Does Single Stage Paint Need a Clear Coat?

Generally speaking, a Single Stage Paint isn’t supposed to require a clear coat finish because it already has the clear primer, color, and shine factor in it. However, coarse Single Stage paints like metallic ones require a clear coat over basecoats for a high gloss Single Stage finish and also to resist fade.

Now, you may question why show car guys spray clear coat on Single Stage paint and is spraying an extra layer of clear coat over spray paint worth it? But first, let’s understand the difference between clear coat and Single Stage paint.

Single Stage Paint VS Clear Coat: What’s The Difference?

People often get confused about the difference between Single Stage paint and clear coat. They think they are the same thing. Or they think that clear coat is the final transmission of the car’s paint job. These are common misconceptions, but it’s time to set the record straight.

There is a big difference between Single Stage paint and clear coat! Single Stage paint contains color pigment and resin, whereas a clear coat is simply a layer of transparent resin. Most of the Single Stage paints are softer than a clear coat and requires an extra layer of sealant to protect the paint.

Using a clear coat on Single Stage Paint is like adding on an extra application on top of the paint which ultimately leads to more layers of paint that has to dry by itself.

A lot of people in the past preferred using a clear coat over the Single Stage paint to restore the shine finish or to seal the paint, which is often referred to as 2-part stage paint. Duo or 2-stage paint refers to painting the car first with base paint and then topping it off with a clear coat to protect the paint.

What Is the Purpose of Applying of Clear Coat On Single Stage Paint?

The reason why many people shoot an extra layer of a clear coat on Single Stage paint actually depends on the resin’s type used to make the paint and also the pigment. Many people choose to apply a clear coat on top of Single Stage paint to enhance the finished look with a glossy finish. Another reason to apply a clear coat over stage paint is to protect the paint and extend the longevity of the shine factor. That said, will it harm to put clear on stage paint?

Can You Use a Clear Coat On Single Stage Paint?

Actually, many custom car painters shoot clear coats over a Single Stage paint. They do that because the clear coat paint’s layer shows better glass and flatters the Single Stage paint finish.

Although clear coat on Single Stage paint improves the appearance and longevity of Single Stage paint, we have seen our forum members face clear coat failures. Rest assured, you don’t have to worry if you understand the following precautions of applying clearing coats on Single Stage paints.

First, the clear coat must be of the same family as the Single Stage paint. Also, the Single Stage paint needs to be cured before laying off clear on it. Each type of Single Stage paint has a window of time before you can apply a clear coat. What does this mean?

It means you must pay attention to several factors before shooting a clear coat on Single Stage paint. The clear coat needs to be compatible with the paint you used for the Single Stage. Also, applying a urethane type of clear coat over acrylic enamel Single Stage paint can mess up the paint. Second, it won’t be a good idea to put a clear coat on Single Stage paint before first curing and sanding.

Some people consider shooting a clear coat on Single Stage paint to cover cracks or chips, which is another mistake. If you have peels, chips, cracks, or oxidation, the clear coat won’t bond properly to the Single Stage paint causing the clear to flake off.

Can You Use a Clear Coat Over Old Single Stage Paint?

If you apply a clear coat over old Single Stage paint before sanding, in most cases, the clear coat will not stick well to the paint. The paint may look fine initially, but the first impact will cause it to chip off. So, applying a clear coat over old Single Stage paints will lead to paint failure eventually. Also, applying a clear coat over new Single Stage paint too soon can cause it to haze over.

The problem that many people have is waiting too long to apply a clear coat. They wonder if they have waited too long after painting and if it even matters. In short, yes, it does matter. It’s a well-known fact that a Single Stage paint will start to chip and peel off the longer it sits without a clear coat being applied over the top. This brings us to the next important question: how long should you wait to use a clear coat over new Single Stage paint?

When Should You Apply a Clear Coat Over New Single Stage Paint?

Depending on the Single Stage paint’s type, it could flake off if you apply a clear coat right away after painting. There are 2 different types of Single Stage paint that are popular today. The difference between these 2 paints is that one dries harder than the other. The difference in the hardeners used to harden each paint are called catalysts.

If you have catalyzed Single Stage paint, you will only have a window of time to wait before applying a clear coat. This time span varies based on climate, temperature, humidity, and other factors. It isn’t long, so make sure not to miss it or else you could be having paint issues down the line, which would include needing to repaint your car again because you missed this step.

It’s true that Single Stage and urethane clear coats don’t require you to wait as long as two-stage clear coats before they can be applied. But if you’re working with anything but multi-stage paintwork, you actually have three different types of Single Stage paint: Enamel, Acrylic and Semi-gloss. Each of these is set with a different type of curing agent. This factor affects the time you should wait before applying a clear coat.

Does Single Stage Paint Need a Hardener Before Clear Coating?

Over the years, I have learned something interesting from paint companies – clear coat can make a big difference for Single Stage paint, including urethane Single Stage paint. They would often spray a urethane-based clear coat over the Single Stage paint and call it their deluxe finish.

But the clear coat for urethane Single Stage color paint does require a catalyst to stick the clear coat on it. You’ll require to mix a hardener with the urethane-based clear coat before spraying; otherwise, it won’t stick.

Does Single Stage Paint Has Clear in It?

Technically speaking, Single Stage paints do not have the clear in them; otherwise, why would one require paint protections, base coat, and sealer on it?! However, it’s a fact that duo or 2 staged single paint does have some amount (very thin) of clearing in it but not similar to clear coats.


So, is it worth applying a clear coat on Single Stage paint? The choice to apply a clear coat over a Single Stage paint is ultimately a matter of personal preference. As you know, Single Stage paint already contains a clear and base. This gives the car UV protection and gloss. So additional layer of the clear coat doesn’t make much sense.

However, if you want more shine on your car, you may consider clearing over it. Other than that, consider using a good sealant or wax for protecting the Single Stage paint from oxidization as applying a clear coat on top of a Single Stage paint is more about imparting a glossy finish and has little to do to improve the paint’s durability.

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