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topic 43239

Is pearl bright nickel same as satin nickel

A discussion started in 2005 but continuing through 2020


Q. We are designing a formed steel part and would like to specify what I'll call a "satin nickel" finish. So far I have been unable to locate a standard for specifying this type of finish. My goal is a repeatable and consistent finish. I want to make sure that I have a clear note on my drawing so that the finisher knows what I want and I can reject parts that are not like I want. Hopefully a good specification will make sure I never need to reject parts.

Can anyone direct me to a standard or convention for specifying satin nickel finishes?

Thank you.

Chris Justice
consumer goods - Prairie Village, Kansas, USA

simultaneous 2005

A. Hello Chris...
I have been struggling with satin nickel for 2 years. Time after time and to solve some problems with satin nickel bath I knew some details and important things. So I have eliminated nearly all problems. But I don't know your problems and what do you want about satin nickel. If you post your problems or questions we will help you.

Good Luck.

Alaattin Tuna


A. Chris,
Nickel finish is usually interpreted as bright shine finish in the metal finishing field. Satin nickel finish is nickel finish which is with no shine and non-reflective surface looking like a semi polished Stainless steel appearance.

t k mohan
T.K. Mohan
plating process supplier - Mumbai, India


A. Nickel or any other plating has little to do with the finished texture. The texture of the substrate is revealed through the plating. For bright reflective Nickel the substrate must be polished to the reflective degree desired before plating.
For Satin nickel finish lightly sandblast before plating.

John Fuselier
- Livingston, Texas


thumbs up sign  John, that's an opinion I can't disagree with nor fully agree with :-)

Yes, bead blasting or lightly sanding before plating will give a finish which some people call satin, but other platers will call that brushed nickel and reserve the word 'satin' for pearlescent finishes achieved with special additives.

And, yes, consumers who want their old articles replated do need to understand that this involves polishing them first because plating will not fill gouges, scratches, and pits. But it's not quite true that the substrate must be polished to the reflective degree desired before plating; bright self-leveling nickel adds a substantial degree of smoothness and reflectivity to roughly polished surfaces, while retaining a satin finish on bead blasted or brushed areas.

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


Q. I guess I'm used to specifying powder coat finishes on metal or pantone colors and a mold-tech specification for molded plastic. With both approaches I'm relatively certain that I'll get close to what I specify (or have grounds to reject parts). Is there such a standard way to specify surface finish for a plated part?

I see a lot of consumer articles for sale under the label "satin nickel". My question is; how is this specified? Would I specify a certain type and duration of bead blasting along with a certain concentration and duration (or thickness) of nickel plating? So far I haven't been able to find a clear way to communicate what I want on my part prints. Thanks in advance for additional help.

Chris Justice [returning]
- Prairie Village, Kansas USA


A. You and me both.

Indeed this is the confluence of a technology problem plus a semantics problem :-)

What Mssrs. Mohan and Fuselier are calling a "satin nickel" finish is what some other people would call a "brushed nickel" finish. Some people would describe satin nickel not as a brushed or bead blasted finish but as a pearlescent, opalescent, or "frosty" finish not too different from a fine silver look or actual satin (that appearance is not achieved by bead blasting but via special additives in the plating bath).

Again, I'm certainly not presuming to call Mssrs. Mohan and Fuselier wrong! I'm just saying that the problem includes a basically different interpretation as to what a piece of slang means.

I'm afraid that for the foreseeable future this issue will remain problematical and you'll need to provide good photographs or actual test parts to convey what finish you seek.

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


A. Being a decorative plater I am used to the semantics involved in describing finishes. What one person calls satin another calls brushed. What a third person calls satin another calls frosted.

There is no specification or standard for textured finishes that I know of. My best advise is to process several samples yourself to the desired finish texture and provide your plater with one of these "Master Samples". You and your QC dept. keep the rest for incoming inspection purposes.

Tim Hamlett
Decorative Plating - North Miami, Florida, USA


A. As the last respondent said, semantics is a large part of all definitions of metal finishing. I produce two basic types of Nickel plated finish: either lightly sandblasted, which for want of a better term, I call "Satin". This is most useful when there is some light corrosion or pitting which can be minimized in appearance with this non-reflective plating. It also easy to keep clean clean and does not show fingerprints. This is excellent for a firearm.

