Abstract The growth mechanisms and optical properties of Chromonyx R, Econochrome R and Tetrachromate black chrome selective surfaceshave been investigated as a function of deposition time. Measurements of deposit topography and hemispherical spectral reflectance indicate that the deposition of Chromonyx R coatings occurs by a single stage process in which particulate deposits are formed. Econochrome R and Tetrachromate deposition is characterised by a two stage process. In the first stage thin, continuous deposits are formed. With increasing plating time both deposits are found to develop a particulate structure. Substantial shrinkage is found to occur in thick Econochrome R and Tetrachromate deposits, resulting in the formation of cracks and deposit-substrate separation.