Tips on modeling brushed aluminum


Could you please chime in and share some advice on the best way of modeling/representing brushed aluminum on a foam model?


On a flat surface or a compound curve?

If it’s on a surface thats only curved in 1 direction or flat you can use aluminum sheeting (usually you can pick a roll of this up for cheap in Home Depot) and then cut it to shape and glue it to your model.

Outside of that I can’t think of any way to make something look like aluminum just by faking it.

Don’t even try. Foam is a low-fidelity modeling technique. No one uses it to depict actual material/color/finish.

If you want an “appearance model” you need to be a pro model-maker and work in the actual materials, or something high-density and non-porous like Renshape. Then you can paint the model as if you were painting a car. Then maybe you could fake a brushed-metal…Maybe a chrome paint you lightly scratch with sandpaper? But like I said, I wouldn’t even try this unless you were a really top-notch model-maker.

The typical approach is to use foams to show 3D form only (painting them in primer-gray) and use photorealistic computer renderings/Photoshop and sample chips to indicate what it will look like in actual Color/Material/Finish. You can be a mediocre model-maker and get pro results this way.

it’s been a while since i’ve done a foam model and agree with cg’s comment about foam normally being low fidelity, but perhaps you can simulate the brushed metal by sanding it smooth, then creating a brushed appearance with a metal brush or sandpaper, to be painted over with gesso or latex spray, then finished with a silver spray paint? just make sure you don’t use lacquer spray on any exposed foam bits or it will eat it.

another option depending on the form could be to apply a vinyl film with the desired look to the model. some films (like a few 3m products) do have a bit of stretch to be able to take onto a 3d shape, but i wouldn’t try it if the object you are doing has very complex curves or is too small. if you could perhaps post the design, it might help, and as well perhaps you might want to consider other modeling materials that would be better suited to creating an appearance model.


You could make a brushed aluminium image in photoshop and print it onto some paper. Then spray adhesive that to the model.

Thank you all for the informative replies…I am far from a pro-model maker here, just an ID student with only blue foam at my disposal. I will definitely try to get a hold of Renshape for future models.

rkuchinsky - just want to make sure, you said to sand it smooth, then sand it again with a metal brush and then paint over it? Well I know I shouldn’t come to an assumption until I try it, but shouldn’t the metal brush come in the end, since it’s being covered up by gesso and silver spray paint?

You can Bondo on top of it to make it smoother, then sand it down and paint.

Bondo will eat the foam so you have to paint the surface to fill the holes. Once it’s smooth, try using Testors aluminum Metalizer paint to get the Aluminum look. You can use a clear gloss to dull it even more.

If the model’s surface is somewhat flat or one directional curve, you can use brushed aluminum laminate sheets. It works as a temporary sticker, which interior designers often use it on kitchen cabinets and walls.
You can try a painting technique also.
After silver colored acrylic paint is applied, wait until it dries a bit and use a dry brush (flat with long hairs) to give some textures.
Another technique is what I found here:

Try the technique on some other surfaces before you apply to your model.

Old world, low tech…

  1. grocery store aluminum foil (the heavier the better)

  2. uni-directional application of a “scotchbrite” pad to create the brushed affect

  3. exacto knife to size

  4. spray adhesive onto the foil

  5. burnish onto the model surface(s)

Spray on Bulls eye shilack on the Blue foam and then use the brush on aluminum paint if you need more info shoot me a pm