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Pearl Effects

Pearl Effects are water-based, acrylic, pearlescent paints used to create specialty finishes. They may be applied to General Finishes water-based stains, paints, and topcoats to produce shimmering, metallic effects.

Need some Pearl Effects inspiration? Visit the General Finishes Design Center or Pinterest Board for great furniture painting ideas.

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General Finishes Argentine Water Based Pearl Effects Paint, Quart


Step 1: Preparation for Pearl Effects

General Finishes Pearl Effects must be applied over a sealed surface, such as General Finishes Milk Paint or General Finishes High Performance Topcoat.

Over a Newly Sealed Surface
If Pearl Effects are applied over a newly sealed surface, it is not necessary to sand the sealed surface before application.

Over a Previous Existing Finish
If Pearl Effects are applied over an older, existing finish, prep cleaning and sanding is required to remove dirt, grime and potential contaminants.

Sand glossy existing finishes with a fine-grade (220-320) foam sanding pad before applying Pearl Effects.

Step 2: How To Apply General Finishes Pearl Effects

General Finishes Pearl Effects Application Steps

ALWAYS apply Pearl Effects over a sealed surface, such as General Finishes High Performance Topcoat or General Finishes Milk Paint; we recommend 1-2 coats of sealant before application. Sand glossy existing finishes with a fine-grade (220-320) foam sanding pad before applying Pearl Effects.

  1. Pearl Effects will separate in the can. Stir paint to reincorporate solids that have settled to the bottom before and throughout the application process. TIP: turn can upside down before stirring to make it easier to mix.
  2. Thin as desired with distilled water; start with 5%, increase up to 10% by volume. 
  3. Increase open time, if needed, with up to 5% General Finishes Extender if allowed by local regulations. GF Extender will improve flow and leveling and increase open time, which is helpful in dry climates. California Residents: Adding more than 2% of GF Extender will make the products non-compliant per SCAQMD Regulations. GF assumes no liability for the improper use of these products.    
  4. Apply 1+ coat of Pearl Effects:
    • Hand application: Apply using a synthetic bristle brush, foam brush, pad applicator, staining pad or microfiber roller.
    • Spray application: Before spraying, strain paint through a medium-mesh filter. Spray wet films at 3-5-mil thickness. HVLP: 1.8mm-2.0mm spray tip, medium air cap. Verify tip sizes with your equipment supplier. See our general guide for spray tip sizes. Keep your gun at a 90° angle, 6-8" from the surface. On large, flat areas, use wet, even patterns 6-8" wide. For narrow surfaces, reduce the fan pattern to 2-3" wide to reduce overspray. Overlap each pass 25% to conceal lines. Wear a full filter (NIOSH/MSHA approved) respiratory & eye protection and work in a ventilated space. Visit this FAQ for more information on spraying techniques.
  5. Dry 3+ hours between coats and 12 hours before GF water-based topcoat in ideal conditions: 70°F/20°C; 50-70% humidity. Allow to dry completely. If in doubt, wait longer. Rushing dry time can cause clouding/blush in topcoat due to moisture trapped between coats. Increase dry time if
    • Humidity is over 80%
    • 3+ coats are applied
    • A thick coat is applied
    • Applying over an existing sealed finish
    • Applying over products from other brands
    • Layering General Finishes water- and oil-based products:
      • Water over oil: Let oil-based products dry 72+hr before applying water-based products
      • Oil over water: Let water-based products dry 24+hr before applying oil-based products
    • To accelerate dry time in humid conditions, add General Finishes Accelerator and work in a space with good ventilation and air movement. If you decide to re-coat before the recommended time, test dryness. 
  6. If a smoother texture is desired, finish sand between coats with a fine-grade (220-320) foam sanding pad to improve smoothness and adhesion.
  7. Remove dust with a vacuum, compressed air, an oil-free tack cloth or a water-dampened rag.
  8. Always seal Pearl Effects with 2-3 coats of clear topcoat.

Cure Time
Water-based finishes cure and harden for full use after 21 days in ideal conditions. Avoid placing heavy objects on surfaces that have not completely cured. Treat gently, and do not clean with commercial products during the curing period.

Warning: Do not use water-based products with Linseed Oils or Danish Oils.

