What Is Blending?
Painting a car is surprisingly a very complicated and intricate form of art. One does not simply throw a bucket of paint, and get a pat on the back for a job well done. There's chemistry to it that takes years to master, and a lot more jargon to understand. One of those terms and concepts in automotive paint that you may hear getting thrown around is something called, 'blending'.
As we've all experienced at some point or another, your car isn't an impregnable fortress. There are times when small stone chips and debris gets thrown at your car at speed. Or, maybe someone's been a bit too careless with their keys scraping the paint. In any case, you may need a touch-up or repainting at some point, which is where the art of blending comes in.
What Does It All Mean?
Blending is a process, where you're transitioning the new paint that is being touched up or repaired, onto the old paint around it that was already there. Let's say you're having your bumper repainted whole after a repair job. Blending is a process where the body shop will try their best to match the colour and appearance of the newly-painted bumper, with the rest of the car that was untouched.
It's basically a trick of the eye, an illusion to make it seem as though the bumper was always the exact same colour and finish, matched as perfectly as it can be to the surrounding body panels, like the bonnet, fenders, and so on. This is a common practice, as rather than spending a lot of money painting the whole car, why not just one affected panel or area that needed fixing?
But why do we even need blending? Couldn't you just find the colour codes, get a batch of paint from the manufacturer, and then have that sprayed onto the affected panel? Why need a separate job just for blending them together? Well, it turns out that paints are far more complex than we first thought, and we can't quite easily create a 1:1 match of the old paint finish.
Why Is Blending Necessary?
Paint is very, very difficult to get right. Let's say the workshop has taken orders for the same shade of colour as was painted onto your car originally from the factory, and from the same batch, and it's being painted under ideal and controlled temperature and humidity. Even with the best car paint specialists in the world, the new paint still might not align exactly.
They might even go out of their way to use a fancy spectrophotometer, where practically thousands of different colour variations can be stored and matched. This should narrow the colour sciences down a bit more, perfecting the new batch of colour as closely as possible with the rest of your car. But even still, they might not be close enough.
The slightest colour change can be noticeable. The newly painted area may look darker or lighter than the panels around it. These can be attributed to any number of reasons, though we can mostly point the finger at your car's original paint - in other words, the rest of the unpainted panels that were untouched - may have aged, and become slightly duller or worn over the years.
Alternatively, the paint that they got might not be the right one. Your car manufacturer relies on its paints from more than just one paint company. Each supplier, although they've agreed to a similar set of tones for the paint's appearance, there will be variables. For instance, a different batch will use a unique set of base toners, which will then shift the colour ever so slightly.
How Can You Blend Your Car's Paintwork?
So, you have this contrasting effect that is most unsightly to see? Well, here are a few simple steps at how you can do a blending process on your own car to restore its original looks...
Step 1: Use masking tape to separate the areas of your car that you won't want to blend, and maybe consider some newspaper to cover up the surrounding panels. This is important, as you wouldn't want to blend over the perfectly good parts of your paintwork.
Step 2: Now, we can start to remove a bit of the paint using sandpaper. You don't need a very coarse grade here, as 2,000 grit sandpaper is enough. Start sanding the area that you want to blend, and a bit more around it, careful to not exceed the masked off zones.
Step 3: At this stage, you can start to wash off your car with some water and mild soap. Don't use any wax, and be sure to dry off your car thoroughly afterwards with a microfibre towel.
Step 4: Next up, you can start to apply your base coat colour over the section that you'd want to blend. It's best to use a spray gun, filled with a new batch of matched paint. As you apply the paint, move the spray gun back and forth in a set pattern. You will have to spray over two or three coats at the very least, and remember to wait for each coat to dry before going to the next one. When the base coat layers are done, leave it untouched to dry and settle overnight.
Step 5: Once you've inspected the base coat to see that it matches the rest of the unblended paint on your car, you can move onto the clear coat. Use that spray gun to apply the clear coat, using at least two layers of thin coats until it gets that shiny and glossy finish as with the rest of the car. When that's done, leave your car alone for two days to let the clear coat dry.
Step 6: The next step will be buffing up your car's paint to top it off. After all, the blended paint may still carry tiny imperfections, flecks, impurities, blobs, and so forth. Immerse a 1,500 grit sandpaper in water, and proceed to wet sand the blended paint. Carefully move in uniform strokes, and re-wet the sandpaper if needed. After this, you can move to a finer 2,000 grit to level and smoothen the surface further.
Step 7: Lastly, wash your car after having it sanded to remove all the paint chips. Then, examine your car under sunlight, and see if there's still contrast between the newly blended and unblended surfaces. If so, you can try and wet sand the blended area again.
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