Creating a Vac-Metal Effect
by Chris Marsh

    Ahhh....creating a metallic appearance on a material that is not actually metal.  This is a puzzle that has plagued customizers since the time of Plato.  Well....if the Greeks had had Hasbro, I guess.  In any case, people of all shapes and sizes have been searching for years to find a way to take a plastic item, and make it look metallic.
    Surprisingly, there are actually quite a number of different approaches one can take to that end.  Not so surprisingly, each approach yields a result that is quite different from the others, in terms of appearance, characteristics, funtionality and durability.  The methods also have a range of complexity to achieve the metallic effect, from the very simple to the very complex.  Likewise, some of these methods are very cheap to implement, while others can be somewhat more costly.
    One method in particular results in a final product that is nearly indistinguishable from actual metal, so much so that it can actually be polished, and will even tarnish if not sealed.  But as you might expect, a little effort is required to achieve that.
    All in all, if you can imagine an effect you are trying to achieve, there is most likely a way to achieve it without too much heartache.
    This article will discuss various methods that I have found to mimic the vac-metal effect found on many toys.  And while this is not intended to be an exhaustive list of the methods that are available, I certainly feel exhausted after trying them all out.  ;)  For each effect, I will try to discuss the general characteristic of the final product, as well as the methods used to achieve it, the relative amount of labor involved, a general consideration of cost, and where to get the materials used.
    Joking aside, I actually had a lot of fun playing around.  If you see something that interests you, I encourage you to experiment yourself to see what you can do.

*Author's Note - For consistency of results, all methods are applied to a resin cast of a DC Direct Hal Jordan Green Lantern torso.  All photographs are taken under identical lighting conditions and camera settings.  The red brush handle is used as a reference for the reflective properties of each technique's finish.




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