chip easily. It also fades from sunlight much faster than other paints and chemicals tend to break it down. Overall, this is better as a temporary fix than a permanent paint job.
While acrylic enamels haven’t been around as long as acrylic lacquer paints, they are one of the oldest types. Their main advantage is that they dry to an extremely hard finish. That means they hold up well in the long term. In fact, these are frequently used by the professional shops. Of course, therein lies one of the problems with these paints. They tend to be much harder to use. It’s more difficult to get a good paint job, particularly for the amateur. Baking these paints in gives a stronger finish, but that also makes them more of a “professional only” type of product. In addition, to get a proper paint job, many acrylic enamels also require a clear coat after drying. This makes the process more involved. They are more expensive than acrylic lacquer paints, too.
One of the newest types of auto body paints, urethane, combines some of the best attributes of both acrylic lacquer and acrylic enamel paints. They are not as easy to use as acrylic lacquer, but are simpler to use than acrylic enamel. That makes them more useful for beginners. The finish produced by urethane paints rivals the finish that acrylic enamel produces. These are very expensive paints, though and some require a two part process, like some of the acrylic enamel paints. There are various types of urethane paints and Dupont Imron is one of the more popular. It is technically a polyurethane enamel paint.
Water-based paints are the newest entry into the auto paint field. These are easy to use and produce a smooth finish. In fact, these paints are among the simplest in terms of laying down a coat. You can even use them to go over an existing paint job. The main drawback to water-based paint is that since they are very new, the color choices tend to be limited. Also, you will need to put a layer of clear urethane to protect it.
If you make the choice to do your own auto body painting, be sure you understand the differences between the types of paint. One of the main differences between the paints is the level of skill required to use them correctly. Properly estimate your own abilities before getting into a painting job, and choose paint accordingly.