Lighten/Darkening Paint

Customers often tell us the paint looked fine until they applied the clearcoat which darkened the basecoat paint. Because the basecoat dries flat, it can look like a good match until you apply the clearcoat. Clearcoats normally will make the basecoat somewhat darker.

If you are using the paint pen or brushing on the paint, (hopefully you have read our directions) you should only try to repair a small area. It can be difficult to achieve an undetectable repair on areas larger than a pencil eraser. Metallic matches can be very difficult due to how the metallic flake lays down. Even an exact match can look very different when it is brushed on. Anything larger than a pencil eraser should be sprayed.

If you are spraying the paint with our spray cans or your own spray gun, you can control how light or dark the clearcoat makes the underlying basecoat. To lighten the basecoat color, spray farther away and apply a mist of paint. To darken the basecoat, you spray closer with heavier coats. Not all paints can be changed this way so do practice off the car and try it with the paint you have ordered.

Posted in Paint Repair

Bike Frame Fiasco

This past week, we had a customer who wanted to match his bike frame. He wanted to send us a picture of the bike so we could match it. After emailing back several times, “we cannot match from a picture” and even pointing to this link on our site  which explains just why we cannot match from a picture, the customer just sent us another picture. We explained custom matching would be necessary to get an accurate match. We asked the customer to fill out our custom match form  which gives complete instructions on the process. The customer replied, no, sorry, I cannot send you a part.

More pictures emailed to us. Again, we politely told the customer we cannot match from a picture. Then the customer wrote us saying the bike frame was painted a Honda color, Cobalt Blue. I said great, and told the customer to  select the Year, Make and Model and order the color. Of course, the customer had no color code and we have several warnings on the site about ordering paint this way.

Surprise, surprise, the paint didn’t match the bike frame! The customer was very upset at us.  The customer emailed and said “I was talked into ordering the paint.” Hmmm….interesting comment since all communication was by email. If you tell me you want Honda Cobalt Blue and I will send you the link to this paint and a warning about ordering without a color code.

The customer sent about 10 emails over the 4th of July holidays. Of course, more pictures which we politely emailed back and said we could not use. Then the customer said it may be a Toyota Blue, or even a Hyundai Blue. The customer asked since the paint we sent didn’t match, could it be returned and could we send out the Toyota paint to try? Maybe it’s really GM Vega blue. The point is, we have no idea what color the bike frame really is unless we see it!

Again, we directed him to our custom match link and again, the customer would or could not send us a part.

Now, this customer is quite angry at us. What this customer doesn’t realize is we have to custom make each order from formula. If you look at the link, you can understand why pictures are so difficult to match and why we always refuse these requests. Look how different these colors look and they were all taken from the same car!

So please, you should never order a paint unless you know the color code. We do an excellent job at mixing paint. We are not so good at guessing color codes!

Posted in Customer Service, Paint Repair

My First Paint Job

When I wrote the Tale of Two Customers, I couldn’t help remembering my first paint job. I was attending the University of CA at Berkeley in 1974 and had started buying and selling Volkswagens. Up until this paint job, I had repaired many a fender and repainted them so I thought I was ready to try an entire car. I had been buying spray cans from San Leandro Color (this is the supplier we still use today to mix our paint!) for my small projects and thought, hmmm…the fenders look great…

So I purchased 16 spray cans of paint. My prep work was good. I had repaired all the dents (filling them with body filler), sanded the car and primed large areas to really make it smooth. I wetsanded the entire car with 400 grit until the body was very smooth.

I found a garage I could use and proceeded to tape off the car. I washed it down with wax and grease remover and then began to paint. After several cans, I quickly decided this wasn’t working. It was one thing painting a fender with a spray can – I could do a nice job – but trying to apply paint to an entire car from a spray can was impossible. I couldn’t flow the paint to make it lay down smoothly and ended up with a very rough job. The spray can has a fairly narrow fan, great for spot work. A professional spray gun shoots a fan around two feet wide and what a difference it makes! A friend of mine at the time, who was an experienced painter, came over and looked at my “job” and just laughed. I can’t say I was laughing at that moment.

The only thing left to do was to wash all the paint off with lacquer thinner. Now this was a fun job — NOT!! I think I created the biggest mess of my life. Luckily the paint came off very easily as the thinner took off all the new paint quickly and my primer so I had to do some rework here. (You can usually remove new paint from your car within 30 days with just lacquer thinner).

