Difference Between Pearl White and White Auto Paint

by Paul Miceli
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Although pearl automotive paints traditionally have been used on high-end or custom vehicles, many manufacturers have started to apply them to their factory models as well. Pearl automotive paints provide an iridescent effect that gives slightly different tones depending on the angle at which a vehicle is viewed. Some pearlescent colors give off more hues than others, and white colors rarely produce any different hues at all. This leads to car enthusiasts debating the qualities of a white pearlescent paint job against a standard white auto paint project.

Visual Differences

Take a look at a white auto paint job from any angle and the vehicle looks uniform. If a vehicle painted in white pearl automotive paint is viewed at different angles, it usually is possible to see slightly different appearances. When both paints are viewed face-on, white auto paint has very little depth and only the color is seen. Pearlescent paints, on the other hand, have incredible depth created by a protective layer of clear coat over the base color.

Paint Characteristics

Most white auto paint jobs are sprayed using two-pack acrylic materials, and the paint has a high volume of white tinter within the mixing formulation. When sprayed, white auto paint produces a high-gloss, resilient finish that protects the metal and primer underneath. White pearl automotive paints are sprayed using a three-stage system consisting of a solvent-based undercoat, a water-based pearlescent ground color and an acrylic clear coat. This produces an equally resilient finish, but the gloss appearance promotes a sense of depth within the paintwork itself.


White auto paint is used on passenger vehicles, but the introduction of pearlescent paints has made two-pack acrylics less popular. Today, most white auto body paint jobs are seen on commercial vehicles such as vans and trucks, and there are two main reasons for this. White auto body paint is cheaper than a pearl equivalent so this makes it ideal for fleet use where appearance is less important. White auto paint is more durable and doesn’t damage as easily. White pearl automotive paints are used more for their aesthetic appeal, and consumer demand have led to them being utilized on more factory models than at any other time in the past.


Professional paint sprayers can apply white auto paint in minutes. Once activated, only two full coats of material are required to finish the job. Pearlescent white paint is more complicated to use. Initially, sprayers must apply three coats of undercoat to isolate colored primers, which subsequently is covered with three to four coats of pearlescent ground color. Once cured, the undercoat and ground color are sprayed with three coats of clear coat. This makes the process much longer, and application techniques have to be perfect to ensure uniform color matching around an entire vehicle.

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