Tech Tips
Paint Your Own Car
Color Sand & Buff ~ First Steps


The illustration above shows the different layers you would encounter in a proper paint job. Understand that they are greatly exaggerated. This is a cross section as if we cut through a body repair area and are looking straight down. Between the bare metal and primer we have an area where body filler was used. Followed by a primer/surfacer to elimate scratches, then a sealer to insure we don't have bleed through. Followed by two coats of basecoat (color) and three coats of clear.
The top of the example illustrates orange peel. Paint, even at it's best proper application, splats onto the surface in microfine balls. The reducer in paint (thinner) then "flows" the paint level, then it drys. Orange peel is created by:
1. Wrong reducer.
2. Too low of pressure.
3. Low quality paint.
4. Shooting at too great a distance or piling on too thick.
5. Incompatible components.
It is critical that reducer be used at the right temperature. Even on a given day your reducer must match the temperature of that day. Take for example someone using the wrong temperature reducer. The paint hits the surface, but before it can flow, it dries due to being the wrong selection. This would cause orange peel.
Any layer of paint can orange peel. A primer layer or color layer can be rough which will result in your last coat of clear being rough BUT that is why we coat with 3 coats of clear. 3 coats of clear to lose up to 2 coats due to wet sanding.
To get orange peel in a paint job is not a castastrophe nor is getting a run. It is very easy to do and even the best of painters encounter this. Experience and knowledge is the key to correcting these flaws.
Color sanding and buffing are the final steps in a pro paint job as well as the method used to remove trash, scratches, and other surface blemishes.

Click Any Photo for Enlarged Version


This picture will show sanding in a straight line.

We will first go through the steps of color sanding for orange peel. It would be the same for other imperfections. If your blemishes are deep you would want to start wet sanding with 1000 grit. If they are minor, then start with 1200. You want to fold your paper in "thirds". This is the only time you can get by without sanding with a block. You want to sand in a straight line and not in circles. The buffer goes in circles and you want it to cut across the grain.

This picture will show a low spot.

You will be trying to achieve a satin smooth look. Since you are removing the gloss, any low spot will remain as a "glossy darker spot " while the level spots have a satin (or sanded) look. This makes it easy to tell where you need further work.

This picture will show the water blade being used.

I use a water blade and chamois to dry areas off to get a "true" look at progress as I go.

This picture will show staying away from the trim.

You will want to stay about 1 inch above and below trim areas as the buffer will not reach these areas easily. This prevents getting into dangerous situations getting your buffer too close to trim.

This picture will show final steps before buffing.

Once the entire area you want to buff has a satin finish to it with no dark spots or creases you are ready to move to the buffing process. Always watch for your water to be milky white. This indicates you are sanding clear. If you by chance start seeing color you have gone too far. Use discretion and go easy. Some spots may be too deep to remove in this process.

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