The other type is a highly reflective mirror finish which can only be successfully applied on a polished metal surface. There is a certain amount of self-leveling in some plating procedures, but a mirror finish will never be developed without the underlying strata being first polished. This means that the underlying metal must be relatively free of flaws.

As for buffing or polishing Nickel after plating, this is dangerous business because heat and unequal expansion may cause the plating to delaminate.

John Fuselier
- Livingston, Texas

December 21, 2008

A. When a coating of Nickel is applied to Zinc alloy metal, it will resemble very much a stainless steel finish. In other words, Brushed Nickel will be close to stainless steel finish in appearance. Item is usually Machine Buffed to remove shine. Satin Nickel on the other hand is Gray matte finish, resembles Light Silver.

Rick Carino
- So Ozone Park, New York

To minimize search efforts and to offer multiple viewpoints, we combined previously separate threads onto this page. Please forgive any resultant repetition, failures of chronological order, or what may look like readers disrespecting previous responses -- those other responses may not have been on the page at the time :-)


Q. Hi.
I would like to know what is the difference between pearl bright and satin nickel?

Way Beng
- Malaysia


A. These terms are colloquialisms rather than rigid specifications, Way, so it is difficult to answer.

To me, though, I have no trouble visualizing the smooth iridescent look of a pearl, and the idea that nickel can be made to look sort of that way with special additives. I also have no trouble appreciating what brushed nickel is -- which is accomplished by sanding, or the matte finish of glass bead blasting before plating.

But when someone says "satin nickel", I for one don't know whether they are thinking of a pearlescent finish or a brushed finish or a bead blasted finish -- and I think a lot of people agree with me.

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


A. Pearl Brite is an Enthone brand name, satin nickel a way to describe the looks of it.

Erik van der Staaij
- Maasbommel, Netherlands


A. Thanks, Eric. We appreciate your advising us of this and are very happy to concede "Pearl Brite" to Enthone as a trade name.

But as noted, I've heard bead blasted (and brushed) nickel called "satin nickel" by so many people in so many venues, and decades before the development of Pearl Brite, that I can't demand that all and sundry stop calling it satin :-)
Actually, neither pearl-like nickel nor bead blasted nickel looks quite like satin to me :-)

Thanks again.

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


A. I have to agree that Satin, Brushed, Pearl and other like terms are very subjective.

My company markets "Polished", "Satin", and "Matte" finishes. Polished is self explanatory. Our "Matte" finish is more like the bead blasted or pearl finish that some of our competitors call a "Frost" finish. Our "Satin" is more like a brushed finish except the lines we produce are very straight and even unlike "Brushed" finishes where the lines tend to be more random in direction and length.

So … call them what you will. Just make sure your finisher understands what you want.

Tim Hamlett
- Miami, Florida, USA


thumbs up sign Thanks, Tim. Your explanation of your own vocabulary is helpful, and as you say, the same words mean different things to different people.

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


A. I think Satin Nickel and Pearl nickel are the same thing. My company is one of the biggest suppliers of many world wide high class sanitary company, and our customers demand plating in varying finishes and call them "matte","satin","frost", even "special" -- but the only difference is substrate mechanical prep.
The "satin chrome" is just like this precess in our company" semi-bright nickel - "pearl" nickel - Chrome".
This is basic precess, and we also change it to make a new surface treatment, just like "semi-bright->brushed->pearl->chrome(->PVD)".

Frank Liou
kitchen & bath products - Guangzhou City, China

February 16, 2017

Q. Hi,

I am starting a small line of handcrafted fabric belts (fashion) and I would like to change all metal parts (buckle, eyelets and end tip) from nickel (shiny) to brushed/mat nickel. So far I have found out that I can do that with sandpaper, however since these belts will be for sale I am concerned about the quality of brushed nickel metal parts. To be more precise - how much brushing can they withstand in regards to the thickness of nickel coating? Does brushing make coating (metal finish) too thin and therefore of a lesser quality?

How is the brushed nickel finish achieved in an official way - rather than with sandpaper?

