What Are Two Types of Automotive Paint Finishes?

by Chris Stevenson
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Automotive paint varies in that each type consist of various compounds and chemical formulas. The process of painting involves a pigment or color that becomes dissolved with a medium, which allows the car to be sprayed with a paint gun. Primer paints always get applied under the finishing coat. Several types of paint finishes can be used to paint or restore a vehicle, depending upon the desired finish, ease of maintenance and longevity.

Acrylic Lacquer -- Origin

DuPont De Nemours began the development and production of nitrocellulose lacquers as far back as 1923. The properties of lacquer offered a wide range of color choices, and could be applied easily from a spray gun. An improved version of acrylic lacquer became popular on vehicles, including Rolls Royce, during the 1950s and 1970s, and in some up until the 1980s. Acrylic lacquer still remains popular today.

Acrylic Lacquer -- Properties and Characteristics

Acrylic lacquer must be used with paint thinner when applied. The paint thinner evaporates after application, which leaves the paint pigment on the metal surface. The finished application looks very glass-like or deep in texture, which works well on classic cars. An acrylic lacquer finish must be buffed on a regular basis to maintain the high-gloss sheen. It has a quick drying and curing time, which allows for a shorter time for sanding between coats.

Acrylic Lacquer -- Application

Acrylic lacquer works best when applied through a gun spray nozzle, which achieves a fine mist. Due to its chemical nature a crylic lacquer requires more coats than other types, usually applied in multiple thin layers. Many amateur car and truck paint enthusiasts favor acrylic lacquers over others because of its ease of application and fast drying time. The paint sets up so quickly that dust and other airborne particles do not have a chance to settle on it before the preparation of additional coats.

Pearlescent and Metallic Paint -- Origin

Pearlescent and metallic type paints originated in the 1960s on cars and trucks, including the Wolsley make automobile. Pearlescent paint became popular during the American custom hot rod scene in the 1970s, but it became even more widely used during the mid-1990s, when professional painters became more proficient with its application and versatility.

Pearlescent and Metallic Paint -- Properties and Characteristics

Pearlescent and metallic paints use small material flakes added to the base pigment, which then receives multiple layers of clear coat to cover the profiles of the flakes. Metallic paint contains very small aluminum flakes that have reflective surfaces. The size of the flakes, their reflective properties and frequency of distribution, allows for several degrees of appearance. Pearlescent finishes contain a solid base color, with an additional layer of alternate colors that contain "mica pearl" flakes. This gives the paint the appearance of changing colors in the sunlight and at different angles.

Pearlescent and Metallic Paint -- Application

These paints can be the most difficult to apply, needing professional expertise with the process. Spot painting either type usually requires the repainting of a whole body panel, since the seams and division lines between old and new paint can show dramatic overlapping lines. Mixing pearlescent and metallic paints for the purpose of spot painting, restoring or repainting can be difficult if the painter does not have precise ingredient instructions for the original mixture. Thus, guesswork and approximations must be used.

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