Airbrush Tutorial – How to Create Mirror Chrome Effect by Nanxnei Studio

Mirror Chrome Effect by Nan Nei - Step by Step Airbrush Tutorial

Remember the HGUC 1/144 Banshee Gundam with the great purple-blue-black reflection effect? Here’s another great modelling tips shared by Nan Nei (南寧工作室). This technique is specifically for airbrush user to create mirror chrome effect, one of the popular effects applied to all kind of Gundam models, cars, bikes and other mechanical models.

Mirror Chrome Effect Overview

How does it work? The overall idea is to create the mirror chrome effect with the MGM Chrome Powder. However, the powder can only gives 1 single chrome effect and extremely weak against touch or moisture. In order to create Chrome Red (or other chrome colours), we spray a layer of clear colour to seal the powder (refer to the tips below), then we apply another layers to get the colour we need.

Paint Preparation

Paint and Thinner for Mirror Chrome Effect by Nan Nei - Step by Step Airbrush Tutorial

  • Gaia EX-02 Black (Gloss)
  • MGM Prime Electroplating Powder (a.k.a. Chrome Powder)
  • Zippo lighter fluid (as thinner for enamel paint)
  • Tamiya Enamel Clear colour series (Clear, Clear Red, Clear Blue, Clear Red…)

How to Create Mirror Chrome Effect – Step by Step Tutorial

  1. Set up the base colour

    Mirror Chrome Effect by Nan Nei - Step by Step Airbrush Tutorial

    Spray a layer of Black (Gloss) as base colour.

  2. Create the Chrome Effect

    Mirror Chrome Effect by Nan Nei - Step by Step Airbrush Tutorial

    Apply MGM Prime Electroplating Powder (a.k.a. Chrome Powder)on the base colour (use cosmetic puff for better result). Simply rub the powder on the surface.

  3. Prepare the Clear Colour

    Mirror Chrome Effect by Nan Nei - Step by Step Airbrush Tutorial

    Mix the clear colour that you wish. You can spray multiple layer of clear colour for the effect you want. However, Tamiya’s clear colour seems dark with this technique. It is recommended to finish it with less layer, as the more layers it is , the less reflective it will be.

    Important Tips

    This technique requires lighter fuel as the thinner for the enamel colour. The paint need to dry fast so it won’t wash away the Chrome Powder. The mixing ratio for the dry layer is 1:2 (clear colour : lighter fuel); For the wet layer is 1:2 or 1:2.5. Feel free to adjust the ratio as you see fit.

  4. Apply the Dry Layer

    Mirror Chrome Effect by Nan Nei - Step by Step Airbrush Tutorial

    The dry layer refers to the airbrush spray settings with higher PSI and less paint flow from the cup, where it creates a rougher (misty) coat on the model surface.

    Spray it quickly but make sure all surface are covered. During this stage, the paint and lighter fuel will dry quickly before it can wash away the Chrome Powder, so the powder is sealed. Don’t worry about the rough or misty effect on the surface, it will be fixed at the last step.

  5. Secure the powder with more dry layer

    Mirror Chrome Effect by Nan Nei - Step by Step Airbrush Tutorial

    You may spray additional dry layers to ensure the powder is sealed properly.

  6. Last Step – Apply the Wet Layer

    Mirror Chrome Effect by Nan Nei - Step by Step Airbrush Tutorial

    Once the powder is sealed, spray with more paint and low PSI (a.k.a. Wet Spray). This wet layer will fix the rough / misty layer and gives great clear chrome reflective surface.

  • renzinpoo

    Hi! Thanks for sharing this, could this be done using other type of paints? (Acrylic,lacquer, etc.) Thanks!

    • Ellem

      Hi renzinpoo. To be honest I never try this before. Based on his technique you might want to try with lacquer (Mr Color / Gaia Notes) which dry fast.

  • Qhye Long

    hello there sir!its really cool of what u showed here..but what if i dont have an there any possible way to get the same effect?with spray cans?

    • Ellem

      I’m not sure since I’m not the one come out with this technique. Perhaps you can try this with enamel spray can. What important is to ensure the enamel paint will “sealed” the powder fast enough before the coat is damaged.

    • Carter

      You can use chrome paint and hit it with a heat gun to get shiny chrome. Then, to add the mirror colo effect, hit it with a light even mist of you color, followed by another layer of chrome while still wet and heat gun again. It works on large props, not sure on small model pieces because of the heat.

  • RL

    Hi there! Thanks for sharing this technique. What’s the psi setting that you use on dry and wet spray?

    • Ellem

      Although I’m not the one who invented this technique xD, you can try 20 – 25 PSI for Dry spray; 12 – 15 for Wet Spray.

  • midzwan2

    hi i just found this article…
    Just want to ask do you thinned down the base colour (Gaia Black Gloss)? if you thinned it down, what thinner do you used n in what ratio?

    • Ellem

      For Gaia Paint you can use Mr Leveling Thinner or the Gaia Thinner. I don’t follow any particular ratio to be honest, it is all guts feeling xD.

