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Coating Application: How To Reduce Marring


Marring can be one of the worst errors to happen during a coating application. How can we reduce the chance of marring?

What causes marring?

Marring can be an issue in a coating application. This would be the number one thing watched out for at all the professional coating installation centers during the process. Marring is very fine, light scratches to the paint work caused by something abrasive. Towels are the number one cause to marring paint while coating a vehicle. The number two reason we will get to later.


In the picture below I applied a coating to this test panel and wiped it off using a standard All Purpose Microfiber Towel that I have washed numerous times now and has seen better days. The results: marring, and with very little effort the panel was severely scratched and we now needed to go back to square one. Just as if it was a car I was working on, I did what was necessary in-order to fix it. Cleaned it off, re-corrected it and we will try again (Not something a paying customer would want to see).

aowheels | coating info

Even a brand new towel can mar the paint surface, it does not take much. Some technique in the wipe down is required in order to avoid marring. The number one thing I would encourage would be over-lap your wipes and don’t stop half way through a wipe.

The first initial wipe is so very important. Always overlap and extend this wipe past the applied area. Continue to try and do the same with every wipe after as well.


If I applied a coating to a 1’x1′ area I would work my wipes in a 2’x2′ area. Really trying to move the coating around so it does not build up.

aowheels | coating info


aowheels | coating info

Coating Build Up:

Or “The Tidal Wave Effect” as I like to call it.

If we put a lot of the professional grade coatings under the microscope after “half wipes”, it would look like a tidal wave is building. The coating is not just building on the paint surface it is also building up in the brand new MF towel as well. Most of the time this could be very hard to recognize or see and feel with the human eye during the process, however it’s still occurring.

I’m not a chemist and couldn’t say this to be a fact. But when you condense coating products after it’s suggested set time (through that first initial wipe and every one after) it begins to flash very fast and or harden, activate etc. This is exactly why we switch that first towel out immediately. However, if you don’t follow through with full over-lapping wipes these little lines will occur (aka the tidal wave). Now much like the towel that was switched out, we have the same problem but on the paint (excessive build up). The coatings are doing their thing, they’re setting themselves. This picture below is obviously excessive and done so purposely, but it shows even if we cant see it. Excessive build up if missed in the application process is what we commonly know as high-spots, and they show up once the coating has fully cured.

aowheels | coating info

The Tidal Wave: Can and will cause marring to the paint. With this tidal wave of condensed product caused by half wipes (not a good wiping technique), condensing the coatings causes the coatings to harden very fast.

Even if we locate it and use a brand new towel, we still hold the risk of marring the paint surface when trying to knock it down. That condensed tidal wave will very quickly get into the towel or pressed along the paint work. I’ve seen people do circular motions and even go at it vigorously trying to catch it before full flash happens. Yes we want it off the paint, however sometimes trying to work too fast without thinking about the manner in which we are wiping will cause disaster. Before getting ready to knock the coating off (the first few initial wipes), have a wiping strategy in mind and towels ready. I prefer to go with the grain if that makes sense (back and forth also up and down). The idea is to overlap your wipes so that you do not create these tidal waves. Obviously there are a lot of things to think about at once (towel pressure, motions, consistency and speed). Towel pressure alone in the first initial wipe could result in few or many high spots.


This is kind of a crazy example but I think it works in order to paint the picture. I took some 3M emblem adhesive and made 2 lines on the test panel. One thick and one thin. If we were to picture these lines as condensed coating build up, which one would be easier to remove? Obviously the thinner (smaller tidal wave) one would have less of a chance to mar the paint surface. As the thicker line (large tidal wave) would need more finessing in order to level it back out. You would need more towels in order to do so as well, which is very similar to the paint coatings.

marring example | aowheels

How to Prevent Marring

The idea of this article would be to apply your coatings without causing any tidal waves. This will reduce the chance of any marring.

We do so with smooth even wipes and the proper towels. If I coated and entire drivers side door for example, I better be ready to extend my wipes the full length of the door without stopping mid-way and to overlap the door on both sides. This technique in removing coatings is key. They are very easy to wipe on, but it’s the removal that matters.

  • All the examples in my article here were extremely excessive in the amounts of product build up. Giving the nature of most paint coatings and the strength they can produce once condensed, this go’s to show it doesn’t take much to marr the sensitive paint surface.


