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Painting Chrome and Metal

Not happy with the silver and metal paints available in most markets? Want a smooth metallic finish without the sparkles or “fake” look? Maybe even a chrome look? Well, I gave Spazstix Mirror Finish a go and the results make me happy in my pants. It’s apparently not a new idea, especially to most RC car painters, but it’s new to me so I went to town with it to see what it could do for action figure customizers.

Danno from the Clubhouse and Statue forum mentioned using Alclad silver on some of his pieces. He did a Silver Surfer bust that looks awesome. It looks like you have to order it online, which I hate to do, so in my searches for Alclad on the net I came across a lot of RC car forums that talked about it and a paint called SpazStix Mirror Chrome. Most of the posters preferred the Spazstix and said it was available at their local hobby shop. Now, going off of that and the beautiful paint jobs Danno does I stopped into my LHS and asked about it. Luckily they had one bottle. $8 for an ounce. The guy mentioned that he thought it was either a lacquer or an enamel, which had me worried, but I bought it anyway. Screw it.

Now, the instructions are almost too basic, so I did more google searches. More RC forums. All of them said they “backed” the Spazstix with an acrylic black, either gloss or flat, which gave me hope. Even though I had no idea what “backed” meant. So I grabbed a Surfer that had been rotting in the fodder box, based it with Testors Semi-Gloss Black, and loaded the Spazstix in my airbrush.

 

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Didn’t impress me. I only painted the top half and arms, the hips down is still the factory Surfer paint. I did 3 coats like the instructions said, still not impressed. I could get the same results shooting Tamiya Silver on it. It did prove to me that the Spazstix would dry on the figure, which was a victory in itself. In fact, it dries in less than 10 seconds unless it’s really caked on heavy, and even then it’s dry to the touch in about a minute. I knew it wasn’t the paint itself because when I went to clean out the paint cup of the airbrush I could see my reflection it. Neat, but confusing.

SO…

On my third pass, I just sprayed the base for the hell of it. It’s the magnetic base that came with the SDCC Cammy. I didn’t do anything to it, it’s just a smooth black base. And as you can see in the picture, it worked. The light reflecting off of it onto my backdrop in front of it, the reflection of Surfer on the top of the base. That’s what I was looking for.

So I put 2 and 2 together and realized that the base has to be as smooth and as slick as possible. Dur, MIRROR finish. The acrylic black lays a texture, no matter how small and trivial. Probably obvious now, but I guess I was thinking about it too hard. That’s also when I realized what “backing” the paint meant for an RC car painter. The bodies of the cars come clear, one side would be the chrome, the inside would be the black. Again, obvious, but I’m an idiot.

I grabbed my useless Iceman custom from years ago out of the box. It had been Fusioned back in the day, so he had a smooth surface.

 

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Yeah baby, that’s what I’m talking about. Only laid down one pass with the Chrome since it was 3 in the morning, but the results were spectacular. Well, way better than any other silver I had ever used. Smooth finish to the chrome itself.

It has been years since I’ve used Fusion, so to further test the Chrome I went out and bought new cans of Black and White Fusion. Came home and basecoated a few pieces. The results were not pleasing. For some reason I can’t get the Fusion to lay down a smooth finish. Maybe it’s just me and my short-term memory forgetting how to use a spray can but it just wouldn’t work.

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Both First Appearance Iron Man and MS Dr. Doom were based in white Fusion, hence the lighter metallic color. But the finish comes out rough, really rough. Much like the Silver Surfer, I could have achieved the same look with another brand of silver.

My other Fusion attempt was with black on Archangel’s wings. Again, same result…

 

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Still rough, but it shows that different color basecoats give the chrome different tints. Black for a dark chrome/metal look, white for a light look. So a failure, but further learning experience.

So next I tried just shooting onto bare base bodies. No primer, no Fusion, no basecoat.

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Success again! Sorta. Thor Buster Iron Man’s pre-existing gloss finish really helped to punch up the chrome aspect. FA Iron Man’s dull finish kept it dull, but very metallic looking.

Adding clear overcoats really came out well also.

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So going off of that, and since I was out of Iron Mans, I grabbed another set of Archangel wings and coated them in Future Floor Wax. Future gives a high gloss, smooth finish. It doesn’t fix bad places, but it will cover sanding scars and small imperfections.

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Much better. Smoother finish, better reflection, although not a “mirror” finish. The set of wings in the back are the first attempt with a black basecoat, the ones in the front are basecoated with Future. The comparison really shows the difference in shades due to basecoats. All said and done, I prefer the darker wings for Archangel due to his personality but both shades could have different uses for different characters.

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So, if you’re like me and don’t like to read a lot of text, here’s a run down on Spazstix Mirror Chrome, at least in my own experience…

http://www.spazstix.com/index.php

1. You MUST have a smooth, preferably glossy surface to begin with. In my tests I didn’t have a glossy black or white acrylic to shoot through an airbrush, but that may be another option. I’ll add that to this article when I try it, if it works. But a glossy finish can be added quickly with Future Floor Wax, which also smooths the surface to a degree.

2. I only used the airbrush type, but Spazstix does sell an aerosol version of the same product for people without airbrushes. From what I’ve read, some people actually prefer the aerosol. But I’m an airbrush whore.

3. The paint does seem durable, but a lot of handling will blur the finish. So that may be a strike against using this for custom purposes with playability in mind.

4. It’s going to be tricky to get the same results across the board, piece to piece. It all depends on the base, basecoat, finish, etc. A lot of varying factors. What works for one figure may not work for another. And yes, I realize I just repeated the same concept three times but in different terms. This is a long article, my brain is frying. Anyway, the more you use it the easier it will probably get. I’ve been playing with it for a good 2 weeks and I’m wanting to chrome everything in the house.

5. It can be expensive. $12.49 for the aerosol can, $8.99 for the airbrush bottle. My local HobbyTown USA sold it for $7.99 for an ounce. Still, a bit more costly than usual paints that I am used to, but the results are worth it.

6. The paint itself is very, very thin. You have to spray it at between 15 and 20 psi or it dries too fast. And it sprays very fast, you’ll be refilling the cup more often than other paints. Fortunately, it covers very well. You don’t have to make a lot of passes for complete coverage.

All in all, I dig it. It’s a lot of fun and the finished product exceeded my expectations. I bought it not knowing if it would work or not, but I can’t see myself painting metallics with anything else now. As always, results may vary.