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When you’re barrelling down the highway late at night you probably aren’t thinking about the lines in the middle of the road separating you from oncoming traffic, and who could blame you? Reflective coatings are something that most of us take for granted, just another gimmick designed by the safety-conscious establishment to ensure that less conscious road users don’t forget what side of the road to drive on, right? Wrong. Reflective coatings save countless lives every year, whether it be on the road, during hunting season, during blizzards, and even in the workplace. So, what are the best reflective paints for these applications?
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What Are the Most Common Uses for Reflective Paints?
There are quite a variety of uses for reflective paint, not just in the US, but all over the world in various climates, locations, and occupations. Reflective paint is effective because of the way it catches our attention, this is because our brains interpret certain colors and various shades differently. High visibility or reflective paint triggers a part of the brain associated with awareness due to it being in stark contrast with the rest of the environment. This trigger releases hormones that force you to focus on the object of the surface eliciting the warning, forming an association in your subconscious. So, where are these warnings found?
Hunting season brings to mind the thought of traps, knives, a thermos full of coffee, and boots that weigh about as much as the gear you’re carrying. However, something associated even more closely with legal hunting is high visibility gear. If you’ve ever been hunting, you were sure to see hunting parties dressed in high visibility vests, and sometimes even the butts of their guns have been painted a bright orange or yellow to alert anyone behind them that they’re there.
These vests can be bought at most local stores during hunting season, and they are made using reflective fabric paint which is saturated into the fibers being used to make the vest or pants.
Reflective fabric paint is extremely durable, and the colors that are used such as bright red and orange or instantly identifiable even when shrouded in thick foliage. This has saved many lives since it was mandated, although the rules do vary from state to state, with Delaware having some of the most stringent requirements.
For most of us, this is the most common place we will find reflective paints being used. Road safety is a serious concern in most states, not to mention other countries all over the world. Reflective paint is used on various road surfaces to harken the attention of motorists in high-risk areas, or simply used to make road signs more visible at night. It is an ingenious way of making sure that road users know to be aware of such as the speed limit, hairpin turns, and road closures and lane breaks at night without the use of any streetlights.
Reflective paint is not just used on the road and signs to ensure our collective safety, in fact, it is common practice for motorcycle riders to wear high visibility vests or use reflective paint on the back of their helmets to alert cars to their presence, especially on long trips that might run into the dead of night. Reflective paint is also used on roads to signify the presence of emergency lanes or arrestor bends at the ends of tall hills in case of brake failure in large vehicles like trucks.
In manufacturing industries, it is important to note that there are several occupational safety regulations in which high visibility clothing, paints, and other extremities must be present and visible at all times. Why? In the packaging industry for example, reflective and high visibility paints are used to outline areas in which potential hazardous materials and machinery may be stored.
These areas are marked with boundary lines that signify that one must either be wearing the appropriate safety gear or that the machine must be off before crossing these lines.
These lines are often made with reflective paint so that they are easily identifiable even during power outages, and in extremely high-risk environments, might even glow in the dark! These paints can also be used to illustrate warning signs on factory walls or mark emergency exit routes in the case of a fire. Reflective paints can also be used to mark important input devices such as levers, emergency stop buttons, and safety blocks.
What Are the Pros and Cons of Reflective Paint?
As with any coating, there are advantages and disadvantages to applying them to a surface. Let’s have a look at what situation you might find yourself in if you choose to use reflective paint on your clothing, vehicle, home, or signage.
There are a ton of reflective spray paints on the market today that offer a variety of uses and applications. These paints can be a lifesaver (literally in some cases) as they provide the means to create virtually instantaneous awareness of people or things they’re adhered to. Besides creating awareness, they can also liven up the environment they’re used in, as most paints have a neon appearance when not being used as a retroreflective surface.
Neon paints are usually pretty durable and easy to apply, therefore they are a great alternative to installing an independent light source if it is not absolutely necessary.
