Blending with Metallic Paint

One of my favorite finishes to create is a blended surface using metallic paints. It is absolutely possible to blend any kind of paint, in my experience and each type just takes a specific technique because of the different qualities in each variety of paint. Metallic paints are thinner, acrylic based, and dry fairly quickly especially when you apply them in thin layers like I do to avoid obvious brushstrokes. Metallic paint vary in coverage from transparent to opaque and this effects the finish as well and how I layer them. I will share a few of my tips when it comes to blending metallic paints.

The base coat of the surface is extremely important in that it impacts the color of the metallic finish and how many coats you need to use to get adequate coverage. I usually try to use a shade similar to the paints I am using. For example if I want a pearly white finish I would paint the base with white primer and paint. This will give it a true white color as opposed to if you used a base of grey paint. What kinds of paint do I use for the base? I have used chalk based paints, enamel, and milk paints. My preference depends really on the color and the finish I want. For more rustic boho blends I will use chalk paints and for a smoother, immaculate finish I prefer milk paints in that they self level and you rarely get any brushstrokes. Metallic paint is so thin that the base texture will appear so make sure you sand any scuffs and scratches on the surface.

I use synthetic brushes with metallic paints. I highly advise not to use a natural bristle brush as they shed and will give you a rougher texture. When creating a base you can paint it in one solid color or blend various colors to give it a more apparent transition in metallic colors. When I painted my base for my most recent Moroccan sunset inspired piece, I used a base of General Finishes barn red milk paint. The warm tones of the metallics I was using would be enhanced with the red base. I used orange, reds, yellows and pinks so they are all complimentary to red. If I was using blues, silvers, purples, and colder tones, I would paint the base a cold tone as well like gray or any of the above colors. If your base is darker then the metallic paint you are using, it will appear darker. I rarely use a white base unless it is for a shade of white metallic.

When blending, apply the paint with a damp brush and go in one direction. This will help with a smooth finish and better blended look. I usually use the same brush to apply all the colors unless I am doing a very light color with a dark color. Using the same brush helps with the color transition and making the shades meet without too much of a stark contrast. For my Moroccan dresser I used the same brush and applied the darker color first and from there, onto a gradually lighter shade. I did the copper first, moved on to a orangish hue, dark yellow, and layered the pink on last. Let the layers of paint dry first before applying the next thin layer. While wet it looks rougher then it usually is once dried so don’t worry if it looks different then what you are wanting. Let it dry before deciding if you need to apply another layer. I sweep the paint on in one direction and mist my brush with water as needed to keep it damp and the paint.

When the paint starts to seize and harden using your brush to move it will cause it to drag and look patchy and rough. Work quickly while the paint is wet and leave it alone. Do not overwork the paint. This is the most common problem with new users of metallic paints. It is best to have a gentle touch with metallics and lightly brush them on the surface. They are not thick like chalk paints and not porous so that it allows you to play around with them and blend by spraying water on the surface like chalk paints. Do not spray water directly onto the metallic paint as it will cause droplets to form that will interrupt the smooth coverage of the paint. Dampen your brush to keep it wet. The magical thing about metallic paints is that blending can actually look much more smooth. You can apply a thin layer or a certain metallic color on top of the one you used first and that will give it a light glaze like effect on top of the metallic color underneath it. For example if you apply a thin coat of gold on top of a blue or red metallic, it will give it a gold shimmer. The more layers of it you apply on top the more apparent the top color will be. When I applied the pink metallic on top of the dark gold and orange, it gave it a pink glow that was not opaque. I’ve created my signature peacock finishes this way.

Metallic paint is a light reflective paint so you want to make sure you apply it under bright lighting. When you examine the surface at different angles the coverage will appear differently and show you where it is less and more. It looks very differently under varying lighting making it difficult to capture the true color with a camera. The play of color under light is what I find magical about it as it shifts in tone. It can look lighter and darker from one moment to the next. Practice on a small surface until you find the right technique for the finish you want. Once you become familiar with painting using metallics, I’m sure you’ll find their complex beauty very unique and mesmerizing.