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How To Paint Pearl or Flake – Mix in Clear Coat or Intercoat?

Learning how to paint pearl can be confusing at first.

If you ask 10 painters how they would paint with pearl or flake I think you’ll get 7 different answers.

How To Paint Pearl Colors

There really is no right or wrong way. It’s all based on testing out what works for you and experience. When painting with pearl I usually mix my pearl right into my clear coat. Some guys mix in clear coat, some guys like to use an intercoat.

There are a few reasons why you may want spray one way VS the other. I’ll explain below.

Newbies: If you’re a beginner, you may want to use an intercoat like DBC or DBU 500 by PPG or one of House of Kolor products like the SG150 intercoat pearl and flake Karrier.

PPG-DBC-DBU-500-intercoat

With an intercoat it’s a little different. Think of it as a clear base coat… you have more room for error.

It’s a lot tougher to run base coat than clear coat. When spraying base, you’re basically looking for coverage. Then it dries flat. I don’t think I’ve ever ran base coat. Even when I was first starting out.

If you run your intercoat, you’ll just have to respray your base coat. Then coat it with your pearl intercoat followed by a solid 2-3 coats of clear. You’re done.

On the other hand, with clear coats… when you’re spraying you’re not looking for coverage, your looking for gloss.

If you’re not used to spraying and have problems with gun flow and distance, you run the risk of running your clear coat with your pearl or flakes in it. If you sag or run your clear, thats it.

You’ll need to let it dry, sand your panels down, shoot new base coat and do it all over again.

When spraying clear coat, you want to make it glossy and have that wet look. This “wanting to get a wet look” will sorta make you want to lay it on heavy at times which can result in sags and runs immediately and  anywhere from 1 min – 10 min after laying your clear (sags show up a little later) so be careful.

So if you’re not good with spraying clear coat yet or just not comfortable and afraid of runs, then I don’t recommend you using pearl or flake in your clear coat. If you do, you’ll have a pearl or flake run that will not buff out. You’ll end up sanding everything down and restarting the process over.

New base, intercoat with pearl, clear top coat.

So newbies try using an intercoat. It will help you lay it on easier and evenly. If you have the hang of spraying, adding pearl to your mid clear coat followed by some plain clear as a last coat is a great way to go.

I have also sprayed pearl in clear without an additional top coat of clear with amazing results. You can also safely color sand and buff out pearl or flake coats that don’t have additional clear over them. I’ve done that with beautiful results.

If you feel that you want some additional coverage, feel free to add 1-2 or even three coats of clear over that.

Dry Powder Pearl or Liquid Pearls (What To Use)

You can buy dry powder pearl (which I always get) or you can get the type that comes in a liquid. I love “House of Kolor” products. They have so many color variations of pearl, chameleon pearl and flakes to choose from. You will boggle your mind deciding on what colors to get.

Within the LABAP VIP training course I show you exactly how to mix and lay pearls so don’t worry if you’re thinking “well, what are my next steps” …we have you covered A-Z when it comes down to this stuff.

My suggestion, pick up a few bottles and hit the garage painting.

kameleon pearl

TIP: I would start spraying pearls over solid colors like; black or white just to see what it will do to your paint. Example, spraying a red pearl over a black will give you a deep plum purple look. Really neat. Spraying a blue pearl over a white base also looks awesome.

What’s more, the amount of pearl that you add to your clear coat and the numbers of clear or intercoat layers that you spray over your base coat will also affect your color and turn your pearl coat darker and totally change the color of your paint job.

Here’s a tech sheet download for House of Kolor products. It’s a big file so it may take a bit to download. Enjoy.

Micro Sequence Metal Flake VS Standard and Jumbo Metal Flake

Metal flake can be a topic on it’s own but for now I’ll just briefly touch on what size metal flake to use in your first coat of clear or in a intercoat layer.

Micro sequence is a very fine metal flake. That’s the kind that you want to use if you want a micro flake look. Very nice and the most easy to spray because of it being so fine. If you can spray with a 50% overlap, then you will have no problems with tiger stripes.

I talk about micro sequence in a few of my videos here’s one on it and on pearls. You can see video footage of me opening up bottles and showing you inside.

It’s a great video actually. Click below to see it.

Pearl and metal flake video

Metal Flake Sizes – Smallest to Large

Micro sequence flake size can range from .004 – .008 The standard flake size can range from .012 – .015 then you move on to large .020 then finally jumbo will be at .025 or larger. Here are a few pictures and examples from House of Kolor.

