What to Consider When Choosing a Stainless Steel Finish for Your Project

Stainless steel finishes are an important factor for both the use and appearance of the fabricated product. There are many finishes to choose from, and designers, engineers, and architects have many different considerations when choosing what finish to use. Textures, patterns, painting, embossing, and blasting are all possibilities. These finishes are among the best when deciding on what works for your project.

Choosing a stainless steel finish for your custom metal fabrication project.

Matte Finish #2B/#2D

This type of finish is achieved by “cold rolling” the metal after the production process has concluded. As suggested by the name, it has a matte finish that is dull, but has more brightness than an untreated finish. It is often used in applications where durability is the most important consideration and the shiny aesthetic is of less importance, such as on industrial equipment. It is often used for vessels, tanks, food processing, pharmaceuticals, refrigeration, or equipment used in water or sewer plants. 2B finish is not shiny at all, but 2D finish does use an additional cold rolling step that produces a finish that has some more sheen and gives the impression of a cloudy mirror.

Brushed Finish #3/#4

These finishes are very similar, and both hot-rolled finishes are “brushed” with specialized belts to create a fine pattern of parallel lines. These are quite a bit more reflective than a matte finish. However, although they are more reflective than a simple matte finish, they are not reflective because of the presence of the brushed lines. They are very useful in applications where an overly shiny finish would be undesirable, such as in the construction of skyscrapers and other buildings. Number 3 and 4 finishes are both produced through extended brushing, but #4 finishes use finer abrasives for the brushing process. This is a very popular finish for elevators, escalators, food and beverage equipment, and healthcare industries for a standard, sanitary finish.

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Mirrored Finish #8

Mirrored finish can be created by using a series of abrasive materials to polish the material to a mirrored shine. In other applications, special hot rolling will simulate the mirrored appearance. After the mirroring treatment, the surface will then be buffed for up to 10 minutes to remove any scratches and abrasions and create the highly reflective mirror-like finish. This type of stainless steel finishing is often used for mirrors, ornamental trim, reflectors, or other applications where high reflectivity is crucial. High end, highly visible projects often choose to use a mirror finish to highlight the ornamental fabrications. These are rarely used in outdoor projects.


The most popular finishes are widely used because they have many benefits and work well with a wide range of different applications. The designer, engineer, architect, and fabricator can all work together to consider the aesthetics, functions, climate, and budget when deciding on the right finish for your next stainless steel project.

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Your metal fabrication partner is the best resource for guiding you through the finish selection for the best aesthetic, function, and durability of your component based on a variety of factors. Swanton Welding’s metal finishing department has the expertise, state of the art equipment, and deep understanding of the various finishing options to help you select the perfect finishing touch for your next metal fabrication project. Contact us today for a quote.