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  • Sarah C Awad

Sarah's Comic Con Chronicles, Entry 4: To Go Chrome, or Go Otherwise!

Early chrome dreams through the lense of a finger-printed computer screen

After putting it off for a multitude of reasons (I wanted to see what the prints looked like in person, I had no idea what color to use, etc.), I was at the last absolute point to address the humongous elephant looming over my shoulder; getting this armor chromed! This process was completely new for me, simultaneously nerve-wracking and exciting.

The Mission

I wanted to make sure that however I painted the pieces satisfied the following criteria: Firstly, that the finish looked realistic and/or expensive; after all the work I put into these (in my eyes) beautiful prints, they were not going to look less than what they were. Secondly, I hoped the finish to be smooth and even; it would irk me to no end if it the details on the armor got caked with paint, or became muddy or blown out,.

The (Initial) Decision

The decision to have a chrome finish, wait for the pun, seemed to outshine the very few options I had because of these requirements; it would be the most durable, even, and overall most expensive looking, and I was willing to pay the price (up to a certain level) to get it done right. I always try to budget my projects so I have the room to pay a bit more for certain aspects that need the quality, instead of spending less to get something similar, but not what I truly envisioned.

Nonetheless, I wanted to experiment with a some more accessible options first, in case chroming did turn out to be outrageously expensive or the timeline for the process would overshoot the convention- and maybe I would actually really like the spray paint, and was just psyching myself out.

Test I: Spray Paint

My local Home Depot had few, but suitable options, which I purchased with the addition of a few topcoats to play with. Dhemerae gave me two lizard heads that she prototyped on the ProJet 7000 to use as test subjects, so I set out into the dirty alleyway aside my apartment and sprayed away.

The results were not entirely what I was looking for. The Titanium Silver was way too glittery and would overwhelm the details on the armor due to its chunky texture. The second darker gray paint, whose subtle crackle finish I did like, just looked a bit on the plastic side. This could have been due to my lackluster application, but nonetheless, both sprays were close but no cigar. Maybe for a different project, but not this one.

*Note: Since this was still during the pre-blog period, I unfortunately do not have images for my tests!

Test II: Acrylic Paint

In a nutshell- good for smaller, flat details, but not for the entire piece!

Chrome Plating

So, I was going chrome plate, but how? Do I outsource it, or purchase a kit and do it myself? At this point, the nerves of concern are beginning to consume me, for July is nearing its end, and with half the project printed, I had yet to truly commit to any sort of post processing. Coloring this armor would be a one shot deal, and reprinting because of a mess up or disliking of the look was not possible, so in my mind, the stakes were high.

I wanted to see my options for getting it done professionally, for it would be the most efficient way to do it, and I would not personally be trying a new process for the first time on my final prints. Obtaining someone to do it, though, was easier said than done, especially when searching online.

In my experience:

The majority of places willing to do this kind of process are located in areas not easily accessible by anything but a car; so depending on your location, be prepared to drive.

It saves time to directly call the place, for the many of the ones with websites did not have an email address or never responded to online messages.

Many of the websites I encountered were a bit dated in design, so don’t judge a book by its cover; comb through them and see if they have images and any info on their processes and services.

Your best bet always, is to go to a place referred to you by someone; it will save you research time, and will help settle your wavering trust issues you may have going with an unknown. Certain places that I called also gave me recommendations for other willing paces if they were unable or were no longer providing that service.

​Once I finally decided on a place, explaining my project to the plater was hilarious to say the least; two young women calling up to plate a 3D printed suit of costume armor is probably not a customer they get often. We had a good laugh after we hung up.

Unfortunately, I was not smiling for long...

After an initial in-person consultation, I was told that it would take eight weeks to process all of my pieces, and the total cost would be $2500. At this point, I was exactly eight weeks away from my deadline and was willing to spend, but not that much. I was ultimately surprised by those numbers.

So that was out, and with the clock ticking until Comic Con, I was back to the drawing board.

So, what happens next? Well, I obviously find a solution, but I will save that for another post so I can go more into depth about the process I went with!

In the meantime, here are some more tips for, if you do go in for a plating consultation, what you should be prepared with:

Have specs of materials you want plated, including how heat resistant (melting point), any important chemicals in it, etc.

Bring a sample piece (if you can) they can test on, to your consultation , and if not, bring the final so they can look at it and touch it; depending on how niche your project is or how obscure your material is, they will probably need to see the piece in order to generate an accurate price.

Think of how long you want the finish to last, or how long you need it last.

Do your research on different chrome finishes (ghost, high shine, matte, etc.) and have a good idea of what you may want when you go in.

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