Jewelry Patina Techniques (Tutorial)
by Rena Klingenberg. © 2003-Present Rena Klingenberg. All Rights Reserved
Here’s a fun way to play with a variety of jewelry patina techniques.
We’ll use opaque patina inks that are made to adhere to metal.
Simply paint or dab the patina ink onto your metal.
This is an easy way to create patina effects in a variety of colors.
Unlike most patina processes, you can precisely control the outcome of the color on your jewelry project.
And as you play with this type of metal coloring, you’ll enjoy finding new ways to create with it.
In this tutorial, I’ll show you six jewelry patina techniques using these opaque inks.
- Opaque patina inks that are made to adhere to metal.
I used Vintaj patinas, available online and in craft stores.
- Optional: Vintaj glaze for sealing or thinning the patina inks.
(I did not use any.)
- Metal jewelry components.
I used a variety of raw brass items purchased on etsy.com (you can do search there for “raw brass”).
- Small paintbrushes, Q-tips, etc. for applying the patina to the metal.
I used Q-tips and tiny craft brushes from a local craft store.
- Sandpaper – small square of 400-grit or finer, for removing areas of patina.
You can also use a small chunk of #0000 steel wool (but be careful of shedding steel wool fibers sticking onto patina that’s not quite dry).
- Optional: Manicure emery board in a fine grit – for removing areas of patina.
- Something to serve as a “painter’s palette” to squirt the patina inks onto.
- Paper towels – for a work surface that can handle the mess; also to use for dabbing the patina onto the metal, and for artistically wiping off areas of the patina.
- I also cut half of a paper towel into little squares about 40mm (1.5″) size, for easier use with dabbing, blotting, and wiping the patinas on the metal.
- Eye protection recommended.
- Disposable gloves recommended.
These Are the Patinas I Used
The “Rusted Hardware” collection, with Vintaj patina colors of Cinnabar, Clay, and Rust:
Also the “Weathered Copper” collection, with Vintaj patina colors of Verdigris, Jade, and Moss:
And for an easy, recyclable “painter’s palette” to use with these patina inks, I used a clean lid from a plastic yogurt container:
The manufacturer recommends avoiding skin contact while working with these patinas – so you may want to wear disposable gloves.
Also consider wearing protective eyewear, and having adequate ventilation.
And wear clothes that you wouldn’t mind getting stained. 🙂
Protect Your Work Area
These patinas can be messy to work with, and can also leave stains on things you didn’t mean to color.
So here’s how I contained the mess and made cleanup quick and easy:
I used a washable, standard black plastic jewelry tray, lined with a paper towel, and put everything I was going to use inside this tray.
In the top left corner of the tray you can see a stack of my little cut paper towel squares and my yogurt lid painter’s palette.
In the bottom left corner are my Q-tips and tiny craft brushes.
(I’m a lefty, so I have those things on the left side of my tray. If you’re right-handed, you’d probably want them on the right side of your tray. 🙂 )
I did all of these patina projects right inside the tray.
Clean Your Metal Before Using Patinas
For best results, start with clean metal, removing all traces of skin oils and anything else that may resist or affect the patina.
Wash both sides of your metal thoroughly with a generous amount of liquid dish soap.
Then wash off all of the dish soap.
Dry the metal components completely before using patina on them.
Do a Test Run
Before using these patinas on your jewelry items, do a test run on a small sample or a clean scrap of similar metal.
That way you can see how the technique will (or won’t) work on the sample, without ruining your actual piece.
Here’s my test run – I used both sides of a small square of brass sheet metal:
Another benefit of doing the test run on a scrap first – you’ll probably discover some things about the technique that will help you get better results when you do the technique on your actual component!
Helpful Tips for Working with Patina Inks:
- A small amount of patina ink goes a long way! Start with just a couple of drops of color on your paint palette – it’s easy to wind up with more than you need, and you can’t put it back in the bottle.
- These patina inks dry pretty fast, so decide ahead of time what you want to do, and work fairly quickly.
- If you want to thin the patina inks to create a “wash” effect, don’t thin them with water. Instead, use Vintaj glaze to thin them.
- You can also mix a drop of the glaze into the ink to make the patina slower to dry, giving you more time to create your design.
- Shake the patina ink bottle VERY thoroughly so the contents will be evenly mixed when you use it. You can hear the little ball bearing inside the bottle, helping the mixing process.
- When you open the bottle, point it away from your face, in case a little patina squirts out after all that shaking.
- Read the info on the back of the package before you start.
Now for the Fun Part!
Let’s get started creating!
Each of these techniques starts out by showing the “before and after” views – with the raw, clean brass component on the left, and the finished patinated version on the right.
Jewelry Patina Technique 1:
An Isolated Area of Patina
We often think of using patina all over a jewelry component.
But you can paint or dab some patina on just one area, leaving the bare metal around it.
