Differences Between the 3 Types of Matte Surfaces

Matte Surfaces, Matte Paint, Matte Vinyl, Matte PPF, Plasti Dip, Patina, Rhino LinerWhen matte paint finishes first became popular there were two ways to do it. You could rattle can the heck out of your car for $30 and live with the results of your craftiness, or spend a fortune for a specialized professional.  However, now there are quite a few different ways to get that same matte look for a range of different prices. These types of matte paint include single stage, two stage (clear coated), ppf/vinyl wraps, and few others.

So what’s the difference between them and how do you decipher what’s right for you?

Single Stage Matte Finishes

In the same way that you would paint any other car properly, on top of the metal base you layer a primer and then whatever automotive paint you chose. The same goes for matte paint. Single stage matte paint, however, is where you leave off the protective clear coat that glossy cars and two stage matte paint surfaces have.

What are you losing and gaining by going with single stage? The key word before was “protective” clear coat.  So by leaving out the clear coat you’re leaving out a lot of protective features. Features like protection from UV rays that causes the paint to fade.  Furthermore, without a clear coat, small dings and scratches can lead to paint chips down to the primer color.

However, if you’re really looking to get that “dead” flat look with absolutely no shine to it. This is the route you have to go. Any clear coated matte surface will undoubtably have at least a little shine to it.

In many ways, single stage is where matte got its start. However, there doesn’t seem to be much of any advantage to having a single stage finish.  You’ll get the same look and more protective qualities by going with a two stage finish.

Two Stage Matte Finishes

Two stage finishes have a pigmented base coat with a protective clear coat on top. This is how nearly every modern vehicle comes from the manufacturer, glossy or matte.

The diffused reflective properties are created by the imperfections in the the top coat. As long as the clear coat has the ridges and valleys that allow the light to be refracted in many different directions, you get the matte look.

Two stage finishes are just as durable as glossy cars with clear coats. As long as they are protected properly with a matte sealant,  the finish will be protected against road contaminants, salt, dirt, and anything else that a car normally would be exposed to.

Matte Vinyls/Paint Protection Films (PPF)

Wraps are a whole new way to go for matte. Although it’s not a breaking innovation to wrap your car instead of paint it, it does add a nice bit of convenience for those that can’t afford the high price quality matte paint jobs.

Matte vinyl quality like matte paint is going to be determined on price.  If you’re willing to pay for good material and installation expertise, you’ll get good quality to follow.  Also like paint PPFs can be used to customize the car with different colors and designs.

There are a few downsides to PPF’s as well to consider. First and foremost, it is a thin layer laying on top of the paint. What that means is that marks show up very easily because it’s not a solid material. As they start to accumulate, they become more and more noticeable.  The other downside, if the material or labor was poor, the wrap can have uneven lines, bubbling, and peeling.  Like paint, paying for the material and the expertise will ensure good outcomes.


Customization and originality are key to many car enthusiasts. The idea that, “I can make my car exactly how I want it.” So recently there have been a few other types of surfaces that can’t be treated like normal glossy paint, surfaces like Plasti Dip, Rhino Liner, and Patina.

Plasti Dip is basically a temporary rattle can feature.  There are an abundance of colors available, spray on whenever, wherever you’d like, and create unique accents. It’s temporary because it sprays on and can peel off. This may be ideal for those who constantly like to have something new.  Although it’s temporary, protecting it is still a necessity.

Rhino Liner, a tough material that used to only be used in truck beds, is now being used to cover some cars. It creates a unique tough look because of its rough texture. The texture may be a benefit because good luck scratching that. However, with all the grooves, wax is going to be nearly impossible to get out of it. But protection is still required to prevent fading.

Patina is unique because it’s hard to categorize. In the simplest of terms, it’s an authentic or artificial look of a vintage paint job with some rusting and fading. Very cool and unique look. But you can’t care for it with waxes because it’s not meant to have a shine to it.

Weighing out the options available for a matte paint finish is tough. But caring for and protecting matte paint is not the issue.  All of these finishes above can be cared for with matte specific car care products.

If you have any further information that you’d like to share in regards to matte paint or finish alike, leave a comment and continue the discussion.