Like any craftspeople, concrete contractors are always looking for new ideas and new inspirations for their next project. While we hope that all the work we showcase in Concrete Decor serves that purpose, once a year we like to provide some striking effects with step-by-step instructions in this, our annual Color Recipes feature.
We reached out to industry manufacturers for their favorite effects and asked them to walk us through the process of creating them. We hope you'll use these as a resource, whether you decided to recreate one of the effects directly or just incorporate some of the techniques into your own projects.
Exposed Aggregate Faux Paver Effect
This simple textured look is very versatile and easily achieved with just a few ingredients.
Butterfield Surf Etch Top Surface Retarder
Butterfield Clear Guard Cure and Seal or Butterfield Clear Guard H2O Cure and Seal
- After bull-floating and hand-floating your concrete surface and allowing excess bleed water to dissipate, cut and place your chosen stencil over the new concrete.
- Use a stencil roller to lightly embed the stencil. Do not embed the stencil so that it is covered with cement paste. The stencils should be placed before the concrete surface starts to dry. (Make sure the stencils have complete contact with the concrete surface. This will prevent the Surf Etch Top Surface Retarder from bleeding onto the mortar joints.)
- Mix Surf Etch Top Surface Retarder and apply an even coating of it to the concrete's surface. (You can use a pump-up sprayer, brush or roller to apply the product.) Apply material evenly to achieve a masking, consistent blue color over the concrete.
- Within six to 24 hours after the application, remove the stencils, and expose the aggregate by washing the surface using a garden hose and a new, clean broom or a pressure washer. Work one small area at a time before moving on to the next one. (If the depth of reveal is too deep, stop washing and allow the concrete to cure and harden further.)
- Allow the concrete to dry for 12 to 24 hours.
- Apply the liquid curing compound. Use Clear Guard Cure and Seal for exterior applications or interiors when a strong odor is not a concern. For interior applications, the water-based Clear Guard H2O Cure and Seal system is a better choice. Multiple light coats are necessary over the roughened, etched surface.
Vineyard-inspired Color Combination
Flex-C-Ment, Picayune, Miss.
Give your next faux-stone wall vertical project the look of a Spanish vineyard with this effect from Flex-C-Ment.
Flex-C-Ment Liquid Colors (Dark Cyprus, Spanish Red, Mauve, Charcoal)
Flex-C-Ment Accent Enhancer
Flex-C-Ment Flex-Seal water-based sealer
- Apply Flex-C-Ment Accent Enhancer with a cellulose sponge lightly on the outer surface of the high areas of the stones. Let dry for 15 minutes or longer.
- Brush/sponge on base color (1 part Dark Cypress mixed with 10 parts Flex-Seal sealer). Randomly sponge color on individual stones.
- Brush/sponge on base color (1 part Spanish Red mixed with 10 parts Flex-Seal sealer). Randomly sponge color on individual stones.
-Brush/sponge on antiquing color (1 part Mauve and 1/4 part Charcoal to 5 parts Flex-Seal sealer).
-Brush into crevices, and lightly sponge and blend with damp clean sponge. Randomly sponge some stones more than others to achieve a variation of light and dark stones. Let dry for at least 60 minutes.
-Rub lightly with a medium-grit sanding pad to soften the stones and give them a weathered look.
Tile Finish for Resurfaced Floors
SuperStone - Opa-Locka, Fla.
For your next resurfacing project, try this crisp, clean tile design.
SuperStone Super-Tex Wet-n-Ready (White)
SuperStone Color Hardener (Terra Cotta)
SuperStone Color Hardener (Cobalt Blue)
SuperStone Concrete Sealer (solvent-based, clear)
- Mix a 50-pound bag of Super-Tex Wet-n-Ready with water, following SuperStone's specification of 6 quarts of water per bag. After mixing with a jiffy mixer, let stand for about 15 minutes, then mix again. Apply this mix with a rubber-tipped squeegee. Wait for this application to dry.
- Apply 1/2-inch reinforced paper tape to the dried surface to mark out the grid for the design.
- Prepare another batch of Super-Tex Wet-n-Ready with enough water to achieve a creamy consistency, and spread this mix with a trowel to get the desired texture. Remove the tape to expose the gridlines. Let the mix dry completely.
- Mix small amounts of the Terra Cotta Color Hardener with water. (The amount of the color hardener you use will depend on the shade of the color you desire.) On the larger squares, a light mix of the Terra Cotta Color Hardener was used, hence the lighter shade. On the lines between the squares, a heavier dose of color hardener was used to get the darker shades. Apply the color hardener to the desired areas with a sponge.
- Mix small amounts of Cobalt Blue Color Hardener with water. (Again, the amount of color hardener will affect the shade.) Apply this Cobalt Blue mix to the small squares in the design.