Picking the right towels to use will depend on which coating is being applied and is crucially important (Follow the manufactures suggestions or try new things). I can’t necessarily say an exact towel to use, but for this test I used a standard all purpose microfiber towel brand new right out the bag. Clean brand new towels have the ability to cause marring. They have the ability to pick up what we can’t see and move it around. Take the brand new towel, fold and wipe, fold and wipe etc. with minimal pressure or apply more product to that area to level it back out (if time allows).

Note: This article does not apply to every paint coating

This was a tough one to explain guys and gals, so I hope this makes sense and helps in your coating applications. As always thank you for viewing! If you have questions, I’ll do my best to answer with the best of my knowledge.

Brian Guy
Brian Guy

11 comments on Coating Application: How To Reduce Marring

  1. RC says:

    Very nice article. Could you please elaborate a bit more on when to switch out microfiber towels during the coating removal process? Thank you – RC.

    • Brian Guy says:

      RC, Thank You!

      I’m sure it will be different depending on the coating being used.

      I always switch out or refold the towel after the first initial wipe every single time. I try to never let that portion of the towel touch the paint again.

      I usually have 3 towels (minimum) when wiping a coating off.

      1st) for the initial wipe (picks up most of the product
      2nd) for the more accurate leveling (picks up some product)
      3rd) for the gentle final wipe (picks up very little product)

      I’ll just rotate the towels as needed after their use

      1st) going to bin (not to be of use anymore)
      2nd) being folded to a unused section and rotated to the 1st spot
      3rd) going to the 2nd spot etc (and a brand new towel comes in at the 3rd spot)

  2. Marcel says:

    Thank you so much Brian for explaining this technique. I have been wiping off coating this way since long time ago but you break it down nicely with some example and logic along with it.

    Some coatings have different ‘characteristic’, for example coating A will dry instantly and can be wiped easily with no residue left while coating B needs to be wiped down while still wet. Staying clean and taking the time are two important things for applying coating.


    • Brian Guy says:

      Well said Marcel! Thank You!

      Not all coatings are the same but the manner of wiping is pretty uniform for the most part.

      This was very hard for me to get out of my head and turned into words…. 🙂

  3. Felix says:

    Hey Brian

    I had this happen to my personal car its and 06 subby sti in black I corrected and started on with the coating process using cquk im not positive on how it marred the paint on one of my lower door panels or it was a combination of the suede applicator hardening the coating curing quick and the towel it was my 1st time applying cquk iv never had any issue with optimum any how my question is to fix it I have to go back and polish to remove the marring and recoat it now since its only on the lower half of my door panel can do I have to remove it off the entire panel or can I get away with correcting and coating the lower half of that door ?

    • Brian Guy says:

      Felix, I’m sure you could just spot check it. Re-correct, re-apply etc.

      The only product I feel comfortable with and have knowledge of and polishing on top of the coating without diminishing the value of the coating is Modesta’s P-01A (soft pad, low speed and the marring will be gone) However it’s also acting as a filler to mask the defect. but will do it very well.

      I think most polishes like M205 for example might be to aggressive on top of the coating. I feel it will jeopardize they integrity, durability, capabilities and behavior of what the coating was designed for to stand alone.

      I would just redo the spot from start to finish after the coating has had a good amount of cure time.

      having a black sti is a challenge all together! lol! Such an easy paint to marr…

  4. This is great info-how many times do you use a typical towel before you trash it?

  5. Jimbo says:

    Thanks Brian, great write-up. To get an idea of what your towel description really translates to, can you advise how many towels you might typically use on a car using this method? I’m referring to the one, two, three method you describe above. It sounds like maybe 10-20? Am I in the right ballpark or did I misunderstand your description?

    • Brian Guy says:

      Jimbo, Thank You!

      IMO. It will depend on the coating being used that will vary the amount of towels. That and how quick you’re working with the coating. Setting aside at least 10 towels before starting is a good idea. Re-folding the towels and using different sections will help in not using so many.

  6. Gabriel says:

    Have you ever sprayed on the product?
    I know that you have to use the MF to level out the product.
    But I wonder if you can skip that step if you spray it evenly.

  7. ESHUL RAYHAN says:

    Hi Brian,
    Awesome journal. It might sound funny but I did a paint correction on a black camry with optimum compound II and polished with optimum polish II. Then wiped with IPA solution and applied cquartz uk. But there are some high spots where I applied the coating. How do I fix it?
    I know it’s just a camry…nothing fancy…but I love detailing.
    Thanks in advance.

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