We in the Hot Wheels world call it spectraflame but in the real (automotive) world it goes by many different names. You can call it Spectraflame, Pearl, Candy, Kandy (with a K) or even 2Pac, it’s no Biggie.
Today I’m going to share with you the results of my attempts to achieve various states of spectraflamage (yep it’s now a word) using nothing more than a variety of spray paint cans (rattle cans) from various manufacturers. I do have an airbrush but it sits in a box under my desk looking up at me and just daring me to learn how to use it, but since I’m too lazy to take up that challenge I’ll continue to do it the ol’ rattle can way.
The MCH Spectraflame Experiment
I’m going to keep this simple by showing you the final paint used, the preparation required and the undercoat applied as I have experimented with a lot of different brands, base coats, and combinations of everything. But like any good How-To guide on MCH I also wanted to make sure we covered some of the other important bases including PREPARATION, APPLICATION, and PRESERVATION. So let’s get straight into it.
Spectraflame Paint Guide – Preparation
Regardless of whether you want to achieve a spectraflame paint effect or not, preparation is everythinig if you desire that glass like finish on your paintjob. I’ll discuss the spectraflame part specifically shortly but the following tips should apply to every single application of spray paint that is ever applied to your custom diecast cars. Got it?! Good. Moving on then…
The spray paint that is being applied to the diecast needs to be luke warm or maybe even slightly warmer than that. It is also advisable to ensure the raw diecast car has been sitting under a light or out in the sun for a while or at the very least is not stone cold to the touch. Trying to paint cold paint onto a cold diecast surface will almost guarantee that dreaded look known as ‘orange peel’ where all the paint is slightly wrinkly and doesnt look nice…like at all!
It’s as simple as placing the spray can in a bucket of water or something for 5 – 10 minutes before spraying. (see image below for my awesome Malteaser bucket example)
Do You Need a Shiny Metallic Base When Applying Candy, Metallic & Spectraflame Spray Paint?
One thing that is a common factor with all candy type paints is that they need to be applied to a shiny metallic (preferably chrome) surface in order for them to be truly effective. And while this is true, it does not mean that you need to polish your diecast to a chrome like finish, in fact you don’t even need to polish it at all as you’ll soon find out. But if I’m being honest, the results from painting onto a polished diecast body are always going to be better than when using a metallic base coat in it’s place. So with that in mind let’s look at how I turn a raw casting into a polished gem…
How to Polish a Diecast Car to a Chrome-Like Finish
First you are going to need the following items:
- Steel Wool (I use a coarse and a fine version – I recommend purchasing the same)
- Waterproof Sandpaper P1000 – P1500 roughly (for final touches if necessary)
- Metal Polisher – I use a highly recommend AutoSol Brand (see pics…and results!)
The pictures will do most of the explaining but basically my process is as follows:
- Using a ping pong ball size of coarse steel wool I usually watch the tele and just go nuts polishing the car on all sides and getting into hard to reach areas – continuing until I am left with a small marble size ball of steel wool and a lap full of ‘steel hair clippings’ as I like to call them. This usually lasts 30 minutes to an hour but I don’t really notice since I’m watching the TV
- Once I am happy with this and I have removed the majority of the pock marks and veining that occurs on some castings I then repeat the same as above with the fine steel wool. This time maybe 15 minutes to half an hour tops.
- A final attack of large surfaces like the roof and bonnet with the wet & dry sandpaper ensure an extra smooth surface to paint onto and really brings out the ‘chrome’ of the casting.
- I then apply the magic sauce – the Autosol metal polisher…I’ll mention the steps in more details below.
Once ready I simply cover the entire car in the Metal Polish and let it sit for about 5 – 10 minutes…
Once the time has passed and you are ready to remove the polish you will see very quickly how filthy the apparently clean casting actually was. I recommend using tissues or if you have a rag then make sure that it is long so that each time you wipe you can fold it over onto a clean patch. I stress this part because literally every single time you wipe the casting the tissue will turn black – and you don’t want to polish that back in again!
I hold the casting with a cloth and then using tissues a systematically clean each side. I may even give it another coat or polish just to be sure it’s super clean. That part is up to you 🙂
The following image shows the casting after the polish has been removed completely (and another coat applied for good measure) *Note that I have edited a few pics with different filters not to cheat you but because it’s the only way to show you how it actually looks – in fact even with the editing the photo still does not do the actual results justice… They never do come to think of it but I digress.
Now that we’ve prepared the casting for painting let’s dive into the experiment.
Spectraflame Paint Guide – Application
When applying any type of translucent, clear, candy, spectraflame or metallic spray paint you need to think LIGHT… light as the bank balance of a modern day collector/customiser. Think THIN… thin as the patience of a customiser’s wife. Whatever and however you want to remember it, just ensure you apply the paint in super thin layers. If you’ve just applied the first layer of paint and are like “man I don’t reckon there’s even any colour on there!?” then you are doing it right!. Here’s what happens if you try to apply the paint too quickly (and to a cold casting):
So think thin and think light and I think you’ll get it and get it quite right. – Alex thinking he’s Dr Suess
So now that we’ve covered the preparation and the application let’s dive into the experimentation and said results 😀
Let’s begin with the above Honda Civic which we already know was prepared and polished to a chrome like finish. We’ll also be comparing this Honda Civic to another Honda, an S2000 which I had chrome dipped professionally. This thing was literally flawless and had a ridiculous amount of shine so it will be interesting to see how close I was able to come by manually polishing a casting.
- Both these cars were hit with 2 very thin layers of Purple Dupli-color Metalcast Spray Paint:
There is a whole range of these Dupli-Color MetalCast paints and assuming you are painting onto a chrome or polished body the results are similar (and shown below courtesy of Ryan Cao)
And some of the results from MCH members (in each instance they have used the above brand over a polished base)
OK so we’ve established what that particular brand of spray paint looks like on a polished base, what about other brands?
