What you need to know for a rattle-can DIY paint job


Aerosol or rattle-can paint gets a bad rap from the collector car cadre. But using a premixed factory match color in an aerosol can is a viable way for the do-it-yourselfer to finish up scratches, rust outs, color-match spoilers and trim, or go for the 1980s-perfect monochrome Euro look from wiper arms and mouldings out to the wheel centers.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2018/11/07/rattle-can-diy-paint-job


The 2k clearcoat in a can is legit!


How do you do a " soft mask line"? I always end up damaging the original paint on the other side of the masking line. Trying to get rid of the ridge.


Typically you should work to a mould or trim line which would hide you joint. If you don’t have a removable moulding work to a body profile line and use 2" masking tape that you roll back side-to-side across the 2" & tape back to the masking above or below. That gives you a “soft” edge. Along that "soft edge, spray away from the masking tape, not toward it. That way you’re not creating an edge under the tape.You may want to peel the tape back further before applying clear coat to help feather out the line at the body line.


There is a local auto paint store that offers PPG single-stage in a spray can. They can either match to a paint code or they can scan a sample and work from that. When I originally painted my “restored” VW Beetle I used single-stage so it is very easy to renew that shine. I have recently refurbished the car again and this included some rust-remediation and so I did quite a bit of spray-bombing over the original paint with the PPG. Because the aerosol is also single-stage I built it up and then color-sanded to get a beautiful shine and there is still plenty of patina to give the car some character.


Many local auto paint stores now will match the paint to both the paint code and they go out to car to to a final visual match then the paint is put into a spray can. Going out to the car is signs of a good paint store. I just fixed my neighbors car and it came out great. The only issue is it is best to do a whole section of the car, not just a little area. Certain paints will not blend well. Metallic paints do not blend well. So just paint the whole bumper or side piece. Make sure the area is preped well. If you are dealing with scratches first try a DA with Meguiar’s 105 compound to see if the scratches will come out. If you can feel it with a fingernail chances are you will have to paint it. SprayMax 2K clear is a great product. You have to shake the can for two minutes then break the hardener seal and shake again for another two minutes before using. The can is good for 24 hours once the seal is broken. Make sure you were the correct dust mask and clothing with SprayMax. I use the 3M Mask Cartridge system. After the paint put on 4 layers of Spraymax and waited ten minutes before each layer. I did mine in the garage. Do not paint outside when there is wind and bugs flying around. With the first layer just put on a very light coat. With Spraymax 2K you can get a run out with compound and a DA but try to paint with even strokes. I also painted a motorcycle with a rattle can and Spraymax 2K and it came out very nice.


I had my '69 Mustang convertible stripped to bare metal after experiencing a micro burst on the Great Divide in Wyoming in 2009. The paint shop was supposed to repaint it in the factory color, Meadowlark Yellow, but they came in slightly lighter. CA has switched over to water based two stage paints and they couldn’t seem to match the color. Later I needed some touch up for door edges and went to a local Finish Masters automotive paint store where they scanned the driver’s side fender. The touchup matches perfectly and I now have a formula for the paint. I hit a deer in the hills a couple of years ago and all I had to do was provide the body shop with the formula on the lid of my touchup can and, bingo, the repaired front fender came out a perfect match.


I was taught to leave the edge of the masking tape pulled away from the surface which works quite well, and of course feather your pattern, or you can buy a soft edge masking tape at your paint store.


I’m sorry, not trying to be a snob but I disagree with the first paragraph of this article. Rattle can isn’t a “viable way for the do-it-yourselfer to finish up scratches, rust outs” and especially “color-match spoilers and trim”.
Rattle can paints are excellent for small brackets, braces, old looking suspension parts, crossmembers and other such bits. But NOT the body. I’ve been away from the collision/body repair industry for nearly 40 years but aerosol paint work on the body of a car always sticks out like an out-house in the fog.
If this is where an owner claims their job turned out terrific, then satisfaction threshold is low or he got so lucky with color match, metallic, texture, adhesion and blending that I hope he also bought a power-ball ticket the same day. Paint codes get you close, but UV, weather and age all play a part. And you’re definitely not duplicating the conditions like humidity and air pressure and spray pattern that were originally used with the paint job being “matched”. Not to mention dirt, dust and other contaminants in the air.


Great article for the financially challenged, I enjoy doing alot with a little.


Thank you for the tips. I’ve always wondered how to get a “soft” line, and it never occurred to me that the direction of the spray would matter.

Makes perfect sense once it’s been pointed out, though!

  • Jim


Well, it appears that the repair here is using a one part paint. Up until recently you could only buy a spray can with one part paint in it. Most were lacquer and or some variation of same. Today lo and behold you can buy 2 part urethane paint in a spray can. Including 2 part clear coat. The cans are expensive BUT give you the same paint used by body shops and or factory original paint. They are mixed on the spot to your specs. Using these cans one can do a repair similar to the one above and get a paint job as good as any body shop can do. Matching old colors is a magicians trick if the car is aged any. The paint shop can come close if you take in something from the car such as the gas cap cover. Good luck in your endeavors.


While I would have agreed with you several years ago, there are now two part urethane finishes in a can which perform flawlessly and have the durability of the original paint.


Yes they have better quality paints these days. But probably still not as good as a modern shops. But primers are still suspect and adhesion is at least as much a function as prep, cleanliness and material as the quality of the top coat used. Some surfaces like the front bumper of a GTO will require a flex additive in primer AND paint.
And you’re still stuck with the spray pattern given to you by the rattle can…which btw will change since pressure will change as the can is used up. Since your not using any catalysts and not in a filtered booth, you’re almost certain to get dirt in that top coat and only some of it will be removable with wet sanding. None of this was covered in an article entitled “What you need to know …”.
Again, not wanting to come off as a snob because I think there’s a place that for rattle can paint. But you start blending on a hood, quarter or deck lid with it and it’s going to be about as invisible as a giraffe in a flock of sheep. And likely to depreciate the car more than the cost of what a professional at a decent shop would’ve charged.
I like doing more with less too. Just on the positive side. I’ve seen a lot of nice solid cars with these kind of repairs. I guess if the owner is happy…fine. But it just makes me shake my head.


Sorry didn’t see your post til now. The new spray cans available only at an auto paint store are TWO part paint!!! You push a supplied button on the bottom of the can and it breaks a seal putting the catalyst and paint together. The can needs to be used within 24 hrs. The quality of the spray nozzle on these cans is far better than you’ve ever used before. True they are not for blending on a hood etc. The shop mixes the paint not you. The quality of the job can be stunning although it is for small jobs. BYI, most modern two part paints no longer need a flex additive. You can and I have resprayed bumpers with results as good as any shop.


AFAIK, just being a two-part (epoxy or catalyst) doesn’t avoid the need for a flex additive. The materials expand/contract at different rates and the part by it’s nature is flexible. As for results, color me skeptical. Photos are good if they’re honest.


The newer two part paints are urethanes and the flex aspect needed for bumpers is, I have been told, already in the paint. Any photos here are not mine so I can’t comment on them but believe me when I tell you these new two part cans are absolutely amazing if you’re doing something small. The first job I did was on a bumper of a new Honda which was scraped. After filling the gouge and laying on the primer, sanding etc., I sprayed the finish with one of these new cans. The results were astounding. It was white paint and the clear coat was already in the can. With color repairs you can get cans with only clear coat. These cans are not cheap, but provide a easy and very effective result on small jobs.