Wondering how PVD color coatings are made and what colors you can get? Read on.

To create color PVD finishes, you begin by depositing films with specific stoichiometries (ratio of certain elements). Typically, you take a base metal and react it with a reactive gas to form a very thin ceramic compound. For example, titanium coatings are usually silver or gray when deposited, but adding nitrogen to form a titanium nitride (TiN) compound produces a dazzling gold color. Furthermore, if you add a small amount of carbon to TiN to form titanium carbonitride (TiCN), you can create riveting rose gold colors.  The table below displays some of the element combinations required to create certain PVD coating colors.

You’ll notice that certain base metals can produce many different PVD finishes and color coating combinations, from gray to dark bronze to blue, whereas others are limited to only gray-toned colors. This difference is one reason why most durable decorative films are either titanium- or zirconium-based. Another reason is that the compounds that create most of these striking colors also exhibit excellent wear-resistant and chemical-resistant properties.

With these durable/decorative coatings, users deposit a wide range of PVD coating colors on many different textures. Since all color PVD films finishes match the surface texture of your substrate, each distinct surface creates a specialized look and feel. Depositing on a glossy substrate makes the coating appear vibrant while depositing on a textured substrate provides a more muted look.

Some PVD coatings generate the same color regardless of film thickness (i.e. TiCN) and some are thickness-dependent (most oxides). To provide a uniform color throughout a 3-dimensional part, colors that require certain coating thicknesses (also known as interference films) may require specialized racking.

How long do durable decorative PVD coatings last?

Decorative thin-film coatings are durable: they provide excellent wear and corrosion resistance. However, they don’t have the same tribological attributes as the much thicker films designed for wear applications. Since the main coating function is to create cosmetic finishes and not tribological, the film thickness for most decorative films is less than 0.5 µm.

VT-Decorative™ Durable Color Coatings

All our durable color PVD coatings can withstand abrasion against steel wool. The image on the left shows a ~0.4 – 0.5 µm thick ZrN coated panel that was subjected to our “steel wool scrub test” for 3000 cycles. This test consists of attaching a 3.8 lbs. weight to a coarse steel wool pad that is cycled against the coated panel. As you can see, the steel wool did not damage the panel. Further chemical elemental analysis of the coating depth profile conducted with our Glow Optical Discharge Spectrometer (below) shows that most of the coating remains and may withstand many more cycles!


Are PVD color finishes a good fit for your application?

All VaporTech durable-decorative coatings are deposited with our LTAVD® (Low-Temperature Arc Vapor Deposition) cathodic arc technology. This process produces coatings that would be very difficult for other PVD technologies to create, at much lower temperatures, while still maintaining high deposition rates with great properties. Therefore, we can apply these coatings to a wide variety of substrates (including plastic and zinc).

What coating color combinations can VaporTech create?

VaporTech offers 20 standard colors and creates custom coatings for use in our systems to match the exact decorative finish required. Standard colors include:

  • Black
  • Cool Graphite
  • Graphite
  • Chrome
  • Stainless Steel
  • Nickel
  • Gold
  • Rose Gold
  • Dark Copper
  • Light Bronze
  • Bronze
  • Dark Bronze
  • Blue Black
  • Vivid Blue

For examples of each color, please see our main decorative coatings page here.

Because VT-Decorative™ coatings have such excellent wear resistance while providing a high-value appearance, there are many suitable applications for you. We provide coatings for plumbing products, exterior and interior door hardware, lighting, jewelry, sporting goods, automotive products, and more.  For more information about PVD color durable-decorative coatings, contact us via the form below.

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