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topic 7846

PVD coatings: color control

A discussion started in 2001 & continuing through 2017


Q. I would like to know a PVD process for depositing coatings in different colors (red, blue...). Which is the best PVD process to make it? Which materials could provide the different colors?

Charo Fernandez
- Valladolid, Spain


A. Gold and brass colors are usually formed from zirconium nitride with small admixture of carbon. Chromium nitride yields silver. I don't know of any commercial work in red and blue, but would assume one can get blue by depositing titanium oxide. Erbium oxide yields a pinkish gray. The most common deposition process is by cathodic arc. Coatings are very thin -- around 200 nm.

jim treglio portrait
Jim Treglio
- Vista, California


A. I've some PVD plated steel samples that are in blue, black, grey and bronze colours, but I'm not sure the composition of the layer. Some French and Taiwanese platers can achieve those colours.

I've also read on the web that purplish red can be achieved by plating TiAlCN. You can surf the web for details. The plating is applied on tooling for wear resistance and high temp properties.

WY Wong
- Hong Kong


A. Silicon nitride is bright blue. Also oxides can be deposited (or metals such as niobium can be anodized) that give a red or blue appearance. You just have to ensure the oxide thickness is uniform to give a homogeneous colour.

Best regards,

Mark Jarratt
PVD - Worcester, UK

June 3, 2008

A. We can get violet to red colors in TiCN by varying the Methane to Nitrogen gas ratio. Ratios are preferable like Methane:Nitrogen = 1:5 Red-ish yellow, like 1:4, 1:3, 1: 2, 1:1(gray color).

YV Sambasiva Rao
- Chennai, India

PVD in Tungsten Rings - How to get the right gold color

November 29, 2015

Q. Hi dears. I've been importing tungsten rings from China for a year. I know that in China they make a kind of PVD; the color is good but the plating is a kind of "flash", and fades within 1 year. I'm trying to make the PVD with many companies here in Brazil, but they are not finding a good color for jewelry (gold color). Although they are international companies, they specialize in tools, car parts, etc., so, its been very difficult to get the exact color. How can I get this color? Is there someone who has a kind of % of TiN or other elements to get this color? Someone can help me? Thank you so much.

ANDRE L [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]

November 30, 2015

A. Andre,
As you might have already figured out, there are companies that specialize in functional PVD coatings and those that specialize in decorative PVD coatings. Decorative PVD coatings are very commonly deposited on faucets and door hardware. As gold PVD is pretty common in the faucet business, replacing gold plating, look for a company in Brazil that makes high end faucets. They either do the PVD coating themselves, or can lead you to their PVD coating supplier.

jim treglio portrait
Jim Treglio
- Vista, California

December 28, 2016

Q. This was also my question and I could not find any answer. I have read on the web that coated layer color depends on some factors such as target material, substrate material, layer thickness and .... I am interested in knowing about controlling these factors to make different colors. Is there any resource which provides details on how these factors can be controlled to make different colors?

Sara Qazvini
- Tehran, Iran

January 4, 2017

A. PVD color depends primarily on the target material and the reactive gas mix. For example, you get yellow gold with a titanium target and nitrogen gas. Adding methane or acetylene darkens the finish, going to reddish gold to gray to black. There is no general recipe, just recipes that work for a specific PVD system design.

jim treglio portrait
Jim Treglio
- Vista, California

(pic added 7/31/17)
July 20, 2017

Q. I'm from VietNam. We are very new in PVD industry. My customer ordered polished stainless steel PVD champagne rose color (not gold base); it looks like "coffee color". What kind of target, gas, could we do to get this color?

T&D International. - Ho Chi Minh, Viet Nam

July 28, 2017

A. Specifying a coating only by colour is risky not least because colour perception is rather subjective. Coffee (is it with or without milk ?!) comes in different tastes and colours. Apart from colour the user would be having other expectations from the coating. Some form of TiCN or TiAlN may serve the purpose. It would be best to have a joint discussion with the machine supplier and your client.

H.R. Prabhkara
Bangalore Plasmatek - Bangalore, Karnataka, India

August 17, 2017

Q. I am having trouble with a couple of my PVD finishers who say we must lacquer or clear coat "to prevent oxidization".

Done properly, would a PVD finish done on SS require a lacquer or a clear coat?

Allen Jubin
- Morganton, North Carolina, USA

August 2017

thumbs up sign Hi Allen. Are we talking architectural building panels, or plumbing faucets, or wristwatch dials? My belief is that gold colored PVD coatings are generally a final finish, but unfortunately, I think people would need to know a lot more about what you are doing before they could say whether your amadeya42 shops are doing something wrong and trying to talk you into putting a bandaid on it.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"

September 7, 2017


PVD is a somewhat generic term, and includes deposition of hard coatings as well as metals. If your PVD finish is a hard metal nitride, oxide, or carbide, or some combination thereof, it should not require a top coat, assuming that you are using a 300 series stainless steel. If it is just a metal coating -- say nickel -- it probably needs a top coat.


jim treglio portrait
Jim Treglio
- Vista, California

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Exact way to get Rose Gold pantone color 10155C with PVD

December 8, 2017

Q. Hello and Greetings. I am getting a bit frustrated with trying to achieve a Pantone shade of 10155C with PVD. I have spent thousands of dollars trying to achieve this and coming up empty-handed. Does anyone know the secret? Please help! Material used is a 420-j2 stainless steel.

Brint Fanizza
tool maker - Gainesville, Georgia USA

December 2017

thumbs up sign Hi Brint. You're certainly welcome to ask. But people who have achieved success at it are also welcome to retain that know-how to further their own business interests. So I don't know whether any answer will be forthcoming :-(


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"

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