How to Paint Pearl Colors

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In the world of painting, "pearl" refers to a light-catching and reflecting component added to paint to make it shimmer and change appearance slightly when exposed to direct light. This component is usually a dust added to paint that imbues it with the shimmering and luminescent quality that makes the color appear to change sightly. There are two kinds of pearl: ghost pearls and candy color pearls. Both can be added to regular paint. Pearl paint is often and most widely used in the automotive industry. Those cars that appear to sparkle slightly in the sun and shine with a multicolor sheen are examples of the kind of effect pearl paint can create.

Things You'll Need

  • Rags
  • Soap and water
  • Power sander
  • 150-grit sandpaper
  • 220-grit sandpaper
  • 400-grit sandpaper
  • 2000-grit sandpaper
  • Primer
  • Paintbrushes
  • Paint sprayer
  • Paint
  • Ghost pearl dust
  • Candy pearl dust
  • Clear coat
  • Clean your surface thoroughly. Wash the surface you are going to paint with soap and water. Dry thoroughly. Run your finger over the surface until it squeaks.

  • Sand the surface you are painting with a power sander and 150-grit sandpaper---this will prep the surface for paint, thus creating something for the new layer to bind to. Sand again with 220-grit sandpaper to smooth out any imperfections in the first sanding. Apply a steady pressure to the power sander so your sanding job is even. Wipe away the dust and residue with a wet rag. Dry the surface thoroughly.

  • Apply primer to the entire surface evenly. Select a color that is similar to or the same as the color you'd like to apply with the ghost or candy pearl dust. Allow this layer of primer to dry.

  • Sand the primer with a power sander and 220-grit sand paper. Resand with 400-grit sandpaper to ensure the primer is even, smooth and prepped for your layer of pearl paint.

  • Mix your ghost pearls into the color of paint you wish to apply. Pour in a 1/2 teaspoon to a full teaspoon of the pearls. Add the pearls gradually so you can see how the different amounts of pearl affect the color. Mix thoroughly until the paint shimmers and you can see the ghost pearls doing their work of transforming a flat color to a textured, luminescent color. Follow these same instructions for the candy pearls, only use a clear base color or a very light neutral color with the candy pearls, as they bring their own color to the mix rather than just reflecting and refracting light the way ghost pearls do.

  • Apply your shimmering pearl coat to the newly primed and freshly sanded surface. Apply the paint with a brush for smaller projects, and use a professional paint sprayer (you can rent one at a tool supply shop) for larger projects. Allow this layer of pearl paint to dry.

  • Wet-sand your pearl layer with a very high-grit sandpaper---2000-grit is not uncommon for a finish job like this. Wipe away the dust from sanding with a wet cloth. Dry the surface. Apply a layer of clear coat to the surface---this will serve to both increase the sheen of your paint and to protect your pearl paint layer.

Tips & Warnings

  • Wear a face mask when sanding to reduce any internal irritation from inhaling the paint dust.

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References

  • Photo Credit car image by Brett Bouwer from Fotolia.com
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