Automotive paint is quite a surprisingly complex art and alchemy, more so than just mixing together colours into a bucket and spraying it over. It boils down to the technique of layering the many coats of paint, and getting the chemistry of the colours itself right. At the very bottom of it all, is the primer, the first layer that goes between the bright splotches on top and your car's body below.
Having that primer applied properly is one of the most important parts of painting a car. On top of that, it's the basic foundation of the paint job as a whole. So, ruining the primer is a recipe for utterly botching the coats that go on top of it. The importance of primer does lead us to ask questions like whether or not the colour of the primer could affect the shading and hue of the paint above.
What Is Primer, And What Does It Do?
Before we go ahead and look into the effects that primer has on your paintwork, we should first try to understand more on what primer is, and what it does. As we mentioned before, primer is the first layer of paint to be applied, and is a layer between the succeeding coats of paint up above it and the bodywork of the car below. There are a few reasons why primer is crucial:
- Primer is able to function as a leveller. This is since the car body's surface area might have flaws or imperfections that prevents it from being completely smooth. The use of primer could thus smoothen out this surface, by also filling in any gaps to ensure a better paint finish.
- It doubly functions as a protective layer for the car's bodywork underneath should the layers of paint on top be compromised. This includes protecting the car's bodywork from corrosion, changes in temperature, scratches, stone chips, excess exposure to UV light, and so on.
- Spraying on primer allows for easier paint application. In other words, a primer coat on the bottom ensures that the coats of paint up top would stick to the surface of the car. Plus, it has the added benefit of enabling more variety of colours and paint types to be used effectively.
How Does Primer Work With The Other Coats Of Paint?
Having thus far learned what the primer is, we can discuss more a bit of how it comes together. The primer - as the first layer - is then succeeded by the 'base coat'. The base coat is what gives the overall paintwork on your car its main colour, hue, and additional effects. Regardless of whether it's a glossy finish, metallic, or pearlescent, the base coat is what defines your car's colour and appearance.
Should you opt for a triple-layer paint finish, then we would optionally have the 'mid coat' in here. The mid coat is a thinly applied additional layer to give your car's tri-coat its depth and richness. Finally, we have the 'clear coat' on top. Clear coats are a transparent and glossy layer, which is essentially the finisher on your paint to protect the layers underneath, and give it a mirror-like gloss.
So then, we have the primer at the bottom, the base coat to form your car's colourway, an optional mid coat for triple-layer paints for added texture, and the clear coat up top as a finisher to give your car its shine and extra protection. Finally, we can get into the meat of the article and discuss more on the different colours that are available to you as the primer, and its effects.
How Many Colours Are There For The Primer?
Mainly, there are four primer colours - black, grey, white, and red. So, does either one have an effect on how your car's shade of paint on top looks? In short, yes, it can. It's worth bearing in mind that even if you choose a primer colour that is wildly different from the main base coat (and optionally, the mid coat) colour, it can still be rectified.
Let's say that you've picked a black primer, as the base of a yellow car. While that blackness below will make your yellow a lot darker than you'd like, you can add extra coats of yellow to brighten and readjust it to your desired hue. However, the more layers of paint you spray on top, there will be more work, more complexity, and crucially, all of this adds up to an expensive paint job.
Those are added costs that would otherwise be unnecessary, if you picked a more suitable primer colour that is more or less in line with the base coat colour. Here are some examples of how to match up the primer and base coat colours properly.
Black primer - Suitable if you'd like to have your car painted in black, or a very dark colour. It makes it easier to use a black primer, as the darker shade of paint you want - say a very dark blue-black - won't require as many coats to finish. Although, using black primer could have the side effect of making your car's paint look deeper and rich.
Grey primer - This is the most common colour of primer used in most cars during their painting process, as it is the most neutral. This means that it has little effect on the shade of colour that you want, and is also very suitable for metallic-based paints. Therefore, grey primer can be paired with practically any colour, although it does somewhat mute and dull the colour just a bit.
White primer - Another common primer colour, white primer is able to give back the vibrancy and brightness that a grey primer would normally mute out. Again, it's quite a neutral choice, and could be paired with many different colours. However, it's best suited for lighter shades, as the white primer underneath makes it pop.
Red primer - Sometimes chemically known as a 'red oxide' primer, this is best used to smoothen out the imperfections along the bodywork. For example, red primer could be better adapted for covering over scratches and dents. More importantly, that red oxide has a very good anti-corrosion property, so using it on more exposed parts of the bodywork is a great choice to protect against rust. It won't have that much of an impact on the final shade of colour, though it may appear a bit darker.
Primer Colour Can Have An Effect...
So, to the question of whether the colour of primer affects the shade of your car's paint, the answer is a solid 'Yes'. Some might argue that it doesn't matter in the end because you could just paint it over with the base coat. But a mismatched primer and upper coats of paint would need more layers to deliver that hue of colour that you're looking for.
In the end, it's a matter of how much time, effort, and money you're willing to spend to balance out the colour of the primer and the paint as a whole. Unless, of course, that mismatch is intentional in order to give the car its desired finish. But now that you know, maybe it's worth thinking twice before putting a black primer on your soon-to-be bright white car.
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