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"Chrome-look" paint

  Gold Touch  J G Nikolas  M and M Metallizing

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Q. I am looking for an over-the-counter spray paint that approximates a chrome finish as much as can be expected. I am finishing a small 4" x 4" metal part.

Thanks in advance...

David S [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
hobbyist - Toronto, Ontario, Canada


(2003)

A. If you're looking for very inexpensive "over-the-counter spray paint", you could try Plastikote Bumper Chrome Paint [linked by editor to product info at Amazon], David. From its name alone, you know they are trying to get the look right -- but one-component rattle-can paint doesn't at all approximate the look of chrome plating in my estimation. Good luck.

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey


++++

A. I agree that most spray commercial spray paints don't approximate chrome. This has to do with the differences in surface architecture between a plated surface and a conventional metallic pigment. (bounce angles of light, uniformity, dispersion...etc). However, there is a new generation of coatings based on VMP (vacuum metallized pigments) that do in fact approximate chrome. You see this in the automotive industry as many of the interior chrome parts are now a coating instead of conventional chrome.

Frank Thomas
- Cleveland, Ohio


thumbsup2Thanks, Frank. Vacuum metallizing of auto interior parts may be recently improved but it's certainly not new. The armrests, window cranks and dashboard parts of many 1960's automobiles used this technology of vacuum metallizing on plastic. The metallizing wore off very quickly, exposing mustard color plastic underneath. Because car buyers weren't told, they mistakenly thought that junk was "chrome plating"; this misidentification gave chrome plating of plastic an undeserved bad name. Real chrome plating of plastic is used for the grills and exterior parts of many if not most cars today, and it will stand up to decades of sun, salt, and ice -- whereas vacuum metallizing is the technology used on the "jewelry" in Cracker Jack and gum-ball machine prizes.

I'll believe you that it's better today than it was in the 1960's. But to the small degree that we can discourage it, we're not going to quietly let this cheaper technology ride the coattails of chrome plating's outstanding performance and ruin its reputation a second time around :-)

Readers may wish to see our "Introduction to Chrome Plating"

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey


(2004)

Q. So, IS there any chrome spray paint that will come 'extremely close' to approximating the look of chrome plating? I did find a product by Alsa Corp. but wow...$150 for 8 oz! I would be willing to pay $50 for 8 oz. as long as I get a good finished look. Any suggestions as to what to use or where to get it? Thanks...

Ray Henry
- Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania


++++

A. Hi Ray. While the vendors of the high quality chrome-look paints apparently originally wanted this to be a technology they would offer to OEMs and established shops, it caught the consumers' imagination in such a big way that it just made more sense to sell it to a clamoring public than to restrict it to shops who perhaps weren't as enthusiastic. Also, the technology has improved rapidly, and it is easier to apply. So earlier answers you see on this forum (including some from me) are a bit out of date.

But I'm sure you get what you pay for, and how far does 8 ounces go? Compared to the price of real chrome plating, even the most expensive chrome-look paint is quite cheap. Good luck.

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey


++++

Concerning the question of chrome Paint and the claimed suppliers of such a product, I have extensive experience with a product called [deleted by editor] and a product called [deleted by editor]. First, [the first brand] is neither user friendly nor is it near as durable as suppliers of this product claim. After a substantial investment for equipment and the product itself a person can produce a sprayed on chrome finish on just about anything. The problem is this finish does not last more than six months, it appears to start discoloring most of the time around the edges (but not always) and eventually just peels right off the substrate. I could go on for some time about the poor quality of this product but I think it will suffice to say that this product does not work more than a very temporary basis. The supplier of [the first brand] will not confirm the shortcomings of this product if confronted, but just remember they only need to sell you the system and the supplies once and they have just made good money off one more sucker. [The second brand] is considerably more user friendly and much more cost efficient. If applied properly it looks very much like chrome until it is top-coated at which time it's reflectivity is reduced to about 85 to 90 percent. This a very nice effect to have in your bag of tricks as a custom painter, but if you're looking for a chrome paint to replicate the look, feel, and durability of chrome plating, such a product does not exist.---- Just the truth.

Larry Spencer
- Dallas, Texas


++++

A. Thanks, Larry. Yes, chrome plating is the application of very hard, slippery, corrosion resistant and abrasion resistant metals. You are right that no paint offers what a layer of real chrome metal offers. Chrome plating been the premium decorative finish for over 75 years.

