4 Essential Steps to Getting Wet Looking Paint

Every car owner wants that super glossy paintwork, but it can be hard to achieve if you don’t know how. There are actually several different steps that go into getting that wet-look finish. If you miss out a single one, you’ll be left with lack lustre results.

In this article, I’ll be going through the 4 essential steps to getting glossy wet looking paintwork. So let’s get started.

The Quick Answer

The first thing you need to do when trying to make your car’s paint look glossy and wet, is to wash it thoroughly, strip the old wax, and decontaminate it using a clay bar and iron remover. Then you can refine the finish using a compound followed by polishing. Using a glaze after paint correction can add more depth to your finish. Then use a natural Carnauba wax to complete the glossy wet look.

Steps to get glossy wet-looking paint

  • Wash and clean the paint using a wax stripping shampoo, tar remover, iron remover and clay bar.
  • Compound and polish the paint to remove clear coat imperfections or use a glaze to enhance the shine and add some pop to the paintwork.
  • Protect the paint and add extra gloss using a natural Carnauba based wax.

Get the Paintwork Squeaky Clean

The first thing you need to do is get your paintwork completely clean. Now I’m not talking about just giving it a good wash, that would be way too easy. You need to make sure the paintwork is completely free from any contaminants and old layers of wax that aren’t removed by routine washing.

Here’s my step by step process for getting ultra clean paintwork.

Perform a Safe Routine Wash

The first thing you need to do, is your normal routine wash. Give your car a good rinse with a pressure washer, coat it in snow foam, let it dwell for a few minutes then rinse it again.

Next, coat the car in snow foam again and wash the car as normal using a microfiber wash mitt (never a sponge). Keep rinsing your wash mitt down between washing sections.

I like to use the maintenance shampoo from the brand Garage Therapy.

Check out this complete guide to washing your car without causing scratches.

Use a Wax Removing Shampoo

I never advise using dish washing soap on a car’s paint to strip the wax because I think it’s way too harsh and makes the car more prone to rusting. Instead I use a decon shampoo (e.g. Garage Therapy /ZERO: Decon Shampoo) specifically designed to remove old layers of wax.

Once I’ve been over the car with this shampoo, I’ll rinse and dry the car using a plush microfiber towel.

Decontaminate the Paintwork

The next thing you need to do to get your paint squeaky clean, is to decontaminate it. Your car is exposed to loads of different contaminants every day like tar, tree sap, bird mess and iron fallout, and they can’t be removed by routine washing.

They bond to the paintwork and cause it to feel rough, and look dull. You can remove these contaminants by chemical or physical decontamination methods.

Chemical decontamination includes iron and tar remover sprays.

Physical decontamination involves using clay bar.

Make sure you check out my complete guide to claying to learn some essential tips to make the process safer and more effective.

Refine the Finish

The next thing you need to do to get glossy wet looking paint, is to refine the finish. Your car’s paint has two main layers: the base coat (the colour) and the clear coat.

The clear coat sits on top of the base coat and is designed to protect it from UV rays and other contaminants which can cause fading over time.

However, this clear coat is very delicate and can be scratched very easily. This is often done when washing the car improperly, for example, using a sponge, not enough lubrication, or using bathroom towels instead of microfiber towels to dry the car.

These clear coat scratches can only be seen directly in bright light. However, in all lighting, they cause the car to look dull.

In order to get glossy wet looking paint, the clear coat must be completely flat. The only way to do this permanently, is by removing the scratches.

There are two techniques you can use to do this: polishing, and compounding.

Compounding is performed first, and cuts the paint quickly to flatten the clear coat. However, it can leave some hazing, so it’s followed by polishing. Polishes are much more mild and less aggressive so refine the paintwork to a mirror finish.

Before polishing and compounding
After polishing and compounding

It’s important to not do this too often because you only have so much clear coat to work with. If you keep scratching the paint and then cutting it away using a compound or polish, then you’ll have no clear coat left.

You can purchase a paint depth gauge to see how much clear coat you have left to play with. This makes the paint correction process much much safer.

(Alternatively) Enhance the Shine Using a Glaze

Another really great way to enhance your paint’s finish, is to use a glaze. Glazes work very differently to polishes and compounds to create a glossy wet finish.

Instead of cutting the paint away to flatten it, glazes fill the clear coat scratches to create the illusion of a flatter surface. This means the scratches are effectively hidden so the paint looks far glossier and much less dull.

If you really want a show car shine, then using a glaze is essential. Glazes fill scratches and also have shine enhancing agents to be able to create that wet-looking finish.

Glazes can also be really useful if you don’t feel confident using a polish or compound. Keep in mind though, the glazes can only fill so much. They don’t work miracles. but they do definitely help to hide light swirls.

The glaze that I use is called Poorboy’s Black Hole. It’s really great to work with, low dusting and easy to apply and remove. I use a machine polisher and soft foam pad to apply it, but you can also do it by hand as well.

The Black Hole formulation is designed for darker cars whereas the White Diamond version is designed for lighter coloured cars.

Check out my complete guide to glazes to learn everything you need to know.

Use a Natural Carnauba Wax

The final step to getting glossy wet paint, is to apply a natural carnauba wax. I say this, and not a paint sealant or ceramic coating, because natural waxes tend to add a really nice warm shine to the paintwork.

Sealants and coatings tend to look harder and colder. It really depends what look you’re after. However, for a wet-looking shine, I think a natural wax is the best option.

You can check out this article I’ve written on ceramic coatings and sealants if you’re interested in these other forms of paint protection.

My favourite Carnauba based wax is called R222 (P21S).

It’s a natural paste wax that’s really easy to apply and remove, and leaves a lovely warm shine to the paint.

It’s not very durable though, so needs reapplying every couple of weeks. It can be layered over a sealant as well though if you want your paint to be protected for longer.

Final Thoughts

It’s really important to remember that glossy wet-looking paint doesn’t really come from using a great wax, but from the prep work. In order to get dripping wet-looking paint, the clear coat needs to be free from imperfections.

That’s why the decontamination and paint correction (compounding and polishing) steps are most important. If you skip these, you’ll never achieve that super glossy looking paint.

Waxes and glazes don’t work miracles. Shine comes from the actual condition of the paint before you layer it with things like glazes, sealants and waxes.

Thanks for reading! I hope you’ve found this article helpful. Don’t forget to check out the rest of the blog to learn more about making your car look its best.



Heather is a professional car detailer & valeter based in Cheshire and the owner of Auto Care HQ. A familiar face in the car detailing community, she has written over 200 car detailing guides on autocarehq.com and has produced over 165 videos on the Auto Care HQ YouTube channel.

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