Monday, June 9, 2014

Metal Effects Experiments: DIY Copper Patina!

I know a lot of you are eager to see my results with Modern Masters' copper patina paints, so let's get right to it!

First, I bought this seahorse statue at Home Goods for about $20, with the sole purpose of turning it copper:

Next, two coats of the Modern Masters copper paint:

After allowing the two coats to cure overnight, I brushed on a third coat of copper, and then quickly spritzed the whole thing with the same blue aging solution I used on my bronze fairy. (You need to apply the solution while the paint is still wet.)

Fun Fact: The aging solution is a mix of acids which cause the copper particles in the paint to oxidize, giving you a truly authentic patina.

Within about a minute the liquid started turning a funky grayish color:

And then... MAGIC TIME:

As you can see, there were several largish sections where the blue patina didn't take. Either the paint there dried too quickly or I just didn't put it on thick enough; it's hard to say. Since I wanted my seahorse almost completely covered with patina, I went back a few times over the next few nights to fill in those areas. Just use a small artist's brush to apply more copper paint, and then spray with the aging solution. Easy peasy, if a little tedious.

Eventually I decided it was as good and "rusty" as it was going to get, so I finished off the post and base with a dark brown paint covered with black glaze, to give it a faux wood grain.

Ready to see?


 I really like the texture on the face:
 While the patina was still wet I carefully wiped some of those hard edges on the head, just to help the copper show through. That's the only place I messed with it, though.

Oh, and see that discoloration on the neck? That's where I tried some of the green aging solution - but it was an old bottle past its expiration date, so it didn't really work. Just gave it a funky yellowish hue here and there.

Some of you have requested I compare this real patina to my faux version from a while back, so here's my first copper seahorse again, in the same light:

As I noted back then the paint I used was perhaps a bit too blue, but beside that, you can also see it's a lot more watery in appearance. The MM patina has a much more chalky, rubbed-in look.

Here's a side-by-side comparison:

Of course, if you like the extra rich blue, keep in mind that copper patina can run the whole gamut of blues and greens when mixed with other metals:


Modern Masters will give you more of a pure copper, Statue of Liberty patina, but without the darker areas of grunge:

In fact, that's the one thing I still like better about my faux patina; the black wash gives it a sense of age and grit that you'd expect from old things. The MM patina is very clean feeling, though I suppose I could go back and spray on some grungy colors to dirty it up a bit. Hmm....

You'll notice the seahorse looks brighter here. It's all in the light: the metallic copper can catch and reflect the light, or look extra dark in shadow.

Some of you asked last time if you need to seal these patinas. According to the instructions, there's no need to apply sealer to any of your Modern Masters projects, but they do make one if you want to lock in the finish. If you don't apply a sealer, then your item will just continue to patina naturally over time.

And for what it's worth, I've been carrying around this seahorse by the body every time I move it, and nothing has come off on my hands. The patina actually feels surprisingly smooth and strong, like the side of a piece of chalk. The bronze patina, on the other hand, has more of a grit to it, like sandpaper.

So there you have it! I hope I answered most of your questions about this paint process, and maybe inspired some of you to get painting. And as always, please share your project pics over on the Epbot FB page, so the rest of us can see!


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  1. Could you use the the MM paints on ceramics? I have a ceramic chess set that I would love to use the aged look on!

    1. Provided you prime it correctly first, I'm sure MM would work great. Try a self-etching spray for ceramic - I think both Rustoleum and XIM make one.

  2. I love it! So beautiful. This one is my favorite so far. I really like the funky yellow hue, it gives it some more character. You've really gotten me in trouble though. Since your last post, I've been spotting items all over my house that could be jazzed up with this stuff. :)

  3. Wow that patina is really fantastic. Thanks for sharing the pics. Would be fun to try it out.

  4. Now I want it even more. I'd want to try it on polymer clay!

  5. Love these! One of my long-term projects right now is to fix up my kids' bathroom with a Verne-esque kraken theme. I am planning to use some pieces of old lighting fixtures to make submarine-window-like frames for some artwork, but I have been puzzling over what to do with the fact that they don't currently match (one's silver, one's gold)--and then you posted these tutorials! Problem solved. :-) Thank you!

  6. I really like both of these finishes.

    I clicked on the link for MM copper paint, and I REALLY want to see what alchemy you can do with iron paint and the rusting solution...I'm thinking some jewellery, maybe smashed doctored smashed pennies?

    1. The rusty iron is coming up next! I used it on my wooden wall gears, and it is so. FUN. Definitely the most bang for your buck, too, since it's extra EXTRA dramatic.

  7. For what it's worth, I've had good luck using two homemade patinas:
    1) Vinegar and salt-and-vinegar potato chips. Smash up the chips and add enough vinegar to make a kind of chunky paste. Completely bury your cleaned metal in the paste, cover, and let it sit. The longer it sits, the deeper the patina. This one came out kinda greenish on both copper and bronze.
    2) Ammonia and salt. I used lemon ammonia (the only kind the store had) and pink Himalayan sea salt (because I'm all fancy). Clean the metal and suspend it above the bottom of your bowl. I used twine and duct tape on a small glass bowl. I poured the ammonia over the metal until about 1/4-1/3 of an inch of ammonia was standing in the bottom. I then sprinkled the sea salt over a piece of copper and let it sit. After remembering it three days later, the whole piece was a nice dark blue color.

    Take that all for what you will.

    1. I patina my copper jewelry using the ammonia method, but I don't add salt. I may try that next time to see if there is a difference.

  8. Shelley in So. IllinoisJune 11, 2014 at 9:24 AM

    I love the seahorses! I think a little metallic patina would work great on my mantel! And I can't wait to see what the rusty iron looks like. Thanks for doing these!

  9. That is awesome!

    Personally I love it most when the patina is subtle (the last picture before the final glamour shots)

    *plots what things I have in my house that need encopperating*

  10. Jen, you're very right about copper mixed with other metals turning all kinds of blues. I'm an archaeologist, and I once saw a 500 year old Spanish metal button that had been sitting in the dirt since 1568 and it had some really amazing almost cobalt blue patina on it. It also didn't really look much like a button anymore from all the oxidization, but it was still really cool. Really old metal kind of gets bubbly looking when it erodes and oxidizes a lot. (Now if we could only get some kind of faux finish that did that, then I could have stuff that looked really old in my house without the ethical issues of actual artifacts!!)

  11. I cracked up when I saw this post-- I just spent the afternoon trying to clean a whole lotta old silverware. I have this uneasy sense of it all being undone somehow...

  12. This is beautiful! I wonder if this paint can be used on leather. I have some boots for a steampunk outfit and I would love to add a copper patina "toe cap" to the boots.

  13. Cool! Would be nice to have a linkymalink to your earlier copper patina method post from within the new post itself. Here, I dug up the URL for you: ;)


    1. Ah, good point! Thanks for pointing that out; I just added the link to the post.

  14. I really appreciate all your project posts. I come back to your DIYs often for inspiration and how-to's . Copper patina to laundry room re-do's .... all are fab!


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