Metallic Wall Coatings
Metallic-paint veteran Kathy Carroll has watched metallics evolve over the last 15 years.
by Jennifer D. Meacham
says Carroll, owner of Faux By Kathy and founder of the Chicago Institute of Fine Finishes. “You have glazes, you have paste, you have waxes — not just paint.”
Today’s metallics are tough, durable inside and out, and create beautiful finishes, says Kim Bacon, owner of seven-year-old Wall Effects in Quincy, Wash. “It adds shimmer and softness to an otherwise dead or flat surface. The metallic just gives everything a nice glow.”
What’s more, there is growing demand for coatings that create alternatives to real metal, which has soared in cost. In the past decade, world spot prices for gold have climbed from $252.80 to $835.20 an ounce and silver from $4.02 to $15.48 an ounce. Meanwhile, copper jumped from 75 cents to $3.80 per pound and stainless steel doubled in just the past few years. “The quality of [real metal] has gone down substantially,” says Jim Harris, president of Ridgefield, Wash.-based Burke Industrial Coatings, makers of stainless-steel paint. “As the industry tries to stay competitive in the world market, they’re developing substances that will withstand conditions and at the same time save costs.”
All of the following metallic finishes can be used on nearly any paintable surface, from medium-density fiberboard to masonry and polystyrene to plastic. These new ways to shine are available now at contractor centers.
Metallic surfacers — Made of ground metal in water-based acrylic, metallic surfacers have the durability, magnetism and reactivity of the real metal they’re made from. Applying them requires two coats with a brush or other applicator, but no special skills. Cost is roughly double that of traditional paint.
“We’re not a faux finish,” says Alix Lopez of Sophisticated Finishes, a division of Triangle Coatings. “There’s real bronze in the bronze, real copper in the copper. If you pick up a little bottle of the iron, it weighs a lot. It’s reactive, it lasts longer, it’s more real.”
Sophisticated Finishes has 12 real-metal colors, sold to contractors in 1-gallon, 5-gallon and 50-gallon sizes. “You can do a lot more with this than just a wall,” Lopez says. “You can do a light fixture, a mantel, fireplace screens … restaurant exteriors, awnings, wrap-around stove vent hoods ... even a water fountain or gutters if prepped properly and sealed with a good quality sealer.”
Meanwhile, Burke Industrial Coatings offers a rust-stopping stainless steel flake paint with added silver: Superlife 316 Liquid Stainless Steel. Perfect for food service and industrial storage applications, the silver kills bacteria and the matte steel finish withstands chemical washes and other hard-knock treatment. It’s sprayed on with a standard spray gun or aerosol can and is stocked by industrial original equipment manufacturers and commercial distributors.
“Because our products are waterborne, they’re nonsolvent and nonflammable with no contamination,” says Harris at Burke. “It’s an environmentally-safe VOC-compliant product, both wet and dry.”
New in Burke’s lineup is a clear coating called SilverBulletAM with added silver and copper particles. The copper treats mildew, making this coating ideal for cruise ships. “You get a ship shut down because of illnesses and you’re losing dollars by the minute,” Harris says. “(Plus,) marine varnish turns gummy when they use hard chemical to rid the surfaces of mold and bacteria. Our coating isn’t affected by the chemical that they use.”
Meanwhile, magnetic additives like those from Magically Magnetic combine iron, nickel or cobalt to make any paint magnetic.
Metal-look paints — Without the addition of metal itself, metal-look paints can still run the gamut from pearlescent to shimmer. Made with mica instead of paint’s normal titanium dioxide colorants, they’re water-based and durable outdoors. Most metal-look paints cover 100 square feet per quart and can be thinned up to 20 percent with water. They’re recommended for spraying but can be rolled or brushed, though application lines are likely to show. To minimize lap lines, reroll each coat while still wet with a light upward stroke.
In development is Modern Masters’ new Platinum Line for the professional trade. Modern Masters’ Metallic Paint Collection has given the shimmer of gold to the Oscar statue outside the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center, and it shined up the theatre’s interior with silver, champagne metallic and pale gold. Its metallic paint also draped Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle in 20 custom shades and showered Tomorrowland with silver. And Modern Masters’ MasterClear protective metallic finish topped it all off.
Meanwhile, Sophisticated Finishes rolls out its Wisteria Lane Collection this spring, with colors such as Sprout Green, Dijon Yellow and Cabernet. “They won’t be reactive, but they’ll definitely have a metallic sheen,” Lopez says.
Blue Pearl produces the largest collection of metallic paint colors — 83 in all — while other maunfacturers, such as Faux Effects, offer several lines of metal-look paints for a wide variety of applications. California-based painting contractor and owner of Faux Masters Studio Mike Hoppe is Faux Effects’ largest distributor. He says their paints have been used for doorknobs, front gates, iron front doors, handrails, stair banisters and even the knobs on cabinets. Faux Effects also has metallic stains and seals that bond readily to enamel door casings.
Metal-look indoor/outdoor paint also comes in aerosol cans, put out by manufacturers such as Krylon (18 Kt. Gold Plate, Sterling Silver) and Rust-Oleum (Matte Nickel, Chrome, Burnished Brass, Ruby Red). Coats dry in 20 minutes. Krylon’s newest line is brushed metallics, while several of Rust-Oleum’s options appear hand-hammered automatically. Rust-Oleum and Krylon both offer paint-filled “metallic leafing pens” for detail applications.
