Choosing paints and finishes
By SignCraft Magazine
Posted on Sunday, April 23rd, 2017
Every shop seems to develop its own systems for paints and finishes. That’s helpful because you know what performance to expect from the products you know and use. But it can also limit you if you don’t keep learning about other products and experimenting with them. Sign makers have never had more options for paints and finishes than they do today.
The enamel tradition
For decades, enamel paints were the standard of the industry. They are still preferred by many for how they handle in a brush, their adhesion qualities and their gloss. Long time industry sources 1 Shot Paint and Ronan Paints both offer solvent-based enamels for lettering, pinstriping and sign finishing. Bulletin color is designed for use on signs and billboards. Lettering enamels offer improved coverage and workability for brush lettering. Background enamels are fastdrying, high-gloss finishes for backgrounds and structures. Enamels are available as pearlescent, fluorescent and flat-finish poster colors, too.
Ronan Paints’ AquaCote is a waterborne bulletin enamel that is formulated for signage. Their Aqua Ron-Glo Fluorescent Color is a waterborne interior/ exterior fluorescent paint. Their Aqua-Leaf line is a metallic-look waterborne paint for indoors or out.
Acrylic latex is easy and available
Quality acrylic latex paint is a popular choice for finishing signs and letters as well as hand lettering and wall graphics. The high-quality product lines marketed for home and exterior finishing are durable and easy to use. They’re also readily available.
Rugged polyurethane and urethane
These finishes are very durable and dry very quickly. “We spray a lot of Matthews polyurethane,” says Bob Stephens, Skywatch Signs, Zephyrhills, Florida. “We can apply three coats 15 minutes apart. In less than an hour we can have something painted and clear coated. It’s dry to touch within an hour or two and completely cured in 24 hours. You can apply vinyl or do anything else you need over it.
“I bought the satin base system then bought all the metallics. We can mix about 65,000 colors. And if we need only a half pint of paint, we can mix just that. There’s much less waste. We have a complete system and a paint booth. Maybe every shop can’t invest in all that, but it’s worth it for us.”
Urethane paints, such as Axalta’s Hot Hues, are also used for pinstriping and hand lettering. They bond aggressively to other paints, dry quickly and are very rugged.
Artist acrylics for murals
Products like Nova Color Paints see a lot of use for wall graphics and murals. They dry fast and can be recoated within a few hours. They work well in the brush, and exterior durability is good.
Sometimes a finish needs to be more than just color and protection, like when you want a finish that looks like rust or aged copper or to have a texture. You have several to choose from, and most are exterior durable. They couple well with 3D signage, adding more interest and appeal.