Metallic Finishes – What You Need to Know

Ocean Turquoise Metallic Lacquer

A metallic lacquer finish is timeless. The metallic component reflects light in a different way than other solid color finishes adding another dimension to the aesthetics of your instrument.

Metallic finishes are a bit more involved than some of the other options. However, once you understand the process of finishing with them, it’s very straight forward.

Here are the main things to consider:

  • Metallic lacquers contain 3 main elements:

    • A lacquer which serves as the base
    • Color, often a dye or diluted pigment which will create a tinted lacquer that is transparent and will allow light to pass through it
    • A metallic component which is often made up of pulverized aluminum, bronze, or mica which will reflect the light and give the lacquer it’s effect
  • A level base is paramount

    For proper metallic application you’ll want as level a surface as possible. Any surface imperfections are likely to stand-out once you apply your metallic color coats. Because the metallic component is so small (microns), they will conform to and highlight any textures or inconsistencies.

  • Sealer and Primer are your friends

    On a new build we recommend at least one of either Sanding Sealer and/or White Primer. Both products are high build which will help you build a solid base layer rather quickly. Sanding Sealer sands very easily and makes it easy to identify any pits in the finish and correct them. White Primer is another chance to ensure a perfectly smooth base. It also provides a consistent color-tone behind the metallic lacquer.

  • When spraying the Metallic coats, it’s best to lay down several lighter coats

    If your color coats applied too wet, the metallic particles can “swim” and pool, which leaves a very inconsistent look. However, if this happens, it often can be corrected with 1 or 2 more coats sprayed very lightly once the wet coat dries.

  • If using an aerosol, mist the lacquer on from about 18 inches away

    This will help for a more even distribution of spray and will you more control in a gradual build.

  • Metallic lacquer should not be sanded

    If you sand metallic lacquer directly you will iburn through the color and into the metallic particles, leaving a rough silver look.

  • The first few clear coats should be sprayed lightly

    You’ve just applied your color coats and everything looks great. You don’t want to disturb it by applying a clear coat that’s too wet. Once you have the first 2 or 3 clear coats successfully applied, your metallic finish is essentially “locked in”. From here you can proceed by applying the rest of your clear coats.