Metal flake adds movement to paint jobs. It can be mixed into a colored paint or as part of the clear top coat process. Adding flake is often referred to as “bling”. Sitting in the shade, the paint job looks normal, but when moved into the sun, the flake comes to life.
Flake Shape and Size
Mixing different flakes takes time and practice. Often, the result is not what you would expect, and this is mainly because the flake does not actually mix with paint. The illusion of changed color actually occurs when the light reflects off of the metal flake. Metal flake comes in many sizes, from a very fine powder to large, clearly visible chunks. Some flakes are cut into square shapes whereas others are six- or eight-sided. Hexagonal and octagonal flakes are smoother in larger sizes. Depending on what is being painted and how many clear coats are to be applied, flake shape and size may have a significant effect on the final finish. It only takes a small amount of flake to stand out although some paint jobs use heavy flake in varying sizes.
Mixing with Paint
Dramatic effects can be attained by adding a sharply contrasting metal flake to any color. Red or orange flake mixed with dark blue or black paint stands out prominently. Black paint with silver flake contrast is distinctive; the flake stands out, but the colors coordinate. It is also common to mix the same color flake and paint. This adds depth and texture to paint yet is extremely subtle. There is an added degree of complexity when you add two or more flake colors to paint. If the paint and all of the flake colors do not coordinate or contrast, it is easy to end up with a dull, muddy result. All combinations of flake and paint should be sprayed on a test panel, allowed to cure fully, and then viewed in both full sunlight and shade to make sure the mix is right.
Mixing with Powder
Metal flake can also be used to enhance powder coating jobs although the results are not always the same as paint. The main difference is that flake actually mixes with powder and can change the color of the powder. For instance, a bright red powder mixed with silver flake turns to the orange side of red. Larger flakes are less likely to mix thoroughly and cause this change; they are, however, more visible and cause a rougher surface that needs more clear coats to become smooth. If flake is applied over powder as part of a mix with the clear coat, it is less likely to change the actual color. The chemistry of powder is different than that of paint, and some clears will cloud when mixed with flake. A fully cured test panel cut from the same or similar metal can prevent large-scale problems.
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