Chameleon paint colors are a class of color changing paint that changes color depending on how and even where you look at them. They are often referred to as color changing paints or sometimes called flip paints. Chameleon paint and inks of the same pigment technology have been used in automotive coatings, decorative household products, and even as security markers for currencies across the globe. This effect has been around for decades and has seen use in the automotive industry primarily for custom painting. Chameleon paints are made possible by a highly specialized pearl pigment that separates light into many of its individual components. Depending on the special metal treatment on the chameleon pearl pigment, different color effects are attained. Chameleon paints are three stage colors where a black base is applied first, then the semi-transparent chameleon paint layer, and finally protected with a clear coat. The specialized pearl pigment once was incredibly expensive to produce but like most new technologies the price has come down over time.
While most any dark base coat will allow the chameleon effect to be visible, Black bases are almost always used since they provide the most light absorption which helps preserve the color effect in the chameleon paint layer. Lighter colored bases allow more light reflection back through the chameleon layer which tends to over power the chameleon effect. The transparent nature of the chameleon layer allows for some “ghost graphic” effect by slightly altering the base color underneath the chameleon.
While chameleon paints have seen some significant use in the custom painting industry, their use in automotive coatings from the factory, or “OEM” coatings are they are properly termed has been limited. The high initial cost of the paints and the loud colors not appealing to the masses is largely the cause of the lack of use in factory finishes. As the price has come down and more subtle effects have been introduced the popularity of these finishes in OEM coatings is increasing.
Due to the transparent nature of the chameleon layer, applying chameleon paints is typically more challenging than applying normal automotive paints. Any variation in spray patterns can lead to a thicker or thinner film in a given area. Since the chameleon layer is transparent variations in thickness for any reasons will create a different color in that area. This typically manifests itself in light and dark spots sometimes called “blotching” or “mottling”. Another common spray defect we see in chameleon finishes is streaking caused by poor atomization from the gun nozzle or too close of a gun distance not giving proper time for the material to spread and separate before it hits the surface. To correct these problems painters must first ensure their gun is clean and functioning properly by doing test strokes over a dark surface. Since there are many different types of spray guns used in the application of automotive paints, we can’t possibly cover all the potential set up scenarios required to give a detailed “how to” guide for gun set ups. We can however give a good starting point for you to try some experiments on your own. Follow your gun manufacturers recommendation on inlet pressure but start with the higher side of the recommendation. If your gun has an air adjusting knob make sure the knob is all the way open. You can tell this as it will be the setting that makes the most air come through the gun. Next, screw the fluid adjustment (usually at the back of your gun’s needle) all the way (clockwise) until it stops with light hand pressure. Make a mark on the knob to indicate the zero fluid position then rotate the knob counter clockwise one and 3/4 turns. Adjust your fan to 10 inches wide when held 10 inches from the panel you are painting. For application you want to overlap your last stroke by 80% which means on a 10 inch patter you should only move down 2 inches every stroke. The overlap is critical when painting transparent finishes like chameleon paints. At this point you should experiment with test sprays and adjusting your gun settings till you are confident you are laying it even and consistent. One of the biggest mistakes we see people make is doing 50 or may 60% overlap thinking they are making 75%. Another common mistake we see is people not “walking the sides” of the vehicle and crosshatching a spray at the door seems. By stopping and starting mid panel (which is common with typical auto paints), you create a light and heavy area where you overlap as you move down the vehicle. This will typically result in light and dark areas it must be avoided. Don’t start a pattern in the middle of the hood, deck lid, or top. Start on one side then work it all the way across to the other side. You do have to be careful when reach across wet paint but when done properly this method prevents the “skunk stripe” you sometimes see in the center of hoods etc. Generally we recommend restricting the fluid flow and applying the product very lightly on the first coat. You have to take great care on the first coat since mistakes in that layer can be hard to fix in subsequent coats. Some people find it easier to mix our KonFusion chameleon colors 1:1 with reducer on the first coat so there is more margin for error.
There are numerous chameleon paint color sets available with a wide range of color shifts. In fact, the number of colors a particular kameleon products varies greatly depending on the pigment used, application technique, and the color of the opaque base coat beneath. The color “sets” or groups of distinct color a chameleon paint color might display varies so greatly it is impossible to summarize what is widely available. We encourage customers to judge their favorites based on videos of actual cars and bikes painted with a particular chameleon paint. Judging color by names is a poor practice as very often one person will see and name a color very different than the next.
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