Definition of Single-Stage Auto Paint

by Debbie Tolle

Single-stage auto paints will dry to a glossy finish on their own. This type of paint job does not require a clear coat for the paint to have a glossy finish. Two-stage auto paint, on the other hand, requires a clear coat. Two-stage paints are often used for metallic and pearl finishes.


One of the benefits of a single-stage paint job is that it is cost-effective. The fact that a single-stage paint job does not need a clear coat makes the job cheaper. Yet the single-stage process still produces good quality in the final result.

Identifying a Single-Stage Paint

It is easy to find out if your paint is single stage. Apply auto wax to a rag and rub it on the vehicle as if you were waxing. When the wax has dried, buff it. If there is color from the vehicle on the rag, your vehicle has single-stage paint.


Single-stage paints are made of the same basic components as most auto paint: pigment, binder and a carrier agent. The pigment is the color of the paint being applied. The binder hardens when it is exposed to air. The carrier agent keeps the binder in a liquid form until the paint is applied to the auto.

Single-Stage Composition

Single-stage paints are either one-part or two-part. One-part paints are ready to spray, but may need to be diluted in order to flow through the paint sprayer. Two-part single-stage paints need an activator to dry. An activator is a hardener that creates a chemical reaction that allows the paint to bond to the auto. You must follow the paint manufacturer's recommendations for the amount of activator to use. Different manufacturers will have different requirements.


One-part single-stage paint is not typically used to paint an entire car. This paint is generally used for pin-striping. Single-stage two-part paint is used to paint the entire vehicle.


Single-stage paints are enamel or urethane based. Urethane is used on new autos and by auto repair shops. Enamel-based paints are softer and less durable than urethane.

About the Author

Based in Oklahoma City, Debbie Tolle has been working in the home-improvement industry since 2001 and writing since 1998. Tolle holds a Master of Science in psychology from Eastern Illinois University and is also a Cisco-certified network associate (CCNA) and a Microsoft-certified systems engineer (MCSE).

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