Step 3: Topcoat over Pearl Effects

ALWAYS seal General Finishes Pearl Effects with 2-3 coats of clear topcoat, e.g. General Finishes High Performance Topcoat

Topcoat Recommendations

Creative Techniques Using Pearl Effects



Create a glaze by thinning Pearl Effects with 10% Extender or High Performance Topcoat.


Dry Brush


  • General Finishes Pearl Effects
  • General Finishes Extender
  • Assorted Bristle Brushes


  1. Reduce Pearl Effects by 5% with Extender.
  2. Lightly dust the mixture onto the surface with a bristle brush.
  3. For extra protection after applying Pearl Effects, seal with 1-2 coats of High Performance Topcoat. Lightly sand between coats using a fine-grade (220-320) foam sanding pad or 400-grit sandpaper.




  • General Finishes Pearl Effects
  • General Finishes High Performance Topcoat

Thin Pearl Effects with 50-80% High Performance Topcoat.


Scandinavian Mixed Media Technique with Efex



  1. Apply Efex with Dap Rapid Fuse Glue.
  2. Paint 1 to 2 coats of Summertime Blue Chalk Style Paint.
  3. Lightly wet-brush French Vanilla Chalk Style Paint over the piece.
  4. Wet-brush Charleton Blue Chalk Style Paint in corners and edges, dampen with water to lessen the effect. Blot with a paper towel. Let dry.
  5. Apply Van Dyke Glaze Effects to the entire piece. Use a wet brush or water bottle to lessen effect where needed. Wipe back.
  6. Apply Burnished Pearl Effects to corners and over Efex molding.
  7. Seal with 2-3 coats of flat water-based topcoat.


Aged Metallic Finish


  • General Finishes Chalk Style Paint: Slate Gray
  • General Finishes Glaze Effects: Pitch Black
  • General Finishes Pearl Effects: Argentine Pearl
  • General Finishes Pearl Effects: Bronze Pearl
  • General Finishes Pearl Effects: Tawny Pearl
  • Water-Based Topcoat
  • Assorted Foam & Chip Brushes
  • Spray Water Bottle
  • Paper Towels


  1. Paint 1 to 2 coats of Slate Gray Chalk Style Paint.
  2. Paint Argentine Pearl Effects thickly in a crisscross pattern, leaving strokes visible.
  3. Paint on Bronze & Tawny Pearl Effects in a crisscross pattern randomly in a few spots. Let dry.
  4. Apply Pitch Black Glaze Effects, wipe off immediately.
  5. Spray water on to remove more glaze if desired.
  6. Seal with 3 coats of water-based topcoat.


Burnt Copper Look


  • General Finishes Pearl Effects: Copper Pearl
  • General Finishes Pearl Effects: Bronze Pearl
  • General Finishes Pearl Effects: Tawny Pearl
  • General Finishes Water Based Wood Stain: Espresso
  • Water-Based Topcoat
  • Spray Water Bottle
  • Paper Towels
  • Assorted Chip Brushes


  1. Combine a 50:50 mix of Bronze and Tawny Pearl Effects with a few drops of Copper Pearl Effects added.
  2. Pounce and crisscross mix randomly all over the piece.
  3. Pounce pure Copper Pearl Effects in a few random spots.
  4. Let dry.
  5. Brush on Espresso Water Based Wood Stain and sponge off with a paper towel.
  6. Use a spray bottle of water to apply runs and lessen effect where desired.
  7. Seal with 3 coats of water-based topcoat.

Cleanup of Water Based Products

Application tools and materials containing water-based products can be cleaned with soap and water immediately after use.

Product Spills
Spills may be able to be removed from fabric and carpet if cleaned immediately with soap and water.

Storage of Water Based Products

Please be mindful of the manner in which water-based products are stored and how long they have been in storage. They not a forever product. 

Life of Product
Water-based products do not last forever, even when unopened. General Finishes products are best used within 1 year. However, the life of the product may be extended several more years with proper care and storage (see Storage Tips below).

Water-based products can last 3-5 years if the can is unopened, in good condition and stored in correct temperatures.

Product that is 3 years old will not look like product that is 6 months to 1 year old. You will see more stratification or separation as the product ages. Always stir thoroughly before using. 

Foul Smell
If your product has a foul smell, it is contaminated and no longer in useable condition.

Clumps & Settling
Gravity can cause some solids to settle on the bottom of the can and slight separation on the top. This is normal. If working with older product stir with a paint mixing attachment on a drill.

