Silver Metalic



Not sure if this question belongs here, but I’m asking anyway… Feel free to move/delete it! :slight_smile:

I’ll have a project where I need to engrave something and have it have a silvery metallic look to it when I’m done. It’ll likely be 1/4" thick. Haven’t decided on a material yet. Mostly because of this issue. My thinking is, and correct me if I’m wrong, if I engrave, then paint, say, wood, I’ll loose the fine detail that I just engraved. Alternatively I can’t really paint first because then I’ll be removing my paint (unless the paint’s really thick).

Maybe I’m over thinking. Not sure if anybody out there’s done any model work like this.

Any insight into this process would be much appreciated!

  • Tom


Lots of options, but folks like @Kallisti know this better than I!

Few quick thoughts:
-Painting an engrave retains all (or nearly all) the detail.
-Use a silvery acrylic.
-Paint one color, apply mask, engrave, paint a second color through the mask, remove mask.


Use clear acrylic, engrave the top surface, then paint the back surface. Only issue then is the engraving may cast a shadow onto the painted surface below it.


How much detail are you in fear of losing?

  • If you’re using a brush with something like Rust-oleum Metalic Accents, can you just apply it sparingly?
  • If you’re using an aerosol like their Rust-oleum Universal Metalic, do you have the space to spray from a distance or otherwise create micro-droplets with an airbrush?


REALLY. So it seems I really am overthinking. Silvery acrylic is something I was definitely planning on researching for this! I really like the 3rd bullet, too!

So much for me to learn. Which I’ve been saying for weeks… I used to work with leather long ago. My grandfather was really into it. So those skills will need to come back to me. I really look forward to knowing more than I currently do!!!


  • Tom


Thanks for the advice! I don’t think acrylic will be my favorite choice of materials here. I’m not completely opposed though!

  • Tom


There will be some larger features that I’m not worried about being obscured. But there will be small wisps of shallow detail here and there. Like dandelion wisps. (Not sure what else to call 'em.)

  • Tom


Well if Dan’s suggestion for Silver Acrylic doesn’t work out, you can also engrave the backside of a mirror and leave the finish for a highly reflective surface. But mirror/glass might not be the medium you’re looking to use.


You might be able to decrease the laser power to a low enough level that it doesnt completely vaporize the paint layer.

Or, paint the material silver, then paint a clearcoat over the silver, which will give you a little extra sacrificial material for engraving. Basically the same effect as the acrylic idea above, without needing the acrylic.


Definitely things I’ve been mulling over. Kills me I can’t test any of this stuff yet. So much to experiment with and learn from!

  • Tom


Depending on how much you want to spend, you could look at electroless nickel plating. If your parts are small enough, they can throw them in with another run and it could be relatively cheap. You will lose a minimal amount of detail (the plating thickness is only a few microns) and have a fairly robust finish.

I’ve plated some of my 3d printed parts, and they look fantastic, you could still see all the layers and details. But I just threw it into the plating run we were doing at my old job, so it was free. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


It appears like inventables has a laserable silver acrylic. And we will have that gift certificate.


Thanks for that! I’m not going to electroplate this. Wow… You just brought back memories though! My Mom (an artist) used to electroplate things and I remember doing it when I was younger! She actually made her own electroplating device. Anyway, the more I think of it, it really would look very cool. But, no. I don’t think for this. But, darn you, @joe … Now you got me thinking!

  • Tom


Nifty. It’s 1/8", too. That may be my answer. I’m gonna buy some and see what I can do with it.



Elecroless nickel is different from electroplating. It’s a chemical process, so you don’t have to hard a conductive material, and the layer is thinner.

Just an fyi if you want to look into it in the future. :grin:


Is it… Thanks for clarifying! Who knew!

A chemical process sounds easier. Some sort of bath?

  • Tom


my favorite method for things like this is to create a mold from your engrave, then use it to make a cold cast. You can apply an actual metal finish to the cold cast and not lose any detail. Here is a great video on it:


Yep! I was thinking that earlier today as well. Wasn’t sure what I’d mold with it though. I was thinking that I’d still have to paint whatever and lose the details I was worried about earlier. Either way, I’ll definitely watch that video.


  • Tom


Several baths, with some nasty chemicals. I wouldn’t recommend doing it at home. But I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a plating house near you that you could talk to.

I just found these guys in Philly.


With cold casting you don’t need to paint, so no detail loss. Bill is generally pretty thorough, so he will cover the materials he uses. If you’re willing to put the time in I think this method will yield the best possible results.