Paint Color Question

I’m looking for anybody that has an opinion on this paint topic. I’m for a color that accurately represents the color of exposed steel. It seems like most paints are too close to chrome or have too much sparkle to them. I want the dull look of bare steel.

You can generally tone down the specular quality of any silver metallic paint color by the addition of some amount of black.

Adding a touch of white will also reduce the specular quality while maintaining the overall shade.

Adding gray will also produce another metallic shade close to a “galvanized” metal.
Sometimes, say for a shade of “weathered” aluminum, you can start with a light to medium gray and add a touch of silver to impart the specular metallic effect.

Of course, all of these can be “weathered” on top of the base color, and my own approach is to imagine the final desired appearance to be composed of a series of semi-transparent layers, stacked one upon another, so, base color, washes, filters, chipping, staining, scratching, etc. All build up to create a final desired appearance.

Base color is just one of many steps to get there.


Very nice and thank you for the info. I was kind of shocked how hard it is to find a flat steel color.

Exposed steel rusts pretty quickly, like overnight! I go with a very dark brown, if it’s chipped armor. If it’s just an overnight light rusting, like on tracks, then a sparingly light rust color. This rust is like a powder and wears off when the tracks are in motion. Metallic colors are too specular, unless you want to show a recent large caliber hit. Steel that has been exposed for a long time is a darker rust color than overnight rusting. You can also use gray (for the steel) with a rust color wash, for different effect.
:smiley: :canada:

Rust is an oxide of iron and there are a few to choose from.
The answer to the question: What colour is rust?
is: Many!

Pick and choose:

The first rust starts in the orange area and then progressively moves towards a dark brown.

I presume that the original question here was about non rusted steel (or a least not obviously rusted)
in which case @SdAufKla has provided an excellent answer.
Shiny polished steel? Close to crome with a mirror finish.
Something duller? With or without the dark, greyblack (almost a hint of blue???) surface on steel profiles?

The various types of cast iron (they differ in colour)
Plenty of options …


So true, I am an Army maintenance guy and am not a fan of rust, so I like to paint my tracks with a steel and then hit it with the track wash. So, they look like newish track that has been just put on.

1 Like

FWIW, I think the broader lesson here is how to free yourself from the shackles of pre-mixed proprietary paint colors. Learn how to mix and create the EXACT color you have in your vision for your work and not be dependent on someone else’s interpretation, accepting something less than precisely what you want.

Experiment a bit with mixing some different colors into your preferred brand of silver and recording the results - paint a swatch on an index card and note next to it the ratios of the colors used.

If you want it flat, pretty much any matt or flat clear coat that’s compatible with your preferred paint brand will achieve that result, too. Mix the shade of the color you want, and make it flat later with a matt clear coat.

While I do appreciate the convenience of pre-mixed colors, you’re limiting yourself by not learning to mix your own. Even if you’re going to start with the pre-mixed proprietary color, the skill and knowledge to mix your own comes in handy to modify that manufacturer’s version to match your own vision.


If you work in enamels, Testors makes a Flat Steel in their little 1/4 ounce bottles that is a good starting point. Mix in some of their browns or grays to get more oxidized looking exposed shades. In its basic form its great for drybrushing over gunmetal colors for worn highlights.

1 Like