Thank you for your help. Best wishes,
Spela from Slovenia (Europe)

Spela Sajovic
handicraftsman - Kranj, Slovenia, Europe

February 16, 2017

A. Bead blasting first will give you a somewhat matte finish. We take a different approach, namely polish first, apply a thick layer of electrolytic bright nickel, then brush the nickel. We bead blast only if the surface is in pretty bad shape, i.e., has scratches that we can't remove easily with polishing.

jim treglio portrait
Jim Treglio
PVD Consultant - San Diego, California

How to do nickel plating with a "butler finish"?

April 29, 2020

Q. To whom it may concern,

The further into the further confused . . .

I have nickel plated some furniture components. But I do not want their glossy finish but rather that soft, satin, "Butler" finish you find in kitchen hardware. As to the discussion of "brush" marks, I am seeking the least visible possible.

Will Formax' Satin-Glo in a 320 or 400 grit do the job?

Any direction is most appreciated

Steven Kronenberg
Furniture maker - Trequanda, Italy

April 2020

A. Hi Steven. Yikes, it wasn't bad enough with just "brushed", "matte", blasted", "satin", and "pearl" ... now we add "butler finish" and "hotel finish" to the mix :-)

Thread 32538 offers instruction for how to achieve this "butler finish" but it's not clear to me whether, when it's wanted on a nickel plated item, it's done before plating; it sounds like something you would do after plating, but I don't know.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Aloha -- an idea worth spreading

April 30, 2020

Q. Dear Ted et al.,

Thank you for your prompt attention. Regretfully, I still lack detailed suggestions more pertinent to my query. Again ...

I have nickeled new, stainless, dome-headed, knockdown furniture components (and virtually impossible to locate in limited quantities). The nickel finish, although highly regular, is far too glossy and not what I desire on a rosewood table. I simply want to remove the gloss and create a satin, frosted, matte, pearlescent, champagne, call it what you will finish, that which you commonly find in kitchen cabinet pulls. It can be "brushed" if fine enough. This finish might also be termed the classic "Butler" found on older (even newer) auto dashboard components employed by auto restorers (given that it does not reflect light). In his thread, Mr. Hamlett's "frost" seems to most hit it on the button!

I have questioned both Brownells and Formax, the manufacturer of the "Satin-Glo" buffing compound in (to the best of my knowledge) 100,150, 220, 320 and 400 grit. I have attempted, all w/o success, the standard black emery compound and the softer green side of kitchen sponges. I have not attempted wet and dry paper, certain that the results will be inconsistent. It has been suggested that I try steel (vs. iron) wool and/or sandblasting.

Please! Anyone . . .?

Thank you.


Steven Kronenberg [returning]
Cabinetmaker - Trequanda, Italy

April 2020

A. Hi again Steven. Your posting is here for any reader to help you :-)

As noted, there are a half-dozen or more ways to achieve a matte, dull or non-reflective nickel or nickel-chrome surface. The broadest range of looks is available based on mechanical distortion of the surface before plating via bead blasting, brushing, sanding, etc. Another path is via things done during the plating process, such as not using brighteners, or adding tiny particles for composite plating or the use of special surfactants that cloud up to distort the plating and make it non-reflective. Finally, there are the paths which you are apparently limited to, some sort of chemical or abrasive process after bright plating.

You might commiserate or share war stories with Dave S. of thread 26881 who is trying to chemically age bright nickel plating to a dull look. Or you can attempt Dan P.'s method of thread 32538, using brushes plus water or oil for a Butler finish.

But what I think is the main issue here is trying to know a priori exactly what you must do to some finish you don't know too much about, to get it to look like something you have in mind. As I mentioned to Dave S., the missing link here may be further experimentation. Can you get some scrap nickel plated material to practice on, and try your ideas on, and see what you can learn? The non-reflective items you mention are not done by abrasion after plating, they're done via particles or surfactant clouds during plating -- while it's probably possible to come reasonably close via some sort of post-plating abrasion (especially Dan P.'s method), I just don't think anyone is going to be able to provide the answer you seek of just exactly how to do it. Oh, and there's maybe yet another approach: a matte lacquer or clearcoat. Sorry :-(


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Aloha -- an idea worth spreading

Ed. note: Related threads --
03013. Satin nickel plating process
40492. Satin nickel plating problems
26692. Filtration system questions for satin nickel plating
32538. What's a "Butler Finish"

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