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Metal finishing Q&As since 1989


Chrome look paint (spray chrome)

Q. Does anyone know of an automotive one-step or two-step paint mfgr. chrome that looks pretty real?

Jon Eck
aircraft maintenance - Hebron, Kentucky, USA

A. Hello Jon. The chrome colored paints in a spray can don't look much like chrome plating to me.

But the high end, proprietary, 3-step systems (primer, silver nitrate [on eBay or Amazon affil links] & reducer, clearcoat) that you can buy today do look a lot like chrome. There are many suppliers, but we don't want to get into a Ford Truck / Chevy Truck argument about which is better (why?), so let's leave it that today's high end chrome paint looks quite good.
Obviously I assume this is for your personal use ... it has no applicability to aircraft maintenance.


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

Chrome Paint

(affil links)

A. The best paint that I have found in a spray can is Chrome paint from Seymour. Now, don't try to clear coat these chrome colors as the "chrome" would turn grayish and loose all reflectivity.

Flo Santos

A. I purchased the Seymour Chrome Paint and it was slightly better than the Walmart shelf brands and would not work on a bumper, or anything that is made out of Chrome, Silver plate, etc., so don't waste your cash ... there's no reflection like the real thing ... it actually looks like a primer. Beware,

Ron DeJohn
- Wethersfield, Connecticut
April 29, 2008

Q. I saw a show about restoration that featured how to spray an enamel on the piece and then pour a liquid over it and it turns to a chrome. What is this called and where can I buy it?

Deborah Brazeal
- San Angelo Texas
June 25, 2014

June 2014

A. Hi Deborah. Virtually every type and brand of "chrome look" paint has been on a car show by now. None of them are magic, but the results are proportional to the cost, the required effort, and the skill in application.

All of the better looks come from 3-step systems which consist of:

  1. A base coat / primer designed to leave a very smooth surface while providing adhesion.
  2. A reflective layer consisting usually of either --
    • A clear paint with very tiny and thin aluminum flakes that lay down flat to produce a reflective finish or,
    • Simultaneous spraying of silver nitrate and a reducing agent, which creates a thin silver metal film and is essentially the same process by which mirrors are made (Brashear process).
  3. Application of a hard clearcoat paint topcoat that protects the reflective layer from rubbing off, while not yellowing or dulling very much.

If you pay a lot for each layer, so it's really optimum, the results can be pretty good. This type is offered by Alsa, Chrome Solutions, Gold Touch [a supporting advertiser] ("Cosmichrome"), G.J. Nikolas [a supporting advertiser] ("QuickSilver"), New Fantachrome, Spectra Chrome, and probably many others. Google "chrome-like paint" or "chrome-look paint".

When you say "poured on", I suspect the part that was being painted was on a "spin table" not too different than kids' "spin art"; the idea is to use centrifugal force to ensure a thin and even coat. I've seen a similar process in the metalizing of lacquer record masters for vinyl records.

Probably a bit less expensive and easier are systems like Alclad II [on eBay or Amazon affil links] -- see letter 15869 for more description and youtube video.

But you need to determine whether it's for interior or exterior use, the anticipated production volume, and issues like that before you can decide the best approach.

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

Aluminum nitrate as silver nitrate replacement for chrome-look paint

Q. Can I use aluminum nitrate to replace silver nitrate for chrome?

Lito domingo
- NAVOTA CITY, Philippines
May 26, 2015

A. Hi Lito. I've never heard of it, and strongly doubt it. What would lead you to believe it could work, and what would you propose to use as the reducing agent? Thanks.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey
May 2015

Q. Hi ted. I thought I might substitute aluminum nitrate due to the expense of silver nitrate. I have just watched on YouTube and I saw how the glass was made silver using silver nitrate, but silver nitrate is expensive so I thought you might substitute aluminum nitrate. Is it possible by the same process. Hoping for your response.

Thank you

Lito domingo [returning]
- NAVOTA CITY, Philippines
June 2, 2015

A. Hi Lito. Although silver metal and aluminum metal are both shiny, they have almost nothing in common chemically. I am unfortunately pretty confident that there is no known way to reduce aluminum nitrate to a shiny aluminum metal.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey
June 2015

August 13, 2015

A. Hi Lito,

Silver nitrate is used because silver (as a "noble metal" as it is) tends to be in a metallic form. So, you can find silver metal in the nature because of this behaviour.

Aluminium is not a metal found in nature as a metal itself, only in minerals. To produce aluminium, you must use electricity to force the aluminium atoms to meet in a metal structure.

Silver, in a nitrate, tends to form silver again. That is because of its "noble metal" behaviour. Aluminum tends to remain as a nitrate or to form oxides or salts. Sorry, but it's not an alternative!

This trend is known as "reduction potential", and noble metals have a positive reduction potential. Aluminium has a very low reduction potential, negative, so it does not appear as metal in nature.

Hope this answers your question!



Daniel Montañés
- Cañuelas, Buenos Aires, Argentina

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