How to Color Sand Cars


Hours of bodywork, prep work and then spraying a car with multiple coats of color and clear are only part of what makes a great paint job. After the paint has been laid onto the car’s sheet metal, there is invariably going to be orange peel that must be color sanded with wet sandpaper to eliminate. Orange peel is the rough surface that paint exhibits after it is painted and before it is color sanded and buffed out. While the thought of taking sandpaper to a freshly painted surface may not sound appealing, it is simple with the right approach.

Things You'll Need

  • Water
  • Mineral spirits
  • Clean, lint-free tack rags
  • 1,000-, 1,200- and 2,000-grit sandpaper
  • High speed buffer
  • Buffing compound or machine glaze
  • Buffing polish
  • Clean any surfaces that are going to be color sanded with mineral spirits and a clean, lint-free tack rag.

  • Wet the paint thoroughly with clean water. If the orange peel is heavy, start with 1,000- or 1,200-grit sandpaper. If the orange peel is average, use 1,500-grit sandpaper.

  • Soak the sandpaper in water and keep the surface continually moist as you sand the orange peel away. Sand the paint loosely by hand in one direction, constantly adding water as you go.

  • Periodically stop and rinse the sanded paint off of the bodywork as well as the paint that gets on the sandpaper. If the sandpaper gets clogged up, replace it with a fresh piece of sandpaper.

  • Stop and inspect the paint after you have sanded the entire surface. The surface should have a dull, smooth and uniform surface. Any shiny spots that are visible are low spots from the orange peel that need to be sanded out to match nearby areas.

  • Sand the paint with 2,000-grit paper. Keep the surface very wet during this process and continually rinse the surface.

  • Buff the color-sanded finish with a high-speed buffer and a buffing compound such as Mequiar’s Compound Power Cleaner. Use a wool buffing pad to help remove small scratches from the sanding. Apply some buffing compound to the surface and spread it out onto the area with the buffing pad but do not turn the buffer on.

  • Turn the buffer on low and begin buffing back and forth in smooth, consistent motions. Do not press too hard on the buffer or stay in one section too long as this may burn the finish of the paint. Also, do not use the edge of the buffer; use the flat surface.

  • Wax the surface with swirl-removing polish and a softer foam buffing pad. Do not wax the paint for two months.

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