Red Paint & Testing Glass Beads

We made a lot of progress tonight, not only getting a considerable way through the first coat of red paint, but also testing a variety of techniques for applying the retroreflective glass beads!

We also got to spend some time talking through how we’ll be temporarily installing the letters in a variety of spaces. We figure that there’s still at least a few more weeks of preparation and tests, but we’re really getting excited to get these out into the world.

There were a few more letters left over from last week that we needed to finish priming.

Karlyn and Rosina using the oil-based primer.

We ended up going with just one coat of primer — a fair base for what we figured would be two coats of red paint.

Meanwhile, Michelle started working with cheesecloth to try to control the pouring of the retroreflective glass beads.

Cheesecloth and a strainer for applying the beads to wet paint.

Michelle also put on coat of red paint on the test cardboard Rosina brought last week.

Michelle with a few different pouring options at her disposal.

Pouring through the cheesecloth and strainer provided a pretty even coat of beads on the paint.

Trying a different strainer without the cheesecloth ended up being just as manageable and less cumbersome sans the extra layer of material.

Then, just pouring straight from the cup — this seemed to work just as well, using a technique very similar to how one would apply glitter to a surface.

The beads lit up with a flash.

Here’s the test panel without a flash.

And here’s the test panel with the flash!

We moved on to test some more variables, trying to be as organized as possible.

A thin layer of red paint and the strainer.

This provided a really nice even coat.

We then tried another test with the primer to compare how bright the retroreflective beads would get.

Then a thicker layer of red paint.

And more beads with the strainer.

With the primer done, Rosina, Karlyn, Josh and Hiba started on the first coat of red on a number of letters.

We’ll be doing the next coat with some new brushes next week.

All of the test panels with the flash.

And another shot from a different angle.

I took a lot of time examining the results from different application techniques and then tried my own technique — simply dumping a pile of the beads on a thin layer of wet paint.

It seemed to result in a fairly even coat, but we’ll have to see if the paint alone would provide enough stickiness to hold the beads in place once the paint dries.

Michelle and I headed outside for some more photography tests with the flash.

We’re figuring that we’ll have to try a number of different photo techniques — HDR, multiple flashes, maybe just lights, headlights, shooting at dusk, etc…

The beads definitely light up really well with the flash — the beads on the white paint is crazy bright!

We then moved over across the street to test the brightness without having a background. Because the letters will be free-standing, we wanted to get a sense of how the exposure might work (or not) to get the beads bright, without overexposing the foreground.

And one final test, exposing for the beads. We’ll definitely be looking into a wide variety of photography techniques to capture the letters and the place(s) that they’re in front of … we figure we’ll be heading out to test in a couple weeks. Hopefully Cristina will be home that weekend??

This project is moving along really well and we’re finally getting to find the time and brain space to start talking about where we want to set the letters up and what we’ll be doing with the photographs afterwards. It feels great to be planning this out now, and all of this testing reminds me of some of our earlier projects like theĀ seed bombs and our magnetic planters — awesome fun as always!

3 Replies to “Red Paint & Testing Glass Beads”

  1. Ya wow, the progress on this project is very distinct. The paint on the letters looks great. Especially if these overcast days continue, those letters will really stick out.

    From the photos, I was wondering if maybe you were adding too much reflective beads. Since the large test surface with a lot of beads turns almost completely white when hit with light. Which might not be the look your going for. They might also be so reflective that they become dangerous for drivers/anyone near a road.

    1. We’re getting close for sure.

      We’re still testing, but it’s not really a matter of the amount of beads applied (actually more beads seem to create less retroreflectivity), as they will send back the light directed at them without much loss. You can see in the very last image where we applied beads to white paint and red paint. The bright white you see in the indoor flash test was because there was a significant base of white under the red, the red lights up, but it doesn’t get that crazy bright white.

      As for safety issues… this is the same stuff (essentially) that’s used on roads signs, construction signs, etc. so I think it’ll be ok for temporary installations.

      More tests ahead!

  2. Oh, thats interesting how it creates less retroreflectivity. Ya, I thought that was the case. It’s hard to gauge how it is in person as opposed to pictures. Can’t wait to see them finished.

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