We get so many questions on the subject of applying clear coat over enamel paint. Without the proper knowledge, a painting piece could easily turn into wasted material and time.

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This guide aims to resolve many of these impending questions regarding:

whether clear coat can be applied to enamel paintIs clear coat really necessary?The best clear coat to useTips and trick to get the job done rightCan clear coat be effectively applied to enamel paint?

Many people believe an old myth that clear coat will not stick to enamel paint no matter what. This myth is incorrect and should be discredited.

A clear coat can be applied over enamel paint. Enamel automotive paint will bond easily with clear coat as well. Some of the clear coats used over enamel include Rustoleum and Spray Max 2k.

Clear coat can be applied over most Rustoleum enamel paint. It is recommended to use a Rustoleum clear coat for optimal results since they are also an enamel blend. But other clear coats can be used if you know what you are doing.

Many painters do not recommend lacquer clear coat over fresh enamel because the thinning agent within the lacquer may degrade the enamel paint beneath it. Water based acrylic clear coats can also go over enamels but is known to turn yellowish over time, especially when applied over light colors. Some enamel paints do not bond easily with certain clear coat due to quality differences.

As a general rule for beginners, it is recommended to use matching brands of enamel and clear or matching the type of paint with the same type of clear coat since they are often formulated to work together. For instance, acrylic clear coat over acrylic paint, enamel clear coat over enamel, lacquers over lacquers, and so on.


Is a clear coat necessary for enamel paint?

There are many types of enamel paints: For cars there are ones that needs a top clear coat and a single-stage system that does not require clear coat.

For other paint projects, there are water base, oil base and other types of enamel paint. The enamel is basically an additive added to standard paint blends to give it its hard enamel characteristics.

A clear coat is not always required after every paint job. Depending on the application and the type of enamel paint used, it may or may not require a clear coat.

Hobbyists and modelers often use the enamel paint on their crafts for decoration and to add durability.

Enamel paints can be used on:

PropsDoorsTrimCarsCabinetsDecksCabinet fixturesHandrailsAppliances

A clear coat not only makes the appliance look more glamorous and shiny, it changes the reflective index, changing the type and level of the gloss. It also increases the overall thickness of the painted layer.

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Old can of enamel paint

However, there are some other advantages associated with applying a clear coat over enamel paint. Some of those advantages are as follow:Advantages of clear coatsThe clear coat protects the applied surface from ultraviolet rays from the sun, which may cause the enamel paint on a car to fade and wear prematurely. By adding a clear coat, your vehicle or appliance will appear new for a more extended period.

Drawbacks to clear coatsMost clear coats applied on enamel are harder and resistant to oxidation; although they are known to be sensitive when it comes to scratches. It’s a good idea to be extra careful when using polishing compounds or abrasive rubbing on them.

Since most clear coats lack pigments, they are impervious to fading and discoloration. But depending on where you are storing the appliance, and how well it is maintained, the clear coat is likely to become dull.

To avoid this problem, store the item to prevent it from coming into extended contact with direct sunlight or ultraviolet rays. Some of these surface contaminants like bird dropping, acid rain, airborne pollutants, rain dust, industrial fallout, and bug splatter can make clear coat look dull.

The surface contaminant will accumulate on the appliance, hence reducing the reflective quality of the clear coat. To prevent these, you can remove the contaminants using Meguiar quilck detailer or a similar product and regularly cleaning the appliance.


Deciding whether to add clear coat or not

The clear coat will ultimately determine the appearance of the piece being painted. It is termed as one of the essential parts of a furniture or piece. If going for a glossy look, then clear coat will definitely be a good choice.

It is also important to consider the protective qualities noted above in the decision process.

Best clear coats to apply over enamel for cars
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Spray painting clear coat onto car body shell

It is crucial to choose the right clear coat to apply over enamel paint. We will tackle some of the best clear coats you are likely to find on the market today and details about each of them.

