How to Paint a Base Coat With Clear Coat Paint

Updated April 17, 2017

The base coat of a vehicle is often referred to as the colour coat. The base coat is the actual colour of the car that you see. The base coat is actually very dull when left alone. What makes a car shine is the clear coat paint applied on top of the base colour coat. Factory paint jobs normally have a thin clear coat while custom painted vehicles can be found with up to eight coat of clear coat paint for a high gloss shine. The clear coat paint also works to protect the colour coat from harmful UV rays.

Wait for the base coat of paint to dry completely before applying the clear coat paint. Applying clear coat paint to wet paint can make the finished paint job look dull, with no way to repair it other than sanding it down completely and starting over.

Mask off all areas of the car that won't be painted, including the glass, lights, trim pieces, wheels and key holes.

Apply three or four thin coats of clear coat paint. Start at the top of the vehicle and work toward the bottom. Keep each stroke light and even to prevent runs. Allow each coat to dry for 15 minutes between coats. Wait a full day for all of the clear coat paint to dry.

Park the car in the sunlight to see if there are any runs in the paint. If there are runs or if you want the car to shine even more than it does with the clear coat paint, sand it down again. Use 800-grit sandpaper and water to sand the entire car. Keep the sandpaper soaking wet the entire time. Use your hand on the sandpaper and keep it flat and even on the surface of the car. Repeat this step with 1000- then 1200-grit sandpaper for the smoothest, shiniest results. Rinse the car completely and allow it to dry.

Pour liquid rubbing compound on the polishing pad of an orbital polisher. Polish the entire car until it shines.

Things You'll Need

  • Automotive clear coat paint
  • Paint gun
  • Masking tape and paper
  • 800-, 1000- and 1200-grit sandpaper (wet)
  • Water
  • Liquid rubbing compound
  • Orbital polisher
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About the Author

Since 1997 Jenny Carver has served as editor and freelance writer for many offline and online publications including,, "Hoof Beat News," "Import Tuner" and others. Carver owns a custom automotive shop where she has been doing paint and body work, custom interior work and engine building for over 11 years.