Metallic Paints Take Center Stage
Metallic paint isn't new. Adding ores to liquids to make colored coatings dates back to the pyramids, the technical experts say. Industry today is producing a dynamic variety of paints and glazes for creating everything from crown jewels to crown molding.
by Mike Dawson
such as silver and gold. But they also offer shimmer and glow to pastels and earth tones. They carved their niche in decorative work, including faux applications, but increasingly customers call for full wall applications, including exteriors.
"Homeowners say it gives their house the 'wow' factor," says Greg Sargema, director of marketing at Modern Masters Inc. "It provides a uniqueness to their home."
These coatings caught on in the last five or ten years and continue to grow in popularity, Sargema says. Contractors enjoy working with the paint because of its high-grade quality.
These paints are not for starter homes. They are most often used in luxury homes or high-end commercial work. Modern Masters' custom colors have appeared on movie sets, theme parks, and the stage of the 2003 Academy Awards show, including on the 6-foot gold Oscars.
Metallic paints have been able to move beyond decorative accents because while they contain crystalline minerals, they don't contain metal ores that oxidize when exposed to air or water.
That's the case with the Metallic Paint Collection offered by Modern Masters, which Sargema says is the leading U.S. supplier of metallic paints. The Metallic Paint Collection formula is a water-based acrylic that includes the mineral mica.
The mica provides reflectivity. However, mica reflects a rainbow of colors, so paints with mica are manufactured by bonding titanium dioxide or iron oxide onto the surface of the mica flakes to control the light reflection, creating the desired colors. It is the reflection of light off the mica particles, the "metal," that results in the metallic finish.
There are other specialty paints with true metals in them, including Modern Masters' Metal Effects, reactive paints which are intended to oxidize and change color. You can use iron to get a rust color, or copper for the green hue similar to the color of the Statue of Liberty.
Most of the metallic paints on the market are supplied by smaller manufacturers, whereas the major house paint and industrial coatings companies have not expended a lot of energy on this category of the decorative market segment.
Another of those smaller companies is Faux Effects Inc., Vero Beach, Fla., which makes MetalGlow. Also a water-based paint, it comes in 67 colors and is sold in plastic jars rather than gallon cans.
One of the big paint players that offers metallics is Sherwin-Williams, whose Illusions Translucent Metallic Technique Finishes comes in gold, copper, pearl and silver. This glaze is intended for rag rolling or sponging, accenting trim or other small areas, Marketing Director Steve Revnew says.
For actual paints, the manufacturers say application is simple, but if you put it on just like latex, you might lose the desired effect. Here are some tips from Sargema of Modern Masters and Jamie Jackson of Faux Effects for getting the shimmer and luster that clients are looking for from these paints.
A primed or painted surface is recommended. Sargema says specifically to avoid oil-based primers with Modern Masters products. He specifies acrylic primers, while Jackson suggests oil-based or water-based primers. Tinting the primer to match the metallic finish coat is a good idea, especially with light colors.
The real divergence from standard latex paint is in the actual application of metallics. You need the right tools and the right moves. Modern Masters is so adamant about this that they sell their own custom-made roller for the job.
The Metallic Paint Collection roller has a half-inch nap, and it differs from common rollers in that it is a compilation of straight strands, rather than loops. If used to cover a wall, the roller should be modified with the company's roller extender product.
Application is critical to success. "V" or "W" moves will not produce the metallic finish, Sargema says. Roll vertically only to keep the color particles aligned. Finish the first coat, then back-roll over the lap lines. The extender should provide enough open time for this process.
Jackson recommends a foam roller, noting that Faux Effects MetalGlow can be thinned up to 20 percent with water.
Sprayers are also effective, but unless done properly the paint will essentially be ruined. An HVLP sprayer with a compressor is the only workable system. A turbine doesn't create enough pressure. If you run this paint through an airless sprayer, the atomizer will destroy the metallic particles and thus the finish.
For similar reasons, never mix metallic paint with other paints. The metallic particles get buried in the mix and you've wasted them. However, metallics mix well together, Sargema says.
The job often is not complete without sealing. Most often, a clear sealer is recommended to protect the finish, and with some paints, the sealer will protect it from tarnishing. This is particularly true in high-traffic areas, bathrooms or exterior applications. Modern Masters recommends using their MasterClear, an acrylic/polyurethane UV protective clear topcoat that is formulated to go over metallic paints.
Finally, metallic paint needs light to work its magic. It goes well with incandescent and halogen bulbs and natural light, but does not respond as well to fluorescent lighting.