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topic 33644

Rainbow Titanium Coatings

A discussion started in 2003 but continuing through 2019


RFQ: Hello,

I need to find someone that can do Titanium -oxide coating on Paintball Guns. They are mostly 6000 series aluminum. This is exactly what I am looking for:

rainbow finished folding knife

Thank you,

Donovan Bailey
- Charlottesville, Virginia
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RFQ: I am just looking for the process of Titanium Coating on the stainless steel parts like Scissors, Pluckers for the decorative purpose the resultant product is in different shades like green, yellow and blue all mixed giving a decorative impact. I am desperate about this -- is there anybody to answer my question?

I am attaching a picture, and this is assumed to be the Titanium coated I am just looking for this process these colours are deposited/plated?

rainbow finished scissors

I am ready to buy this set up if the results are satisfactory

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A. Dear Ashan!
Stainless steel can be colour anodized.
It can be heat tinted too.

Hope it helps!

Goran Budija
- Zagreb, Croatia

thumbs up signHi. Goran is surely right about what can be done ... but I don't think that is what was done to these particular scissors. I think they have a titanium coating which has been anodized.


Ted Mooney, Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live Aloha


Q. Dear/ Madam, Hello

We are razor scissors manufacturers. We are interested in multi-color on stainless steel scissors. Please advise, How can we coat titanium on stainless steel for multi-color finish.

Thanks and best wishes,

Mian Muhammad Anwar
Sky Instruments - Sialkot, Pakistan


A. You cannot commercially electroplate titanium, but you can use PVD deposition to get varied colors such as titanium nitride (TiN).

James Watts
- Navarre, Florida

To minimize your searching efforts and to offer multiple viewpoints, we've combined some threads into the dialog you're viewing. Please forgive any resultant repetition or failures of chronological order.

July 10, 2012 -- this entry appended to this thread by editor in lieu of spawning a duplicative thread

Q. How to get coating of titanium on stainless steel? I have viewed rainbow shades on the scissors, which is called the titanium coating.

Luqman Rafiq
- Gujranwala, Pakistan

July 10, 2012

A. Hi Luqman.

The coloration is actually a diffraction pattern similar to what you see in carnival glass or the rainbow sheen of a drop of oil on a puddle of water. It results because the titanium oxide layer on the surface is transparent and of varying thickness, so part of the light bounces off the top of the titanium oxide coating and part bounces off the bottom, and they interfere.

My understanding is that the titanium is applied to the stainless steel with a PVD process, then the coloration is done by anodizing the titanium to varying thicknesses by controlling the immersion depth, time and voltage.

But the people who have invested years of effort in developing this process and are now profiting from its popularity aren't going to simply give us the whole technology for free as a package. You probably must find someone who is licensing the technology, or retain a consultant who is experienced in it, or glean pieces of it from here and there (as I'm doing), then invest effort to perfect it. Best of luck!


Ted Mooney, Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live Aloha

October 24, 2012 -- this entry appended to this thread by editor in lieu of spawning a duplicative thread

Q. I had some questions about using a titanium coating (probably by Titanium Nitride) to get vibrant colors on stainless steel spinner rings (jewelry).

Question 1: Is the coating durable? People will be spinning the rings frequently by hand.

Question 2: I want to make a 2-tone ring. Can I do a black base coat, laser engrave/remove the surfaces I want to be a different color, and then do a second coat in a brighter color, say green? Or will the new color just overwrite the black and create an all-green surface.

I look forward to your feedback.

Aaron Laniewicz
- Silver Spring, Maryland

Aluminum Rainbow Plating Question


Q. Hello, I've been searching around for a while on information on rainbow plating and who can do them for individual customers. I'm a paintball collector/player, and have learned about Rainbow plating through my fencing coach. He had blades that were done in this process. From what I've gathered it can be done on aluminum, but I'm curious to know how the finish will turn out, and if anyone could point me in a good direction for a good plating company.

Thanks for your time and responses,

Luke Swanson
hobbyist - Sacramento, California, USA


A. That finish is done on titanium via anodizing. Although aluminum can be anodized, it is a very different process than titanium anodizing and I don't think it can be made to exhibit quite that rainbow color, although another pattern called "splash anodizing" is widely done on paintball guns. A third technology you might consider for fancy coloration is "water transfer printing".

Ted Mooney, Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live Aloha


A. Highly polished aluminum can be chem filmed and have a wide spectra on colors. Poor wear resistance and corrosion resistance.The paintball folks use a lot of masking and dying, but these are normally sharp demarcations. Rainbowing can be done with inks and air brush. Differential dying will give a wide variation in color, but certainly not with the iridescence of the titanium anodizing.