Metallic waxes — Metallic wax is usually mica-tinted water-based or oil-based resins. It’s translucent but burnishable once applied, and it can be painted over without stripping. It’s applied with a trowel, damp cellulose sponge or spatula. Manufacturers include ProFaux and Texturline. A gallon covers up to 1,000 square feet.
“Most of the time it’s troweled, because you want that uniform look, especially with mica waxes,” says Jenna DeFalco, owner of Inspired Design in South Elgin, Ill. Half of her jobs over the years have used some sort of metallic medium. “Right now, metallics are very in, so I haven’t had a problem selling there.”
Metallic waxes can create effects from brushed metal to burnished copper. One Somerville, Mass., restaurateur brought in contractor Anita Parker, trained in applying copper paint and wax, to add color to his kitchen. “She saved us thousands of dollars in our design for our restaurant with the real look of copper without the cost,” the restaurateur says.
“One of the big changes here is using a 100-percent beeswax medium,” says Carroll at the Chicago Institute of Fine Finishes, which recently introduced its environmentally friendly Bella Cera Satin wax metallics. Adding metallic micropowders to beeswax makes the medium 100 percent green.
Metallic textures — Plaster, stone, paper, suede … Each look can be created by paint contractors adept in metallic textures. Modern Masters’ new texture has straw-like fiber. “We wash it over with soft metallic glazes, and get these really beautiful metallic rice paper looks,” says painting contractor Kelly S. King, Modern Masters’ director of education and product development.
JewelStone is ProFaux’s newest acrylic metallic plaster, available in 21 shades of gold and silver. Applied with a trowel, spatula or roller, it can be crosshatched, embedded with stencils, or pitted like stone, and it covers 175 square feet per gallon. JewelStone requires two coats and a base coat (like ProFaux’s Diamond Tooth primer).
For most textures, “the only tools that are really needed are a trowel and a spray bottle — and, of course, the products,” Carroll says.
Blue Pearl offers three metallic textures: Trowel Coat, a thick tintable topcoat for finishes such as snakeskin; Wall Leaf, a tintable pearlescent plaster that simulates gold leaf; and Shimmered Suede, 33 durable pearlescent shades that feel like soft cloth when dry. Golden Artist Colors has a new texture called Proceed, which reportedly bridges contemporary and old-world looks using Golden Artist’s own high-transparency metallic pigments.
“Faux Effects’ LusterStone, a metallic Venetian plaster, is another one that’s heavy-bodied and you trowel it on,” Hoppe says. “And that’s incredibly more popular than the metallic paint. Anyone who basically knows how to handle drywall can handle this.”
Meanwhile, King has plans for Modern Masters textures: “We are coming out with a new line of metallic textures called Shizen, meaning natural beauty. It’s a trowel-applied coating, with a very subtle pearlescent/metallic shimmer to it. We’ve been taking this seashell material and doing metallic washes over it, and there’s nothing in the world that touches the look and material and what it does.”
Its best feature? “It actually cleanses the environment,” King says. “It has crushed seashell in it [that] actually absorbs formaldehyde and other organic compounds out of the air — and disintegrates it.” The product is available through Modern Masters Certified Training Centers. The caveat: “It requires training,” King says. Training spans several days at The Kelly S. King Academy in either Omaha, Neb. or Seattle, Wash.
“Another finish is actually mixing in metallic resins into texture,” King says. The recommended metal powder mesh size for mixing with resin is -325 to -225.
Metallic paste — Using a finger or soft cloth, rub this on to coat mouldings, or create stencils. Once dried, it can be buffed to a smear-free and particle-free luster. Goldfinger offers it in a 22-milliliter tube and in five metal shades, which can be thinned with white spirit or turpentine for brushing. It works best on porous or slightly scraped surfaces, then topped with varnish.
Metal glaze — This translucent, pearlescent liquid creates a broken metallic finish. It can be used to create a metal sheen over off-white or color-coordinated latex or to hide lap lines for rolled-on metallic paint. It’s also ideal for simple faux finishes such as dragging and ragging.
Once the background base coat is dry, this becomes a two-person job: one for thinly rolling on the glaze and the other for pouncing the glaze with a plastic bag and then a terry-cloth towel. Glazes provide one hour of workability but need several days to fully dry. Add a clear acrylic topcoat or a water-based urethane or varnish for hard-use walls like bathrooms, kitchens and kid’s rooms. ProFaux’s Metallic Glazes and Blue Pearl’s Metallic Glazes and Wall Mediums can be tinted with colorants or acrylic art paints.
Other considerations — To stop the natural aging process of paints using real metal, apply two coats of clear acrylic or solvent-based sealer. Otherwise, those paints will patina with time or patina activators.
For the aged look, you’ll need to apply a faux finish.
“There are significant variables in cost relative to [metallic coatings], but it’s absolutely worth the additional effort,” says Gunar Gruenke, of family-owned Conrad Schmitt Studios in New Berlin, Wis. “The more the client spends does not necessarily mean we’re making more profit, but the more they spend means we have an opportunity to give them a better project. That’s huge.” Ninety percent of his studio’s metallic business comes from word of mouth, he says.
In all, look at metal-look paints as a way to add value and upsell. “Metallic paints absolutely add curb appeal, which results in helping sell a home or enhancing any other project,” says King. “This is especially true with the way the trends are going. The trend is toward Asian influence, clean line design and green living. Today’s metallics address it all.”