How to Match Auto Paint

A Man with protective clothe painting a car using spray compressor.
Car paint is used for protective and decorative purposes. Group4 Studio / Getty Images

Let's say you get a little scratch or a ding on your car. You'd like to match the exact color to have it repaired and looking good. If your car is older, the colors might not be easy to find. So how do you match auto paint? First, you need to know a few things about automotive paint:

  • Automotive paint is made of resin, pigment and solvent.
  • Resin determines the durability of your paint and the quality of the application [source: autobodysupply].
  • Solvent provides the right amount of viscosity, so the paint can be applied [source: autobodysupply].
  • Pigment comes in powder form and includes colors or toners that are mixed together to give the finish.

When choosing a color to match your car:


  1. Find the color code for the original paint on your car. You'll need the manufacturer's name, the car's model number and the year the car was manufactured. With this information, you may be able to find your car's color code on the manufacturer's Web sites, but it depends on the age of your car. You can also find your car's color code on the car's identification plate (sometimes called the Service Parts Identification) [source: robertspaintcare].
  2. Take the color code to an auto body supply shop or repair shop and order the paint. Keep in mind that some cars may have two tones and need two or more paint colors [source: autobodysupply].
  3. Mix the paint until you get the exact color you need: start with the variations in lightness and darkness and adjust the hue until it matches. Always blend the color to achieve a color match. Even if the color looks close enough, blend it! Remember, you don't want the color of the spot you're repairing to be too light or too dark, and you have a lot of variables to deal with [source: autobodysupply]. Matching the exact color is especially important when spot repairing.