Tips & Tricks

Clear coat or gloss?

I spend a bit of time in Facebook groups, both taking in and handing out tips and tricks. You can never stop learning in this hobby. One of the things that I see a lot is the confusion about what clear coats are for. So I thought I’d clear it up (no pun intended) for those who might be a little confused.

Just like colour options, clear comes in flat, semi-gloss and gloss. And they do different things. I’ve seen people ask whether they should spray “gloss” on parts that they want to remain flat. Obviously, no you shouldn’t because then the flat colour will become glossy.

But what you should do is apply a flat clear to them. Again, some people have the impression that clear coats are for polishing. And while that is one use for it, it’s not the only use. Clear coats help protect the colour. And this is why you should be careful about the clear that you choose.

I’m sure we’ve all sprayed flat black on a large part (maybe a chassis or interior) and found that it scratches easily. You can fix that by applying some light coats of flat clear. This puts a protective layer over the colour, so any bumps or scratches will affect the clear first.

You can do the same with semi-gloss parts. Maybe a dashboard, seats, engine components, etc. The clear isn’t there so you can polish them up, but it will protect the parts. And we’ve all had a dashboard looking amazing, only to have it scratched when trying to fit the body to the chassis.

And lastly, the full gloss clear. This is the one that’s used for polishing, although it can also just be used for protection without polishing. If you’re going to use this on a body, make sure to apply plenty of coats, wait for it to dry completely and wet-sand before polishing. This will give you a smooth, shiny finish.

Another great functionality of clear coats is that it can change the sheen level of parts. In Australia, about once a year, we go through a phase where finding Tamiya semi-gloss black is a nightmare. We can go months without it. So what to do? Spray the parts with flat black, then apply some semi-gloss clear and just like that <insert sound of clicking fingers here> your parts will have that semi-gloss finish.

So be careful about the terms “clear” and “gloss”. They seem like interchangeable words, but they’re two very different things!

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