[Looking4] Spray-on conductive paint


I am looking for the best price on an effective aerosol spray to
create a conductive surface on a non-metallic object. We’ve been
using a brushed-on liquid conductive paint (hideously expensive) to
electroplate and electroform over non-metallic surfaces, but we are
looking for a smoother finish that’s easier to apply. We’d rather not
resort to mixing and spraying with a compressed air sprayer, and
would prefer a simple spray-can application.

Anyone know of a quick-drying, easy-to-use product that will work to
produce a plate-able surface?

Jay Whaley

hello Jay,

yes Rosenthal Jewelers supply in Miami sells a can for $48.00,
(unless its on sale for 38 bucks which happens periodically) which i
find still quite pricey compared to the pens available at radio
shack that are much like a paint pen with your choice of chisel or
fine tips. Micro-Mark, Dick Blick, Gesswein and FDJ tools on time (
and perhaps Contenti) all sell cans of conductive paint- and pens, in
the electroplating/electroforming sections of their catalogues…again
pricey for the cans and wide ranging for the pens which run about 14
bucks at radio shacks ( or less). However you can get micron graded
silver powder (at about $112. 00US each ounce!!!) that can easily be
mixed in a small airbrush set-up that may prove cheaper in the long
run if you are going to do a lot of electroplating/forming, etc. as
it only takes about a quarter teaspoon ( weighing it on a gram scale
is more precise and economical not to mention exacting) to the 1 oz.
jar the small set ups use. Micro-mark’s catalogue has a reasonable
selection of conductive items including the conductive powder, and a
tape/decal like material that may interest you as it has zero mess,
just requires a steady hand at cutting out say, a piercing/fretwork
pattern that you will transfer to say a gold blank to add silver
accents to it…or whatever your intended use may be. PnP blue too
shouldn’t be overlooked for photoetching processes that can then be
metallicized. I use silver leaf from Indian grocery stores ( 100%
edible silver leaf in a folded interleaved booklet that runs less
than $4.00 per booklet of at least 50 sheets that are larger than
the stuff sold in art supply or paint supply stores. Since it will
stick to any size from gum arabic to traditional sizings it is
versatile and cheap, but there is a learning curve in working with
leaf- main thing to remember is to clean the metal and degrease it
completely, then using the finest applicator possible ( i like the
snap apart applicators with a dauber tip -also available with brush
tips if you prefer a brush available from many sources, micro-mark
being the cheapest retailer i know of so far) apply your “sizing”,
let it get tacky then apply the leaf using a sable brush ( or any
real hair bristle brush that generates static electricity) once
adhered to your pattern or item, burnish to insure a continuous run
of silver. You can’t really collect the scrap leaf unless it’s with
a damp paper towel and then into your refining bin- but the low cost
of the edible silver leaf (99.999% fine) beats all other forms of
conductive paints, pens, sprays etc…the airbrush is, if able to be
controlled to a pinpoint better than the cans I spoke of earlier-
their spray nozzles are more suited for electroforming an organic
item ( like coating a leaf for example) as the spray isn’t as
precisely laid on and you then need a masqueing fluid too if you
require precise lines, etc… There are a number of possibilities
and price points- it boils down to the amount of time you want to
spend applying it as to the format you choose, or one’s budget- in
which case the leaf and sizing is by far the cheapest way to go…

Hey R.E.,

You have been a huge help to me! Thanks you so much for all the

I have a student who is in the middle of a very ambitious long-term
project, that of building a full-size replica of a movie prop ray-gun
from the 50’s. He’s a mechanical engineer and has made precise
schematics for the project, and is slowly fabricating and casting all
the parts. He has struggled to build the “body” of the gun, and just
recently had those large sections 3-D printed in plastic. He will use
auto-body filler and lots of sanding to detail and smooth the plastic
parts, but then wants to electroplate the finished product. I only
have what’s left of a small bottle of conductive paint I got from Rio
many years ago, which is not nearly enough to cover what we need to
plate, and besides, we really need a product that can create a
smoother finish on the curvilinear gun body. I think we will go for
the aerosol can of conductive paint, as that is going to provide the
easiest way to create a smooth, seamless finish without any

Once we have the metallic surface on the plastic parts, it will be
easy to copper and nickel plate over that.