Next, I did the smart thing and paid my friend $50 to shoot the car with a professional gun. It came out beautifully and I certainly learned my lesson. A few weeks later, I tried my hand with a gun (after some practice) and it came out nicely. As I painted more and more cars, my technique improved and the jobs kept getting better. Not to say I never had problems, but I’ll tell the tale of my fish eye paint job in a later post!


Posted in History

A Tale of Two Customers

Take a look at these two comments:

“Just finished spraying your paint and everything has come out beautiful. Great match and customer service. Thanks again!
Jason ”

“My paint repair came out terrible. The color didn’t match and your employees are no help at all. Your products just don’t work. Now I have to spend extra money to repair the mess you caused! I demand a refund and will tell all my friends what happened.”

So I ask myself, what is the difference between Jason and Peter. Why did Jason have such a nice job whereas Peters job turned into a mess? Obviously Peter here is pretty upset and looks like he will not be inviting me out for a beer anytime soon. So what happened here? I decided to call both customers and find out.

Talking with Jason, he had several things going for him. One, this was his second time doing paint repair. Two, he re-read the directions again. Three, he found the color code on his vehicle and sent us his VIN so we could check for formula changes. Before he applied the paint to his vehicle, he tested the paint color on a scrap piece of plastic to see how the match was. Then, just followed the directions and the job came out nicely.

Peter got on our website, saw a blue color which looked close to his and just ordered. He just figured there was no reason to check for a color code on his car when the color looked pretty close. Considering there were three blues for his car, he picked the closest one. So here we have mistake #1 and our website states:

“Always verify your color code on your vehicle! Do not order paint based on the paint name or color samples shown above.

so right off, Peter is in trouble. (By the way, I’m the guy who actually puts the color chips on the site. Because most metallics colors cannot be scanned, I do it manually with PaintShopPro. Sometimes I can’t quite get the color right as some metallics look different depending on your angle.)

Peter got his paint and it was a warm, humid day and thinking the paint would dry way faster in the sun, began his preparation. Listening to his story on the phone and his prep work, I could visualize it. Very little prep work, just a quick rinse with sponge and soap. He figured the surface was smooth enough and automotive paint was “different” and would stick to anything. After letting the surface dry (and get good and hot!), he began spraying. Because of the brightness of the sun, he didn’t notice the color was way off and kept spraying the area. Because the surface was so hot, it radiated heat and much of the paint dried before it hit the surface, creating spider webs of paint. The humidity was so high, it trapped water under the paint creating white spots in the paint. Trying to fix it, he brought the spray can closer to the job, sprayed a thicker layer of paint and of course, more spider webs (this is caused by the paint drying, and hitting the surface in a dried stringy form) and now the paint was so thick in places, it was sagging.

Went back into his house and was ready to admire his handiwork and he realized the color was off, there were blotches everywhere, the surface was grainy, rough and well you get the picture. Now he calls on a Sunday and is mad nobody is there to take the call and solve his problem.

After verifying he did in fact order the wrong paint and giving him a discount on a new order of paint, he tried again AFTER reading the directions, painting in the shade on a day where the humidity wasn’t a problem. I had him order extra bottles of lacquer thinner so he could wash the mess off he made. (This is a good way to start over. The lacquer thinner removes the new paint, but does not affect the existing paint.)

I can’t say we never make mistakes here – we do. Sometimes we ship the wrong paint, we forget to put a clearcoat in, make the wrong shade, etc. but many of our customers who have problems did not take the five minutes to read out instructions.

So, unless you are an experienced painter, read our instructions, take a look at our problem section and practice off the car, and always, always, test the color first!


Posted in Paint Repair

Paint Thinner

One of the unsung heros of our site is automotive lacquer thinner (paint thinner). Ordering paint without having some thinner around is not a good decision. Here is why.

1) Thinner is great for cleanup. Spilling paint is no fun and our automotive grade paint dries quickly. The lacquer thinner will remove it quickly, except from fabrics. I recommend you always wear gloves when handling paint as it’s not something you want to pour on your corn flakes!

2) Thinner is great for removing all the paint you just applied. Lets face it, this may be your first time ever repairing the paint on your vehicle and chances are the first time doesn’t look so great and your thinking, if only I could start over. Just place some thinner on a rag and wipe it all off. It won’t harm the original finish at all. Now you can start over again and do the job you wanted. Nothing beats a bit of experience when repairing paint.