1. Spray Max 2k high gloss clearcoat

Spray Max 2k consists of two components required for clear coating on enamel paint so that no mixing is needed. The clear coat has valve technology and a special nozzle, which ensures even spraying.

It consists of two internal chambers that ensure the paint is mixed in the right ratio.

It is not only applicable over enamel paint; it can also be applied to any other base paints.

If you decide to use this clear coat, it will dry in more or less 12 hours. Another advantage of this clear coat is that it is very resistant to wear and tear.

You should be aware once you mix this clear coat, it should not exceed 48 hours while in the pot before applying it.Advantages• Well-designed nozzle• It resists external elements easily.• Easy and straightforward to useDrawbacks• It can’t be stored in the pot for long after mixing.• It takes a while to dry.

2. Sherwin Williams Finish 1

This Sherwin Williams clear coat may be applied over enamel paint on any hardware. It is recommended to use this clear coat to attain a durable and professional enamel paint finish.

It contains UV protection that will protect the enamel paint from fading.Advantages• It doesn’t take long to dry.• UV protection• Excellent glossDrawbacks• It isn’t easy to buff when it dries.

3. Speedokote 2K Urethane

The SpeedoKote 2K Urethane clear coat is well known in the car industry. The clear coat is UV-resistant and resistant to dirt. It is also known for the provision of superior chemicals.Advantages• Superior UV, chemical and dirt protection• It is easy to apply.• Fast cure

4. Finish 1 2K Urethane

The Finish 1 2K urethane automotive clear coat is known as an excellent choice for spot repairs. It also shows long-lasting shine and gloss features.Advantages• It is made from great ingredients.• It has long-lasting gloss and shines characteristics.• It is easy to apply.

Drawbacks• It may take more than a day to dry.• The clear coat cannot withstand alcohol.

Factors to consider when choosing a clear coatTransparency: It is essential to look for a clear coat that will not impede the color of the painted surface beneath it.Gloss level: Since we want to improve the vehicle or furniture, it is crucial to choose a clear coat with a gloss level of more than 90 units. It will make the appliance look shiny and new.Ease of application: Look for a clear coat that will be easy to apply.Scratch resistance: we all know how cars are prone to scratches; it is vital to consider a clear coat that is scratch resistant.How to apply a clear coat over enamel paint

It is essential to let the enamel paint dry for at least a day or as otherwise instructed, before applying the clear coat. If you do not do this, that may botch the finish and you might not be impressed with the end results. It can end up with clacks and bubbles forming due to reducer vapors trying to escape.

1. Prepping

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Can of enamel paint after painting project

Take your time with each step. It’s essential to do this because the key to a good paint job is the prep work.

When using clear coats that are packaged in non-spray can or jars, shaking the jar may incorporated bubbles, which may tamper with the finish. It is recommended to gently stir for 2-3 minutes until all the ingredients are mixed well.

It is also necessary to avoid moisture at all costs. Too much humidity may cause the clear coat to turn foggy. It is also recommended not to paint on hot or rainy days. The optimum temperature for painting is said to be around 72ºF.

 2. First Coat

When using a sprayer, the rule of thumb is 6 to 8 inches away from the surface. And spraying in long smooth and even pattern.

Wait until the coat has dried before attempting to fix any imperfections.

To achieve a smooth finish with hand brushing, a painting sponge or paintbrush can used.

Apply in one direction to avoid the addition of texture, while making sure not to overlap.

3. Finishing coat

Enamel paint tend to require around 3 coats of clear.

If there are adherence issues, most painters recommend wet sanding the surface then reapplying the clear coat.

Always exercise caution when sanding to avoid accidentally causing more damage by burrowing through to the actual paint color. Remember it is very important to use personal safety equipment such as masks and respirators when working with spray paints.

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Final verdictYou can successfully apply a clear coat over enamel paint. Choosing the type of clear coat to apply may be hard at times, but if you are sure of what you want and the characteristics of the end product, it will be an easy task.