Polydopamine is a biomimetic self-adherent polymer, which can be easily deposited on a wide variety of materials. Despite the rapidly increasing interest in polydopamine-based coatings, the polymerization mechanism and the key intermediate species formed during the deposition process are still controversial. Herein, we report a systematic investigation of polydopamine formation on halloysite nanotubes; the negative charge and high surface area of halloysite nanotubes favour the capture of intermediates that are involved in polydopamine formation and decelerate the kinetics of the process, to unravel the various polymerization steps. Data from X-ray photoelectron and solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopies demonstrate that in the initial stage of polydopamine deposition, oxidative coupling reaction of the dopaminechrome molecules is the main reaction pathway that leads to formation of polycatecholamine oligomers as an intermediate and the post cyclization of the linear oligomers occurs subsequently. Furthermore, Tris molecules are incorporated into the initially formed oligomers.