Chrome plating is a material that can be found almost everywhere in our contemporary world, and which brings us unique properties, both decorative and technical. The hard and shiny metal, which we will try to imitate with the chrome paint, has a hardness and a resistance to abrasion and oxidation out of the ordinary, and an exceptional visual aspect, because it produces a perfect mirror that reflects all its environment.
The chrome paint (sans vernis de protection) is able to imitate quite well the decorative characteristics of the mirror effect of this silver metal, but it can certainly not match the decorative chrome or hard chrome found on many everyday objects, such as the shower head to the industrial piston.
Let’s skip the cheap aluminum paints sold in supermarkets, and focus on several professional quality chrome spray paint offers.
There are mainly two types of chrome spray paints, one of which is used in bodywork (evaporable), and the second in the decorative and artistic field “it is the floating chrome (leafing).
We will briefly present the advantages and disadvantages of each of the two chrome spray paints, and explain how to use them on your items to decorate.
First of all, if you don’t have a spray gun or airbrush, you can still achieve a nice chrome effect with one of the two chrome spray paints, packaged in aerosol cans. Although there is a varnish of the paint applicable with a brush, it is always better not to “touch the support”, by spraying and atomizing the paint.
The first solution is the simplest, it is by far the most accessible chrome paint to any user: Alcohol-based, not very harmful, this paint can be applied almost anywhere, whatever the type of support, and without any preparation, or complex undercoat. The chrome effect that is revealed by “floating” gives in a few seconds a real mirror aspect, of excellent quality. This is the advantage.
The disadvantage of this chrome paint, which can be applied with a brush or spray, is that it is not resistant to washing or rubbing. It cannot be varnished either.
The second solution, is also the last one, because there is no more miracle solution in terms of chrome paint, which is able to create a real mirror, by a painting process. Professional chrome paint is a 99% evaporable liquid that is applied by spray or airbrush and forms a chrome plating. It is a varnishable paint, which can be logically very long-lasting and resistant. Therefore it is commonly used in bodywork, but also in decoration, furniture and architecture.
There is a technique halfway between painting and chemistry, which is called Silvering. It is also commonly called Spraychrome. It is certainly the method to produce the most beautiful, purest, most reflective chrome effects, even more than real chrome! It is also by far the most complex method!
You have certainly already seen a video demonstration of the chrome plating technique, showing a painter spraying various liquids in quantity, alternating with rinsing, on various parts, on which an extraordinary chrome mirror effect appears.
This technique uses a chemical reaction of reduction of silver (the precious metal) to deposit on a shiny undercoat, a very thin coat of silver plating, which is called “silver mirror”. It is also the process used for a century to create mirrors on the back of glass plates.
The updating of this remarkable technique, with spray guns, and a series of concentrated products to be diluted in water according to precise mixtures, makes it possible to chrome literally any surface, whether it is a bumper, a stone statue, a bottle of champagne, a leather shoe!
This chrome spraying technique seems ideal, but it also has its drawback: it does not like the sun, and turns yellow when exposed to UVs repeatedly.
Is this technique suitable for the individual who wants to make a chrome paint at home? Well, no, if we are talking about the version with professional equipment that is suitable for all types of objects and sizes up to several square meters. However, there is a consumer version, with plastic spray kits and spray clearcoats, allowing to chrome small parts up to 25 cm!
If you regularly do lacquering, metallic painting and other chrome or colored chrome effects for your yourself or for clients, then it can be a good idea to invest a few hundred euros in equipment that will allow you to work like a professional:
We are talking about a spray gun, an airbrush, for small objects, and an air compressor to supply you with compressed air. In addition to the economic gain of not using aerosol paints, there is a certain added value in terms of quality for your achievements.
For painters, artists, decorators, sculptors, it is clearly advisable to equip themselves with some professional tools to be able to apply perfectly primers, paints, and also clearcoats, in order to protect their works of art against abrasion, touch and rubbing, humidity and detergents.
For those who make small decorative objects (up to 10 or 15 cm) or even decoys, or jewelry, we recommend the acquisition of an airbrush with a mini compressor. Estimated total expense? Less than two hundred pounds to do a professional chrome plating!
You have probably already come across some works of art, perfume bottles and various objects with a colored mirror effect finish: you should know that this sumptuous and impressive effect is achieved by a simple two-step system, with a first coat of chrome paint (made by painting or silvering) and on top of that, a transparent colored clearcoat, which allows to give the chrome plating the color of your choice.
Colored chromes are really fascinating, because they reflect the light by coloring it : they are true “light colors”. It is important to know that there is a range of 20 to 25 totally transparent inks called “candy” available to amateur and professional decorators, allowing them to tint the chrome, or to tint the reflection of the light actually.
Here is a question that must be asked when choosing the right technique. Is the chrome paint quick and easy but cannot be varnished ? The chrome paint in several steps with clearcoat and undercoat? Or silver plating ?
It is not a matter of choosing the technique we want, but rather to choose the right process for the application and use of our object, the solution that corresponds to our abilities, that is to say what we feel capable of, and also according to the tools at our disposal.
If, for example, we plan to chrome a chandelier to be fixed to the ceiling: we can reasonably say that this chandelier does not need any clearcoat, because it will not be rubbed, it will not be handled, nor subjected to weathering. In this case, it is the floating chrome paint, “quick and easy” that is most suitable for both the professional decorator and the novice user in painting.
In a second case, if you want to chrome a decorative element, which will be placed outside, and which will logically be exposed to the elements and bad weather: in such a case, it is clear that you must opt for the solution of professional chrome paint, a little more complicated to implement, but which ensures protection against abrasion and moisture.
In a third case, if you want to create a work of art, such as a statue, with a very high quality finish, which will be placed in an interior space, which will be likely to be cleaned and handled, then it is clear that you must choose the solution of silvering.
It can be noted that some chrome statues made with silver plating, then colored with a gold clearcoat, or any other color, are actually placed outside: they do not fear yellowing, because it will go unnoticed thanks to the coloring of the clearcoat.