Fascinating Finishes with Powder Coatings Special Effects

Posted by on 13 September 2017

Powder manufacturers tend to have two basic categories for powder coatings: solid colors and special effects. Solid colors are just that, a solid color – think your basic RAL shade. Special effects powder coatings, however, are a whole other world of color and creation. They a way to add some real pizzazz to a coating, some magic. Wrinkles, sparkles, metallic, translucent's, formants, the list of special effects coatings go on, and each of these coatings have their own particular finishes that offer truly unique looks to a final product. 

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The variety of special effects coatings that we carry at IFS Coatings and our sister company Polychem provide a tantalizing variety of choices for any job shop or client to choose from. It is fascinating what a bit of science can make a powder do, from the luster of a dormant to the texture of a river vein, and the sheer possibilities a job shop creates when using special effects is astounding. 

 Copper Sparkle Dormant Sample

Without getting too deep into the details, the basic categories for special effects are sparkles, metallic, textures, river textures, veins, wrinkles, hammertones, multicomponent, speckles, antique, translucent's, and dormant's. Each of these are created in their own unique way and some have particular requirements, such as how dormant's are a two-coat system requiring a base coat (the dormant) and a clear topcoat (which brings the dormant to life), which together creates a different look from solid colors. 


Translucents are another special effect that really needs a two-coat system to look its best. The point of a translucent is to either allow the substrate beneath to come through or to simply create a bright translucent effect, both of which make for a rather interesting finish. If you’ve ever visited the IFS booth at the Fabtech trade show you will have seen the aluminum water bottles with our logos on, which we coat with translucent powder on the booth for visitors to take home. The logos show through the translucent powder. Alternatively, sometimes a base coat, a solid color or a bright chrome typically, is added before the translucent which gives the intense color that many customers are looking for. 

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Textures are useful coatings from both a utility perspective and a designer’s perspective. Rough textures can even have anti-skid properties, while fine, rough, and medium textures offer an interesting look aesthetically. They can also offer great hiding properties too – something to bear in mind when looking at your substrate or if a customer requests a textured finish.

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Metallics are one of the most common, and the most beautiful finishes that can really make a substrate pop. When talking about metallics in the coatings industry we’re usually referring to the ability to add some sparkle to the coating. Whether it’s a soft shimmer, a barely there anodized effect, or a more “in your face” metallic effect with chunks of red, green, gold or silver sparkle in the powder coat, metallic are easy to apply and are a simply stunning finish. 

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Multicomponent, speckles and antique special effects coatings all have the capacity to make any substrate appear incredible when applied correctly. These gorgeous effects can supply a visual texture and deliver a depth to the coating that is truly special.  Applying them correctly, however, can be a tad tricky. 

 Powder Coatings Market

While certainly broadening your job shops abilities, special effects coatings, in general, require more attention to detail and do not always apply as easily as solid colors. Metallics require careful monitoring of your gun settings and electrostatics due to the metallic flakes in the powder, river veins must have a consistent film build otherwise the effect will not be uniform, and translucent's need a base coat if the substrate is not in perfect condition. These are only a few of special effects coatings quirks.

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Speaking of the not-so-great particulars of special effects coatings…unless specially formulated to, these coatings don’t always offer the highest levels of-weathering and exposure protection. Some weather better than others, like encapsulated metallic, but many will require additional protection, such as a clear topcoat. They’re perfect for interior applications, and most of them can be formulated in exterior grade powders – just check with your powder manufacturer! IFS has an enormous range of special effects and Polychem has over 15 color and effect collections, including the outdoor living collection for exterior use. Always ask your supplier if they have the same, or what the weathering is like on the particular powder you want to use. 

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One key thing to consider if you are looking into special effects coatings is that they always, always, need to be applied to a surface that has been pretreated properly. All sorts of nasty problems can show up if you don’t prep a surface.  

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A funny thing about special effect coatings is that their names are not always an accurate description of the effect. Plus, whatever images your supplier has up on their websites or brochures never quite manage to be an accurate display of what the final product looks like. Ordering samples panels, which are normally free, and creating your own color library from these is a fantastic idea!

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A great suggestion to increase your access to special effect panels is to spray up your own samples on a variety of substrates. This is a good habit to get into to test out new products, equipment, or substrates. These samples are great references for your team and your customers. And honestly, with coatings like wrinkles, translucent, or veins, samples are essential, as different film thicknesses affect the strength of the pigment/effect/wrinkle. Having a few sample chips with you for the customer to pick from is a huge stress-saver. 


Special effects coatings are a spectacular range of powders that can add some true ‘wow!’ factor to any surface. While certainly needing a bit more care and attention than typical solid color coatings, they create fascinating finishes and turn plain, ol’ substrate into a glimmering surface. Or a speckled surface. Or a textured surface! The possibilities are almost endless with special effects coatings.