Chrome Paint

"A time for careful reflection"

One of the hottest paint finishes currently around is chrome.

Until recently the only way to get a highly shiny chrome finish was to actually chrome plate the vehicle.

Think of chrome like a mirror finish which can have additional tints added to make gold or other colours.

It can be a bit too much to have a fully chromed vehicle as the reflections caused will most likely dazzle other road users. But it provides an excellent base coat for other artwork allowing the chrome to shine through as a highlight.

Chrome has been used to great effect on motorsports cars or as a base for advertising or sign writing.

First up here is an overview of the chrome painting process, first you apply a dark base coat, then the chrome is sprayed onto this and built up but must not completely cover the base coat, finally a clear coat is added which can have a tint or pigment in it and this gives the chrome a colour.

See the examples below for colour variations where the same chrome paint was used but a tint was added to the top coat.

Chrome paint looks stunning, it is available with any tint (or range of tints) you can imagine but it is a specialist only application.

Preparation is always key. Application of too much or too thin a coat of chrome paint will result in a dull metallic look. The dull pewter look is fine if that is what you are after but as this can be achieved with grey paint it seems a waste.

 Drying times and application environment also have a large bearing on the quality of finish.

We spoke with the owner of Chromed Up and asked him to give us some insights into his area of expertise.

If you look at a chrome painted car under a microscope you will see the tiny droplets of chrome paint do not cover the base coat entirely. The image on the left is a simulation but shows how the droplets of chrome need to let through some base coat to create a shine.

The amount of shine is actually determined by the contrast between the chrome and the base coat. This gives the chrome depth and adds to the reflection. If the base coat is completely obscured you will not get a shine or reflection at all and instead get a dull Pewter finish.

Step 1. Prepare the car thoroughly and give the surface a good key. The more time taken at this stage the better as chrome will show up imperfections and bumps far more than any other paint finish.

Step 2. Spraying on the dark base coat. This dark base coat needs to be a good contrast with the final colour. Black is usually the best but for some top tints you may want to choose another dark colour. Apply a good mist layer of base coat and repeat allowing it to build up and completely cover the base surface.

Step 3. Bake the car in an oven to reduce the drying time. This sets the paint and allows the next layer of chrome paint to go on more easily.

Step 4. Spray on a very fine mist coating of the chrome paint. Allow this to dry and bake it in an oven, then apply another 2 or 3 mist coats and bake each coat again.

The idea here is to keep adding paint until the desired chrome finish is achieved. You can't remove paint once applied so you have to take your time.

It is this stage that takes a great amount of skill and you need a real feel for what you are doing. If the baking is not done right you will not get a very good chrome finish at all. It is for this reason that chrome paint is out of reach for the DIY spray painter. (At least for the moment.)

Step 5. This is the application of a protective clear coat. If you want a gold or indeed any other finish you can add some paint to tint this clear coat and the chrome reflectiveness will remain but carry the tint of the clear coat.

Finally when you have your finished chrome vehicle you can add all sorts of interesting designs and colours to it.

Here we see a terminator theme applied where the chrome has been allowed to show through for the robots and sprayed art has been applied over the top.

We wish to thank Steve from Chromed Up (suppliers of chrome paint) and Lawrence aka Kaos (spray paint artist) for their help and support in putting together this article.

When chrome is combined with sprayed art or other special effect finishes you have a stunning end result. Chrome paint is quite expensive so we suggest you carefully research this and find a paint sprayer used to working with chrome paint.

Join us in our forum to discuss chrome paint and other paint finishes with our friendly members.

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