Graphite powder: experimenting with metallic finishes

What’s the best way to achieve a shiny metallic finish? Airbrush? Spray paints? Lacquers? What about graphite powder and a bit of elbow grease? Whistler joins me in the shop to see what different substrates mean for graphite powder finishes. We try applying different amounts of graphite powder to white, grey, and black surfaces and get very different results!

Watch the full video above to see our process, or check out a quick table of our results below:

Graphite Powder Experiment Results

SatinN/AGalvanized metal
N/ABlack chrome


  • Higher gloss = higher reflection.
  • More applications of graphite = more shine. It took multiple passes and lots of polishing to get the white to look chrome.
  • If there’s a clearcoat, it seems to make it easier for the graphite to adhere to the surface – something for those particles to stick into.
  • Safety first – eye protection, mask, and gloves are all recommended. Gloves also make cleanup much easier – look how dirty our hands got!
  • The finish is pretty durable but can be rubbed off if you try. We brought the finish back just by polishing more graphite into the affected spot.

I don’t think this is nearly the end of our graphite powder experiments – there’s lots more to explore here!

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2 Thoughts to “Graphite powder: experimenting with metallic finishes”

  1. Great video, thanks for doing the comparison. Question, what paint did you go with for the glossy black bottle? I’m making a Catwoman utility belt for my fiancee using a kids Batman Begins belt and I want to apply the graphite to the gloss black. I’ve been told by other craftsmen that it might be easier to go matte black and then spray with a high gloss clear coat – THEN apply the graphite – then a matte clear coat. Does this sound right?

    The other option is to spray with gloss black paint, apply graphite, then seal with a clear lacquer? Any insight is most appreciated!


    1. trevor

      Thank you for commenting! That sounds like a great project. I like the gloss clear coat approach for a couple of reasons. One, it’s self-levelling, unlike a gloss black paint, which will give a more consistently smooth and therefore shiny finish. And two, it might give the graphite a little bit more purchase. That said I’ve used graphite on a couple of projects since and I’ve never had difficulty with adhesion. Good luck! Would love to see how it turns out!

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