If the solids dissolve and clumps smooth out after mixing from the bottom, the product is in good condition for use.

Inability to reincorporate large, chunky lumps after stirring for several minutes is an indication that the product has frozen and can no longer be used.

Storage Tips
See video tutorial: Tips on Storing Leftover Finishes
Water-based finishes crystalize and form a skin due to evaporation when the air-tight seal on a can is broken at first use. The following best practices will increase the life of your product:

  1. Pry open sealed lids with a paint can opener by hooking under the lid's rolled edge. The use of a screwdriver can disfigure the rim and lid, impairing a complete seal. 
  2. Keep lid closed while working. Pour what you will use into a bowl, paper cup, or plate, and close can lid as you work.
  3. Clean the chime of the can thoroughly with a paper towel before closing to create a complete seal. Product falling into the chime can be minimized by using a pouring lid, such as Fitsall. Avoid wiping used brushes on the lid.
  4. Pound the lid in place using a rubber mallet to avoid distorting the chime or lid. Dents in the lid from direct contact with a hammer can impair a complete seal. Alternatively, place a flat piece of wood over can lid and firmly pound shut.
  5. Store in moderate temperatures. Avoid temperatures below 50°F/10°C or above 100°F/26°C. Keep from freezing. Frozen and heat-damaged product cannot be revitalized. Temperature-controlled spaces, such as a basement, are ideal for storage. Do not store product in an attic, garage, in direct sunlight, or next to something warm like a water heater or furnace.
  6. Store can upside down to create a liquid seal, minimize evaporation and reduce the chance of crystallization. Decant remaining product from the can before stirring. 
  7. Decant leftovers to a smaller container when the finish is almost used up. Alternative storage containers for water-based products are plastic FIFO bottles or glass bottles. Do not fill metal-lidded containers completely to prevent them from rusting.

The following water-based product mixtures can be stored:

  1. Product thinned with up to 15% General Finishes Extender or General Finishes Accelerator can be stored, with the exception of thinned General Finishes Water Based Wood Stain.
  2. Mixtures involving colors & sheens within the same product line, such as:
    • High Performance Satin + High Performance Gloss
    • Snow White Milk Paint + Coastal Blue Milk Paint
    • Amber Dye Stain + Merlot Dye Stain

The following product mixtures should NOT be stored:

  • Any water based product with thinned tap water; water often contains bacteria that will adversely affect stored paint.
  • Topcoat + Stain or Paint
  • Milk Paint + Chalk Style Paint
  • Water Based Wood Stain + Dye Stain

Furniture Care and Maintenance

Cure First
You have just finished applying a fine furniture finish. Treat gently until the paint or topcoat have fully cured. Allow 21 days for a water-based finish to cure and 30 days for an oil-based finish to cure before cleaning.

Regular Cleaning and Maintenance

  • Remove dust with a water-dampened cloth. Dust can build up over time and may scratch or dull finishes if not removed regularly. 
  • Remove fingerprints, cooking fumes and smoking residue with mild soap and water. These contaminants will not harm the finish, but they accumulate on surfaces and dull the original luster. 
  • As with all fine furniture finishes, avoid using furniture polish, cleaners or dusting sprays that contain silicone, alcohol, ammonia and anything acidic. Exception: We have successfully cleaned with Clorox wipes for occasional cleanups.
  • Clean up water, alcohol and food spills in a timely manner and use placemats & coasters to protect the finish.
  • Future finishes or touch-ups may not adhere properly or perform as desired over a contaminated surface. Some contaminants, such as silicone, seep through finish into the wood and often cannot be removed.
  • Avoid excessive exposure to direct sunlight, high temperatures or high humidity. These can damage furniture and finishes.

Warnings and Warranties

Pearl Effects Warnings and Warranties

Do not use water-based products with Linseed Oils or Danish Oils.

Limited Warranty
General Finishes products must be tested to your complete satisfaction before using. General Finishes will not be responsible for color satisfaction, misapplication, nor compatibility with other manufacturer's products. General Finishes will be responsible only for the cost of our products, and not for costs such as labor, damage or project replacement.