Another brand I tried over a polished base was Tamiya Clear – they only come in Red and Orange (from what I have sourced) which kinda sucks because the results are amazing and I for one wish there was a larger range of colours to choose from. Below is the result of applying Tamiya Clear Red (TS-74) over a polished diecast body (I polished the body myself in the same way I did the Honda Civic above)
*Again multiple filters have been added to give you various shades of the colour and to attempt to capture the depth of the paint
I was loving this Tamiya Clear Red (TS-74) so tried applying it over Tamiya Titanium Gold (TS-87) because we don’t always have the luxury of painting onto a totally shiny and polished casting (we’ll touch more on that shortly)
The casting below was not prepared or polished in any way what-so-ever. I simply applied the Titanium Gold undercoat (two coats)
OK so that’s rather pleasant in all the right ways… so how about if I try a different undercoat – that Titanium was a tad dull for my liking
Next I tried using the Dulux range of Metallic spray paints, called DuraMax Metallic Finish – I chose gold and I have to say that even the gold on it’s own looked really good (as shown in pics below)
SO results of Duramax Metallic Gold base and Tamiya Clear Red (TS-74) over the top (in two light coats)
As you can see the gold is stunning in it’s own right… so let’s try the first Metallic Purple from Dupli-Color and apply that over this gold.
And when I saw the results I was like “HOLY SHITBALLS what is this delicious sorcery?!?” or something like that because the resulting colour was NOT what I expected at all – a rich and incredibly deep cherry colour!
I’ve attempted to apply various filters to capture the colours and whilst you are getting a range here, the first one below probably captures the true colour best. Me likey very muchy… so muchy that I chose that colour for the custom I was working on at the time – a tooned gasser which you get a sneak peek of below
I painted the Tooned Gasser the same colour and went a bit crazier on the filtering and editing – crazy how many different colours you can get (again the true colour is the cherry you see above as well as in first pic of the gasser)
This gold undercoat gives an amazing result so I tried doing the same thing this time using the ‘Duramax Metallic Silver’ from Dulux and the results were, well they were horrible. OK not really horrible but there’s absolutely no spectraflame, candy, or even any depth to the paint for that matter.
OK so what about if I used one of those Molitow brand Chrome pens – they are amazing and actually provide a true chrome look for bumpers etc so that should work…
Funny thing is the chrome pen was applied on the back and on the left hand side of the roof – and in both cases below the part where it was just rough and raw diecast (lightly polished with steel wool for maybe a minute) is the shiniest part of the car. So yeah, Molitow chrome pens don’t work as a replacement for polished diecast.
And then I discovered an even more amazing spray paint – one that is so translucent that you can apply it over the factory tampos without covering anything at all. The colour is a purple to green chameleon fade – well that’s what I call it, but the official name is Tamiya Iridescent Purple/Green (PS-46)
It says on the can to apply over black which is counter intuitive to what we’ve learnt so far about spectraflame paints but I experimented on both a black car (A Syclone to be precise) as well as on a Porsche that I had already painted a metallic gun metal grey (see above) The results of both are below and they are equally delicious in my honest opinion 🙂
*There is also another Iridescent colour fade – it is Tamiya PS-47 Iridescent Pink/Gold in case you are interested. I have ordered some but did not have time to add it to this experiment.
Now for the most important ingredient in the making of spectraflame deliciousness… the clear coat.
The Final Layer of Clear Makes ALL the Difference
The difference between an average clear coat adhesive and a good quality 2K clear is massive! All the above photos were taken after the 2K clear coat was applied and whilst photos never do the results justice, I attempted to take a pic in the same light (no filters) showing the paint job before and after the clear coat was applied.
I don’t think this is even an actual 2K clear coat since it is not in 2 parts but anywho, it’s relatively cheap and does an incredible job (when compared to the spray I use with my decals anyway)
Once I have applied the clear I will not touch the car for at least 2 days. I’d recommend allowing a similar time period or you’ll risk leaving fingerprints and smudges (yep, even with gloves on)
Oh, but don’t apply the clear too soon either… The below Mclaren was given a layer of pearl pink over gold and it was looking fantastic. I then applied the clear coat about 3 hours later and the result was a horrible (and yet eerily awesome) looking snakeskin pattern that appeared all over the car.
Any questions, please feel free to leave a comment below or hit me up via a message.
I have a hard time getting intouch with you about inormation.
So sorry Paul – try firstname.lastname@example.org
again my apologies mate – I am slack even on a good day it seems 🙁
Hello Alex,thank you for taking the time to explain in detail, very clearly what to do about the painting side of Customizing..
VERY informative! I’ve used the Tamiya bottled clear red and other colors brushed on with pretty good, limited results. I don’t have an airbrush. I really want a Spectraflame brown. Anyone know of a decent rattlecan???
So do you have to clean the car after the metal polish, other than just wiping off? You can just spray from there? Also you mentioned you don’t use the 2k over decals will they react? Thanks for the help and this page
I would recommend cleaning it. It always suprises me how much gunk and blackness comes off an apparently clean c asting.
As someone else who is too lazy to get my airbrush running I like this idea.
Great write up! I understand you actually dont prep the casting after polishing with lets say clear metal primer? You just polish, clean the casting and then spray those neatly thin layers of translucent?
That’s correct, I dont prime it with anything – just polish and clean and then apply clear
I think you should apply a clear coat after painting it or the paint will be too thin and look messy .
I like the metallic flake look. Do you spray metal flakes before or after the spectroflame color ?
That pearl-pink – snakeskin looks fuggin sweet my dude lol