How Long to Dry Paint Before Color Sanding

by Cee Donohue
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a car in a car show image by Gary from

A fresh paint job on a car can make it look like new. Sanding is the process that keeps the topcoat smooth and removes the "orange peel" look. Although it can be time consuming, color sanding will give your car a mirror-like finish. Be careful not to sand too deep. If you sand too hard, you can ruin the top coat and will have to repaint the car.

Drying time

Allow ample drying time after applying the topcoat of paint to reveal any rough patches. You don't want to rush the process of color sanding. Drying time will vary depending on the paint, but it is recommended to let it dry for 12-24 hours before starting to sand. Letting it sit overnight can be helpful to ensure complete dryness.

Wet Sanding

Color sanding can be done wet or dry. Wet sanding keeps the surface cleaner and lubricates the sand paper and the sanding area. You can add a drop of dish detergent to keep the paper's abrasives from clogging. Use sandpaper with a fine 600 to 1,500 grit.

Sanding Evenly

Multiple coats of paint can leave a textured surface. A rubber sanding pad is good for curved surfaces because it's flexible and can ensure even sanding. A sanding block is recommended for flat surfaces. Once you have sanded an area, wipe it with a clean, dry towel to to check for high spots. Making sure you have sanded evenly will make a big difference on the finished look. Check your progress often by repeating the sanding and drying process as you go.

Hand or Machine

Some professionals sand by hand, while others use an orbital sander. The machines are faster, but if you are new to sanding, doing it by hand will allow you to feel any grit that comes between the paint and the paper, thus giving you more control. Although fine scratches are unavoidable when sanding a car, linear strokes are recommended to make marks less noticeable.

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