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Over the years, various industries have sought durable and beautiful decorative materials to meet the growing pursuit of aesthetics. From aerospace to submarine infrastructure, stainless steel has become the preferred decorative material due to its excellent corrosion resistance and aesthetics.

Stainless steel has become one of the most popular decorative materials widely used in various industries. You can see it in buildings, landmarks, and even medical equipment. Stainless steel has achieved present status because of its excellent machinability. This article will explore the fundamentals of stainless steel and its surface grades.

What is Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is an alloy resistant to rusting and corrosion. It originated in 1798 and has been applied to architecture since the early 1900s. And its elements include C, Ni, Ti, Mn, N, Nb, Mo, Si, and Cu.

Cr is the main characteristic that determines stainless steel corrosion resistance. As the indispensable content, Chromium should be at least 10.5%. It will form a coat of self-passivation (oxide) film on the surface to prevent corrosion. The oxide film also can prevent rust from diffusing to maintain its aesthetic and achieve it usable for a long time.

Stainless steel has become one of the most practical alloys with its high weather ability, weldability, plasticity, and corrosion. As a multipurpose material, you can see it from primary products to architectural aesthetics.

stainless steel finishing

The most commonly used type of stainless steel includes the 201, 304, 304L, 316, 316L, and 430 worldwide. You can choose it according to the environment. When used for city architecture, 304 or 304L is the best performance and cost choice.

If used in harsh environments, such as marine or high-temperature industries, SUS 316, SUS 316L, duplex stainless steel, or ferrite stainless steel is the best choice. Because they have higher corrosion resistance and weather ability.

As decorative materials, stainless steel supports various processing, including but not limited to brushed, polished, colored, and embossed. Different situations need different finishes. An embossed finish may be chosen in high-traffic areas for its higher scratch resistance.

Types of Stainless Steel Finishes

Raw steel has a rough and dull surface. A decorative plate often requires higher aesthetics. Certain specific industries will require high corrosion resistance of steel. At this time, stainless steel finishing processing came into being.

Every manufacturing process of stainless steel produces a surface texture. We can transform raw steel into high-value products with further surface finishing techniques. Some common stainless steel surface finishing techniques include polishing, brushing, and blasting.

Mirror Finish Stainless Steel

Mirror finish is achieved by buffing and polishing the surface of stainless steel until the roughness is less than 0.8um. The wear marks are barely visible, which can get a sparkling, mirror-like finish. By mirror polishing, the luminosity of stainless steel can be maximized.

During processing, the smoothness of the surface and the flatness of materials can be adjusted.

The most significant characteristic of the Mirror(8K) finish stainless steel is its brightness, like a mirror. Except for visual appeal, the smooth surface can avoid dirt or bacteria, which is the popular stainless steel finish in architectural decoration.

With the highest brilliance, aesthetic and visual expansion of space, Mirror finish stainless steel is often applied to product frames, interior wall decoration, landmark buildings, fittings, bathroom mirrors, and ornaments.

The stainless steel thickness and the project details will affect the quality of the mirror finishes. So, you must confirm the specification as per your project requirements. If you can’t make a selection, please consult with TOPSON and obtain professional suggestions from our engineers.

mirror stainless steel finishes

Bead Blasted Stainless Steel

Bead blasting is one type of shot-blasting technology. It is a finish that utilizes the bead blaster shooting the bead-shaped media to the stainless steel surface at high pressure. Generally, this process maintains the metallic properties of stainless steel and leaves a smooth, shiny, and cleaner matte surface.

Due to its excellent surface finish, bead blasted stainless steel sheet is suitable for various industries, as well as construction, elevators, ornaments, ceiling, and perimeters.

The bead blasted finish depends on the blast media size. It could be adjusted as required for the project. Therefore, confirming the effect and application with your manufacturer before the specification is necessary.

bead blasted stainless steel

Water Ripple Stainless Steel

A water ripple sheet is a decorative stainless steel that utilizes embossing to form a water texture on the surface. The size of the rippling could be adjusted as required for the project. The most commonly sought classification of sizes is tiny, medium, and large.

When used in decorating, it can reflect the surrounding scenery in a subtle way and brings spaces a dazzling, vivid, and luxurious ambiance.

Water Ripple has stronger corrosion resistance and a higher aesthetic. It can be applied to decorating the ceiling, elevator door, hallways, architectural wall cladding, etc. Generally, 304 stainless and 316 stainless steel are available to fabricate water ripple.

Combined with the Mirror(8K), hairline finish, or PVD coating finish, this technique enables to create of unevenness on both sides of the surface (respectively).

water ripple stainless steel

Hairline Stainless Steel (#4 Finish Stainless Steel Sheet)

Hairline finish is one metalworking type of brushed finishes. It forms a matte surface on the stainless steel panel with long, continuous and uni-directional grind marks. It is referred to #4 finish stainless steel sheet. But it is more reflective than a No. 4 polish.

Adjusting the grinding technology can control the texture size to create different brushed effects, like D-HL and Scratch HL. TOPSON will help you achieve whatever brushed finish you need with our strong metalworking.