When spraying large or jumbo flake be sure to take out your gun neck filter (if you have one). These larger flakes are usually sprayed in clear coat. They will pop out of the clear and give you a rough surface.

jumbo flake

When I spray this kind of jumbo flake I like to coat the car with 2 coats of plain clear coat first, this way my flake can be buried in the soft clear coat. After spraying 2-3 coats of flake or until you get to your desired look, you can follow up by giving it another 2-3 coats of plain clear on top of that.

Most likely you’ll be color sanding that out flat and buffing if it came out smooth or you may want to wait 2 days and spray another 2-3 coats of solid clear coat over that and finishing off with some hard-core color sanding and buffing.

To learn more about auto body and custom painting be sure to see what we have to offer ‘inside’ of our VIP members area of the site.

Not only do we have step-by-step videos that cover all topics relating to auto body and paint but we also have a community of amazing like minded people who are waiting to help and guide you with your current or next project.

Take a look here to see what you get as an “Exclusive LABAP Insider

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Comments

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21 Responses to How To Paint Pearl or Flake – Mix in Clear Coat or Intercoat?

  1. robert February 22, 2013 at 2:04 am #

    Ok, I lay my black base coat first then you say to put my powder pearl in my clear. But do I add hardener to my pearl in the clear coat or do I wait until I finish my final clear coat stage?

    • Tony February 22, 2013 at 8:34 pm #

      I think you’re over complicating things. When you mix your clear coat, you already have hardener in it. You would just add your pearl into the mix and spray it. Go it? If you want to learn more and have full step-by-step training on all areas of bodywork and painting then check out what VIP can do for you right here. Talk soon!

  2. Robby Jones February 25, 2013 at 12:46 am #

    I want a silver flake with white pearl overlay . Just enough pearl to give the white flake look . Yes, I said pearl and not candy.

    Do I sand the intercoat after a few days then apply the top coat clear OR just go straight on from intercoat to clear after im satidfied with the colour effect?

    TY Robby

    • Tony February 25, 2013 at 2:23 am #

      I would mix your flake and pearl at once in your intercoat. No, you wait to your intercoat is dry like base coat. 20-30 min or so, then spray your clear coat. I have the tech sheet for intercoat in this post. You can download it. Maybe read the post again and you may pick up more tips that you may have missed. Good luck Robby. WHat are you painting and over what color base coat?

      • Robby N Jones March 17, 2013 at 5:15 am #

        At the moment the car is being restored and it’s multi colored. I’m thinking because he wants a white flake then a white basecoat ??

        Spraying isnt the issue, I’m retired spray painter. Only todays techniques is why I am asking. I Do appreciate your kind reply and urge the readers to signup for your fantastic course.

        I have a 2MM tip,nozzle, air cap and needle. so it’s good for the flake. It has a air aggitator pot 1 Liter. How much flake and how much pearl? I’m buying it from House of colour but not that far advanced with the techniques yet..

        I really do need know how much pearl and flake per each 1 Liter pot please ? With the micro FLAKE in your tutorial is it going to look the same as the dry LARGE flake please ?

        TY Tony. Cheers Rob

        • Tony March 18, 2013 at 11:38 am #

          hey Rob. This is a hard question to answer because there really is no right or wrong answer. The amount of flake and pearl you add is your choice.

          You may not like what the next man does or think that there isin’t enough flake or pearl in the mixture and vice versa.

          I would start with very little per liter. Maybe a tablespoon of pearl powder and half that for flake. The more coats you spray on the more of an effect you will achieve.

          Be sure to take your filters out if the gun so your flake does not clog your gun. We have step-by-step videos in this topic over a complete build in the vip course.

          Be cool and good luck Rob!

          Tony

      • robby n jones March 18, 2013 at 1:05 am #

        Hi Tony, I replied but it seems to been lost..

        Is the micro flake you demonstrate as good looking as the Large DRY flake please ? I want a really spectalty look flake NOT the medium metallics we see on everyday cars. It micro Flake is as good then its a better solution.

        Cheers Robby

        • Tony March 18, 2013 at 11:49 am #

          Hey Robby, I did get and answer your last question. Most everyday cars have a very fine flake, smaller than micro sequence. I love the size of micro flake because it is not too big. The jumbo just looks too gaudy to me.

          It’s really personal preference. See what you like on cars at car shows or online and find out what size flake they are using. Then you’ll know what YOU like. I hope this helps.

          • robby n jones March 19, 2013 at 10:14 pm #

            TY Tony god bless.. Robby.

  3. Raye February 25, 2013 at 7:00 pm #

    Great tips. I am new to auto paint and I was so excited to get to painting after I layered my beautiful basecoat I mixed some smoke chrome flakes in my first layer of clear and I coverd it with 3 layers of clear again and it end up rough with a little gloss but stll had a matte look. Do I color sand and buff or do I sand and clear over?