There aren’t really any disadvantages to having a reflective coating on most surfaces, at least not in the typical context one would consider annoying. One disadvantage of having a reflective surface is that, if it is not muted or only activated by certain wavelengths of light, it can become a distraction or possible hazard. This is why it is extremely important that you select the correct reflective paint for your particular application.
Reflective paints can also be pretty expensive, especially if you intend to buy in bulk or need a certain grade of reflective paint for your application, this being said, it’s best to shop around and familiarize yourself with well-known brands and their quality. You should also know that reflective paint is sold in two variations, namely the kind sold in spray cans and the ones you buy in an ordinary container. These differ in quality, adhesion, and price, so be sure to know what you need before purchasing.
The Best Reflective Spray Paint Brands
Now that you know where reflective spray paint is used and why it is important, what do you think the best reflective spray paint is? It is difficult to say objectively, but rest assured we’ve scoured the market for the best reflective spray paint we could find and came back with our top three picks. We’ve reviewed them below so you can decide for yourself!
Best Overall: RUST-OLEUM Specialty Reflective Spray
Rust-Oleum is a trusted brand across many households and businesses across the country and to a greater extent even the world. The brand’s range of reflector spray does not deviate in the slightest from the quality and affordability we have come to expect from the Rust-Oleum team, this is a ready-to-go point and spray reflective coating that can be used on a number of surfaces in virtually any environment, it adheres instantly and offers a high-quality reflective coating which will likely last the lifetime of your workpiece, whether it be clothing, brick, or metal.
If you have never worked with reflective spray paint before you should know that most products are quite easy to use, but drying times can vary depending on the manufacturer and the chemical composition of the paint in question, fortunately, this product has a dry time of around 20 minutes.
This drying time means you will likely be spending most of your time painting and preparing your workpiece on your next project. A great feature of this product is that it is a clear reflective paint, therefore you won’t ruin any surface with a high visibility orange or yellow that has come to be expected from these types of spray-on paints.
Due to its quick dry time and robust nature, this reflector spray is commonly used on things like jewelry, mailboxes, fences, hunting gear, door handles, and private signage. This is the type of reflector spray you would like to keep around in the event that you need to coat something quickly with no additional hassle, although you should keep in mind that it is permanent so applying it to clothing because you forgot to pack a high visibility vest in on a camping trip is not recommended.
Best Quality: ALBEDO 100 Reflective Spray
This type of clear reflective paint is known as 3m reflective spray paint. Essentially, 3m reflective spray paint contains loads of tiny crystals that are integrated into the paint’s formula, it is these crystals that allow the paint to refract light and make objects visible in low light conditions. This product from Albedo is a really high-quality reflector spray that will ensure you and the objects around you are visible in even the meekest ambient light.
The team over at Albedo have made quite the name for themselves with its particular product, with reviews being absolutely nothing but positive regarding its ease of use, versatility, and adhesion quality. Aside from being high quality, this paint is fairly resistant to heat, rain, abrasion, and scuffing which means it’s perfect for bicycles, clothing, sneakers, and workwear.
- Reflective spray for increased visibility on several surfaces
- Suitable for many materials like wood, concrete, and metal
- Permanent metallic spray that is UV, wing, and water-resistant
One of the only downsides of this product is that it is only sold in roughly 5 oz cans which means you won’t be able to get a whole lot done with a single can, on the other hand, it is pretty reasonably priced and won’t leave you wanting for a better-quality paint.
Although not quite as heavy-duty as the Rust-Oleum spray we covered previously it does offer a lot of bang for the buck, and its size means it’s easy to carry around and store. This is the kind of product you’d carry around if you’re camping with your kids and want to give their bikes some more visibility. It’s perfect in this regard because it’s clear and therefore won’t ruin the look of anything it applied to which makes the possibilities of improving visibility with this reflector paint endless.