You’ve been a great resource!!

Jay Whaley

Good idea, but I have never seen any. You might have to have a
custom spray can filled. I am sure one of the $20 to $25 custom
spray paint can boys would be happy for you to supply your own
contents. Think thinned down brush-on conductive paint or Caswell’s

Hideously expensive indeed, and spraying is hideously wasteful in
itself especially unless re-circulated. You could slash costs by
buying a suitable lacquer and adding silver that you had
precipitated yourself. Dissolve an excess of fine silver in Nitric
acid, filter to remove the excess metal, then add copper to drop out
the silver. Filter precipitated silver, wash well then dry. Mix in a
suitable solvent and get it canned up.

Have a look here Silver Conductive Paint (Needed to Electroplate Plastics) - Surface Monkey Limited for clues re
lacquer and spraying issues. This might not spray well from an
unadjustable (can) nozzle. Please report back on any


Hi Jay,

Try this on for size, (now that I know what your guy is up to) :
movie prop guys use a process called vacuum metalizing. Lets them
put down a layer of metal onto a plastic substrate. I’m assuming
it’s some sort of a sputtering process. Should work just fine for
your guy, either as a final surface, or as a substrate for
electroplating or electroforming.

Don’t really know anybody in that world any more, but you’re closer
to la-la land than I am. I know there are metalizing jobshops
somewhere in LA. Let google guide your fingers…


Try Shapeways: 3D Printing Service Online - they can 3d print in
metal(s), a few at this point if I’m not mistaken. Might save a few

  • Linda Ricci

This reminds me of a recent post on the Make magazine’s website for
vacuum metalizing plastic parts- there is a video that goes with it
too.You just look on the site and in the craft, or tools and workshop
section you’ll find it "The general idea is to place an object in a
vacuum chamber along with an electrically-heated filament made of
something like aluminum. Pull a vacuum, heat the filament. The
aluminum evaporates and condenses back onto the object in a shiny
layer. "

Then spray coat the shiny aluminum layer with a clear coat lacquer
for the chrome look, or a gold clear coat for the gold look, etc.

Vacuum chambers are easy to make, perhaps $200 at most for a decent
one capable of 50 microns, although I’m not sure if that’s good
enough for your task. If it is, then it’s just a matter of wiring a
filament through the wall of a vacuum chamber. There’s probably also
an electrostatic charge involved much as with powder coating so the
cloud of aluminum is attracted to the object instead of just floating
around the chamber. Gesswein sells “silverkote”- but it’s expensive (
over $119.00 an oz. but they swear if applied with a dry brush it
will stick to anything,a little goes a very long way, and things
organic are the easiest to coat with the metalizing
powder…)…anyway if i am being repetitious i apologize- I thought
i forgot to mention this MAKE magazine project/ site…rer

Coincidentally, stumbled across this link today…interesting “faux”
metal spraying techniques from the Stan Winston “school of character
arts”, that you too can learn for the low low price of $19.99! Sounds
like something a ray gun maker would want to know.

Try my unique solutions for the spray paint. They have a web site
and the lady in charge is Beth. She is wonderful to work with. In
fact they carry all sorts of solder in all forms even powdered. If
you have a specific formula they will make it for you. I have no
connection with them other than being a customer.

The old lady in Florida

Try “GRANGER”, for this conductive spray or ask the electronic
shops. If you don’t find-it anywhere, I’ll send you what I have left
in the can! E-ME if you have a problem and maybe I can get one spray
can of this conductive copper spray.

Stephen Wyrick,CMBJ,Gemmoligst (EURO-SPELLING)