How to Make Plastic Look Like Metal

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Spray paint offers smooth, even application of the metallic paint.
Spray paint offers smooth, even application of the metallic paint. (Image: somchaisom/iStock/Getty Images)

Give your plastic models and props a more realistic metallic appearance with the use of silver spray paint. Created for use on automobiles and furniture, metallic paints instantly give you the look of strong, durable metal.

Things You'll Need

  • Plastic primer, clear or black
  • Silver metal spray paint
  • Fine grit sandpaper
  • Newspaper
  • Work gloves
  • Safety glasses
  • Paper towels
  • Clean cloth
  • Mild soap

Rough up the surface of your plastic if it is very smooth with the fine grit sandpaper. If the plastic is already a little scratched and beaten up then you can skip this step.

Wash your plastic, if possible, in mild soap and water. Dry with paper towels or allow to air dry completely.

Spread out newspaper on your work area. Since you are using spray paint, the aerosolized particles can spread out a lot, so cover the work surface, walls and floor with newspaper, if needed. Put on your safety glasses and work gloves.

Spray the plastic with two complete coats of plastic primer. Allow 15 minutes between each coat. Allow the second coat of primer to dry completely for at least one hour. You can use either black or clear plastic primer. The black may help create a deeper metallic look for props and cosplay projects.

Spray one thorough coat of silver paint onto the plastic surface. Wait about an hour and apply a second lighter coat to fill in any thin spots. Black primer can also help you see thin areas in the paint more easily. Allow the paint to dry for up to 24 hours before use.

Tips & Warnings

  • Create a rough, beat-up metal look by rubbing the silver paint onto the black primer with a clean cloth. Build up layers of silver paint with this method until you get the coverage you want.
  • Work in an open, well-ventilated area. Spray paint can get into the lungs and cause irritation.

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