What are metals, micas and pearls in Automotive Paint?

Posted by Sig Espinoza on

Automotive paint is different than most of paint that you will find in a hardware store. In this article we will talk about the different "solids" that are mixed with automotive paint to give the special "metallic" texture you see in vehicles.


Metals are exactly what you would think, small particles of metal that are mixed with a base to give a sparkling effect to the paint. Metals are usually classified by particle size and between the same particle size by the way they reflect the color. Some can be specially more sparkly or have brighter flop color despite having the same size of particle.

The metals are almost always silver but when mixed with a colored base they might reflect some of the color they are mixed with. For example: A deep black base with middle size particle silver usually looks goldish and can be confused with Gold Mica / Pearl. 



Micas are a group of minerals which have the characteristic that their crystals brightly reflect different colors when hitted by light. The colors they reflect will vary depending of the mineral and interestingly can reflect different colors at different angles producing a pearlescent effect.

Pearl is often used to refer to Mica. When people say a paint has Pearl in it, it means that a Base contains Mica of one or more colors and therefore reflects bright colors when hitted by light.

purple mica


The term Pearl is also commonly used as short for "Pearlescent Paint" and it is a type of Tricoat. This technique consists on three layers of paint:

  • First: A Base Coat that can be a solid color or contain metals and micas itself.
  • Second: A "Pearl Coat" which is semi transparent and contains Mica and or Metals. By being in a different layer this coat has a different effect than if the Mica was mixed together with the first coat, it looks deeper and brighter.  
  • Third: A regular Clear Coat as the one you would use in a any Base/Clear paint.


When color matching it is critical to properly identify the presence and type of Mica and Metals, the best way to do this is to shine natural sun light or a sun lamp (if  sun is not available) on the part and closely look for the size, color and characteristics of the Micas and Metals and select from your Color System the tonners that would match better what you see.



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