How To Smooth Out Touch Up Car Paint (5-Step Guide)

Last Updated On March 24, 2023

Are you smoothing out your touch-up paint, and need some professional touch-up tips?

Our auto body guys have put in the work to give you all the right solutions. 

In this guide, you'll learn:

  • What you need to know about touching up car paint
  • Supplies you'll need to DIY touch-up paint on your car
  • The step-by-step process of touching up car paint
How To Smooth Out Touch Up Car Paint (5-Step Guide)

We know that hiring a pro for touch up is expensive, so use our online guides and tools to successfully DIY your next touch-up job — and smooth it out to perfection. 

So, before you do smooth out the touch-up paint on your car, I recommend you read this quick guide.

What You Need To Know About Smoothing Out Touch Up Paint On Car

Smoothing out touch-up paint is a relatively quick process, whether it's chip repair or detailing a panel after it has been repainted. 

Be Aware Of Car Paint Layers

Your car's paint job is painted in these layers:

  • Primer
  • Basecoat
  • Clearcoat

After the clear coat, the car should ideally be coated with either a layer of wax or be covered with a clear ceramic coating that protects the body from small scratches and rock chips.

Touchup Paint Drying Time

Touchup paint dries quickly, so you can go ahead and send it to the detail department 30 minutes or so after touchup.

Full body panel repaints from a body shop, however, will take more like 24 hours before being ready for sand, buff, and wax.

Sand, Buff, And Wax In A Circular Motion 

If you want your job to come out like a professional detailer, use circular motions without applying very much pressure. 

Easy does it when working with electric buffers and dual-action sanders – place them onto the body panel first before turning them on, and let them work their magic.

There's no need to press down unless you are sanding off a significant amount of excess paint.

Correctly Matching The Paint Color

Haven't applied the touch-up paint yet? Don't forget to buy the touch-up paint that matches the color code located on the inside of the driver's door. 

Buy a cheap paint pen for small spots, and a small bottle of paint for use with an airbrush or automotive paint sprayer for large paint repair spots.

Read More >> How Much Does It Typically Cost To Paint A Car's Hood?

Supplies You’ll Need For Smoothing Out Touch Up Paint On A Car 

Here’s a master list of everything you need to for smoothing up touch-up paint.

Microfiber towels

Thicker microfiber towels work great when drying off the car after the car wash, and the thinner microfiber towels are ideal for wiping off the affected surface when wet sanding, buffing, and waxing. 

Rubbing compound

Rubbing compound/correction compound is a detailing essential used with an electric/pneumatic buffer or hand applicator with the power to completely restore old paint jobs.


When performing bodywork and detailing, you'll need everything from 80-grit to 3000-grit sandpaper.

A sanding block or sanding sponge works great when working by hand.

For this particular task, wet sanding will require anywhere from 1500-3000 grit sandpaper.

Chemical solvents 

Chemical solvents will help when removing excess paint when smoothing out a touch-up job. Solvents won't always be needed in this process.

Carnauba wax

Finish up the job by applying either wax or a ceramic coating to the paint job. Wax helps repel dirt and UV rays for a longer-lasting paint job.

Applicator pads

Whether you are using a machine or your hands, you'll want an applicator pad. 

Electric and pneumatic buffers usually have velcro attachable applicator pads that make the job easy when detailing the entire car.

Read More >> How Much Does It Usually Cost To Paint A Car?

How To Smooth Out Touch Up Paint On Car (5-Step Guide)

Now that you've gathered all the supplies you'll need to touch up your car's paint, let's walk through the step-by-step process on how to do it right!

(You can click on any of the links below to jump ahead to that step.)

  1. Clean the surface
  2. Wet sand
  3. Paint correction
  4. Wax OR ceramic coating
  5. Inspect results

Step 1 - Clean the surface

Cleaning up touch-up paint is best done on a clean surface, so give your car a good wash before continuing.  This will give your paint the best chance of adherence possible.

Step 2 - Wet sand

Wet sanding with high-grit sandpaper(1500-3000 grit) sandpaper will help blend the old paint with the new.

Use whatever method available for wet sanding (hand applicator, buffer, dual-action sander, etc.) just make sure the sandpaper is very wet. 

If you are wet sanding with electric or pneumatic assistance, it won't take much to get the affected area prepped for buffing. Just a quick pass for a few seconds should do it.

Step 3 - Paint correction

Buffing the paint job with rubbing compound/polishing compound is a go-to for making the paint job look better.

Whether you are trying to make the touch-up paint blend into the original paint, or removing the faded paint to reveal a fresh new layer underneath, there's nothing better than Meguiar's paint correction compound.

If you're using an electric buffer with variable speed, the higher speeds work the best with rubbing compound.

Apply a few small drops onto the applicator pad, place the pad onto the body panel, and then turn the buffer on at a higher speed (something like 1500 RPM).

Step 4 - Wax OR Ceramic Coating

If you don't have a ceramic coating(see step 5) use a carnauba wax to protect the paint from dirt UV damage

Wax can be applied with either a hand applicator or with a power buffer. Waxing can be done at lower RPM, and waxing is a faster service than paint correction. 

Just apply a few drops of wax to the applicator, apply it to the surface of the car, and then wipe off the excess with a microfiber towel.

ceramic coating is a clear film installed over the detailed paint job that eliminates the need for waxing and protects the paint from small dings and scratches. 

We highly recommend you consult your local detail shop about putting a ceramic coating on your car because it will help the paint job last longer, and it also makes cleaning the exterior easy because you basically just have to douse it with water when it gets dirty.

Step 5 - Evaluate results

Taking a step back to inspect results is always a good practice when auto-detailing, especially when performing the work for a customer.

Before calling it a day, use a flashlight to examine the area you are working on. 

Move the car into different lighting, sunlight, and shade to make sure you are satisfied and prevent the customer from bringing the car back unsatisfied later on.

Look at the surrounding paint, and ask yourself if the affected area looks the same. 

Did you know: It can cost anywhere from $150 to $500 to fix a car's paint job depending on where you go.  Just another great reason to learn to DIY it!

Other Valuable Resources On How To Smooth Out Touch Up Paint On Car

To be honest, the touch-up paint that comes in small containers will be hard to completely blend in with the paint job. 

Small paint chips/rock chips and scratches clean up great with traditional touch-up paint, but if you want larger areas to look like new again, you'll have to opt for a complete repaint of the body panel with spray paint.

Tip: Some paint scratch areas will come off simply by buffing it out with a correction compound. 

Meet Your Pro Paint Corner Author

Ryan Nichols

Ryan Nichols

I first painted professionally in my late teens. I have painted everything from long military base walls to spraying cedar wood siding on cabins in the mountains of Utah. I am also an automotive technician with plenty of auto body and paint experience. In my spare time, I even enjoy artistic oil painting.

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Ryan Nichols

Ryan Nichols

I first painted professionally in my late teens. I have painted everything from long military base walls to spraying cedar wood siding on cabins in the mountains of Utah. I am also an automotive technician with plenty of auto body and paint experience. In my spare time, I even enjoy artistic oil painting.

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