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Can I Use Acrylic Paint to Touchup My Cars Paint

Automotive paints have a complex degree of chemistry about them, which some might say that people who aren't in the industry truly understand or appreciate as much as we should. If you think about it, you can see why this is the case. Unlike the paints that you brush onto your bedroom wall, a car has to go through a lot more climates and environments than a brick structure. 

It needs to stand up to rapid changes of humidity, moisture, temperature, while also having to survive all the grit and pebbles that get thrown at your car. Plus, it'll also have to get past those dings and scuffs that you inevitably come across throughout the lifetime of owning that car. Above all else, it still has to look good at every juncture, shining and glistening in the sun.

With that in mind, you'd perhaps be curious to know that there's a lot of different types of car paints, each one with its own alchemy and how it's able to present itself. Therefore, you're no doubt keen to understand more about why this is so. More importantly, is it possible to use acrylic-based paint - one of the most common in any application - could be used to touch up your car's paint job.

The Different Types Of Automotive Paints

Before we look into whether you can or cannot use acrylic paints to touch up your car's paintwork - spoilers: you absolutely can - we should take a moment to look into the different types of paint finishes that you can spray onto your car. Generally, speaking, there are five different types of paints for the automobile. Each, naturally, has its own benefits and downsides to come along with it.


For the car, lacquer has been around for a long time. In fact, motorcars have been using lacquer since the 1920s. You'll also find lacquer on wood and furniture. Lacquer shines beautifully, and dries a lot faster than other types of paint. This ease to apply it makes lacquer incredibly popular for those who know that they'll need a new coat of paint all too frequently. 

However, lacquer isn't very popular nowadays, simply owing to all its disadvantages over newer formulations of paint. Lacquer may dry quickly, but it takes at least six to eight coats to complete. This means it'll cost more, and will take more time to complete. Plus, lacquer isn't durable enough, as it can chip away in the sun.


Another popular type of paint, urethane could also go to places underneath your car's bodywork. One strong pro of using urethane is its durability. It's long-lasting and can protect your car from the harshness of the outside world, be it debris, muck, or salt. This added strength is also what makes urethane a popular choice to paint over surfaces around hot components like within your engine bay.

Still, the major downside to urethane is its chemicals. If combined with some form of chemical hardening compound to accelerate the drying of your urethane paint, it could turn the whole mixture to be toxic. This, in turn, can be deadly for your lungs. Plus, it can be quite difficult to get urethane paint applied and finished properly, so you're best to leave this to the professionals. 


You might be familiar with metallic paint. It's more expensive than the others, and there's a good reason for this. The name stems from the fact that tiny metal fragments are scattered in the paint. When this hits the sun, or even under moderate lighting, it can shimmer and glow like no other. It's incredibly good eye candy, and could also double to hide tiny scuffs just through its reflections.

Although, there is one crippling flaw with this. Should you find yourself in the need to touch up your metallic paint finish, it's going to be a tough fix. Mainly, this increased difficulty is down to how difficult it can be to match the colour. Moreover, it can be cost-prohibitive, and there are fewer colours overall for third-party touch-up kits to choose from.


This seems like it's becoming more popular in today's cars. Luxury and sporty cars like to stick out by using matte paint, and it certainly does seem to work. It catches your attention with immediacy thanks to how unique it is. Matte paint doesn't have a glossy finish. The end result is a completely flat surface, and it does seem to look rather good in almost any condition or lighting.

But for all the coolness that you get being seen driving in a matte car, it hits back at you hard when it comes to upkeep. If you ever scratch it, those scuffs will stand out more as it can't use reflections to hide it. Plus, trying to keep it clean and detailed will be a pain, as you could only use a certain type of shampoo and technique. When it comes to time to touch it up, it'll be quite a big repair bill, too.

What About Acrylic Paint?

Now, we have the fifth popular type of automotive paint - acrylic. Now, acrylic in itself has different sub-types, which include acrylic enamel, acrylic lacquer, and acrylic urethane. With acrylic being a water-based paint, these subcategories and mixtures each have their distinct characteristic. Acrylic lacquer shares many similarities with regular lacquer paints.

It's easy to put on, though is only slightly more durable. Acrylic urethane is a bit like urethane too, as it's easy to apply and lasts a very long time. Yet, it's not as toxic. Meanwhile, acrylic enamel paint is interesting, as it's made to be highly durable, since it forms into a hardened shell once it starts to dry. This enamel-infused paint is actually baked onto the car when it's being painted.

Generally speaking, any type of acrylic paints is fairly long-lasting and relatively affordable. It's very easy to apply and to touch up. Moreover, it's quite easy to maintain. However, there are naturally some kinks in the acrylic armour. For one, acrylic paints take a little while to dry - sometimes upwards of a couple of days - before you can apply the next layer. On top of that, it's not always that durable compared to other types of paints, as it can fade away under sunlight if exposed for long.


So, to answer the question in the title, you absolutely can use acrylic paint to touch up your car. For the average joe or jane looking into which type of paint is the best for them, either for a project car or to fill in a scratch, acrylic might be their best bet. It's relatively affordable, easy to apply, and doesn't require a lot to keep it shiny. Nevertheless, it might be handy to have a garage around or to keep your car indoors, just to make sure the sun doesn't start dulling your glossy acrylic finish.

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