As one of the classics for stainless steel, hairline finish stainless steel is suitable for interior and exterior products, such as elevator door, escalator cladding, architectural decoration, kitchen cabinet and so on.

hairline stainless steel

Cross Hairline Stainless Steel

Cross hairline or cross brushed, is a stainless steel brushed finish with a pattern of intersecting lines at a 45-degree angle.

The grain size can be adjusted by controlling grinding times. Prior to specification, confirm the texture direction with your metalworking fabricator based on project requirements.

Cross hairline is the most commonly sought decorative finish of stainless steel. Due to its excellent scratch resistance, it is suitable for high-traffic areas, like construction cladding, elevator handrails, ornaments, and perimeters.

cross burshed stainless steel

Vibration Stainless Steel

Unlike hairline finish, vibration stainless steel is a low reflective brushed finish with short, non-directional arch-like grind marks. It utilizes vibratory polishing technology, and the vibratory action causes the media to rub against the workpieces to generate the desired result.

Vibration is the second most commonly sought stainless steel finish as a decorative material. With higher corrosion resistance and scratch resistance, it suits for panels and handrails.

Another advantage of vibration stainless steel, it supports further processes, such as PVD colored or plating, for higher aesthetics and scratch resistance. If so, it may be the best choice for exterior products in high-traffic areas, like architectural walls, luxury doors, advertising boxes, outdoor screens, etc.

vibration stainless steel

Satin Stainless Steel

Satin stainless steel, also known as brushed stainless steel, is a type of stainless steel that has a distinctive matte finish. It is created by brushing the metal surface with a fine abrasive material, which produces a consistent pattern of fine and discontinuous lines or scratches on the surface.

Satin stainless steel has several properties, making it a popular choice for various applications. First, it is highly resistant to corrosion and rust, making it ideal for use in environments where moisture and environmental exposure are concerns. Additionally, it is durable and easy to clean, making it a low-maintenance option for a variety of uses.

Another critical property of satin finish stainless steel is its aesthetic appeal. The matte finish of the metal gives it a modern and sleek look often used in contemporary architecture. It also has a subtle texture that can add depth and interest to surfaces and objects.

Satin stainless steel is commonly used in producing appliances, kitchenware, and other household items due to its durability and resistance to staining and scratches. At that time, it also can be used in the construction industry for building facades, handrails, and other architectural elements.

satin steel finish

PVD Colored Stainless Steel

PVD coating, also known as thin-film coating, is a process that utilizes physical technology to vaporize the solid material in the vacuum environment and deposit it onto the stainless steel surface. The vaporized materials exit in the form of atoms.

By PVD finishing, stainless steel panels can achieve to fusing various color to enhance its beauty. Colors you can obtain including silver, gold, rose gold, bronze, brass, LIC black, antique copper and so on.

Due to its strong sense of aesthetic It is highly regards in architecture and product decorations for a luxurious ambiance, as well as elevator, screen, ceiling, cladding, and panels.

pvd colored stainless steel

Embossed Stainless Steel

Embossed stainless steel is a type of stainless steel stamped or pressed with a pattern or design. This gives the metal a 3D texture that can add visual interest and depth to surfaces and objects.

Embossed stainless steel has many of the same properties as regular stainless steel, including high resistance to corrosion and rust, durability, and ease of maintenance. The embossing process does not affect the metal’s strength or integrity but enhances its scratch resistance and creativity, making it a reliable choice for various applications.

With its excellent properties, embossed stainless steel is commonly used to produce decorative elements, such as backsplashes, wall panels, and furniture accents. You also can use it for signage, nameplates, and other branding applications.

Besides stainless steel, other metals like aluminum and copper also can be stamped or pressed with texture. If you want to purchase embossed metal, do not hesitate to contact TOPSON!

Acid Etching Stainless Steel

Acid-etched stainless steel is another type of stainless steel surface treated with an acid solution to create a textured or patterned surface. The acid etching process removes part of the thin layer of the metal, creating a matte finish with a subtle texture.

One of the key advantages of acid-etched stainless steel is its versatility. It can be used for decorative elements, architectural features, and branding applications. The texture created by the acid etching process can also help improve the surface grip, making it a popular choice for handrails and other safety features.

Acid-etched stainless steel also has a unique appearance that can add visual interest and depth to surfaces and objects. It also has many properties as regular stainless steel, including high resistance to corrosion and rust, durability, and ease of maintenance.

Overall, acid-etched stainless steel is a durable, low-maintenance material with a distinctive appearance that can be customized to suit a wide range of applications.

World-class Stainless Steel Finishing Company

Stainless steel finishing is an important step in the manufacturing process of many products. By choosing the right surface finishing process for your project, you can improve the quality and value of your finished product.

Established in 2009, TOPSON is a world-class stainless steel finishing company that designs and manufactures decorative metal materials used in public spaces around the world. By adjusting base materials and media, TOPSON can change the sheen of stainless steel finishes with specialized techniques. We are the leading metal finishing company with a robust processing ability to help you achieve your ideas.