3) Thinner is nice to clean up the paint pen nibs. In fact, without it, you may get only a single use out of the nib. We have customers asking for spare nibs all the time and we always tell them to just soak the nib in a little lacquer thinner and they are as good as new.

4) If you wipe down the surface with either wax and grease remover or thinner, the paint will stick much better.

5) If you don’t order thinner from us, make sure you use automotive lacquer thinner and not the stuff they sell at the paint store. Only auto body supply stores sell the proper thinner.


Posted in Paint Repair

Paint Pens

Of all the products we sell, the paint pen causes the most controversy with our customers. Some customers swear by them and others swear at them. I happen to really like the paint pens, but they have their limitations. The most common complaint is the tip is hard and doesn’t work or flow the paint well. Paint pens were designed to fill very small paint chips and scratches and work very well for this application.

The problem happens when people try to repair a large area with the paint pen. They are simply not designed to do this. The tip has a chisel point and put on its side, you can place paint into very small chips and scratches without the blob effect. Now, trying to repair a larger area, say a quarter size area, is a recipe for dissapointment as you will not be able to use these pens like a magic marker. The paint dries too fast and you just get a bunch of lines and streaks (especially with metallic paints). The best thing to fix this problem is to wash off the new paint with automotive lacquer thinner and think about ordering a spray can!

If we did not mix the paint correctly, the paint can either not come out at all or come out way too fast. Let us know and we will remix a new order for free. Just remember to test off the car first! Also, when you depress the tip, this is what lets the paint come out so don’t depress the paint pen on the car. Yes, we have had the angry customer calls telling us how they dribbled paint all the way down the fender. No, they didn’t read the directions either!) Depress it off the car and then apply the paint. Have a rag and thinner handy to keep the paint pen tip clear. You can soak the tip in automotive lacquer thinner once you are done to clean them up.

Paint pens are good for key scratches, small chips and also paint edges which have been scraped. Anything larger and you should order the spray can.

Posted in Paint Repair

Color Mismatches

I’m often asked why the colors we mix sometimes don’t match. This can be quite frustrating for you, the customer, and I wish there was a way to avoid it 100% of the time. Here is why this is not possible.

Starting with the color code, most vehicle manufacturers made a very confusing system to even find the color code in the first place. Rather than putting in an easy to find area, some are located under the spare tire, in obscure places in the hood, I think you get the picture.

When a vehicle is manufactured, a number of vehicles get painted with the same batch of paint. Once this batch is gone, the next batch is mixed. The next batch will be a slightly different color from the first batch and so on. This is why we ask for your VIN as the color variance can be determined from the VIN.

When we receive your order, we use a formula from DuPont or PPG. Usually this formula will match your vehicle and we have a satisfied customer. Occasionally though, the formula from DuPont or PPG is off and the customer will let us know, often wondering how we could even be in business after sending them such a poor match!

After checking the sample (sent in by the customer), we then try a PPG formula (if a Dupont formula was sent  in the first place) or a DuPont formula (if a PPG formula was sent first). Usually this will do it and the color will match!

Why the difference? Why would DuPont (or PPG) get is wrong and PPG (or Dupont) get it right sometimes? They use different toners. On some vehicles, the PPG (or DuPont) will just match better. We keep hoping for standardization, but in 50 years of business, we are still waiting! (Our paint store has been in business since 1955)

Some of you wonder how in the world we tell you the color we have sent is an exact match when you know it’s way off? We use color standards from each vehicle manufacturer but sometimes, due to different batches of paint. Sometimes the only way we can match some vehicles is to get a sample off your car as the standard formula is too far off.

Again, we try our best, but I certainly understand your frustration.


Posted in Paint Repair
PaintScratch Color Match Guarantee Badge
PaintScratch is an American Business
PaintScratch offers free shipping on all orders over $99!

Customer Testimonials

W. Phillipy
Camp Hill, PA
"Fantastic product! Excellent service! Color match on the original order was perfect, just wish I had bought enough paint the first time! Thank You."
R Messina
Grand Prairie , TX
"I received my paint today and the color is a very good match. Thank you very much."
Mark G
Kailua-Kona, HI

Ready to order? Find your touch up paint color:

Anonymous Suggestions?
(These are anonymous so we cannot respond. Contact us if you need a response.)