P.S., The precise methods are extremely proprietary, thus not published and thus a lot of trial and error.

James Watts
- Navarre, Florida

Rainbow finish on butterfly knife

May 30, 2008

Q. I am hoping to buy a UK legal training butterfly knife (has no edge or point, so not considered a knife) and it is steel with a "spectrum oxide finish" and it basically looks like a rainbow with mainly purples, greens, etc. in the colour as if water is put on an oil slick...

rainbow finished butterfly knife

I just want to know if this is easily scratched, or worn off due to rubbing on joints or impacting another surface. any help will be great. thanks.

Ben Smith
product designer - New York

To minimize your searching efforts and to offer multiple viewpoints, we've combined some threads into the dialog you're viewing. Please forgive any resultant repetition or failures of chronological order.

Want rainbow titanium dioxide finish on golf clubs

July 27, 2009

RFQ: Hi, I am after getting a golf club finished with rainbow titanium dioxide, I am based in the UK.

Contact me if you can do this or know if it can be done DIY.


Warren D [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
golf - Greenhithe, Kent, UK
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July 9, 2010

A. Hi, Warren. It can be done DIY if you can't locate a shop, but some skill and practice may be necessary.

The decorative coloring on titanium is actually a diffraction effect, similar to carnival glass or the rainbow sheen from a drop of oil on a water puddle. The titanium dioxide is essentially transparent, and by anodizing in a mild solution of TSP or Coca-cola, you can make the clear coating thick enough to generate various colors.

I believe that if you skillfully and repeatedly dunk a titanium golf club head into the solution and lift it partially out, the area that is immersed all the time and at a higher current will form a thick coating, while the top end, which is only in solution a fraction as long, will have a thinner coating. With skill, I believe you can get a smooth rainbow gradation. Haven't done it, and am not saying it's easy :-)

Good luck.

Jewelry Making Techniques
from Abe Books



Ted Mooney, Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live Aloha

November 22, 2010

RFQ: I want to do rainbow titanium nitride finish on my Glock slide. Does any one know someone that does this?

Jim Wanger
- Clackamas, Oregon, USA
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November 22, 2010

A. Hi, Jim.

I think you may be somewhat mixing apples and oranges when you first call it "titanium nitride coatings" and then say "rainbow titanium finish". To my knowledge, titanium nitride is a gold-tone hard finish applied by PVD processes and usually to steel parts, whereas rainbow titanium finishes are an anodizing process performed on titanium alloys or titanium coatings. I don't know much about Glocks -- what metal is the slide made of, steel or titanium?


Ted Mooney, Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live Aloha

'Rainbow Chrome'/'Oil Slick' finish on Aluminum alloy bicycle parts - options needed

August 22, 2015

Q. I have a custom aluminum bicycle frame that I had built up, and I would like some suggestions on achieving a certain finish to this frame, and, along with it, smaller components to the overall build which will also be aluminum alloy.

The finish I'm looking for has been referred to as an 'oil slick' or 'rainbow chrome' or 'full spectrum chrome' and it's often used on BMX parts that are steel. It is was also used, in a very rare instance, on a BMX frame (again, steel) in the attached image. The situation I'm facing is a bit different - Aluminum parts, the frame is larger (envelope described below), and weight is a concern.

oil slick finish on bicycle frame  oil slick finish on bicycle parts

Factors to consider in the finish:
-Minimal mass gains after the finishing process. Ideally there should be virtually *no* weight gains. Weight matters here for everything.
-The finish needs to be durable... scratch resistant, definitely UV resistant to fading.
-A multi-step process is fine, and even if it's remotely possible, can a finish be achieved through a DIY home kit (I have an architectural background as well as a degree in the sciences, I know my way around chemicals and a workshop)

The research I have done has lead me to a PVD coating process, however my inquiries to a few service providers has been mixed. One was outright terse with a "no, it can't be done' whereas another wrote a great response explaining that the frame is too large for their machine and I would have to get the frame chrome plated first - (which means more weight which is something I do not want.)

Can anyone here offer some ideas on what method I need to take to achieve this finish on a bicycle frame and a few bicycle components (everything is aluminum alloy, everything can be cleaned to bare metal and polished)? Can any of these suggested methods allow for masking techniques? What about UV protection from fading or corrosion?

