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Coloring Nickel Plating, like red or blue

Q. Hello Drew,
I read your post and I have the same question, in this time passed did you find any solution?
Thanks in advance, for me and for the people of the forum.
Hello Brandon,
I know a lot of time is passed, I try to ask you if you found the answer to your question based on the suggestion of Mr Shishani. Hello, finishing.com,
I just read about some study conducted by Finishing.com for a specific coating. Maybe is there also any study conducted by Finishing.com with any supplier for red nickel plating? I'm referring to the previous suggestion for the chemical bath of the red nickel plating.

Matteo Virgo
- Italy
January 2, 2023

A. Hi Matteo, we will try to advise Matt and Brandon of your posting, but e-mail addresses from 18 years ago very rarely work.

Metals are not red -- copper is orange-ish, brass & gold are yellow-ish, and most other metals including nickel are silver-ish. Copper & brass, and even silver, can generate salts that put beautiful patinas on them, but I know of no decorative patinas for nickel or nickel plating. But in addition to electrocoating or painting, you might consider powder coating, metal dyes, or coatings applied by PVD. Transparent lacquers can be tinted to translucent colors. Titanium is readily interference colored (a partial wavelength transparent coating of the right thickness to amplify/suppress specific colors) and stainless steel can be anodized similarly although with more difficulty and not as pleasing results, I suppose it's vaguely possible that marginal results could be obtained with nickel with enough experimentation.

I think the key to moving forward is for you to detail as carefully as you can exactly what you are trying to accomplish and on what sort of nickel plated parts because some processes like PVD may only be practical at large volume, some processes such as dyes and tinted lacquers may not be nearly durable enough, some may not be aesthetic enough, some like powder coating may be too thick, most will affect conductivity. A special potion you can just dip nickel into and turn it into a robust, attractive, red color sounds extremely unlikely to me ... a red-tinted translucent lacquer sounds the closet though. Luck & Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

A. Try expired US patent US6391181B1.Hope it helps and good luck!

Goran Budija
- Cerovski vrh Croatia
January 24, 2023

↓ Closely related postings, oldest first ↓

Q. I have some miscellaneous, small, light, mild steel parts and tensile wires that have been nickel plated prior to my procuring them. I have a strong desire to apply various colorations to these parts for a student project and for possible future fabrications of the project's end product. Is there an established method for applying a lasting coloration to parts that have been previously nickel plated? Many thanks for your time.

Brandon Senn
student - San Luis Obispo, California, USA

"Handbook of Electropainting Technology"
by W. Machu
from Abe Books

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A. Hello, Brandon. It may not be something you can do yourself, you might have to go to a jobshop for it, but Electrophoretic lacquer is commonly applied to nickel plating to simulate brass, and it is available in many other translucent colors as well. Good luck.

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

Q. What is the typical thickness of an electrophoretic lacquer finish? (my application requires that any coatings I apply be on the range of ~1 mm or less).

Also, do you know if flexible (thin) metal components which are electrophoretically colored will retain their flexibility, or will they be subject to cracking when deflected?


Brandon Senn [returning]
student - San Luis Obispo, California, USA


A. Hi, Brandon. Electrophoretic lacquer can be applied quite thin. Maybe 5-10 microns.

It has reasonable flexibility.


Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey


Q. How is Electrophoretic Lacquer applied to jewellery.

Syed Shafqat Naqvi
jewellers - Lahore, Pakistan

"Electrocoating: a Guidebook for Finishers"
by Electrocoat Association
from Abe Books

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A. Hi, Syed. Electrophoretic lacquering is done in an electrified tank, rather similar to electroplating. The electricity converts the components that are in the solution into lacquer on the surface of the parts.

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

Copper Sulfate [affil link] 10-12 g/l
lead acetate [affil link] or lead nitrate 10-12 g/l
Sodium Thiosulfate [affil link] 100-180 g/l
rachel salt ^ rochelle salt [affil link] 15-20 g/l
temperature 18-25 °C
immersion: 5 min-yellow/ 7 min-brown/ 10 min-red/ 13 min-violet/ 17 min-blue/ 20 min-green.

I believe you should acid activate your parts. I tried this solution on newly deposited nickel and it was O.K .

Good luck

Cair Shishani
Khair Shishani
aircraft maintenance - Al Ain, UAE

Q. Your nickel coloration process seems simple enough and most of the chemicals seem within my abilities to acquire but ...

I am wondering if anyone can recommend inexpensive US suppliers for this chemistry (online preferred) -- since my process will definitely be a trial run and I am on a student budget.

Also - what quality of finish are you obtaining? Your responses are very educational and much appreciated.

Brandon Senn [returning]
Student - California

A. I got dark blue similar to gun blue, brightness as the base metal.

Good luck

Cair Shishani
Khair Shishani
aircraft maintenance - Al Ain, UAE

Q. What exactly do you mean by 'rachel salt' I have been unable to locate any for my purposes. Thanks.

Brandon Senn [returning]
Student - San Luis Obispo, California


A. I think the spelling in the USA is Rochelle salts.

Jason Deible
Plating - Grand Rapids, Michigan

A. Try looking for Rochelle Salt. One source said that it was a sodium and potassium soluble tartrate. Did not find the precise formula and it is not in my Fisher catalogue.

James Watts
- Navarre, Florida

A. Mr Brandon Hello,

It is potassium sodium tartrate, you can prepare by mixing tartaric acid with sodium and potassium carbonate NaKC4H4O6.


REGARDING SODIUM THIOSULFATE IT IS A BIT COMPLICATED BUT YOU CAN TRY SODIUM SULFIDE OR POLYsulfide BY DISSOLVING SULFUR IN 200-400 G/L NaOH WHILE BOILING. Please be careful and ask help from a chemist and please read the material safety data sheets MSDS.