      The real reason is that I always pour the excess thinned paint back to the bottle so I’ll have to check it instead of following any fix ratio. Usually when I open a new bottle of paint, I’ll go around 1: 2.5 (paint : thinner).

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  • Leona

    I’m not really sure I understand part 3…. you’re saying that the dry layer is suppose to be thinned 1:2, yet right after that you say that the wet layer is suppose to be thinned 1:2 or 1:2.5… I don’t see any difference except for the PSI setting you mentioned in a previous comment.

    So what happens here? the dry layer is only the lighter fluid with paint, do I wait for it to dry to apply the last step?
    This is kinda confusing…

    • Ellem

      Hi Leona. According to his original article, I don’t think mixing ratio is the main point. It is the PSI setting n the distance of the parts that will decide whether it is dry or wet.

      To be clear, dry = misty finish. The paint doesn’t pile up with lots of thinner because the thinner will dry out before it reach the parts. Wet = lots of thinner n paint reach the parts but it will appear glossy once dried.

      Yes, U will have to wait until it is dry before u proceed with the wet layer. Make sure the “dry layer” is dry so it can seal the chrome powder.

      • Leona

        awesome, that cleared my doubts, I’ll be trying this out on my regular GK’s, I don’t build gundams but I sometimes get to paint some armors and swords :)

  • AzureBerz

    There anyway you could dumb it down for a noob and can you get this using air propellant cans?

    • Ellem

      let me simplify the steps:

      1. Spray a layer of gloss black. leave it till it fully dries up.

      2. Rub the chrome powder on the black surface.

      3. Mix your Enamel clear paint (any colour) with thicker ratio (maybe 1:2)

      4. Spray the clear paint in point 3 with higher psi (around 20) and minimal paint flow (means don’t release too much colour when u spray).

      5. Spray additional layer just like no.4 if u need. make sure the chrome surface now is slightly rough / misty. leave it till it fully dries up.

      6. Spray with normal mixture (e.g. 1:2.5) and normal psi (around 15). leave it till it fully dries up.

      Done :)

      I’m not sure if this is doable with air can since u will need to adjust the air pressure.

  • se7en47

    For painting your parts, do you just gloss it with gaia or do you need to prime with some other base? Like I have vallejo acrylic white primer. Would I prime with that then gloss then do the powder and enamel steps?

    • Ellem

      Hi. It is better to go with primer, even better if it is black colour and 1500 grit. It will be much smoother hence glossier.

      regarding the base colour, gloss black colour will bring out the shininess of metallic colour so u can go one of this method:

      A) primer (any colour) > gloss black > chrome powder
      B) Black primer 1500 (any brand) > clear > chrome powder

      The reason (B) need a layer of clear paint is because black primer will turn out like semi gloss black. so a layer of clear is to enhance the smoothness of the surface for the chrome powder to shine 😀

  • Raiken Skylark Tsutsumi

    Can this ever be achieved thru spray paint?…

    • Ellem

      Not sure about it. Maybe u can try and share with us the result?

  • Erick

    Hi, Just want to ask.. if enamels are best used for this kind of paint job. or would it be the same if i use acrylic or lacquer? also is it true that when you use a gloss topcoat the shine would not be the same?

    • Ellem

      Personally I prefer enamel for this technique due to the paint can dry quickly before the thinner wash away the powder.

      As I see how other modeler does it, top coat will slightly reduce the chrome powder, or even worse, create uneven chrome colour.

  • Jokster Gundam

    very nice tutorial sir, learned a lot… can i ask what ratio of clear yellow and clear orange you used to achieve the gold like shine on your example? thank you

  • ivan

    Wet Spray is not more paint and high PSI ?

  • Alex

    Hello! Thank you for sharing with us this tutorial! It’s really amazing! I have to make you 3 questions:

    1. Can I use the C1 Models Metallizer powder?
    2. Do I have to use only enamel clear or does this technique works with acrylics too?
    3. Can I spray clear gloss on top, in order to protect it from finger prints?

    Thank you very much for your time!

  • Jon Dagloria

    How did you spray the black? What did you thin it with? Mine did not come out glossy at all. Did my thinner screw up the gloss or are you leaving out some steps?

    • Evaritus Lau

      Apparently such glossiness only happens when you airbrush it under a great, hot sunny day or, with a hair dryer.

      • Aldrich Shiki

        dry my plastic parts with a hair dryer once i finish spraying?

        • Evaritus Lau

          Yes. Since I tested airbrushing and hair dryer blowing towards the parts with safe distance so that the glossiness maintain.

  • Evaritus Lau

    After a series of trial and error finally had it correct. Apparently I have to go for first 2 layers with clear yellow first to bring out the brightness of the color. The trick is blowing hair dryer on a safe distance so that it will stay glossy.

  • alfa

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    mirRor gold metal efekt paint,

  • Mike Montuori

    Is using two colors on one object possible like this? I make them, but have struggled to fine a paint that’d metallic looking enough to be reflective. For those who don’t know what this is, Want one snake to be gold and the other silver.