Car Paint & The Different Finishes Available

Worker painting a car

As you can imagine, car’s have to combat quite a beating. Rain, bird poop, bugs, and dirt are just a few elements a car must endure. So what makes vehicle paint so tough, and what are the differences between other finishes available?

Difference Between Car Paint and Regular Paint

There are many types of paint and finishes available for various materials, and each of these options all have different properties and attributes:


Perhaps the biggest difference between automotive paint and other types is the adhesiveness to metal. Paint that works well on canvas, or wood, won’t work on a car because it isn’t designed to stick to metal. 

Weather Resistance

The exposure to different external factors is another factor impacting paint. Interior house paint will never have to deal with the environmental elements car paint faces, so the paint isn’t manufactured to withstand it.

Vehicle in heavy rain


Paint density relates to the thickness. Interior paint needs to be thick for longevity and also so only few coats are needed. For a car, high density paints will affect aerodynamics and weight. It can be inefficient to apply such a dense paint to a vehicle’s exterior.

These three differences are why you can’t simply purchase a tin of interior paint to patch up your vehicle’s paint. We wish it was that simple, but unfortunately a car requires paint that is suited for the elements it gets exposed to.

A Short History of Car Paint

Car Duco

Duco is a common Australian term to describe a vehicle’s exterior paint. However, duco actually hasn’t been used to paint vehicles since the 1960’s. Invented in the 1920’s by the company DuPont, duco was a lacquer used to finish a vehicle. Whilst innovative at the time, better technology has left it in the past.

Dupont logo

Over the decades, new technologies, laws, and new findings have altered the process and materials used for automotive painting. For example, lead was a prominent element used within car paint, and environmental regulations shifted car paint from a lacquer base, to an enamel base.

Enamel Paint

Currently, modern cars are finished with water-based acrylic polyurethane enamel paint. Applied through several layers, the total thickness is around 0.1mm. To ensure a quality finish, car paint is applied using specialised robotic machinery.

Car paint and finish types

Solid paint

‘Solid’ vehicle paint is the most common finish available. Low-cost and quick for car manufacturers to apply, from a production point of view it is a very popular option that still gives consumers a wide range of colours to choose from. 

Metallic paint

A shiny and more impressive finish, metallic paint has a small amount of aluminium powder mixed into it. These aluminium particles reflect light, providing that sparkle associated with this form of automotive paint. 

This paint is available for most cars when buying brand new from a dealership, at a small increase of price. Something to be aware of however is that it can be difficult to repair, as matching the colour and shine is a complicated process.

Pearlescent paint

By mixing ceramic crystals with the paint, light both reflects and refracts, giving pearlescent paint depth and an iridescent look that other paints can’t achieve. This style is very easy on the eyes, but can be easily marked, and repair can be a nightmare.

Matte finishes

This finish may look high class, but it’s also high maintenance. Matte finishes achieve their look by absorbing light, and typically are only available in greyscale colours. They are notorious for being expensive, and can often provide more hassle than they’re worth. 

If you take your car care seriously, and can commit to regularly using car shampoo and polish, matte can be a good option. However, if you don’t have the time to frequently clean and wash your car, stay away from this finish.

purple matte finish on SUV

The Final Layer

As you can see, there’s quite a lot of things to take into consideration when thinking about car paint. If you’re about to purchase a vehicle, take into consideration the different paint finishes available for cars.

However, if you’re looking for a company to handle repairing your damaged car paint, you can read about our car paint repair service, or contact Adams Smash Repairs today to discuss how we can help get your car back to its shiny best.

Adams Smash Repair logo

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Adams Smash Repairs worker folding his arms with two damaged cars lifted up

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