At TOPSON, we support wholesale and customisation. Our customers include but are not limited to design agencies, building contractors, metal product distributors, etc. As always, if you need to purchase stainless steel decorative panels or samples, please contact us using the button below!

Grades of Stainless Steel Surface Finish

The steel surface grade (surface finish) determines its range of applications. In visually focused projects, attractive finishes can enhance the aesthetics and appeal of products. In projects where fabrication is at the center, the correct choice of surface finish can aid in steel detailing and ensure end product quality.

hot-rolled steel topson

Grades of Hot-rolled Steel Surface Finish

Hot rolling refers to steel rolling above its recrystallization temperature to form steel with higher formability and workability. Hot-rolled steel is available in the following 5 finishing grades.

No.1 Finish

No.1 finish has a rough, dull, and non-uniform surface. It is generally used in industrial applications, such as equipment for elevated temperature service. No.1 finish is produced by rolling stainless steel that has been heated prior to rolling. And then, it is annealed to produce a uniform micro-structure and ensure stainless steel meets mechanical property requirements. Pickling is the last but most important step. At this step, the manufacturer will remove the scale on the steel surface to maintain the corrosion resistance of the steel surface.

1U Finish

The surface of 1U steel is formed by hot rolling without further heat treatment and descaling treatment. Due to the surface being covered with scale, it is suitable for metal products that require further thermoforming.

1C Finish

The process flow of 1C finish is similar to 1U finish. The difference is that the 1C finish will be heat treated after hot rolling.

1E Finish

The steel will be processed by hot rolling and heat treatment to obtain better properties. Finally, the scale is removed by mechanical descaling to form a glossy surface. This is 1E steel finish. It can be used for products requiring further processing (hot-rolled or cold-rolled).

1D Finish

The difference between 1E and 1D finishing is the method of removing the scale. Manufacturers remove the scale from steel surfaces by pickling. The 1D finish steel can be used directly or further processed (hot-rolled or cold-rolled).

Grades of Cold-rolled Steel Surface Finish

What is cold-rolled steel? It is actually hot-rolled steel has been further processed. After the hot-rolled steel is cooled to room temperature, roll it with rolls to obtain more precise dimensions and better surface quality. In this process, the steel has a certain temperature but not high. Therefore, more pressure needs to be applied to form the desired shape. Cold-rolled steel is generally more expensive and more technically demanding than hot-rolled steel.

No.2B Finish

No.2B finish is a cold rolled finish with a uniform, smooth, and bright surface. Its processing step is from cold rolled to heat treated and pickled, and finally polished with polished rolls. It is the most common finish with good smoothness and corrosion resistance. You can use it directly or for further processing.

Stainless steel 2B finish is smoother than 2D finish. It can be used in chemical plant equipment, sewage treatment, refrigeration, sheet metal products, etc.

2B finish

Bright Annealed (BA) Finish

Bright Annealed is produced by heat-treating under a controlled atmosphere environment. It can form a mirror-like surface with some imperfections and cloudiness. According to different processes, it can be divided into BA and 2BA.

BA finish has only been bright annealed. While the 2BA finish is polished with highly polished rolls after bright annealing. This process can improve flatness and uniformity without decreasing thickness.

BA and 2BA finish can be used in appliance trim, architectural components, chute liners, radiant heaters, etc.

BA finish

No.3 Finish

No.3 finish is achieved by rough grinding to form a brushed surface with short and parallel polishing lines. You can obtain it by mechanically polishing or special rolling.

If used mechanically polishing, operators must continually adjust the size of abrasives during processing. According to the international standard, 50-80 grits are usually used at the beginning and use 100-120 grits to finish at the end. No.3 finish also can be obtained by using special rolls to press a pattern on the surface.

The surface roughness of the No.3 finish is typically Ra 40 micro-inches or less. It can be used in brewery equipment, food processing equipment, kitchen equipment, etc.

3 finish

No.4 Finish

The stainless steel 4 finish is a more refined surface than the No.3 finish, which has soft glossy and fine lines. It is mechanically polishing based on a #3 finish with gradually finer abrasives. The final finish of #4 can be anywhere between 120 and 320 grit. And its surface roughness is typically Ra 25 micro-inches or less. #4 stainless steel finish is common used in architectural wall panels, kitchen equipment, furniture, etc.

4 finish

No.7 Finish

No.7 finish has a mirror-like surface with high reflectivity. You can see remnants of fine polishing lines on its surface. No.7 finish will be obtained by buffing for up to 10 minutes with grit lines, based on a No.4 finish that has been polished to 320-grit.

No.8 Finish

No.8 finish, known as mirror finish, is the highest reflectivity polished finish covered by the ASTM standards. No.8 finish is obtained by buffing the No.7 finish for five to ten minutes. The resulting finish is mirror-like but not a perfect mirror. No.8 finish has high antibacterial properties, corrosion resistance and aesthetics. Therefore, it is commonly used in ornamental trim, reflectors, clean rooms, etc.

8 finish


Selecting the correct finish option is essential whether regardless of the intended use. Have a complex project but are unsure which stainless steel finishes are right for you? Please contact us to get professional advice.

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