    • Tony February 26, 2013 at 1:21 pm #

      You should color sand and spray 2-3 coats of plain clear over that. Then cut and buff. What size flake did you use? Also what size nozzle tip did you use?

      • Raye February 26, 2013 at 8:03 pm #

        The flakes was labeled medium size micro flakes. The tip I used was 1.4 !!! When I pass my hands I can feel the flakes. Being a newbie I sure learn fast and I definitely will do your course as I accumulate the full cash. I am from Trinidad and I just woke up one morning and decided to paint my car myself and I did a pretty good job. Car is a 1993 corolla 101 and my paint was gregio proteous ! Your tips and information are priceless .if this result is from my first try imagine what I can do when I put more time into it!,ur website and course make it so easy a cave man can do it!!!! I can post some pics for u to see but I don’t know where to post me!

  4. Rafael Canas April 10, 2013 at 1:40 pm #

    Hi Tony I’ve been a VIP for some years now. When I started reading and watching the videos in VIP I was very motivated to start a business and retire to kill time and keep me busy.

    I’m a spray painter and I have painted only Airplane panels. I’ve never tried to paint a car and I don’t know anything about bodywork. Just only what I’ve watched in your videos.

    A couple of years ego i had a heart surgery and all my plans went off the cliff. After the surgery they left me with a severe hiccup and now I’m waiting for a surgery to try to cure the hiccup problem.

    I’m 60 years old and still have the dream of opening my own garage in my country El Salvador. I already have all the tools, equipment and machines that I need to start and operate. I also have contacted a couple of old friends that work in the auto-body business and they are willing to work for me.

    At this moment I’m living in Canada and I think this will be my last year here. To open the business the only issue I have is that I don’t know how much to charge for any jobs.

    I will appreciate if you can give me some advise on how to make the math, the estimate to charge the customer or where to get information about it.

    The method that you use to teach how to learn auto-body and paint is EXCELLENT! I have learned a lot from you and I feel that I’m ready to open up a business and start haring people.

    By the way, how can I get my VIP T-shirt?

    Thanks Tony!
    Rafael

    • Tony April 10, 2013 at 3:06 pm #

      hey Rafael!

      I hope you het your health problem solved soon. That is awesome that you will be opening your own business soon in El Salvador. Keep me posted on your progress for sure.

      I will make a short video soon for you about this topic of how to estimate auto body jobs (the fast way). I think you will like it! Thanks for commenting and I will be in touch soon.

      Tony

      • Rafael Canas April 11, 2013 at 1:55 pm #

        Hi Tony thanks for your reply. looking forward
        for the video.
        I’ll keep reading the information in the book and watching the videos,they are very helpful.
        you are an excellent instructor.
        thanks

  5. Gerardo Arias May 15, 2013 at 5:44 am #

    Hi, I would like to achieve this look:
    https://alsacorp.com/products/crystalpearls/images/P1200108_L.jpg

    I was thinking about applying a black base coat then mixing the blue pearls in my clear, is that right?

    also what kind and color of pearls do you recomend?
    I want it to have a drastic black (in the shadow) to blue (in direct light but with black still visible) change.

    thank you.

    • Tony May 25, 2013 at 3:25 am #

      Yes. You can and should use an intercoat if you are new at spraying. It’s like a clear base coat. Then give it two-three coats of clear. Black base with blue flake will do the trick for sure.

  6. Tim June 21, 2015 at 9:09 am #

    What if you have a liquid pearl? Can that be added to the intercoat? I plan on a silver barefoot with a sunrise pearl from house of kolor.

    • Tim June 21, 2015 at 9:10 am #

      Basecoat*

  7. Doug Lemos June 29, 2017 at 3:10 pm #

    Hi Tony, Im going to try painting my 55 Chevy Hardtop soon. Saw a car at a show I liked and was told it was a HOK black base coat with HOK red pearl under HOK Brandy wine . Looking to get a deep wine color, that reflects well in sun light. Will the red pearl help to keep the car from looking too black in low sun light ? Also will the pearl give the illusion of a fine metallic, or should I add some micro flake as well ? And if I could bend your ear one more time, could you explain to me how you would lay down this type of paint job ? I’ve never painted with pearl or Kandy before.
    Thank You- Doug

    • Tony August 1, 2017 at 4:33 pm #

      Basically this is a three-four stage paint job. You will lay the base coat (your black) then your inter coat — Your pearl and flake, then your candy over the top… then your clear coat. You can skip a step and just lay the pearl and mini flake in your candy coat. If you are a newbie, then I would recommend to use a intercoat to lay the pearls and flakes. I show you all of this in VIP though. Good luck my man!!

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