So this problem is multi-part. I am making a custom emblem for an auto club that is supposed to replace the VW emblem on a grill. Exterior use, obviously. I am making the emblem with a SLA resin 3D printer. Pretty much no other way for us.

First issue is that every chrome spray paint on the planet isn't chrome at all, but even if you can manage a decently reflective surface, every sealant we have tried immediately dulls the pseudo-chrome finish to a dull grey. Clearly there is some kind of chemical reaction here.

The intention here is to make things like this on an ongoing basis, so ideally any solution would be one that is not intended for single use things. Like sending a custom emblem out to have it chrome plated for $100. I might have to make a thousand of these, so I'd prefer to be able to spray them and seal them myself for a reasonable per unit cost. I'm not too particular about it being mirror finished or anything, but I am particular about it peeling in the sun, or dulling to flat grey with a sealant.

Has anyone here had any success with chrome spray paints for exterior use? Or any sealants that work on chrome spray painted surfaces?

Just to clarify, I am in the USA and may need to buy any paints or sealants regularly. I'd prefer to not have to buy from overseas just because of the time restrictions and availability. Waiting a month for a restock is probably not going to work. I'm ok with brush on finishes if they are truly chrome and sealed, but I'd prefer to keep it in the un-psychotic price range. I am aware of alsacorp and their product looks stunning and exterior, but at $90 a can I am not sure I can justify that cost unless there truly are no other products that can handle this.


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    Are you wedded to 3D printing each emblem? There are some other processes that wouldn't require a paint finish. I'm thinking of approaches like creating an emblem and then making a mold of it. You could then cast the emblems with a metal dust filled resin that can be polished. There is also metal-filled epoxy putty that could be pressed into the mold and then polished. A high temperature silicone mold would allow casting a low-temperature metal. Another approach: make a 3D printed die set that punches out and forms a thin sheet of aliminum (cont'd)
    – fixer1234
    Commented Oct 1, 2022 at 23:11
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    I don't know the magic combination. But Chrome paint typically contains metal dust in a dissolved resin. When the coat dries, the resulting very uniform surface looks polished. If you then apply a coating that contains solvents that redissolve the chrome paint binder, it ruins the smooth surface so the metal dust just looks gray. I'm guessing that the key would be to use a clear coat that doesn't contain solvents. Maybe something like the clear two-part epoxy finish used on table tops.
    – fixer1234
    Commented Oct 2, 2022 at 0:02
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    Taking @fixer1234's point at face value (and my own slightly twisted experience supports this) I also wonder about sealing with a suitable epoxy. That's not solvent based, though the liquid form will dissolve some things, and is a very different chemistry.
    – Chris H
    Commented Oct 2, 2022 at 11:49
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    On the other hand I wonder about some form of optical effect as well. A top coat going on slightly cloudy because of poor compatibility could also turn silver to grey
    – Chris H
    Commented Oct 2, 2022 at 11:51
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    Note that you would need epoxy specified for long term exterior use as many products will turn yellow in prolonged sunlight
    – Chris H
    Commented Oct 2, 2022 at 11:53

3 Answers 3


As fixer1234 wrote in the comments, anything with solvents ruins the chrome paint, so you cannot seal the spray painted object with anything that comes out of a spray can. Many (but not all) chrome spray paints also react with acrylic clear coats. The problem is well known in the Cosplay and miniature communities and among other crafters.

Probably the cheapest solution is to apply floor wax / floor polish on top of the completely dry chrome layer. The most recommended brands are Pledge floor wax and Future floor polish. (Sources: Coslay.com and StatueForum.com) You can experiment with dipping the object (if the floor polish is liquid enough), applying it with a soft brush or air brushing it on.

Apart from that, Alclad made a clear coat specifically for their own chrome paint that doesn't ruin the shine, but that means you're bound to a specific product from a specific manufacturer. The coat is tested in these Youtube videos by Adam Savage and VinceVellCUSTOMS.

Of none of those solutions appeal to you, the next best option is to try different brush-on gloss varnishes. You should avoid any products containing xylene, toluene or acetone, because those will react with the chrome paint.

And one last tip: For best results many crafters propose applying a glossy black primer underneath the chrome spray paint. It just helps creating an even, metallic shine.

  • Just a note, the cosplay and miniature people loved Pledge Floor Gloss which is now discontinued and sells for like $50 a bottle or more online. I'm testing an alternative Quick Shine right now. It's a little cloudy but we'll see if it helps prevent dings and finger prints from embedding into the paint on touch. Thanks for the tips on the ingredients to watch for.
    – Kai Qing
    Commented Oct 4, 2022 at 17:35

The question asks about coating chrome paint, but you really need to take a step back to the chrome finish, itself. Applying a chrome-looking finish to plastic has always been a challenge. Before you get to trying to top coat it for protection, it's tough to just get a mirror finish. If you are able to apply a mirror finish, then you face additional challenges of keeping it that way. Some finishes will darken. Some will eventually develop matte areas. Some will wear away if they get any handling. Some will degrade if exposed to sunlight. The need for protection, the type of protection required, and what protective coating is compatible will depend on what you used for the finish.

One approach is to create the finish using something that doesn't require a protective coat. A few possible ways to do this:

  • Paint that looks like polished chrome is made using a silver-colored metal dust of extremely small particle size. If you mix some of that metal powder with a two-part epoxy top coat (designed for exterior use), you may get a polished chrome-like finish that is tough and stable enough to not require additional coating. This approach is something you would need to research further for precise implementation details.

  • There is chrome vinyl wrap that is commonly used on car bodies. It will conform to the complex curves of a car body, but I'm not sure how practical it would be to apply it to a small emblem with a lot of tiny 3D details and 90° edges on what I assume is a round shape. Warming the film and vacuum forming it over the emblem might work. But again, this would take some research and trial. This video, How to vinyl wrap with chrome, will give you an idea of how the wrap behaves in normal application on a car body.