Bicycle Frame envelope - 37-1/8" x 21" x 6-1/8" or 935 mm x 523 mm x 155 mm
Other parts are much smaller ... Rims, if possible are 622 mm x 622 mm x 25 mm

Thank you,

Alex Amerri
Designer - Los Angeles, California

August 2015

A. Hi Alex. My understanding is that this finish is obtained by a PVD deposit of titanium onto steel, followed by anodizing of the titanium, with both operations performed by single shops which have developed the technology to do it.

If you demand exactly this finish, you have a very difficult road in front of you. Most plating shops can't chrome plate aluminum because it requires special zincate chemistry. After the zincating and nickel-chrome plating you have to find a PVD coater to apply titanium to the chrome plated aluminum. Then you have to find a titanium anodizer to anodize it to this oil slick appearance. One of the three shops, if not two or all three, will lack the requisite experience and can surely be counted on to hopelessly screw it up.

I think you should try to talk yourself into "splash anodizing" which is done on aluminum, or "water transfer printing"/"cubic printing" which is done with paint on aluminum. Neither looks like this oil-slick finish, but they do look unusual and good. Good luck.


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

August 25, 2015

A. Alex

It might be easier if you start with a titanium frame.

Willie Alexander
- Colorado Springs, Colorado

May 19, 2017

A. Titanium dioxide can be coated onto various metal substrates, especially stainless, and it is possible to control the colors. The multi-color or rainbow effect is also possible but will require some basic understanding of the deposition process.
The coating is durable for most applications.

E Dozier
process development engineering - San Diego, California USA

June 22, 2017

Q. What metals or materials can I apply rainbow coating to?
I am looking to make a Crowbar rainbow coated for a friend.

Lukas Pohl
- Erlangen Bavaria Germany

June 2017

A. Hi Lukas. This process applies to titanium. But applying the titanium onto steel requires an expensive PVD chamber not well suited to onesy-twosy applications. It might be more practical to make the crowbar out of titanium, then try to anodize it for the rainbow effect.


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

Zinc Passivation for Rainbow Colors?

February 5, 2018 -- this entry appended to this thread by editor in lieu of spawning a duplicative thread

Q. Hello

I have been going around to my local electroplaters to try and work out how to achieve the finish like the photos I have posted. I would think that it is some kind of Blue Zinc passivation but no one can seem to be able to achieve the finish. I would love any help.

33644-5b   33644-5a

Michael Gittings
Artist - Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

February 2018

A. Hi Michael. Whenever we see a "rainbow" or "oil slick" coloration, it's almost a sure thing that the color is not from pigments, but from a diffraction coating (transparent/translucent coating of partial wavelength thickness which generates interference patterns), much like a drop of oil on a puddle.

It may be possible to do this on zinc, and it may be possible to do it with chromate conversion coatings, but I have never heard of it. I think it's more likely that the component is anodized titanium or possibly has a thin coating of oil on it that has been dried with a torch to different thicknesses, i.e., "flame colored".


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

Rainbow "oil slick" coating on pottery and plaster items

April 14, 2019

Q. Hi everyone. I've been reading this thread with much interest. I thought it might hold the answer to a question I've been searching for but alas not.
I have this lovely ornament (I'm thinking it's made from pottery or plaster) of a sardine that I bought in Croatia (I think). The paint effect on it is simply lovely and I would love to try and recreate it on some concrete or plaster surfaces of small items that I make.


I've no idea how to do it though. Is it heat generated perhaps (painting a metallic finish then heating it?) or is it dipped in a petrol on water kind of coating maybe? I simply don't know?!
Does anyone have any thoughts or suggestions for me to try? I would be soooo happy if you could help! X

Wendy Robson
- Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

April 2019

A. Hi Wendy. The general "oil slick" look is the result, as we have mentioned, of a very thin translucent coating such that some of the incident light reflects from the outside of the coating and some of it passes through the coating and reflects from the base, and the two portions of the reflected light interfere, canceling out some wavelengths. Where the coating is thicker it's one color, and where it's thinner it's another.

Carnival Glass

But trying to determine exactly how it was done is not always easy. In the case of titanium it's done by electrically building an anodized layer of varying thickness; in the case of pretty copper items it's done by applying oil and torch drying it to different thicknesses, in the case of carnival glass it's done with a thin metallic salt bath before final firing.

Although I have no actual knowledge of the method used for your piece, if it's pottery/plaster I doubt that either anodizing or torching would be employed. That leaves me thinking it was probably made the way carnival glass is made. You can probably google quite a bit about that. Good luck.


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

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