This “fossil” dragonfly is so shallowly recessed onto the textured metal that it’s hard to see without coloring it.
I used a tiny craft brush from the craft store to paint Verdigris color patina into the recessed dragonfly.
No worries about painting outside the lines – we’ll clean it up.
I used a small piece of 400-grit sandpaper to buff the entire surface of the component, removing most of the color that went outside the lines.
You could also use the sandpaper lightly over the painted dragonfly to give her a slightly distressed effect. (I didn’t.)
Jewelry Patina Technique 2:
The Look of Rust and Corrosion
Patina inks are ideal for creating an antiqued, corroded, oxidized, or shabby-chic look on metal.
Here I went for a rusty, corroded look on this hammered brass hoop.
I used a Q-tip to spread Clay color patina on the hoop.
I covered the entire top surface of the metal.
Then I used a small square of paper towel to rub off the rusty color.
If you want more distressing, use a small square of 400-grit sandpaper or a scrap of #0000 steel wool on the patinated surface.
Jewelry Patina Technique 3:
Mixing Patinas to Create a New Color
You can mix two or more colors of patina ink to create your own designer colors.
Here I used a few drops of the Moss and Jade patinas in equal amounts, and then mixed them together with a small craft brush.
The result was this deep grass-green color.
I painted carefully with my tiny brush, but still had a bit of paint outside the line.
But it’s easy to “erase” it using a fine-grit emery board to get into small areas and quickly sand away any stray paint.
Tip: If you mix a new color and it turns out that you love it – write down the paint colors and how many drops of each color you used to create this color!
Jewelry Patina Technique 4:
Patina Accenting a Textured Surface
On metal that has a textured surface or a relief design, you can use the patina ink to accent the recessed areas while keeping the raised areas bare.
This brass pendant has a very raised relief design.
I used a Q-tip to apply Rust colored patina ink to this pendant.
Be sure to spread the patina over the entire pendant, especially pushing it into all the recessed areas.
While the paint is still wet, use a small square of paper towel to wipe off all the raised areas.
If you want to remove the color from more areas, or if the paint dried before you could wipe off the surface, you can use a fine-grit sandpaper or emery board to uncover selected spots.
Jewelry Patina Technique 5:
Blending Colors on the Metal
Here’s another way to mix patina colors.
Instead of mixing drops of color together, simply wipe the colors directly onto the metal, and then blend them together as much or as little as you like.
I wanted to make this brass feather look like it came from a tropical bird.
So I used a Q-tip to spread areas of Jade, Verdigris, and Moss color patina paints onto the feather.
I went for a random approach, smearing the colors around as I applied them.
Then I wiped a small square of paper towel across the whole surface of the feather, to blend the colors.
You can do a little or a lot of blending. I did a little.
And while blending, you may also want to buff off some areas of the color, leaving the metal showing through. (I didn’t.)
Jewelry Patina Technique 6:
Layering Patina Colors
You can create the look of ageing by layering patina colors, and then distressing the surface so that the various color layers show through.
A textured brass leaf is perfect for turning into a realistic Autumn leaf.
I used a Q-tip to scrubb Moss and Cinnabar patina colors sparsely onto the leaf.
Then I used a small paper towel square to scrub a patchy layer of Rust color patina over the entire top surface of the leaf, over the top of the previous colors.
I used a second paper towel square to rub the entire top surface of the still-damp leaf, removing areas of the rust color so the moss and cinnabar colors showed through in places, and also revealing the textured brass leaf veins.
A color layering technique like this is also perfect for an antiqued or shabby-chic look.
After Jewelry Patina Techniques:
While the patina ink is still damp, it’s easy to clean off most surfaces with water.
But if it dries, it’s much harder to remove.
So if you use non-disposable paint brushes with these patina inks, they’ll be easiest to clean if you put them in water immediately when you finish using a color.
And if you work in a plastic tray like I do, it’s easy to just recycle the paper towels and plastic-lid paint palette, dispose of the Q-tips and plastic gloves, and wipe out the tray with a damp cloth.
And you’re done!
Drying and Curing
These patina inks dry quickly, although thicker layers of color may take a bit longer to dry.
You can simply let them air dry (which is what I do), or you can speed it along with a hair dryer. (Be careful of using a heat gun, since the extreme heat can melt, bubble, or otherwise damage the patina.)
However you dry your finished pieces, I recommend letting them sit for 24 hours to let them cure before using them.
Sealing Your Patina Artistry
Sealing your finished patina-inked metals isn’t absolutely necessary, but it does protect the finished design and prevent bare metal areas from darkening or oxidizing.
The manufacturer recommends using Vintaj glaze to seal Vintaj patina-inked metals.
Wait till the patinated metal is completely dry before sealing.
What Will You Create from This Tutorial?
I would LOVE to see the wonderful things you make from this tutorial!