The Difference Between Candy, Pearl and Metallic Paints

How Do Candy and Pearl Paint Differ From Metallic Paint?

Nothing makes a custom car pop more than a custom paint job that stands out in the show field on a sunny day. To achieve this look, you will need special automotive paints that contain additives to make them sparkle and glow. The kings of custom paint tend to use a mixture of pearl, candy and metallic paint to give wild effects to their paint jobs.

If you’re thinking about customizing your next paint job you likely will be looking at one of these types of custom paint for the finish — and wondering what the differences are between them. We decided to break it down simply below. Just remember that, while it may be easy to understand the differences, applying them can take a bit of skill and practice. Don’t be afraid to spray out some test panels or contact a painting expert at Eastwood before your next all over paint job!

What Is Candy Paint?

Candy paint is a mid-coat type of paint that is always applied over a base color. Simply put, candy paint is basically a clear coat that is tinted with a color (and sometimes contains a metallic or pearl) to give it translucent properties. This is why you need to put a base coat down first before a candy paint. Otherwise, the primer what will show through, ruining the desired effect.

Generally, a metallic silver or gold base coat is applied first depending on how dark you want the candy to appear. White paints are also popular for those who want a particularly bright look. As light shines through the translucent candy paint, it reflects back through the layers of the base color, giving you that ultra-deep appearance.

The great thing about candy auto paint is that you can change the hue or darkness of the color by adding more coats or in certain areas for custom effects. On the other hand, candy paint is one of the hardest paints to get right. It can take a lot of practice to get it to lay evenly and look all the same hue as inconsistencies in your spraying procedure or technique can cause modeling or abrupt changes in the candy paint.

What is Pearl Paint?

Pearl paint jobs are extremely subtle and look best out in full sunlight. A lot of modern cars use a pearl coat on normal colors like white to give a little pop when the vehicle is out in the sun. Much like a candy paint job, pearl paint — which is short for “pearlescent paint” — is a mid-coat that is applied over a base color (usually white). You will then need to apply a top coat and/or clear coat over the pearl layer to provide UV protection and the final shine.

Pearlescent automotive paint has tiny flecks of iridescent mica added to a clear coating that acts a binder for the pearl. When applied over white or in between a base coat and a top coat (or sometimes mixed with a top coat), it gives a beautiful glimmer to your paint that can change by the angle of the sun or how you view the car. Pearl paint is a little easier to apply than candies but shares some of the difficulties when spraying as you want to make sure it is applied evenly to avoid blotchiness in the final finish. For both pearls and metallics (see below), our Metalli-Flow Paint Enhancer helps lock in the pearl/flake particles and stabilize them so you get an even spray.

What Is Metallic Paint?

Metallic paint is probably the most common finish of this group and is definitely the oldest. Auto manufacturers have been using metallic paints since the late 1920s to early 1930s. They contain bits of powdered metal to reflect more light than standard glossy paints while also adding sparkle and color depth. It started as a very fine metallic flake in the paint. Over the years, we’ve gotten more brazen with the metal flakes added to paints, and some new cars closely resemble a bass boat!

The metallic paint you commonly see on factory vehicles is made with finely ground metallic powder that is added into the paint mixture, causing the metal flakes or dust to float in the paint as you spray it. Once dry and trapped in the paint, they provide an additional shine to a paint job that causes the paint to shimmer. If you want more shimmer, add larger metal flakes or more of them to the paint, and you can go from mild to wild.

Like candies and pearls, metallic auto paint can be difficult to spray, and an added challenge of metallics is being able to color match panels. We suggest spraying panels all together or next to each other to avoid slight differences in the paint in the sun. Furthermore, over-the-counter metallic paints don’t come in as wide a color range as standard gloss and satin paints. If you want to further customize your paint, you may need to add metal flake directly into the paint or into a mid-coat clear to add some shimmer to your paint job. Large-flake rich paint or clears may require a larger spray gun tip than plain paint or clear coat due to the amount and size of flakes passing through the paint gun.

To see all our automotive paints, clears and custom additives, visit our paint shop on the web here. Eastwood also has a complete tech library of painting articles, tutorials and how-to videos to help DIYers choose and apply the right paint for their custom projects. Shop online 24/7 and see how Eastwood provides the automotive painting products and know-how needed to Do the Job Right.

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