Instruction for metal flake paint spray guns

Written by paul miceli Google
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Instruction for metal flake paint spray guns
Metal flake finishes are often used on custom cars. (custom car 1 image by Bhupesh Shah from

Although conventional metallic colours are relatively easy to apply, metal flake products can be notoriously difficult to use. Because the size of flakes can vary so greatly, there is no single gun set-up for universal application. Experience of using metal flake products can give the professional and amateur sprayer a distinct advantage but the constantly-changing world of automotive paints means that caution should always be administered. Application methods are only one part of a perfect job because the wrong choice of spray gun may leave a vehicle requiring a total repaint.

Things you need

  • Degreaser
  • Lint-free cloth
  • Tack cloth
  • Base colour
  • Base colour activator
  • Gravity-fed HVLP spray gun
  • Assorted spray gun fluid tip setups
  • Clear coat
  • Clear coat hardener
  • Clear coat thinner
  • Metal flake
  • Gun spanner

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  1. 1

    Ensure the vehicle is correctly prepared using a compatible primer which has been rubbed down to a P800-grit finish. Wash down the panels with degreaser and wipe them dry with a clean piece of lint-free cloth. Before painting, wipe the surface of each panel with a tack cloth to remove foreign particles.

  2. 2

    Apply three full coats of base colour over the panels of the vehicle using a gravity-fed HVLP spray gun. Water-based paints should be applied from 10 cm (4 inches) with a spray gun fluid tip set-up of 1.2 mm (3/64 inch) and solvent-based paints should be applied with a spray gun fluid tip set-up of 1.4 mm (4/72 inch) from a distance of 15 cm (6 inches). Allow each coat to cure before a subsequent coat is applied. The previous coat should be matt in appearance before the next one is added.

  3. 3

    Apply a final drop coat of base colour from a distance of 30 cm (12 inches) to ensure effective distribution. Leave to cure before wiping away over-spray with a tack cloth. Activate the clear coat at a ratio of 2 parts material to 1 part of hardener and add 10 per cent of compatible thinner to ensure the correct material flow. Add the metal flake content to the clear coat at 30 grams per litre (4.8 oz per gallon) of mixed product.

  4. 4

    Determine the size of spray gun fluid tip set-up by the size of the metal flakes. Small flakes will require a 1.3 mm (3/64 inch) set-up but larger flakes can require a set-up of anything up to 2.5 mm (3/32 inch). Add a small quantity of metal flake clear coat to the gun and spray a small quantity onto a test panel. The material should flow evenly and there should be no signs of spluttering from the spray gun air cap. Experiment with different setups until the desired flow is achieved, using a gun spanner to change components.

  5. 5

    Apply two full coats of metal flake clear coat from a distance of 15 cm (6 inches), leaving a curing time of 5 minutes between coats. As long as the fluid tip set-up is correct, the flakes will bind to the base colour while the clear coat content spreads out over the surface of each panel to leave a flat finish. Allow the clear coat to dry overnight or force dry in a paint oven for 30 minutes at 71.1 degrees Celsius (160 degrees Fahrenheit).

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