Actually, Two-Tone Paint Is Great

Photo: Kristen Lee (Jalopnik)

There was a time when I was not part of this site, so I can’t be held accountable for the bad takes that were bizarrely allowed to be published here. I can try to make it right, though. I’m being uncharacteristically contrite because I just stumbled across this take from 2014 that was written by my boss, Overlord George. At the risk of being fired, I will now say that he is dead wrong, and that two-tone paint is good and should be celebrated by all.

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Life is already monotonous enough. Why must our cars be that way, too? I had a 2019 Toyota RAV4 press loaner not too long ago (review coming soon!) and one of my favorite things about it was its two-tone paint job. The outside was a greenish-gray color but the roof was painted white. It drew the eye immediately and helped improve the car’s visual presence a great deal.

Photo: Kristen Lee (Jalopnik)

A car has a lot of flat surfaces and they can get mundane to look at if everything is one color. Life is far too short to be boring. Give the roof another color. Paint the hood black, change it up. The tuners had the right idea. Rage against the monochromatic machine.

Luckily, more and more cars seem to have two-tone paint jobs now. The Ferrari 599 GTO had the black roof, which was awesome. And the BMW i8 and i3 come with contrasting black body panels, too. Very striking to look at.

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And now, even the common RAV4 offers two-tone. Variety is no longer for the luxury cars. The trend has taken off and it seems like it’s sticking.

Photo: BMW
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There’s a practical reason for this as well. The more variation you have on your car, the harder it will be to lose. If you tell someone you have a gray RAV4, then you’re basically driving around in street camo. But if you say you have a gray RAV4 with a white roof, your car is all of sudden more distinctive. And isn’t that what we’re all out to be anyway? Different from each other?

As with everything else, there are rules. You should not, for example, use highly contrasting colors for your two-tone paint. That is just being tacky. Any well-known sports liveries, like royal blue, orange and white are a hard no. Two-tone is meant to accent, not distract completely. That’s why the best two-tone schemes generally use black, gray, silver or white as the secondary color. Generally.

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Think about how you dress. Broadly, your pants are either khaki, gray, blue, white or black. Those go well with brightly colored or patterned tops. Unless you’re clashing deliberately, that’s how people typically pick out clothes.

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The point here is subtlety. Which is why the paint job should also follow existing body panel lines. Use your pillars as a guide. Stop when you get to a corner. There’s no need to invent a new line where one doesn’t already exist. It’s fun and lighthearted and we all should check the box for it if we can.

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About the author

Kristen Lee

Writer at Jalopnik and consumer of many noodles.