But we ask that people not offer testimonials to one brand or to slam other brands here! Because, if we print your letter with brand names, do we owe Joe.Phony@hotmail.com the opportunity to write "The brand that Larry recommended is a cheat and worthless!". If we don't print Joe Phony's letter, are we censoring people, or are we deleting a phony plant? We get many suspicious postings every day, including some where the IP address matches a supplier's website and absolutely proves that they are phony plants :-)

We can't do police background checks to determine if "satisfied customers" are real, or whether there are vested interests in postings -- so it would be very silly for a reader to try to determine the quality of a product based on praise from shills, or complaints planted by their competitors. So it's best for us to just serve as a technical site and a place of camaraderie, and just not print commercial slams or testimonials in the first place :-)

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey


+++

RFQ: I am currently looking for different companies who provide an alternatives to chrome plating and who sell the equipment and the chemicals to reproduce the chrome like affect. I have researched many web sites and many companies and have had minimal results. The only two so far are Alsa chrome FX, and Gold Touch Cosmochrome. I'm sure there are more companies out there with similar equipment. If any knows of anything I would appreciate It dearly.

Thanks,

Wade J Clezie
motorcycle/hobbyist/business owner - Pocatello, Idaho, USA
^- Sorry, this RFQ is outdated
     View Current RFQs



(2007)

Q. I am looking into purchasing one of the paint-on chrome systems. We are a powdercoater and have a good reputation for durability. How does it hold up to heat, maybe on engine parts. Any experience with chip resistance.

James Ewing
- New Cumberland, West Virginia, USA


A. Each time we've posted inquiries about satisfaction with chrome-look paints it degenerated into people saying something like "Brand X if fabulous, brand Y is worthless". If anyone offers generic answers that apply to all chrome-look paint we'll be happy to print them, James -- but you can understand how printing commercially motivated "testimonials" from essentially anonymous posters in a public forum gets very silly very quickly :-)

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey


(2007)

A. Let me take it one further. There is a banner at the top of this screen with companies that support this site. Talk to their sales and ask the same questions. Then ask for lab testing reports on the one that you like best after the initial conversations.

James Watts
- Navarre, Florida


December 9, 2009

!! If you want REAL Chrome in a can you will find it at Alsa. Killer Chrome is REAL Chrome broken down in a spray form. I will forever use Alsa Corp's paints. Check the site out.

Sandi Propst
- Ponte Vedra, Florida


December 9, 2009

A. Hi, Sandi. I am glad that you are pleased with Alsa, but be thankful that the shops who chrome plate the landing gear of the airliners you fly on know better than to believe you that chrome-look paint is "REAL Chrome broken down in a spray form" :-)

Chrome-look paint is NOT chrome and has nothing at all to do with real chrome; chrome is an electroplated layer of the element chromium. It is 100 percent metal, "grown" onto the metal substrate by electroplating for perfect adhesion. Chrome-look paint is designed to look like chrome, not to perform like it; it does not have the lubricity, low coefficient of friction, adhesion, electrical conductivity, oil-holding capacity, wear resistance, scratch resistance, corrosion resistance, emissivity/absorptivity, or hardness of chrome. Please see our FAQ: "Introduction to Chrome Plating". Thanks!

I am not knocking chrome-look paint at all; to the contrary, it pleases me very much that hobbyists use chrome-look paint instead of fooling with toxic carcinogenic hexavalent chrome plating solutions! I am simply saying that we mustn't pretend that it is chrome plating; aside from some shininess, it has nothing in common with real chrome.

Regards,

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey


February 25, 2010

Holomatic Spectral Chrome

Q. I have read over the chrome "paint" vs. Chrome "metal plating" - I am looking for a product that has the depth and shine of chrome for use on plastic scale model replicas. I am familiar with AlClad II metallic finishes for hobbyists =>
but want something a little more touch resistant and durable "appearance" only. There is no requirement for the other advantages of real chrome. Thank you - John

John Ball
hobbyist - Tucson, Arizona


February 26, 2010

A. Hi, John. Any of the major brands of chrome-look paint should be fine. What is required for durability is that, after the very thin layer of silvering or aluminum flake, that the paint system include a durable clear coat to cover and protect that metallizing from rubbing off easily.

