How to Touch Up Nicks With an Airbrush

Written by paul miceli Google
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How to Touch Up Nicks With an Airbrush
Auto bodies can be restored effectively using small area repair techniques. (Luxury Car sportscar from my luxury car series image by alma_sacra from

Nicks and chips on auto body paintwork are unsightly and can be particularly frustrating for vehicle owners. Unfortunately, the low body profiles on many modern vehicles makes chipping unavoidable. Repair costs in automotive bodyworks garages are notoriously expensive because in the overwhelming majority of cases, the entire panel will be painted to help reduce polishing times at a later stage. However, modern SMART (Small Area Repair Technique) methods are ideal for restoring affected paintwork and an airbrush is a fantastic tool for eliminating small nicks or stone chips.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Warm water
  • Chamois leather
  • P800-grit wet-and-dry paper
  • Ultra-fine grade sanding pad
  • Degreaser
  • Lint-free cloth
  • Fast-drying polyester stopper
  • Plastic spreader
  • Masking tape
  • Masking paper
  • Tack cloth
  • Paint
  • Hardener
  • Airbrush
  • Airline
  • Hobbyist compressor
  • Blending thinners
  • Cellulose thinners
  • Cutting compound
  • Mutton cloth

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  1. 1

    Wash the chipped area with warm water and dry with a chamois leather. Avoid the use of detergents in the water because these can often leave a film on the panel surface that can cause paint to react or flake. Carry out a visual inspection of chipped areas and lightly rub over them with a piece of damp P800-grit wet-and-dry abrasive paper to remove lifted paint, keeping abrasions as small as possible.

  2. 2

    Take an ultra-fine grade sanding pad and dampen it slightly with water. Rub the painted area around each nick to a radius of approximately 4 inches. This will provide a keyed area that will absorb the blending thinner and promote strong paint adhesion. Dry the panel completely and wipe it clean with a solvent-based degreaser soaked into a piece of lint-free cloth.

  3. 3

    Open a tube of fast-drying polyester stopper. Squeeze a small quantity onto the narrow edge of a plastic spreader and work it into each chip by pressing down firmly upon application. Any residue can be sanded with the P800-grit paper once the stopper has dried. This should leave a flat surface with a filled chip that is flush with the surface level of the auto body panel.

  4. 4

    Purchase a small quantity of paint from a local automotive supplier. All vehicles have a data plate where the colour code can be found. Usually, the data plate will be found in the engine bay, door apertures or the boot. If you are having problems finding it, information relating to the location of the data plate can be found in your vehicle owners manual. Add a small quantity of activated paint to the pot of your airbrush and plug it into an airline. Airbrushes can be easily powered by a hobbyist compressor and these are relatively cheap to purchase. Mask out any trim that is close to the repaired area with masking tape and paper before beginning. Wipe the entire area with a tack cloth to removes traces of fibre and grit.

  5. 5

    Pull back the airbrush trigger and lightly apply three coats of coloured paint over the nicks. Do not allow paint to extend beyond the keyed area. A spraying distance of approximately 4 inches is recommended for airbrushing and a curing time of 10 minutes should be allowed between each coat. On the final coat, extend the paint beyond the first and second coats, ensuring the edge of the applied paint is wet.

  6. 6

    Empty the pot of the airbrush and fill to the top with blending thinner. Shake the airbrush to integrate the remaining paint traces and the thinner. Take the airbrush and overlap the wet edges of the final painted coat so the paint fully adheres into the keyed surface. Leave the paint to dry overnight and clean out the airbrush using cellulose thinners.

  7. 7

    Remove any masking and polish the blended colour into the existing paintwork with cutting compound and a piece of mutton cloth. This will leave a seamlessly integrated repair that can be achieved at a fraction of the costs one would incur at professional auto bodyworks garages.

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