Thursday, April 11, 2013

Tutorial: Metallic Paints and Finishes

Gundams are bipedal robots, and the bipedal robots of the future are bound to have some seriously shiny internal elements. At least that's my way of thinking, and I try to implement it when I paint my kits. I've tried a few different methods for achieving a great metallic finish, some better than others, and I thought I'd outline a few here to help anyone else who wants that real robotic look.

Mr. Color 

Using Mr. Color's metallic paint is just like using any Mr. Color paint; thin with Mr. Color Thinner or Leveling Thinner and spray away. Above you can see Steel, Silver, Gold, Copper, Gun Chrome, and Burnt Iron. Silver and Steel were my go-to inner frame paints for a long time, but now I tend to use them for things like weapons and smaller details.

The best way I've found to use these paints, is to paint them straight onto your primed surface, then give them a semi-gloss clear coat. I've heard of people advocating a black basecoat, but I don't feel that it's necessary when using these.

Heres an example of how Steel would look after being clear coated with semi gloss. The biggest down side to using Mr. Color is that the metallic flakes are huge, and they tend to clog my brush. Because of this, the appearance is not as fine as other metallic paints.

Mr. Metal Color

Next on the list is Mr. Metal Color. This is a metallizer that you spray on and buff to a shine. It can be sprayed straight from the bottle, and produces some pretty nice results, better than regular Mr. Color.

As you buff Mr. Metal Color, it tends to become slightly translucent. Because of this its best to lay down a black base coat of some kind before applying it. I've sprayed this spoon with a gloss black enamel and then with Mr. Metal Color Iron. As you can see, before the buffing it's not very shiny at all.

What a difference! After the buffing, it shines nicely. You can buff these paints with anything from a toothbrush to a polishing cloth. The more you buff, the more metallic these paints become. Of course this is very labor intensive, but it's possible if you want to try it. If you clear coat Mr. Metal Color you're going to lose some of your sheen though, so I would advise only using it on weapons and exterior parts; things without too many edges or rubbing sides.


Alclad has two lines of paint; regular finish and high-shine finish. Pictured here are four of Alclad's regular finishes. From the left: Duraluminum, Pale Gold, Magnesium, and Steel. The regular metallic finishes are quite easy to work with, almost too easy, in fact.

The first step to using Alclad's line of metallic paints is priming your surface. I've primed a few spoons with Mr. Surfacer 1200 in preparation. Make sure that your surface is as clean and smooth as possible before painting.

Regular Alclad can be sprayed directly onto primer at 12-15 psi. It's even pre-thinned to make your life easier. Just as with the Mr. Metal Color, you can clear coat regular Alclad, but it doesn't require it, and it will dull your shine. It's not entirely evident in this photo, but steel is significantly darker than magnesium. When comparing this photo with the Mr. Color Steel I demonstrated at the beginning, it's clear that the metallic pigment is much finer in Alcad paints.

Now for the high shine finishes. These paints are interesting to work with but pretty easy once you get the hang of it. They're also top of the line when it comes to realistic metal finishes. As you can see from the picture, they're extremely thin, which makes the paint itself translucent. For this reason, it's very important to have the glossiest black base possible for the Alclad to reflect off of.

This spoon has been sprayed with Alclad Gloss Black, Alclad's own primer/gloss enamel. I really like this stuff. It goes on super smooth, and dries fast. Not to mention it's extremely glossy, one of the most important preparatory steps to making your Alclad look good. Make sure your surface is as clean as possible, as any dust or hair will show right through the metallic paint. Think of the black enamel as the way your final product will look. Alclad is so thin that it will reveal any imperfections in your surface, including fingerprints.

When your surface is ready, turn your compressor down to 12-15 psi and load the pre-thinned Alclad into your airbrush cup. The best way to apply these paints is with a smooth, deliberate motion, almost as if you're using a hand brush to apply paint to your surface. It's also best not to put down more than one coat. If you paint too much, the reflective black will start to become obscured and your paint job will lose some of it's shine. High-shine finishes should not be clear coated unless you intend to use Alclad's own line of "Klear Kote" paints. Best of luck with your own metallic paint jobs!

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