BodyShop Business
Tips for Metallic Paint Jobs
Nathan Tarr
1/18/2010

I see them all the time – silver cars with a bad blend somewhere on a door. When the car pulls away from me, I’m struck by a wicked dark side tone that allows me to see exactly what was done to it: full paint on the left fender and a bad blend on the driver’s door ending just before the door handle with a brutal halo effect.

I giggle when I see stuff like that, but I can sure relate to how that painter felt when he or she battled one of the many tricky colors he or she most surely preferred to never see again.

There are some colors that are just more difficult to paint than others – they’re virtually impossible to blend out nicely, and they’re never going to go away. Painters will always have to be on the lookout for extreme differences between the face and side tone of a color, and metallic tracking will always have to be a concern. Fortunately, there are steps we can all take to make tough metallic colors as painless as possible.  

Color Matching

As with all paint jobs, matching the color is the most vital step. It’s even more important with tricky colors, and it’s the first thing that needs to be done.  
I like to tape my test panel on the panel that I’ll be blending color into and then take a few steps back. I walk back and forth, looking at how the test panel matches the car. I take special note of any drastic differences in the color when looking at it from an angle. As I’m looking at the test panel, I try to envision how the color will blend out for me. That’s when I plan my attack for the paint job. Does the color need to be adjusted? Do I need to take an extra blend panel for an undetectable repair?

You’ve successfully planned your attack when you absolutely know that there won’t be any issues with your paint job. Preparation is really the key to being the go-to guy when it comes to handling scary colors.

Surface Prep

As with all facets of working with tough metallic paint jobs, your surface prep needs to be extra thorough. Any errant sanding or scuffing scratch is no big deal on normal paint jobs, but it can be magnified 10 times when working on a champagne color or anything Honda has named Satin Silver Metallic.
Being a little less aggressive will serve you well during your paint job. Consider bringing the sanding grits you use down a notch, and be extra careful with any scuff sanding. There’s no real need to be pressing down on a scuffing pad like a gorilla.

With a carefully prepped and clean panel, the risk of any cringe-worthy metallic tracking will be minimized.

Gun Control

A formidable enemy of a successful tricky paint job is sloppy gun control, otherwise known as “going through the motions.” To be an ace with a Honda silver, you’ve got to have your head screwed on with your full focus on the job at hand.

Concentrating on good gun technique will greatly reduce your stress with tricky colors. Really try to pay attention to your paint gun’s overlap. Make sure your gun’s distance from the surface remains consistent. Be prepared to use some type of dropcoat to ensure no mottling sullies your hard work.    

Apply the base in a nice, medium wet coat with plenty of flash time. I should note that wet means wet and is generally controlled using suitable reducers for the job at hand. Wet does not mean heavy. It does not mean pound on the color like you’re trying to bury something.

Blending

Achieving a beautiful, undetectable blend using a bear of a color is what separates the top-gun painters from those still learning and those who just don’t care. Making a flawless transition from new paint into old is truly a thing of beauty when you know that many others have failed.

If you feel you need to blend into an adjacent panel, don’t be ashamed to do it. Too many painters don’t do this, and a lot of times you’ll see their bad results driving next to you on the street. The name of the game is not to see how little room you need to do your blend but to make the car look right the first time.

I always use a colorless basecoat on my blend panels as a “wet bed” to help me see what’s going on a little better, which virtually eliminates any worry about metallic tracking.

Top-notch coordination between your eyes and your spray-pass is important as well. The more you can focus on what you’re doing, the better. Imagining yourself as a robot may sound corny, but it’s a good tactic.

On top surfaces, don’t try to be a hero doing a spot repair in the middle of the hood. Use bodylines to help lose your blend. In drastic situations, fully painting the hood and blending the fenders for a small repair is the only way to go.

No Angel Here

We’ve all experienced the nastiness of a halo when we’re trying our best to do a nice job. It’s even worse when you don’t notice it until after
you clearcoat.

A halo can be caused by many different things. Generally, if you have the mindset that slower is faster, halos will not be something you need to worry about. If you slow down the speed of your sealer and use a tack rag, it’s unlikely you’ll experience a halo from your basecoat laying on top of a sealer’s dry overspray. The same goes for slowing down your basecoat reducers. It’s a big deal to keep your base nice and wet on your blends so you’re not putting subsequent coats on top of the previous coat’s dry edge. You should be religious about tacking your blend panels off between coats.

These basic steps won’t necessarily make blending brutal colors easy, but combine them with enhanced focus on the job and you could become
a master.

Do You Care?


I’ve spoken to a lot of painters about painting and blending tricky metallic colors. Some have felt my pain, yet others have told me they don’t ever have problems with these colors.

It’s really about care, I suppose. The painters who say they’ve never really had any issues with certain colors more than likely just don’t care. With all the bad paint jobs I’ve seen driving around, I’m tempted to think most customers don’t really care either.

But a whole lot of painters do care. They don’t want to clearcoat their jobs and have nasty halos pop out at them. They don’t want to do paint jobs that look great head-on but absolutely horrible from an angle. So let’s all keep on learning from our mistakes so that each paint job goes more smoothly than the next.

Most importantly, the battle with rough colors is never really over, so any advice sent to me will be tried and analyzed in due course.

Writer Nathan Tarr has been working in and around the collision repair industry for the last 14 years and admits to being “thoroughly addicted to auto body work. It’s my hobby as well as my job.” Sikkens certified and PPG certified, he has been working as a painter for the past five years. He can be reached at natetarr@yahoo.com.
my first job of the week was this chevy tahoe: color code 391e, big rear door repair and a couple of blends.
My first job of the week was this Chevy Tahoe: color code 391E, big rear door repair and a couple of blends.
the first thing i do after i prime the job is refer to my test panel library. i have the variants of 391e already sprayed out and i don’t much care for them.
The first thing I do after I prime the job is refer to my test panel library. I have the variants of 391E already sprayed out and I don’t much care for them.
after a little hand adjustment of the color, it’s closer but not perfect.
After a little hand adjustment of the color, it’s closer but not perfect.
the job’s all prepped and bagged up in the booth. it’s not uncommon for the painter to be checking color match at this point of the job, which is way too late.
The job’s all prepped and bagged up in the booth. It’s not uncommon for the painter to be checking color match at this point of the job, which is way too late.
i’ve just sprayed a colorless basecoat on the tahoe as a wet bed. this helps me see my blending better, and it’s also a little insurance against metallic tracking.
I’ve just sprayed a colorless basecoat on the Tahoe as a wet bed. This helps me see my blending better, and it’s also a little insurance against metallic tracking.
the first coat of base is on and i’m feeling pretty good about things.
The first coat of base is on and I’m feeling pretty good about things.
at this point, i’ve just applied a dropcoat to the side of the truck. i over-reduced my basecoat and cut back my air pressure so i could really concentrate on getting everything nice and even.
At this point, I’ve just applied a dropcoat to the side of the truck. I over-reduced my basecoat and cut back my air pressure so I could really concentrate on getting everything nice and even.
as you can tell by my masking tape, i didn’t apply base to a whole lot of the fender. but by extending my blend to an extra panel, i was able to make a beautiful transition from new paint to old.
As you can tell by my masking tape, I didn’t apply base to a whole lot of the fender. But by extending my blend to an extra panel, I was able to make a beautiful transition from new paint to old.
After a couple coats of clear, this Tahoe’s ready to roll.
After a couple coats of clear, this Tahoe’s ready to roll.


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