After driving around with a huge hole in my front bumper cover for two years, I finally decided to replace it myself. I bought a new bumper cover through my local friendly auto body supply store, along with a gray primer and a custom-made single stage paint that they loaded into a spray can for me.
I took it home, sanded it with the gray scotch brite pad, wiped it down, and applied two layers of primer, waiting a full day and sanding between each coat. I then applied two layers of my custom single-stage paint, again waiting a full day between each coat.
After installing the painted bumper and waiting a few more days, I scrubbed at it by hand with an old sock and some Turtle Wax Premium Polishing Compound. It now looks like this:
As you can see, it looks good, but nowhere near the glossiness of the rest of my car (even 7 years after it came off the factory line). The one run you see below the left headlamp was my ill-advised attempt to increase the sheen by applying more paint.
Here is a closeup of the difference between my paint job, and the factory paint:
As you can see, I can see my reflection in the factory paint.
What critical step am I missing?
I see a lot of auto forums that casually mention "cutting" the paint, as in the phrase "cut, buff, and polish". What is "cutting" a new paint job, and is this the step I'm missing?
I also see references to "rubbing compound", which is supposed to be a coarser grit compared to the polishing compound. Could this be what I'm missing?