- Wait for all these staining applications to dry completely.
- Seal the surface with two coats of Clear SuperStone Sealer, a solvent-based acrylic product.
Colored Sealer with a Shine
Elite Crete Systems Inc., Valparaiso, Ind.
This incredibly simple staining application lends a distinct reflective sparkle to any floor.
Elite Crete Systems CSS Emulsion clear sealer
Elite Crete Sysems Reflector Enhancer (Orange Gold, or as desired)
- Clean the concrete to ensure that paint, debris, petrochemicals and previous sealers are absent from the surface.
- Allow the surface to completely dry if a wet surface preparation method was used.
- Add 4 tablespoons of the desired color of Reflector Enhancer to a gallon of ready-to-use CSS Emulsion. In this case, Orange Gold Reflector Enhancer was used as the primary initial color coat.
- Using a commercial-grade pump-up sprayer, apply the CSS Emulsion and Reflector Enhancer mixture onto the prepped surface at a rate of 250 square feet per gallon.
- Allow the surface to dry 5 to 7 hours before opening up to light foot traffic and at least 24 hours before heavy traffic.
Stained & Resurfaced Floor Treatment
H&C Concrete, Cleveland, Ohio
Perfect for a one-of-a-kind finish, this floor treatment gives you lots of room to get creative with your colors.
H&C Resurfacer Heavy Traffic texture system H&C Color Packs (Base coat: Sandstone; topcoat: Birch Bark)
H&C Semi-Transparent Decorative Stains (Meadow Green, Obsidian, Pumpkin Spice)
H&C Concrete Sealer, Solvent-based (Clear) or a water-based sealer (such as H&C Concrete Sealer Wet Look)
- Blend the Sandstone Color Pack into the water to be mixed with the Resurfacer.
- Mix Resurfacer into colored water. Pour mixture onto the concrete and trowel or squeegee down smoothly. Typically a darker color is used for the base coat, as it will eventually only be visible as the "grout" lines.
- After the Resurfacer has set, apply the tape in the pattern desired over the base coat, being sure to leave extra tape hanging off the edges to provide a starting point when it's time to remove.
- Mix the second Color Pack (Birch Bark) into the water for a second batch of Resurfacer. c Mix and pour this onto the concrete in small amounts and trowel down using a random fanning motion. Lift and drop the trowel as you work to create peaks and valleys (or use the trowel to create another desired pattern).
- Allow to dry overnight.
- Remove the tape to expose the pattern.
- Using the Semi-Transparent Decorative Stains (blended with water at a 2-to-1 dilution rate), spray the stain with a pump-up sprayer, blending and diluting colors to achieve a unique look. Apply as liberally or lightly as desired, and feel free to remove any stain to lighten the color, should too much be applied.
- Allow to dry 4 to 6 hours.
- Apply a water-based or solvent-based sealer. Keep in mind that a solvent-based sealer will darken the final appearance.
Stampable Overlay Design
Specialty Concrete Products - Columbia, S.C.
This top-to-bottom (well, really bottom-to-top) overlay recipe is great for putting down a distinctive design, such as this swordfish.
SCP Veneer-Crete Stamp Overlay System (Pewter, with Charcoal Powder Release Agent)
Stampmaster Vegas Seamless Stone texture mats
SCP Chrome Etch acid stains (Cool Blue, Citrus Green, Storm Green, Rust Brown)
SCP Stone Shade dyes (Neon Blue, Pine Green)
SCP Stencil-Crete grout (White) SCP Chrome-Seal 30% sealer (Clear) Ammonia or baking soda
- Prep existing concrete surface for overlayment (clean surface thoroughly and repair cracks and spalling if needed, honoring existing control joints).
- Apply thin polymer-modified SCP bond coat material.
- Apply precolored Pewter SCP Veneer-Crete Stamp Overlayment at 1/4-inch depth.
- Apply layer of SCP Charcoal Powder Release Agent (may be broadcast or brushed).
- Place Stampmaster Vegas Seamless Stone texture skins on surface and tamp texture into surface of Veneer-Crete.
- Allow materials to cure out overnight. Wash surface. A pressure washer can be used to wash excess SCP Charcoal Powder Release Agent off surface. Then, wash down to desired amount of Charcoal highlight.
- Honor existing control joints in concrete by cutting through overlayment to reopen them. Place new control joints if needed by cutting through depth of overlayment and one-third the depth of the concrete slab.
- Allow recommended cure time on material prior to applying SCP Chrome Etch acid stain. (The time will vary depending on material and material thickness. Roughly 1/4-inch of SCP Veneer-Crete needs five days at moderate temperatures.)
- Score concentric circles to create outside border using a saw cart or an Engrave-a-Crete Mongoose with circle attachment. Score 1/4-inch deep.
