6 Types of Finishing Materials Used for Aircraft Painting and Finishing

The purpose of aircraft painting and finishing is not just enhancing the aesthetics of an airplane. Aerospace paint protects an aircraft frame’s integrity and influences an airplane’s weight. Finishing is applied for safeguarding the exposed surfaces of an aircraft from deterioration and corrosion. There is a broad range of finishes and materials available that are employed to protect the outer surface of the aircraft and offer the desired look to the plane.  

Decorative finishing of airplanes includes application of letters, identification numbers, decals, addition of emblems and company logos, and trim striping.  

Finishing Materials Used for Aircraft Painting and Finishing 

Among the broad range of materials used in airplane finishing, some of the common materials are discussed as follows: 

1. Acetone 

A fast-evaporating solvent with no color, acetone is an ingredient in varnish, nail polish, and nail removers. For most plastics, acetone is a strong solvent and is effective for thinning adhesives, vinyl, polyester resins, and fiberglass resin. It serves as superglue remover too. This solvent is a heavy-duty degreaser that’s fit for metal preparation as well as grease removal from fabric covering before doping. Its use as thinner in dope should be avoided due to its fast evaporation that causes the doped region to cool and gather moisture. The absorbed moisture hinders uniform drying and leads to the dope’s blushing and a no-gloss, flat finish. 

2. Alcohol 

Butyl alcohol or butanol is a solvent that dries slowly and can be combined with aircraft dope for retarding the dope film’s drying on humid days, thereby preventing blushing. A dope solvent mixture having 5-10% butanol usually serves this purpose well. Ethanol alcohol and butanol are mixed in ratios that range from 1:1 to 1:3 for diluting wash coat primer in spray applications since butanol retards the rate of evaporation.  

Denatured alcohol or ethanol is employed as a component of varnish and paint remover. Ethanol also serves as a degreaser and cleaner prior to painting.  

3. Methylene Chloride 

A volatile, colorless liquid, methylene chloride is completely miscible with various other solvents. Methylene chloride has wide application in paint strippers, and it’s also used as a degreaser/cleaning agent for metal parts. Under normal conditions, it doesn’t have a flash point and can be employed for reducing other substances’ flammability.  

4. Turpentine 

The wood of certain pine trees is distilled to obtain turpentine. A water-insoluble and flammable liquid solvent, turpentine acts as a thinner as well as a quick-drier for enamels, varnishes, and other types of oil-based paints. It’s also used for cleaning paint brushes and paint equipment used with any oil-based paint.  

5. Mineral Spirits

Also known as petroleum spirits, Stoddard solvent, or white spirit, mineral spirits is petroleum distillate employed as a mild solvent and paint thinner. This is the most broadly employed solvent in paint industry, utilized in varnishes, lacquers, wood preservatives, paints, and aerosols. Mineral spirits are also used commonly for cleaning paint equipment and paint brushes. It finds use in degreasing and cleaning machine parts and tools due to its effectiveness in removing greases and oils from metal. Mineral spirits are less toxic, less flammable, and has low odor than turpentine.  

6. Varnish

A protective, transparent finish, varnish is used primarily for finishing wood. Varnish comes in exterior and interior grades. Compared to the interior grade varnish, the exterior grade varnish dries less hard, and contracts and expands with variations in temperature of the material that needs to be finished.  

Traditionally, varnish is a mixture of a solvent or thinner, a resin, and drying oil. It has no added pigment, is transparent, and has little to no color. The drying of varnish is slower than most of the other finishes.  


Every aircraft finishing material comes with its own characteristics. When choosing a finishing material to be used in aircraft exterior painting, determine your needs first and choose accordingly. If you are looking for quality aircraft painting services or weatherproof aircraft painting in Florida, Boca Aircraft Maintenance can provide you the finest quality aircraft painting and finishing services.  

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