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Flip Paint

"Flipping great paint effect"

MX5 flip paint

First off we need to dispel a commonly held rumour. Flip paint is not actually 2 layers of different colour paint but a single colour which is refracted at certain angles.

It is a very special paint finish which is actually a complex and fully patented process. There are a few ways to achieve it but it certainly is not an easy finish you can get on a DIY basis unless you invest in quality equipment.

Colour is actually a frequency of light (to oversimplify matters somewhat). High frequencies and low frequencies produce colours from Infra Red to Ultraviolet.

When you use a polarising filter you will actually filter out light coming from a certain angle. To illustrate this you may be photographing a car and the reflections on the paint are too strong. Adding a polarizer will stop the reflected light effectively giving you a sharper image.

In flip paint a polarising effect is seen which actually changes the frequency of the reflected light depending upon the angle it is view from.

This will restrict the colour flip effect to those of similar frequencies. This is technically known as an interference phenomenon where the reflected wavelengths are restricted to those resulting from the liquid crystal.

Flip paint looks best on cars with curvaceous surfaces. It is far from a DIY job though.

So how is this polarisation achieved? The answer lies in liquid crystal. These are used in LCD displays from digital watches to computer screens. The beauty of liquid crystal is that a chain of liquid crystal polymers will line up in certain conditions. In the screens and displays a current is used.

The LCD crystal polymers are blended with the carrier. This carrier which we will simply refer to as a paint blend, also contains an additive to slow the drying time and allow the crystal polymers to re-orient themselves. 

In the case of applying paint to a curved vehicle surface you have to apply the paint in a set of predetermined layers. The base coat sets the range of colour with darker colours producing a stronger flip effect. After the base coat the liquid crystal blended paint is applied very very carefully at a specific spray rate and angle. The paint droplets each need to be an optimum size and density.

Flip paint effect

Application of heat will allow the crystals to line themselves up but if the paint dries too quickly it will become set in a chaos pattern and become more like a candy coat. The heat is very carefully controlled and balanced. Some applications require a number of heat and cooling phases with varying paint thicknesses.

A clear coat is applied over the top to protect the paint and assist with that illusive showroom shine.

Other methods involve applying a charge to the vehicle which aligns the paint as it hit the metal surface. There are as you can see a few methods around for achieving a flip paint effect and all are very jealously guarded.

As with any paint job on a car you should ask to see samples and get testimonials of previous work.

MX5 flip paint

Can you buy special flip paint? Is this a DIY Job.

With the latest paints it is certainly possibly but you need to be a fairly competent DIY'er with good quality equipment. If you are not used to spraying cars or only have a budget spray setup you'll be wasting your time trying to achieve this finish. Invest in a professional for guaranteed results and an even consistent finish.

Join us in our forum to get recommendations on flip paint suppliers in your area and chat about all the latest styling trends and developments.

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