Regards,

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey


August 3, 2010

Q. I understand the actual difference between chrome and chrome paint. I also understand that real chrome finish is superior to paint. I need to chrome paint a part but am concerned with longevity, so my question is this, if the painted piece is not handled once installed and is not exposed to the elements should I be concerned with longevity? It will be exposed to direct sun as there is a clear lens over it, but that is it.

dan smith
- morton, illinois, united states of america


August 2010

A. Hi, Dan
I personally would not expect this to be a problem. Some outdoor "statues" like the "chrome" jaguars on the marquees of Jaguar dealers are chrome-look paint. Good luck.

Regards,

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey


July 28, 2012

Q. Sir,
We are a manufacturer of injection moulded plastic components. Now we are manufacturing decorative and deities figures. Now we are getting plating done in Vacuum chamber process. As some products are bigger they are not fitting into chamber. Will you please suggest any other type of gold color plating like dipping process or spray coat and their availability? Now we are using HIPS & ABS. Please help.
with regards,

G.V.Raghava reddy
polymers - Hyderabad, A.P., India


July 30, 2012

A. Hi G.V.

"Chrome-look paint" is actually very similar in appearance and performance to the vacuum metallizing that you are doing. Both start with a base coat; then they have a bright layer of either aluminum deposited in vacuum, or aluminum deposited by spray painting the carefully designed tiny flakes, or two-part silvering; then they have a clear top coat applied. It will probably be hard to tell one from the other.

I think the biggest difference between vacuum metallizing and high quality chrome-look paint is simply that the vacuum metallizing will involve much higher capital cost but significantly lower labor cost; and therefore the selection between the technologies would be based on production volume rather than appearance or quality.

Regards,

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey


September 16, 2012

Q. I found some ceramic piggy banks in a colored chrome (or chrome-like) finish, but they only seem to come shades of pink & red .. I would like to find some in blue and/or green and/or yellow. Barring that I would like to find a paint or finish in those colors and finish my own banks. Can somebody help me?

d covey
- riverside California USA


September 18, 2012

A. Hi D. You may be able to just put a translucent blue lacquer on top of the existing piggy banks to change the color. Otherwise, see the banner at the top of the page for sources of chrome-look paint.

Regards,

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey


February 11, 2013 -- this entry appended to this thread by editor in lieu of spawning a duplicative thread

Q. I am wondering if there is a viable way to get a faux chrome finish on a few cast aluminum sculptures. Nickel plating is, as far as I know, the only plating process for aluminum and it is out of my price range. The sculptures in question have been evenly sandblasted, but their surfaces are irregular. Perhaps I can apply several layers of polyurethane to smooth out the rough surface created from sandblasting and then apply an aerosol chrome-like finish? Extensive polishing between coats is pretty much impossible since the castings are full of undercuts and hard to reach areas.

How do you suggest I approach this?

Caleb Fletcher
- Nokesville, Virginia, USA


April 27, 2013

A. Hi Caleb. We appended your question to a thread which should answer it. Chrome-look paint should give you the faux chrome look you are seeking. Good luck.

Regards,

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey


May 8, 2013

Q. Chrome , Gold and Brass accents on Mid-Century Radios? Many radios and record players have thin edges and other detail like dial numbers that have a shiny chrome, gold or bright brass finish. After 50 - 60 years some or all may have come off. I'd like to restore these to the original look. Bright-finish paints don't seem to have the original luster. Any suggestions as to products and techniques are appreciated.

Chester Dwars
Hobbyist - Largo, Florida

May 9, 2013

A. Hi, Chester. First, are these accents on plastic or metal parts? If the parts are metal, they probably have real electroplating and the parts could be sent to a plating shop for replating if you wish. If the parts are plastic, it is probably not real electroplating but vacuum metallizing (a basecoat, followed by a very thin layer of vacuum-deposited aluminum, followed by a clear coat or a gold/brass tinted translucent coat).

Rather expensive machines are required to do vacuum metallizing, but today's "chrome look paints" are essentially the same 3-layer thing as vacuum metallizing except that the shiny layer is applied by spray painting.

Regards,

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey


July 29, 2014

Q. I have chrome strips on the door panels of my car that have been worn through. Will Alsa chrome spray kit work? The strips are molded or glued to the vinyl Thanks, Al.

