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How To Prepare and Paint Chrome Emblems and Trim

1956 Chevy Bel Air Matte Black Unicorn
1956 Chevy Bel Air Matte Black Unicorn with Painted Chrome Accents

Chrome emblems and trim may look great when they’re shiny and new or in good shape. Over time, though, they can become dull and pitted from lack of proper care. Chrome emblems and trim also have a bright look that may or may not be desirable on your ride or project.

Things You’ll Need:

  • Masking tape, masking paper (optional)
  • 180, 220 and 400 grit sandpaper
  • 1,000 and 1,500-grit sandpaper (optional)
  • Mineral spirits
  • Clean, lint-free cloth
  • Urethane primer (spray can)
  • Primer sealer (spray can)
  • Spray paint

Time needed: 1 day

Painting chrome emblems and trim is relatively easy but requires a slightly different approach than painting non-chrome metal items to ensure good adherence and long life.

  1. Remove or mask the emblem or trim.

    Remove the emblem or trim from whatever it is attached to if practical. If it is not practical, carefully apply masking paper and masking tape to the surrounding areas to protect them during this procedure.

  2. Sand the emblem or trim.

    Sand the emblem or trim by hand with 180-grit sandpaper. For a large emblem, trim piece, or area, use a dual-action sander with the same grit of sandpaper. Sand the emblem until the chrome is totally dull and flat, with no reflections. To get a consistent finish, sand in the same direction with the same amount of pressure. Finish the sanding with 220-grit sandpaper.

  3. Clean the emblem or trim.

    Clean the emblem with mineral spirits and a clean, lint-free cloth to remove all of the oil and grease from handling the emblem as well as the dust from sanding the chrome.

  4. Prime the emblem or trim.

    Prime the emblem or trim with a spray can of high-quality urethane primer such as Krylon. Spray a light dusting on the emblem surface. Let the primer dry for a minute or so, and then spray on two to four heavy coats. For a smooth finish, wet-sand the emblem between coats with 220-grit sandpaper and then 400-grit sandpaper. Let the primer dry sufficiently before sanding.

  5. Seal the emblem or trim.

    Apply a couple of coats of primer sealer from a spray can. Allow the sealer to dry, and then wet-sand it with 220- and then 400-grit sandpaper.

  6. Paint the emblem or trim.

    Spray on whatever color you have chosen to paint the emblem, using the same method that was used for the primer. Apply two to four heavy, consistent coats and then finish by wet-sanding with 400-grit sandpaper. For an even smoother finish, use 1,000-grit and then 1,500-grit sandpaper.