Frequently asked Questions: Cole Safety Products

Cole Reflective Safety Products
Cole Safety Products

Reflective Glass Beads, Paint and Tape Questions

Note: Reflective Glass Beads are used to make many of our products like Lightning Brand Paint, Safety Tapes (non-prismatic), Sew on Vest Trims, Iron On Tapes, Custom Cut Letters and more.

Why does my project not reflect?

 First thing, do not mix reflective glass beads into paint or cover them with a clear coat as this will negate or greatly reduce reflectivity. Reflective glass beads must be the first layer to receive light in order to reflect properly. Secondly, let us talk about retro-reflectivity. Retro-Reflection happens when light enters the bead finds the edge and is returned directly back to the source of the light. Retro-reflection is directional. You only see the reflective glass beads reflect when your eyes are at the same level or in between the light source and the glass beads. Think of it like this: You see the signs reflecting on the interstate and roads because your eyes are at the same level as your headlights. If you were riding 15 feet above your cars headlights, you would not see the same reflectiveness. Factors that affect reflectivity (refractive index) are clarity, roundness and inclusions or air bubbles. In addition, the brightness of the light source obviously can affect how well the glass beads reflect. The size of the reflective glass bead mainly affects the angles that you can see reflectivity. One final note, do not push the beads down into the medium (paint, glue) just sprinkle on top and let the medium dry. If glass beads are pushed down too far into the medium, they will not reflect as well. Hope that helps!

How do I apply reflective glass beads?

To apply reflective glass beads just sprinkle the beads on top of paint or the adhesive medium while that medium is still wet or tacky.  Be sure not to push the beads down into the medium just sprinkle on top and let dry. If glass beads  are pushed down too far into the medium, they will not reflect as well. After the medium dries brush off the beads that did not stick collecting them for later use.

Applying to a vertical surface is tricky. The glamorous way is to use a gravity feed air gun or sandblaster. Most people do not have sandblasters or air guns laying around. Therefore, here is the easiest way we have found. Toss the reflective glass beads onto the wet medium (paint.) Be sure to collect the beads at the bottom using plastic sheeting, cardboard etc. We recommend using a light coat then applying the beads because the glass beads will add weight to the paint and the paint can droop or sag.

What is the difference between Type 1 and Type 3 beads?

Factors that affect the retro-reflectivity or brightness are clarity, roundness and air bubbles. Type 1 reflective glass beads are made of recycled glass therefore may not be as round and have some inclusions. Type 1 beads like our Standard DOT “Powder” and “Airport Quality” have a refractive index of >1.51. Our Type 3 High Index Reflective Glass beads are made from virgin glass, have near perfect roundness and less the <1% inclusions or air bubbles. These beads rank high on the refractive index scale. (>1.93) Type 1-glass beads uses include road or pavement marking, art and craft even preening. High Index reflective glass beads are more than 5 times brighter than Type 1 glass beads. Uses for high index beads include screen-printing, sign making, vinyl sheeting, airport pavement marking, art projects and much more.

Will color come through from underneath the beads or Lightning Brand reflective paint?

Yes, however reflective glass beads are retro-reflective and will reflect back the color of a light source directly back to the source. When there is color underneath the color will show through however, usually lighter than original color depending on the light source.

What color will the reflective glass beads reflect?

Reflective Glass beads are retro reflective and will reflect back the color of the light source directly back to that source. However, if there is an underlying color that color will be picked up in the reflection as well. (Usually lighter than original color)

Will the reflective glass beads reflect infrared light?

Yes, the reflective glass beads will reflect any light source back to that source. You may need specialized equipment to see infrared but it is reflecting.

Can I mix beads into paint?

No, beads need light in order to reflect back that light. It is important to note that even applying a clear coat over the reflective glass beads will greatly reduce or negate reflectivity. Mixing reflective glass beads into paint will only give you a nice texture but no retro-reflection.

How many pounds of beads do I need for my project?

The Department of Transportation recommends 5-6 pounds of reflective glass beads for every gallon of paint used. So 2 pounds of glass beads for every quart, 1 pound of beads for every pint. Do not mix beads into paint they will not reflect because glass beads need light in order to reflect light back to the source. A gallon of thick latex/acrylic paint will cover about 80-100 square feet

What are people using reflective glass beads for other than pavement making?

Most of our customers use reflective glass beads to make an object or surface more visible and safe. However, over the years we have had many clients use these glass beads in wonderfully creative and unusual ways. For instance, we have had Hollywood studios and other film companies use the beads for chromatography as well as backdrops and special effects. Clients have used reflective glass beads to mark weather balloons, sea buoys, hunting trails, giant dump trucks and even air conditioning units on top of tall buildings. One creative customer used our High Index Reflective Glass Beads to enhance a vintage Ford Model A. (Reflective Model A Rims…https://colezoom.com.)

We have many talented artists use these reflective glass beads in sculptures, paintings, prism light boxes, canoes and other incredible art pieces. Architects have used reflective glass beads to create outdoor masterpieces as well as to reflect light better by coating ceilings so they can used lower wattage lighting. Contractors have painted roofs with reflective glass beads to insulate and reflect heat away. Screen printers have created apparel that really pops. National and State parks have used routed wooden signs to make trails safer. Whether its fashion design, jewelry, political signs, curb or target marking, urban murals these reflective glass beads are unbelievably versatile and downright cool. We cannot wait to see what you come up with next! Check out our customer photo gallery at https://colezoom.com.

Best way to apply beads to a vertical surface?

Applying to a vertical surface is tricky. The glamorous way is to use a gravity feed air gun or sandblaster. Most people do not have sandblasters or air guns laying around. Therefore, here is the easiest way we have found. Toss the reflective glass beads onto the wet medium (paint.) Be sure to collect the beads at the bottom using plastic sheeting, cardboard etc. We recommend using a light coat then applying the beads because the glass beads will add weight to the paint and the paint can droop or sag.

How many square feet will the reflective glass beads cover?

A one-pound bag of reflective glass beads will cover approximately 12-15 square feet. The ratio recommended by the DOT is 6 pounds of glass beads to every gallon of paint used.

What does retro-reflective mean?

Retro-Reflection happens when light enters the bead finds the edge and is returned directly back to the source of that light only. Retro-reflection is directional. You only see the reflective glass beads reflect when your eyes are at the same level or in between the light source and the beads. Factors that affect the brightness (refractive index) are clarity, roundness and inclusions/air bubbles. The size of the reflective glass bead affects the angles that the bead can reflect.

Can I put a clear coat over the beads to protect them?

No, they will not reflective properly because light can nor find the edge of the glass beads

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