Contamination and Compatibility
Our finishes are engineered as a system and are compatible with each other. General Finishes cannot guarantee an ideal refinish when applying our products on top of or combined with another company's products or over surfaces that have been in contact with waxes, polishes or sprays containing contaminants such as silicone. Test for adherence and aesthetics before beginning.

FIRST AID: Seek immediate medical attention if symptoms occur due to the following. EYE CONTACT: Remove any contact lenses. Flush eyes with water for 20+ minutes while lifting upper and lower eyelids. SKIN CONTACT: Wash thoroughly after handling. INHALATION: Move to fresh air and loosen clothing. If not breathing, if breathing is irregular or if respiratory arrest occurs, provide artificial respiration or oxygen by trained personnel. INGESTION: Call physician immediately. Wash out mouth with water. Do not induce vomiting unless directed to do so by medical personnel. Never give anything by mouth to an unconscious person.

Prop 65 WARNING: 

  • Argentine Pearl:  
    This product can expose you to chemicals including Formaldehyde, 1,4-Dioxane, Ethyl acrylate, Acetaldehyde, which are known to the State of California to cause cancer. For more information go to www.P65Warnings.ca.gov.
  • Bronze Pearl: 
    This product can expose you to chemicals including Formaldehyde, 1,4-Dioxane, Ethyl acrylate, Acetaldehyde, Copper, which are known to the State of California to cause cancer. For more information go to www.P65Warnings.ca.gov.
  • Burnished Pearl, Champagne Pearl, Copper Pearl, Tawny Pearl:
    This product can expose you to chemicals including Formaldehyde, 1,4-Dioxane, Ethyl acrylate, Acetaldehyde, Titanium dioxide, which are known to the State of California to cause cancer. For more information go to www.P65Warnings.ca.gov.

Keep out of reach of children. Do not swallow. Keep container tightly closed when not in use. Wash thoroughly after handling.


Basic Features
Product Colors Argentine Pearl, Bronze Pearl, Burnished Pearl, Champagne Pearl, Copper Pearl, Tawny Pearl
Base Type Water
Interior or Exterior Interior
Type Metallic Paint
Coats 1+ coats
Application Method Brush, Spray
Brushable Yes
Usable over existing finishes Yes
Sprayable Yes
Spray Tip Sizes HVLP 1.8mm-2.0mm
Topcoat Required Yes
Dry Time
Dry Time - Touch 1+ hr
Dry Time - Recoat 3+ hr
Can Sizes Pints
Coverage 40-50 sq.ft./pint
Technical Data
Viscosity Medium
Weight Solids 45%
Argentine: <130 g/L
Bronze: <130 g/L
Burnished: <121 g/L
Champagne: <123 g/L
Copper: <123 g/L
Tawny: <123 g/L

Design Center


Pearl Effects FAQs

*How Can I Create a Custom Glaze, Wash, Varnish or Stain?

You can design your own custom glazes, stains, washes, and varnishes with General Finishes intermixable water-based products. See tips and recipes below.

For all of the following mixes, GF recommends the following two steps:

  1. Applying a base layer of High Performance Top Coat before applying your custom glaze.
  2. Protect all of these finishes with 2-3 coats of top coat when you are finished.


Milk Paint + Winter White Glaze Effects OR Milk Paint + Water Based Whitewash Wood Stain

NOTE: Do not add more than 50% paint. If you add more than 50% you will have so much pigment that it will be difficult to wipe away the finish.


For example, Pitch Black Glaze Effects + Winter White Glaze Effects

Experiment with proportions and colors.


Water Based Wood Stain + 10% High Performance Top Coat
Oil Based Wood Stain + 10% Mineral Spirits

Note: Make sure that you wait 72 hours before applying a water-based topcoat on top of an oil-based stain.


Water Based Wood Stain  + High Performance Top Coat 50:50 ratio
Dye Stain + High Performance Top Coat 50:50 ratio


1 part Milk Paint + 1 part Pre-Stain Natural [50:50 mix]
1 part Milk Paint + 1 part Glaze Effects - Clear Base [50:50 mix]
1 part Milk Paint +  2 parts Water Based Stain Natural [1:2 parts]

Note: Proportions are relative to the color you are reducing. Some colors may require 2 parts clear base to reduce strength, others may require 1. Begin with a 50:50 mix, and add more clear base if necessary.

You can further increase the color palette by mixing 2 or 3 Milk Paint colors together before adding the clear base.

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