Alan Troxell
- crawford Colorado


July 2014

A. Hi Chris. Questions about one particular proprietary product should probably be directed to it's manufacturer ...
But on the issue of "chrome-look" paint in general -- If there is actually a hole, paint won't fill it. If you mean that the finish is worn off, yes it can probably be painted, but best results come from best application situations, so it is not ideal to do it in situ. A photo would help; it's not obvious whether you are talking about an interior trim item molded or glued to a vinyl door liner, or whether you are speaking about trim on the exterior of the door. But prepping the metal or plastic for paint is just as important, or more so, for chrome-look paint as for any other paint. Without proper prep the paint will peel; so it's important to know exactly what you are trying to paint. Good luck.

Regards,

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey


April 14, 2015

Q. I need to chrome plate a PCB in order to make it shiny and reflect most of the light falling on it. I tried the chrome spray; it works good, but finishing is not proper.
I was told that there is a preprocessing layer of some spray, then chrome spray and then some shiny polishing is to be done. But exact procedure and components were not known.
Can anyone help me out? The finished PCB is not smooth and not as shiny. What shall I do?

Ashok Sharma
embedded engineer - Gandhinagar
  ^- Privately contact this inquirer -^


April 2015

A. Hi Ashok. To my knowledge all of the major high quality chrome-look paints involve those same three layers: a smoothing base coat, the "chrome" layer per see, and a clear topcoat to protect it. Whoever you bought the chrome-layer paint from probably also offers the base coat and the top coat. See the banner ad at top of page for a couple of brands.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
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Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey



Which Chroming Process for Pitted Vintage Boat Hardware?

26415-1a 26415-1b
October 16, 2015 -- this entry appended to this thread by editor in lieu of spawning a duplicative thread

Q. I'm restoring a 1959 15' runabout boat. I'm curious as to which process is best to "rechrome" the hardware - bowlight, cleats, etc. (10 pieces). Some say the nickel-chrome process -- which is extremely expensive - others say the silver-based(?) re-chroming, which is far less cost. The boat is not kept in water and is used mostly for show -- not show quality. Please advise in layman's terms which is better and why.

Rick Pariser
Boat Restoration - Great Falls, Virginia
  ^- Privately contact this inquirer -^


October 2015

A. Hi Rick. We added your inquiry to a thread about the subject. In brief, yes, high quality chrome plating is terribly expensive but the "silver-based" process is just "chrome-look" paint rather than real plating. If it's done well it will probably hold up reasonably well on a fresh water or show boat, although the lines may wear away the paint if the cleats are used much.

Correcting the pitting is a monstrous labor problem for real re-plating, where grinding plus soldering or brazing are required on every pit; it's much less of a problem for chrome-look paint, where body filler can be used.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
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Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey


October 16, 2015 -- this entry appended to this thread by editor in lieu of spawning a duplicative thread

Q. Thanks for immediate response BUT the use of Chrome Paint is NOT what my question is about. I'm more interested in comparing and/or your recommendation on Nickel Chrome process vs. Silver Process to re-chrome boat hardware such as cleats, bow lights, handles etc.

Rick Pariser
Boat Restoration - Great Falls, Virginia


October 2015

thumbsup2Ah, but it is, Rick.

Please read our "Intro to Chrome Plating" and it will hopefully be clearer. Your "silver process" refers to the higher quality chrome-look paints which consist of a base coat, followed by two-part silvering (as is used to make mirrors), followed by a clear coat.

It's not your fault: some of the vendors of these chrome-look paints call them spray chrome, silver chrome, or chroming -- but they are not "chroming" except in the very limited sense of making something look like chrome.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey


December 28, 2015

Q. I found this discussion interesting and useful, thanks. I have taken from the discussion the fact that most chrome or highly reflective paints I can purchase will be based on aluminium flakes and also that vacuum metallisation although an entirely different procedure has close parallels in view of what is produced rather than how.

My application is hand made artisan lighting products. I don't require a traditional smooth chrome finish, I prefer a degree of surface texture and this compliments some of the textures left in the metal itself by the manufacture process, which are seen as attractive evidence of a craft rather than mass produced perfection in addition UV and handling are not an issue.

