Tutorial – painted wall plates

This is more of a written tutorial than a pictorial, mostly because I thought I had taken more than one picture. Hopefully it will still be of some use.

A while back when I painted my kitchen, I painted my switchplates with a product from Krylon called Brushed Metallic paint. While the look was pretty good, the feel and the durability left a lot to be desired. It came off very easily, and was very rough. Also, I didn’t paint the screws so it looked odd. For my bath painting, I decided to take a picture of my tools and describe the technique I used for this effort.

Here you can see the materials I used this time. I’m not really sure the adhesion promoter is necessary given the conditions the switchplates reside in, but I had it from another project so it was zero additional cost to use it here. I’m convinced, however, that the clear coat is.

On my previous effort I took the time to scuff the plates with sandpaper, and I can say after this time I don’t think it’s necessary. Just wash the plates with warm soapy water and allow to dry thoroughly.

Now whether you start with the promoter or go straight to the paint you need to do it the same way: start before the target and finish after. That means the spray needs to already be flowing when the nozzle trajectory would hit the target, and keep going until you’re past it. That, and thin coats are the secret to getting a good coat of paint, be it wall plates, a bumper or spray finish on a piece of wood. Don’t build up excess paint that you have to take down later.

Once you’ve established a very light coat, walk away. Follow the instructions on the can for follow-up coats. Be sure the entire plate is covered with paint before you move on to the clear coat, and spray it the exact same way. You want to build up some coats of clear for the next step.

The next step is one I haven’t taken yet, because I was disappointed in how the feel of the plates turned out – they were still a bit rough. But by building up a few coats of clear, we should be able to buff the plate to a nice smooth consistency, and complete the look of a metal plate. I don’t currently have a buffing wheel, so that’s why I haven’t done it yet. You can see from the photo though that at least by looks, it turned out well.

You might laugh at the pizza box in the first pic, but it does two things for us – protects whatever surface you’re painting on (dirt is best), but it also holds the plate screws so you paint the important bits (the head) and not the unimportant ones (the threads). Cardboard works best, but any rigid, punchable surface would do. I’m sure there’s an Amazon box lying around from something you ordered through my links, right?

That’s pretty much it. I will say that if you only have one or two plates to do, then this isn’t the most cost-effective method. Might as well buy the real thing. However if you have a whole room or whole house of plates you’d like to rehab, this would save you a ton of money. You can also defray the cost by rehabbing picture frames to match your fixtures. New frames are expensive, painting them isn’t. The clear is also highly recommended with that so you don’t have to keep repainting when scuffs appear.

You can find the clear coat at any automotive paint dealer, or hobby store, and will only run you a few bucks for a can. The Krylon paint runs about $8 a can and can be found at the big box stores. My Amazon link has several different colors available and ships free if you have Prime or with a $25 order.

Krylon K05125500 Brushed Metallic Aerosol Spray Paint, 11-Ounce, Satin Nickel


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