Full List of Car Paint Types and Each of Their Qualities

Whether you’re interested in repainting your car yourself, getting a professional to paint it, or about to buy a new car and concerned about the upkeep, it’s essential to know the different car paint types. Car paint can get complicated quickly, but understanding the different options will help you make informed decisions about the right type of paint that matches your vehicle and style.

Everything begins with the undercoat or primer—that’s the first layer. From here, you apply your base coats which come in a wide array of options including acrylic lacquer, clear coats, and specialty paints.  Finally, you might put down a special finish to keep your paint job safe against the elements. Let’s take a deep dive into the world of car paint to ensure you’re making the best, most informed decision for your car.


If you’ve ever painted a house or objects made of wood, you’ve probably used a primer before. Primer—also called undercoat finish—is used to prep your vehicle for painting. Generally, these come in shades of grey or black. They give the next layer of paint based to help it stick to the vehicle. Without it, the paint work will not only look bad but also not bond properly.

Without that proper bonding process, all kinds of bad side effects will occur, such as paint chipping and flaking. Primers also help prevent rust by creating a layer between exposed metal surfaces and the air. After applying the primer, it’s essential to sand it down so the surface is flat. This will help the base coat look smooth and adhere properly.

Base Coat

The base coat is the main layer of paint. It’s simply painted on top of the primer. It usually doesn’t have any protective features like hardeners and if left alone, will become blemished quickly and also allow moisture to penetrate the primer. For this reason, base coats are generally used with clear coat or urethane base coats. This additional coat protects the other layers and the frame and will give your car a shiny appearance. Base coats with clear coats on top are the most common car paint types as they provide both a glossy finish and protection.

Clear Coat

As mentioned, the clear coat is placed on top of the base coat. As its name suggests, the clear coat contains no color as its main job is to provide protection. Not only this, clear coats are formulated with a special chemical which allows them to adhere to a range of surfaces, including plastic bumpers and metal door panels. Generally, clear coat finishes are composed of urethane, which includes UV inhibitors that prevent the sun from fading the car’s paint job. With proper care, you can maintain this finish for years.

Acrylic Lacquer

Acrylic lacquers are not as common as they used to be. Most car manufacturers have moved to base coats with clear finishes. However, for vintage cars and restoration, acrylic lacquer is the car paint type of choice. You don’t want to use this on your daily car, but this type of paint undoubtedly provides the glossiest shine.

Speciality Paint Types

Nowadays, there are many types of specialty car paint types on the market. For example, metallic finish paints are often used on high-performance vehicles to give them a special flare. Another growing trend is chameleon paint—paints that change color depending on the angle you view them from. 

Specialty paint types can offer more than just stylistic benefits. Some are made to improve paint durability and there are even some that include “self-heal” benefits or use nanotechnology to prevent small scratches and dings.

Getting the Perfect Car Paint Type

Every car is different and so is every owner. If you are looking to put your own unique touch on your car, there’s nothing better than a custom paint job. At AF Collision, we can help you understand the different options you have available for your vehicle. Not only that, we can help with customization jobs, repair work, body kit installation and more. So come into our shop today and consult with one of our expert technicians to see what we can do for your car.

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