Best Durability: VIZIGLO White Reflective Acrylic Paint
This is probably the most heavy-duty product on this list, although it is not without its drawbacks. The acrylic reflective paint from ViziGlo is one of the best quality paints on the market today. The ViziGlo brand reflective paint is the most robust paint on this list by a mile, which comes as no surprise considering that it can be used on asphalt, road signs, wood, concrete, and even brick!
This paint is water and heat resistant which means you won’t have to worry about applying an extra coat every time the weather is less than ideal. One characteristic that does make the ViziGlo reflective paint less attractive compared to the paints we have reviewed previously is that it is white, not transparent.
Instead, this paint formula consists of 350 mesh, reflective powder, water-based polyurethane, and white acrylic paint mixed together. The resulting medium-thick paint can be applied to a variety of surfaces, with only one coat required.
You do very much get what you pay for with ViziGlo, with great versatility, adhesion, longevity, and quality it won’t leave you wanting much more.
How to Apply Reflective Spray Paint
Applying reflective spray paint is a fairly straightforward process, although if there are no instructions included with the product you could be wondering if there is any preparation needed before it’s applied. This being said, here is a short tutorial that should work when applying most paints on the market.
Clean Your Surface
Before painting any surface, it is important to ensure that the surface is clean in order for the paint to adhere to the surface correctly. If even the slightest but if dust or existing paint is present it could cause your paint to peel or result in a poor overall finish.
Simply use some soap and water to clean the surface of your workpiece and allow it to dry completely before moving on to the next step in the process.
Prepare Your Surface
Now that your surface is clean you might need to prepare it. This isn’t strictly necessary especially because most reflective sprays contain primer and sealer since it is assumed that customers won’t prepare their surfaces for this type of coating.
Regardless, if you are coating wood, metal, or plastic it is good practice to scuff the surface up just a little bit with some fine-grit sandpaper so that the paint molecules are able to seep into these little recesses. Once your surfaces have been scuffed up (if needed) simply wipe off any residual flakes before continuing to the next step in the process.
Apply Your Reflective Paint
Once you have your surface cleaned and prepared it’s time for you to apply your reflective coating. Follow the preparation instructions on the can you purchased and get going. Since most of the paints available are clear in nature you don’t really have to worry about splatter, but instead, you should focus on uniform application to the areas of your workpiece you have selected.
What can make using these paints really fun is testing them out, therefore if you are working in a garage you can test the paint’s reflective capabilities with the lights off, and if you aren’t happy you can simply apply another coat until you are satisfied.
Ensure you allow the paint to dry for the manufacturer’s recommended time period before testing your paint or applying any extra coats. If you are feeling creative and have some time on your hands you could make your own reflective paint.
Buying a thick base paint in either blue or white and adding crushed glass graded for this purpose will give you a shiny reflective finish once it has been applied. One can also make use of glitter or reflective beads mixed into a solid base paint to produce the same result.
Now that you know where reflective paint is used, how to make your own reflective paint, what some of the best reflective paint on the market looks like, what you should look for in reflective paint, and how to use it, it’s time for you to go out and test your knowledge. Remember to check if your paint is permanent or semi-permanent, always work in a well-ventilated area, and ensure that your paint is graded for your particular application.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can You Make Your Own Reflective Paint?
It is possible to make your own reflective paint. You can do this by selecting a base paint with strong color and adding reflective materials to it. Some of the most popular materials used to make paint reflective are glass beading, crushed glass, and glitter. This is an easy DIY trick and serves both protective and decorative purposes for your workpiece.
Is Reflective Spray Paint Effective?
Although reflective spray paint does cost noticeably more than regular paint the price difference is not usually more than a few dollars. Reflective paints that have an acrylic base are typically more expensive than 3m paints, but this is simply due to the manufacturing process of the latter being more intricate.
What Is Reflective Paint?
Put quite simply, reflective paint of any kind is a paint with a reflective quality. This does not mean that the paint glows in the dark, reflective paints simply reflect any light they receive back at the source instead of absorbing it. Reflective paints are a good way of getting people to notice potential hazards or take note of important information.