Today I'm going to show you how to take something like this:
And turn it into something like this:
This is a great technique for transforming everything from knick-knacks to cosplay props and hardware, and it can be used to make almost any material - wood, ceramic, plastic, etc. - look like naturally aged copper.
But the best part? It's really easy! All you need are a good spray primer, spray paint in metallic copper and flat black, mineral spirits, and some cheap flat craft paint in a bright teal.
So let's get started!
First, prime your piece. (If it's plastic, be sure to use a plastic primer.)
(I originally planned to paint this piece gloss white, but the ceramic was rough and didn't look that great in a solid color. So...ultra aged copper, it is!)
Next, spray your piece with the copper metallic, and let it dry completely:
For this next step, have a small cup of mineral spirits and some cotton rags handy, because you'll want to move somewhat quickly once you've finished spraying your piece black.
When you're ready, go ahead and spray a nice thick coat of flat black all over your piece. Make sure you don't miss any nooks or crannies:
As soon as you're finished spraying, grab a rag and start wiping down the piece. The paint will get tacky pretty fast, but don't worry; that's what the mineral spirits are for.
Using two fingers wrapped in your cotton rag, dip the cloth in mineral spirits and continue wiping down your piece. [And it's much better to wear gloves; we just ran out.] You want to expose the copper on all the raised areas, leaving the black in all the recesses.
Keep going as long as you like, until you're happy with the look. (More black = more aging, so if you only want a light patina you'll want to take off more black than I did.)
This is how mine looked after I finished wiping it down.
Of course, you *could* stop there, but trust me: this next step is where the magic happens.
For this part you'll need your teal craft paint on a plate or palette, a brush, and a cup of water.
Mix a lot of water in with a little paint to make a thin glaze. Err on the side of caution: use a LOT of water.
Now, using your brush, start to drip your watery paint mixture onto your piece:
Concentrate on getting the glaze into all the recesses: the nooks and crannies. In short, anywhere there's black paint, that's where you want to concentrate your glaze. Use extra water to make the glaze drip and run down the sides.
Stop every now and then and splatter some of the glaze onto the piece. When these dry they'll leave really cool-looking water droplet marks.
The most effective aging mimics what would happen naturally out in the elements, so make your patina heaviest near the base and anywhere rainwater (and therefore rust) would naturally pool. You'll also want to do several coats of drips to get the best texture, so take your time.
Oh, and keep in mind that your glaze will look a lot like solid paint while it's wet, so don't worry if it seems too dark; it'll dry lighter.
Most of the glaze here is still wet. Compare that with the dry sections on the smaller seahorse's face and tail. See how translucent and dusty it looks? That's why you need several coats to get a really vivid patina.
You can put as much or as little patina on your piece as you like. For mine, I decided to go all out and really age the heck out of it:
The heavy sections have at least half a dozen coats of glaze drips on them.
Of course, you still want some of your shiny copper metallic to show, so as a finishing touch rub down some of the raised areas with a wet Q-tip or paper towel to let that shine back through again. And if you realize your patina is a little *too* heavy, just rub some of that off, too. You may have to rub pretty hard, but the glaze will come off. (And if you rub off too much, just drip more on!)
And, guess what?
Fortunately the glaze is strong enough that it's not going to rub off with casual wear, so there's no need to clear coat your finished piece. Which is good, since clear-coating would ruin all that great texture you just created, anyway!
To finish my seahorse statue I think I'm going to have John cut a thick wooden plaque for the base. And since I like to imagine it's a little souvenir statuette recovered from the underwater city of Rapture, maybe I'll even get a brass plaque saying something to that effect for the side. :D
I hope you've found this tutorial helpful! And if so, please let me know how you plan to use it in the future - or better yet, send pictures!
Update: A couple of you have pointed out - and rightly so - that copper patina is usually a bit more green than this. I just used the teal craft paint I already had on hand, but for your own projects you may want to find a shade that leans more green.