    Warming it and vacuum forming it over the emblem would provide more conformity, but it would need to be tried to see how well it works. Small, inexpensive vacuum formers are available or can be made. For this application, you just need a vacuum table (a box with a grid of holes that would probably work with a shop vac); the controlled heating needed to almost melt thick sheets of plastic would be too much for this kind of film.

If you start with chrome paint, Elmy's answer is pretty much the bottom line. This video, Protecting Alclad Chrome - 14 Clear Coats Tested, compared 14 kinds of clear coats on a specific chrome paint. The results are probably applicable to other paints. Acrylic floor polish did one of the best jobs and was inexpensive compared to most of the other options. But the testing did identify a few other products that were very good or better. One was a two part epoxy, one was a specific polyurethane top coat, and the others were clear coats designed for this purpose. Note that the coatings were at least superficially tested for durability by trying to scratch them with a fingernail, but they weren't tested for how the materials hold up to sunlight.

BTW, in almost all cases, real durability requires allowing plenty of time for the paint to fully cure before coating it (on the order of a week, sometimes more), and allowing even more time for the clear coat to cure.

Also, in case you weren't aware of it, most experienced modellers don't spray chrome paint directly on the plastic part. They start with a base coat of a gloss black paint that bonds with the plastic and dries to a very smooth surface. The chrome paint is applied to that after it's cured (typically more than a day). It doesn't take a thick covering of chrome paint over the black to produce a chrome look.

But the main idea I wanted to cover is something unusual that might be the best solution, that I stumbled across in this video, Chrome Finish on Plastic- Did I Find the Answer?. Coincidentally, the application in the video was chrome finishing a plastic hood ornament for a car. The video covers a number of products that were tested, but the surprising one was something sold as a system for fingernail polish.

You apply a clear, UV-cure acrylic resin that self-levels to a very smooth surface, and you harden it. Then you brush on a very fine colored powder (silver was one of the colors in the kit). A thin layer of the powder bonds to the coating and looks like polished metal.

The acrylic coating is tough (and immune to sunlight UV). I don't know how much handling the bonded powder would take before it wears off. But if it needs protection, my assumption is that this finish would be much easier to protect than chrome paint, with a bigger range of options. In the video, the author comments that the finish isn't fragile like chrome paint and thought there was no need to add a protective top coat on the hood ornament.

One other possibility is chrome plating the plastic. I thought this wouldn't be practical at home, but a Russian guy has a video, Few people know this secret of plastic chrome plating!, of how to do it with readily available materials that don't involve serious hazards. I'm not up on my chemistry enough to know what metal actually gets plated onto the plastic. In his process, the final plating step uses a solution made from stainless steel, and a lead electrode. I don't know if lead is used so it doesn't bond with all the ions in the solution, and the part gets plated with stainless steel, or the solution mainly serves as an electrolyte, and the part gets plated with lead. But it turns silvery and that may be all that matters. :-)

The author claims the process pulls chrome from the stainless steel into solution, and that's what gets plated. In another video, he plates an aluminum part with essentially the same process, but uses a stainless steel spoon instead of lead as the electrode. So the metal plated onto the part probably isn't lead.

  • Awesome research! This is definitely going to lead to a solution, I feel. I have a long way to go in testing to prove it against things like outdoor exposure and fingernail tests, but anymore it has become a personal crusade. I'm ordering some 2 part epoxy, and I also believe I will try an airbrush approach using the spaz stix stuff to see if their 3 part system is promising. The black base, chrome, then sealant. Eventually one of these will be the ideal solution given the parameters and I will have to report back. I'll likely mark as accepted then but want to make sure we have data first
    – Kai Qing
    Commented Oct 4, 2022 at 23:30
  • But also, I will order some of the nail polish options and if it comes down to it, a more chemical means like adding the metal dust to the epoxy. The mirror finish isn't as important to me as the result looking metal without looking like spray paint metal, which has a definite spray paint look (like the hammered stuff or metallics in spray paint). The design is very scaly like a tiny snake so mirror finish kind of just gets noisy but silver like stainless steel looks great, which is why I waas ok with chrome spray in the first place. It's a shortcut solution, but it has cost a fortune so far
    – Kai Qing
    Commented Oct 4, 2022 at 23:33
  • Oh damn, I've seen these metallic nail powders before, but I forgot about them! They can achieve truly stunning results, as demonstrated in this YouTube video. The one in the video did react with an acrylic top coat, but as you need UV resin to apply it, you can top coat it with UV resin without any problems.
    – Elmy
    Commented Oct 5, 2022 at 4:48

The frustration with trying to seal "chrome" paint and other substitutes is that they are just that: substitutes for a more intensive process which is the only way to get the resulting finish you are seeking. If you are going to mass produce them ("...might have to make thousands of these...") then a more industrial solution is both sensible and in the long run cheaper. And you will get real chrome, like you want.

I know this doesn't satisfy the OP question but for the problem at hand creating the real thing instead of using a substitute, at least once you move out of prototyping and into real production, would probably give you the most satisfaction.

  • 1
    At that scale, the issue isn't sending them out for plating, it's not making them on a 3D printer in the first place. Just sayin'.
    – fixer1234
    Commented Nov 8, 2022 at 18:02
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    Yeah, I would only use the 3D printer to make the initial design, cast it, then use the molds to manufacture. But as it stands, this is very small underground car club type stuff. Sure, they want all the bling, but they also understand they can have a fancy emblem badge or a full exhaust system. They tend to side with performance over looks.
    – Kai Qing
    Commented Nov 10, 2022 at 20:55

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