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

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Here’s a blog entitled How To Paint Pearl or Flake – Mix in Clear Coat or Intercoat? Learning how to paint pearl can be confusing at first and I hope you learn more about from this blog. 

If you ask 10 painters how they would paint with pearl or flake I think you’ll get 7 different answers. Do you want to know How To Paint Pearl or Flake – Do you Mix in Clear Coat or Intercoat? What do you think?

I strongly advise you to check out the X Finishes Pearls and Flakes on Zoolaa. These X Finishes Pearls and Flakes are made from the finest blends of organic pearls and flakes that are guaranteed to make your paint job po!

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.


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. We also have great content on How To Paint Pearl or Flake, so go check it out!

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34 thoughts on “How To Paint Pearl or Flake – Mix in Clear Coat or Intercoat?”

  1. 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?

    • 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. 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

    • 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?

      • 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

        • 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!


      • 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

        • 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.

    • Hi toni, I’m spraying metal flake an im not sure if i use a binder or clear to mix the flakes ?
      or do i use a binder for the flakes an then drop a couple coats of clear on top of the flakes mixed with the binder . I was also wondering if you can sand binder or interdercoat with flakes to get it flat before candy

  3. 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?

      • 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. 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!

    • 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.


      • 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.

    • 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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

    • 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!!

  7. Hey I want to ask a question I painted my car Orion silver but I want to do a orange dry pearl cause my inside is silver an orange.

    What’s the best pearl to used

  8. Tony, read a few of your coments on metal, pearl, and inter coating, great advice.
    I’m undertaking a gelcoat project my my recent purchase of a ranger bass boat.
    The boat is perfectly fine with a few scraps in the gelcoat but the colors and scream just doesn’t do thi boat justice. So I’m going to change it. I’m going for that blinding oh god look in red, white and blue.
    The basic color os an off white with triditional flag ship stripes on the Ranger boats.
    I’m looking at laying down red and blue base and leaving the creamy white. That off the colors with 1/2 “ pinstripes between each color and spraying clear gel Coat mixed with copper penny flake .015 and brilliant gold .015. Followed with 2 coats of clear and pull first layer of tape let it kick off over night.
    The next day scuff of top of clearcoat with 80 grit and again mask off for the color shoots and3 layers over the pinstriped area. Shoot the darkness blue base coat then let it tack and follow up with mixture of cobalt blue .025 mixed with blue teal .008 royal blue .008 , deep ocean blue .008 and another shade of blue .008 (no name ) mixed in clear gelcoat and while this is kicking pull one layer of tape off the top of the pinstripe
    shoot my red pigminted gelcoat fallowed With clear gel coat mixed with my fire red .025 , ranger red .008, and regal red .015. Metal flakes Then one coat of clear over all areas blue and red. Pull second layer of tape off pin strip.
    Last of all is the white area left to gelcoat where i changed the original strips. Then let it tack off up and the meantime I can start spraying off the white area already prepared.
    This will be clear coat with .015 white metal flake, .025 white metal flake and f24 abalone ( mother of pearl) flake mixed to make it dance on Thur stir stick like candy, then follow up with 2 coats clear coat gelcoat and last coat over red. Which i only have one clear coat over. Check her out and if she looks good let the stand .
    This will be about an eight hour shoot and if I would like I can still put on one last 6 mill coat to lay her out like glass.
    The gel coat I will be using is by Fiber Glast Corp. 180 clear gel
    coat and Dura technologies Duratec 904-001 high gloss additive formulated to be used 50/50 and spray like paint.
    Looking for a final mill of 24 to 30

  9. Tony,

    Real quick question I have black base coat with a clear silver flake base intercoat and top with clear. Im noticing that the flake lays flat as in when I move a flashlight across the paint it doesn’t shimmer it’s as if all the flakes are flat on the panel facing the same direction. These are tiny flakes (micro). So how can I spray it to match the OEM look? OEM looks like the flakes are suspended pointing in different directions. The black and flake is a very good match to oem it just doesn’t sparkle from different angles. And a final note when intercoat (flake) is still wet it shimmers just fine. but once it starts to dry it feels like flakes flatten.

    • Hey Gerry, We’ll forward your question to Tony. If you are not yet VIP, head on over to this link here to get comprehensive access to information on auto body work and paint:

      You may also sign up for our FREE forum at The Pub to post your questions and interact with other like minded individuals here:

      Finally, join Tony in his live streams through his YouTube channel and directly connect with him with your most burning question on auto body work and paint. Subscribe to his YouTube channel to get notified when he goes live:​

  10. Tony,
    Been watching your vids for a while now, keep up the good work, and Thanks!
    To give you some perspective on me and my ability in painting, although I do airbrush artwork, painting cars is not something I have done a lot of. So not a total newbie, but definitely a novice!
    I am going to paint my MC, I want to do stylized black and tangerine ghost flames over candy red. The flames will be layered over each other with some of the flames licking over the other. I want to achieve the most depth of field I can where flames behind look much farther (deeper) than the flames in front. As an airbrush artist I know how to do this using color and shadow, but wondered if that can be enhanced by using clear coats/ or intercoat clears, to actually raise the paint layers over each other? I would also like to have ‘sheen’ to the candy red that would show thru the layers. Any comments suggestions would be much appreciated.

  11. How would you describe the difference between metallic paint and metal flake? Is it safe to say that metallic paint has metal flake in it but the difference between the terms have to do with size of flake? i.e. metallic paint is paint with metal flake sizes from .004-012 (or something like that) and anything bigger would be what is commonly called metal flake?

  12. I put to much gold flake over the black base coat and it has more of a brown color now. Can I add a small amount of black to my next coat of clear to get the color I’m looking for?


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