Stealth Bike Frame Paintwork, the matte and gloss winning combination!

There is no denying that matte finishes are the ‘in thing’ at the moment, the ‘blacked out’ or ‘stealth’ paint jobs are definitely a very popular option on custom painted bike frames, especially at Kustomflow, we are asked weekly about them. Done right the matte and gloss finish is a look that people seem to drool over.

Manufacturers seem to have joined in on the the Matte/Gloss combo as well, most now have at least one stealth option in their ranks or even full matte and satin finishes available on various models. Some manufacturers such as Cannondale reserve their stealth paintwork for specialist models or limited editions such as the ‘Black Inc’ range which feature top specs and stealth paintwork.

What is it with stealth paintwork that’s so popular though?

Is it the smooth flat surface of the matte finish contrasting against an almost wet looking gloss graphics? is it the refined and stealthy look caused by the light being absorbed by the surface and the various shades of black it creates hitting the contours of the frame like Batmans armoured suit? or is it just the fact that stealth bikes are more subtle and devoid of crass branding and logos?

There is a time and place for matte/satin finishes and some paints require the more traditional glossy or wet looking clear protective coats to achieve the maximum effect of the paintwork where depth and full transparency is needed, these include candies, metal flakes, pearls, metallics, flip-flops and chameleon (colour changing) paints where light is needed to reflect off the pigments within the paint to create the effect.

Matte and satin clear finishes are at the complete other end of the chart to gloss finishes as they provide a more dulled, flat finish, they lack any depth, reduce vibrancy and tend to work well over darker colours absorbing light.

But other than the aesthetic qualities that you either love or hate between the different finishes, there are various pros and cons.

Glossy Finishes


  • Scratches and swirls can be buffed or polished out
  • They provide more depth and vibrancy to colors
  • Easier to wash after a ride and compatible with most cleaning, maintenance and detailing products
  • Works better with special effect paints – pearls, metallics, flip flops, etc


  • Dirt can be more apparent if left
  • Scratches can be more visible
  • Little scratches and swirls may be seen in the finish over time

Matte/Satin Finish


  • Surface scratches may be harder to see (if not down to the sealer/primer)
  • Broad range of finishes, different levels of matte available including satin (semi-gloss)
  • Harder to see swirls or spider webs in the finish over time
  • Absorbs light and so hides imperfections in carbon layers and tube shapes


  • Avoid polishing or buffing – if you do it will turn to a semi-gloss finish
  • Can sometimes have a chalky appearance (if poor quality clears have been used!)
  • Oils, sweat, and finger marks show more easily
  • Requires more maintenance and specialist products to clean and protect (waxes and silicons are not advised)
  • Colors lack depth and works best on solid flat colours

Whats the difference between matte and satin finishes then?

Satin finishes have a slightly more prominent sheen than flat matte finishes do. Also known as semi-gloss or luster, satin finishes are halfway between matte and gloss. Some prefer this look over matte because it still gives off a subtle shine, unlike matte.With a satin finish you’ll notice a lot of your surroundings are being reflected on the paint, such as light sources and colours of nearby objects, these are not reflected directly like a gloss finish but you’ll see them in faded abstract shapes. A matte finish is more extreme, the surface looks dead, minimum to no reflection of light and objects, it really highlights body lines and contours which sometimes get lost with a glossy finish.


So how do you get the stealth look?

There’s no magic paint involved and a few ways to do it, we find the best way is to spray a durable gloss clear on the frame first, mask off whats to remain gloss and then apply a layer of matte, removing the masked off elements to reveal gloss against the matt. The same process can be done in an alternate way using a matte finish first and then applying gloss decals on top. This is the most resilient and weather proof solution, however it’s still a relatively new technique so how well they hold up over time is still to be determined.

At Kustomflow we never paint with flat paints, we ensure all paintwork is finally protected with a gloss or matte finish. All clear finishes used in protecting a frame are a high solid finish, they are durable and able to stand up to the elements including protecting paint from the sun with built in UV resistance.


Looking after a stealth paint job

The biggest problem with a matte finish is looking after it, incorrect maintenance can lead to irreparable damage. Unlike a gloss finish, small scratches and marks can’t be buffed or polished out, trying to do so will most likely end up changing the surface quality of the matte finish – it won’t become glossy like a traditional paint job but it will stand out like sore thumb.

Compared to gloss paintwork, matte finishes need to be washed more often and more gently. The most important step is avoiding creating scratches and swirls, use high quality microfibre towels or soft wash mitts and always wash by hand with some mild soapy water. After applying soapy water always rinse thoroughly and avoid liquid or paste waxes as they contain cleaning agents that will affect the lustre and sheen of the finish. We also warn against using polish, wax, rubbing compounds or any form of aggressive rubbing even by hand.

As waxes and polishes are a no go, you can add some additional UV protection with specially formulated spray waxes.

There are more and more products for matte paintwork appearing on the market from shampoos, to spray waxes and detailing products.

Matte paint finishes are no less durable than regular gloss finishes, they do however need a little bit more care and attention to keep them looking new.

Much Off – Matt Detailer

Chemical Guys – Meticulous Matte Shampoo


We can respray any bike frame and give it the full stealth treatment, adding subtle elements like Italian accents, pinstripes, coloured stays and inside forks or just keeping it simple with gloss logos contrasting on a matte frame – if your looking for a stealth or blacked out paint job, contact us today for a quote – you might be surprised at how cost effective it is.

De Rosa King XS Speciale

Attacus Cycling X KustomFlow

Cannondale Stealth


Stealth Giant Defy