- Draw the fish design inside the border using pencils. (This can be freehand drawing, projected down and traced, or you can use a template.)
- Score design into surface (1/4-inch deep) using a small handheld side grinder with a diamond blade.
- Using sponge brushes, work SCP Chrome Etch acid stains into surface using small circular motions. Scored lines work as color separation guides. (For larger areas, you can spray Chrome Etch acid stain onto the surface.)
- For this design, Storm Green was used on the circle border, Cool Blue was used on the background (highlighted with Rust Brown in areas), and Citrus Green was used on the fish.
- Let stains stand overnight. c Neutralize the next day by applying a solution of 1 quart of ammonia in 5 gallons of water to the surface. As an alternative, mix 1 pound of baking soda into 5 gallons of water. Work into surface with soft bristled broom and flush with clean water. Allow to dry.
- Roll (or spray) a coat of Chrome Seal 30%.
- To add some final depth to the color, use sponge brushes to apply Stone Shades to the desired areas, dry-ragging to bleed edges and achieve the desired amount of shade. Allow to cure. For this design, both Neon Blue Stone Shade and Pine Green Stone Shade colors were applied to the fish.
- Apply SCP precolored Stencil Crete Grout into the scored lines and allow to cure. Clean off excess grout residue.
- Roll (or spray) second, final coat of Chrome Seal 30%.
Glossy Floor Finish
Kemiko Concrete Products - Whittier, Calif.
This elegant color combination is the way to go for a simple design that calls for a two-toned color scheme.
Kemiko Neutra Clean
Kemiko Black Stain, in two batches: Lighter color - 1 part Black Stain to 18 parts water
Darker color -1 part Black Stain to 4 parts water
Kemiko Stone Tone Wax II (Buff On)
- Wash the concrete surface thoroughly with Kemiko Neutra-Clean, using either a slow-speed floor machine with a scrub brush attachment or a long-handled, medium-stiff bristle brush. Then wet-vacuum (preferred) or mop (many moppings may be necessary) to remove all dirt. Allow the floor to dry completely.
- After mixing the stain batches, apply them to the floor with a foam brush, working wet on wet. Apply the lighter color three times (be sure to let each coat dry completely) and the darker color twice.
- After the floor has completely dried, scrub off the residue using a slow-speed floor machine with a scrub brush attachment, Neutra-Clean and water only, or a long-handled, medium-stiff bristle brush, and remove the water-and-residue mixture from the floor with a wet vacuum (preferred) or a mop and squeegee. (Note: If color comes up on a white towel after wiping the floor, clean again.) c Allow the floor to dry completely.
- Apply Kemiko Stone Tone Wax II (Buff On) with a heavy floor-polishing machine (slow speed, 175 rpm) and three attachments, to be used one after the other: a Bassine brush when applying (this stiff natural-bristle brush is the most critical of the three steps when achieving the effect), a medium-bristle brush (Palmyra, Union Mix, or Tampico) when buffing, and a polishing pad (if needed).
- When putting the wax onto the floor, spread a smooth light coating of wax out from the walls (2 to 3 inches) and in the corners out to the radius of the floor machine attachment. Put no more than 1/8 cup of wax on the floor in the center of the first 3-foot to 4-foot square. It will appear wet and dull. Immediately work the wax by spreading and burning it in with the natural stiff-bristle attachment (this may take one to two minutes). Move to the next area, maintaining no larger than a 3-to-4-foot quadrant, and repeat the step only after the wax in the preceding area is giving off a slight glare and the wax ridges have disappeared. Mineral spirits will soften any ridges or excess wax, allowing it to be spread and worked in.
- When you have completed the application phase, change to the medium-bristle brush attachment and buff the entire floor, including your original hand-waxed areas. After buffing, if greater protection is desired, repeat the first phase, applying a thin second coat. Then rebuff. If a slightly higher sheen is desired, buff with the soft polishing pad.
Miracote, Rancho Dominguez, Calif.
This technique uses manufactured silicon dioxide platelets coated with titanium dioxide to create a multilayered, variegated, hammer-toned seamless floor coating over concrete or an overlayment.
CQ Clear Epoxy mixed with Midnight Black ColorPax-E
Chameleon Dispersing Agent mixed with Radiant Sunrise Chameleon "Flip-Flop" Special Effects Pigment
Chameleon Dispersing Agent mixed with Star Silver Chameleon Special Effects Pearlescent additive
- Apply the Midnight Black epoxy base coat to a clean surface. This allows for the highest amount of color stimulation.
- Prepare two spray bottles with each color blended with the dispersing agent.
- Spritz the lighter silicon dioxide (Star Silver Pearl) across the surface.
- Repeat with the darker color (Radiant Sunrise).
- Apply a final clear urethane coat to seal.