Metal Flake for Cars: History & 15 Things You Didn’t Know

  1. Metal flake for cars was first popularized in the 1950s and 1960s as a way to add sparkle and shine to custom paint jobs.
  2. The tiny flakes of metal in metal flake paint were made from aluminum. Due to advancements in technology as well as the heavy weight of aluminum, today they are typically made from polyethylene (PET) that is then metallized, coated in color & then a clear.
  3. The size of the metal flake for cars can vary from very small (known as micro flake or .004″) to very large (known as mega flake or .025″).
  4. Metal flake paint is applied in a multi-step process that involves a base coat, the metal flake layer and then a clear coat.
  5. The metal flakes on the paint reflect light in different directions, giving the paint job a unique, glittering appearance.
  6. Metal flake paint can be applied to any type of vehicle, including cars, motorcycles, boats, and even airplanes. Learn how to spray metal flake in 6 easy steps.
  7. Metal flake paint is often used in custom car shows and competitions to make a vehicle stand out from the crowd.
  8. Metal flake paint can also be used to create custom designs and patterns, such as flames, stripes, and graphics.
  9. Metal flake paint is available in a wide variety of colors, from traditional silver and gold to bold hues like purple and green.
  10. Metal flake paint can be topped with other types of paints, such as candy paints and pearl paints, to create unique and complex color effects.
  11. Metal flake paint can be difficult to apply and requires a skilled painter to achieve a smooth, even finish.
  12. Metal flake paint is often more expensive than traditional paints due to the added materials and labor involved in the application process.
  13. Metal flake paint is not always practical for daily drivers, as it can be more difficult to maintain and repair than standard paint jobs.
  14. Metal flake paint can add value to a vehicle, particularly in the custom car market where unique and eye-catching paint jobs are highly prized.
  15. Metal flake paint has a rich history in American car culture and remains a popular choice for those looking to add a touch of vintage glamour to their vehicle.

History of Metal Flake for Cars

Metal flake for cars became popular in the 1950s and 1960s, a time when customizing cars was a popular trend among American car enthusiasts. At that time, car owners were looking for ways to make their vehicles stand out from the rest and catch people’s attention. The use of metal flakes in paint was a novel approach that quickly gained popularity, as it created a unique and dazzling effect that was impossible to achieve with regular paint.

xpak400 by george barris with 35 coats of aluminum metal flake for cars
The XPAK400 by George Barris at the 1959 New York World’s Fair. Featuring 35 coats of Metalflake paint by the Dobeckmun Company, a Division of the Dow Chemical Company. The particles were precision cut, coated aluminum foil that gave a metallic finish.

One of the reasons for the popularity of metal flake for cars was the emergence of hot rod culture. Car enthusiasts began to modify their cars with more powerful engines, sleeker designs, and custom paint jobs that often incorporated metal flake. The use of metal flakes in paint was a way to show off the curves and lines of the car, as well as to draw attention to its chrome features.

Metal flake paint also became associated with the rock and roll culture of the time. Musicians like Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly often appeared with cars painted in metallic hues, which helped to further popularize the trend.

Today, metal flake paint is still used in the custom car industry, as well as in other areas of design, such as fashion and interior design. While it may have started as a trend in the 1950s and 1960s, metal flake for cars has remained a timeless style that continues to capture the attention of car enthusiasts and casual observers alike.

Composition of Metal Flake for Cars

The tiny flakes that give metal flake paint its characteristic shimmer and shine were typically made from aluminum, copper, or brass. Today, they are most commonly made from Polyethylene (PET). These materials are chosen for their reflective properties, which allow the flakes to sparkle and gleam in the light.

Aluminum flakes were the most commonly used material in metal flake paint. They are lightweight and highly reflective, and can be produced in a range of sizes and shapes to create different effects. Copper flakes, on the other hand, have a warmer, more amber-like appearance, and were often used in custom paint jobs for motorcycles and hot rods. Brass flakes were less common, but can create a unique vintage look when used in combination with other materials. Polyethylene is the new standard material for metal flake. A lightweight material that is inexpensive to produce, allowing the DIY painter to afford & spray everything in flake.

The size of the metal flakes used in metal flake paint can vary from very small (.004″ micro flake) to very large (.250″ mega flake). Although the most commonly used sizes for cars is .004″, .008″ & .015″. The size of the flakes can have a significant impact on the final appearance of the paint job. Smaller flakes tend to create a more subtle, shimmering effect, while larger flakes create a bolder, more reflective look.

Overall, the choice of metal flakes used in metal flake paint can have a significant impact on the final appearance of the paint job. Car owners and custom painters often spend a great deal of time selecting the right type of metal flakes to create the desired effect, and the choice of material can vary depending on the style and era of the vehicle, as well as the personal preferences of the owner.


To sum it all up, metal flake for cars has only been in use for the last 60+ years. In that time it has grown a tremendous following with people using it for millions of applications.

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