Wish you good luck, God blessing. Please send feedback if possible!

Cair Shishani
Khair Shishani
aircraft maintenance - Al Ain, UAE

A. Lead-citfree recipe, for different colours:
copper acetate [affil link].......25 gms
Sodium Thiosulfate [affil link]......240 gms
Citric Acid [affil link]..............30 gms
16 °C temp, 20-300 min., according to Fishlock's Metal Coluring Handbook. Can be used on nickel or nickel plate.

Goran Budija
- Cerovski vrh Croatia

Q. I am very interested in Mr. Shishani's process for coloring nickel. I have a number if aluminum castings that I need to color and they will not anodize. I can nickel plate the AL and then color if I can figure out how to make up the bath. I have spent untold hours on the net researching "nickel coloring" and this thread is about my only hope. I am not a chemist, but I follow directions well. I have made several inquiries to chemical suppliers and some of the items he lists are somewhat problematic to procure, but I am both patient and persistent.

Any help with this process will be greatly appreciated.

Phil Wagoner
Gun Refinisher - Mt. Airy, North Carolina USA
April 6, 2011

Q. I have questions about Mr. Shishani's method.
In this method electrolyzing is not used?
Or what type of Anode should be used?
Please help. Thanks

william wallace
- iran
September 21, 2012

Need Red Steel options!

Q. I am currently trying to get a steel part to look red. Because of the other requirements, I'm having a difficult time finding options. The coating/treatment must be thin and durable to friction--this part is a small (5"L .75" Dia) tube that slides within another steel tube loosely, but too tight for powdercoat. The steel part can be made of stainless or non-stainless steels, if that offers additional options. PVD is the closest option I have come across but I cannot find red, only rose or red/bronze. I read on this forum that nickel plated steel can be made to look red by the method shown above, but I have no source to test the method to see the results (and I am no chemist):

The steel I have could be nickel plated if that would allow the above procedure to work with good result, but I also do not know how durable that finish would be. Any help or guidance is greatly appreciated!

Drew Daddono
product designer - Tampa, Florida USA
August 4, 2016
Ed. note: There is always a little cross-talk on a long public forum page, and I believe Khair actually said that this made a dark blue similar to gun bluing.

Cerakote (Kit)

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A. Drew,
My first recommendation would be Cerakote.
It has a high abrasion resistance, comes in many colors, as with any coating preparation is key. Follow the instructions provided by Cerakote, or if you're not equipped to do it on your own, send it out to a coater to have it done.


Rama Shunn
- Woodinville, Washington USA

Ed. note: We appreciate the suggestion, but describing suggested coatings generically rather than by brand name source name might be better ( huh? why?). Our understanding is that it's a sprayable ceramic coating, available in both air-dry and oven-cure versions.

A. Hello Drew,
How about making the part undersize a hair to allow for paint?

blake kneedler
Blake Kneedler
Feather Hollow Eng. - Stockton, California
January 2, 2017

Very interesting Expired patent:

Method to obtain a variety of surface colors by electroplating zinc nickel and nickel alloy oxides
US 6800190 B1
Hope it helps and good luck!

Goran Budija
- Zagreb, Croatia

February 25, 2021

Q. Hello,
We have inventory about 5,000 nickel Brand labels for our Chattam and Wells mattress brand that we are trying to see if can change to a bronze color.

Not my area of expertise, so not sure if the finishing process we're looking for is electroplating, powder coating, or something else?

The brand is being refreshed so would be great to be able to reuse these somehow. Attached some pics of the label for reference. Let me know if you have any questions, thank you!

28801-1b   28801-1a  

2.25" Height by 3.25" Width

Shad Lambert
- Fresno, California

A. Hi Shad. As brass and bronze plating became more expensive or more of a challenge because they are based on highly poisonous cyanide, it became commonplace to do a tinted electrophoretic lacquer (e-coat) on top of nickel plating to simulate the brass/bronze look. Lots of 'brass' lamps are actually tinted e-coat over nickel plating. Considering that the components are already nickel plated, it sounds like an ideal application.

Luck & Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

RFQ: Thanks so much for the info Ted! Any recommendations on who we can contact that provides this service? Doing some google searches now ...

Shad Lambert [returning]
- Fresno, California

Ed. note: Sorry, this RFQ for private contact is now outdated, but public technical replies are still welcome. No public brand/source suggestions please ( huh? why?)

A. Hi again Shad. We don't post brand or sourcing recommendations (huh? why?) but proposed suppliers can contact you privately.
However, for a study conducted by finishing.com for IZA / ILZRO a few years ago, Molecular Technology Limited in Wolverhampton, England (acquired by Coventya, acquired in turn by Macdermid-Enthone), and PMA Photometals of Arizona (photometals.com) were generous enough to supply electrocoated samples for corrosion testing, so I'm happy to mention them as potential sources :-)

Luck & Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

RFQ: Hello,

Similarly, I'm looking to have nickel plated, carbon steel alligator clips colored. I've been doing some reading on tinted electrophoretic lacquer (e-coat) but can't find anyone in the US via google who advertises doing it.

I'm was hoping to have them colored to look similar to an anodized aluminum.

Thank you

Matthew Woodyard
Hobbyist - Akron, Ohio
February 6, 2022
    privately respond to this RFQ   ^
Ed. note: As always, gentle readers: technical replies in public and commercial replies in private please (huh? why?)

Colored Socket Set

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A. Hi Matthew. I've seen socket wrench sets done that way, but they probably weren't done in the USA. If you are a hobbyist doing one or two alligator clips, regular wet paint may be as practical. But electrophoretic lacquer does sound good for alligator clips, as long as the teeth don't get coated since the lacquer is not conductive like nickel plating.

Luck & Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

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