My primary concern is simply whether such paints can be expected to dull or tarnish over time. At least now I know that this question will boil down to something like -

Is it realistic to expect polished aluminium flakes to remain bright under protective coatings?
and
Is there anything in the paint that might cause discolouration in the first place?

The last bit may sound perverse but I have heard that tarnishing of copper plate has been associated with slight, partial breakdown of applied resin based protective layers on initial exposure to UV rather than an failure in the protective skin allowing oxygen in - not sure if this is conjecture or demonstrated.

For copper plate I use benzotriazole before any protective coats, comparison of "twinned" test samples suggests to me it is pretty effective.

Jon Light
- Saltum Denmark


December 2015

A. Hi Jon. Yes, the new generation of high quality "chrome look paints" and "vacuum metallizing" generate coatings that are very similar in makeup and performance, with the biggest factor in selecting between them just being production volume -- with "chrome look" spray painting requiring more labor and attention, but not involving the million-dollar capital costs.

In either case the question is whether the elements can be practically kept away from wreaking slow havoc on the shiny layer. Silvered glass (mirrors, thermos bottles, etc.) or aluminized plastic can last many decades when sealed away from the environment, and I think many automobile headlight and taillight surrounds and reflectors (sealed behind glass or plastic) are vacuum metallized.

But I believe that the clearcoats for metallizing or chrome-look painting have a limited life when exposed to UV and difficult environmental conditions, and that it's a major struggle to make a clearcoat both impermeable and non-yellowing -- such that we still can expect only a limited life from such parts. I welcome other opinions, since mine are more book knowledge than actual experience.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
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Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey



February 9, 2016

Q. I'm restoring a '58 Packard. The gauges have a plastic face with the letters and numbers engraved into that plastic. The letters, numbers, and center "button" that covers the origin of the needle behind it are filled with a "bright chrome gold". I haven't found anything to give me that luster. I'm not sure what process they used in '56 - '58 for the gauges. This problem is my only major obstacle for restoring this car.
Thanks,
Buddy Crofton

Buddy Crofton
- Rio Rancho, New Mexico


March 2016

Gold leaf starter kit

A. Hi Buddy. I wouldn't know what the process was, but would probably guess at vacuum metallizing.

Obviously you're not going to be able to do that, but you might consider gold leaf.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
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Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey


March 3, 2016

A. Back in those days the process they used was vacuum metalizing. If the new gauges that you are installing are already chrome plated and it's true nickel/chrome, you could use a small gold brush plating kit. Now if the new gauges you are using are again vacuum coated, but it's not gold but silvered colored, you could use a gold tinted clear coat that will give the appearance of gold plating.

Marvin Sevilla
- Managua, Nicaragua.



June 22, 2016

Q. I am facing Problem in touch up of Alloy wheel in machined area, where the scratch is up to the base metal.

Any touch up system is available?

srinivasan Thangavelu
- chennai, Tamil Nadu, India


June 2016

A. Hi srinivasan. To the best of my knowledge there is nothing you can do to repair a damaged nickel-chrome plated wheel short of removing the scratch, stripping the chrome, re-activating the nickel plating, and nickel and chrome plating it again.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
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Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey



August 26, 2016

Q. I have a 1967 Ford Fairlane XL. I was wondering what is a good inexpensive chrome paint to use on the plastic dash shroud to refinish it? Thru the years it has all worn off and the shroud is brown and unsightly on an otherwise award winning car.

Danny Breeden
- Martinsville, Indiana USA


August 2016

A. Hi Danny. Chrome is a metal that is deposited by electroplating. To get a paint to look somewhat like it is not a simple one-step process, but is 3 separate coats as a minimum: a base coat, a very thin aluminum or silver metallizing layer, and a clear top coat to prevent the metallizing layer from instantly rubbing off or oxidizing to dullness.

The first coat has to be designed for super smoothness or you'll never get reflectivity; the second coat is pretty high technology; the third coat must stay clear without yellowing, offer UV resistance, be fairly hard, and be impermeable to keep the metal from oxidizing. Thus, when you ask for inexpensive chrome-look paint, it's a bit of an oxymoron: an expensive 3-coat paint system may look like chrome, an inexpensive single coat system never will. See the banner ads at the top of this page or google for "chrome-look paint" (we don't compare brands here). Good luck.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

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