Patina Resist with Ammonia and Sharpie Pen (Tutorial)

by Rena Klingenberg.

Patina Resist with Ammonia and Sharpie Marker Tutorial by Rena Klingenberg

Patina Resist with Ammonia and Sharpie Pen - Tutorial by Rena Klingenberg

Now we’re going to use a simple patina resist with ammonia and a Sharpie pen on the copper or brass earring blanks we made in Part 1 of this tutorial.

Above you can see the stages going from bare copper to finished surface embellishment.

In the “resist” area, covered by black Sharpie marker, the metal will stay bare of any patina.

Patina Resist with Ammonia and Sharpie Pen - Tutorial by Rena Klingenberg

And as always when working with homemade patinas, we have the thrill of mystery as to exactly what color(s) our metal will turn out to be!

Caution:
Patinas made with ordinary household products may be harmful if ingested, inhaled, or worn against the skin. Use in well ventilated area, preferably outdoors.

Before starting this project, see Homemade Patina Precautions for safety guidelines.

Supplies:

  • The copper or brass earring blanks we made in Part 1 of this tutorial, Rustic Picture Patina Earrings.

    (Or other copper or brass item that has NOT been varnished. Many commercially-available jewelry and hardware metals have been varnished).

    These are the earring blanks we made in Part 1:

    Making brass and copper earring blanks

  • Liquid dish soap (such as Dawn or whatever brand).
  • Baking soda.
  • #0000 steel wool – a few small pieces.
  • Black Sharpie marker (black works best for the patina resist).
  • Wear appropriate protection – gloves, goggles, and breathing protection.
  • Empty plastic grocery container such as the kind used for sour cream, yogurt, cottage cheese, etc. The lid should fit pretty tightly.

    This should be a container you will NOT use for food again.

    Also, this container needs to be tall enough so that when the lid is closed, there’s plenty of room inside for your earrings to hang down from the wire without touching the folded paper towel on the bottom.

    I used this 32-ounce yogurt container that conveniently has a clear plastic lid, so I can peek in on the process without opening the lid:

    Patina Resist with Ammonia and Sharpie Pen - Tutorial by Rena Klingenberg

  • A piece of craft wire / Artistic wire about 24 inches (61 cm) long, for hanging your earrings over the ammonia.
  • Several paper towels.
  • Regular household ammonia.
    Warning: Due to the ammonia fumes, I highly recommend doing this project outdoors if at all possible!
    If you can’t go outdoors, please work quickly, safely, and in a VERY well-ventilated area.
  • Rubbing alcohol for removing the Sharpie ink from your metal.
  • Cotton swabs or other item for applying the rubbing alcohol (I used a plastic knitting needle – swabs were too wide for the area I had).
  • Sealant – I use a clear, matte-finish, spray-on sealant called “Tree House Studio” Clear Acrylic Matte Coating, from Hobby Lobby.
    Krylon also has a product that’s pretty much the same thing, and about the same price.

Start with Super-Clean Metal:

Note: It’s important to clean your metal to remove all traces of skin oils and anything else that may resist the patina.

The first step is to wash both sides of your metal thoroughly with a generous amount of liquid dish soap.

After washing off all of the dish soap, sprinkle a small amount of baking soda onto both sides of your metal, and scrub it well with your steel wool.

Scrub in the same direction as the grain of your metal.

Wash off all traces of baking soda – and then without letting your skin touch the newly cleaned metal, dry it thoroughly with paper towels.

How to Create the Patina Resist:

Note: Try not to touch the freshly-cleaned metal with your skin while you draw your designs. I held my earring blanks with a paper towel while drawing on them.

Use your black Sharpie marker to draw whatever design you wish on your metal.

The areas that are covered with black ink will resist the patina – so when we remove the ink at the end of the patina process, the design you drew will show as bare metal.

For your first time with this procedure, I recommend drawing something simple:

Patina Resist with Ammonia and Sharpie Pen - Tutorial by Rena Klingenberg

Then draw a design on the other earring.

Patina Resist with Ammonia and Sharpie Pen - Tutorial by Rena Klingenberg

Now we’re going to get our container ready for the patina process.

We’ll be using a “fuming” process, which means the ammonia will be in the bottom of the container, with the fumes rising and surrounding the earrings that are hanging down from the top of the container.

First, fold a paper towel and place it in the bottom of your plastic container:

Patina Resist with Ammonia and Sharpie Pen - Tutorial by Rena Klingenberg

And then bend your piece of craft wire / Artistic wire into this shape, to make a hanger for your earrings:

Patina Resist with Ammonia and Sharpie Pen - Tutorial by Rena Klingenberg

Now string your earrings onto the wire, and hang the wire on the rim of your container:

Patina Resist with Ammonia and Sharpie Pen - Tutorial by Rena Klingenberg

(If possible I recommend you do this next step outside, and while wearing safety goggles, gloves, and breathing protection):

When you have the wire and earrings settled just right, pour ammonia into the bottom of the container – enough to thoroughly soak your paper towel.

Avoid breathing the fumes.

Then place the lid tightly on the container:

Patina Resist with Ammonia and Sharpie Pen - Tutorial by Rena Klingenberg

Now put the closed container in a safe place, where it can’t be accessed by children, animals, or hungry people who might mistake it for a food container. 🙂

You can check on the progress of your patina as often as you like, but avoid breathing the fumes.

In anywhere from 30 minutes to 24 hours, your patina should start showing some color change.

My copper looked like this in 24 hours, but yours might also look black or any other color:

Patina Resist with Ammonia and Sharpie Pen - Tutorial by Rena Klingenberg

Looking down into the container while holding my breath:

Patina Resist with Ammonia and Sharpie Pen - Tutorial by Rena Klingenberg

I added a bit more ammonia, and closed up the container for another 12 hours – for a total processing time of 36 hours.

(Yours may be faster or slower.)

When I opened the container after a total of 36 hours, the copper was almost solidly black – but as soon as I removed the lid and put the metal in the open air, it quickly changed to this blue as I watched:

Patina Resist with Ammonia and Sharpie Pen - Tutorial by Rena Klingenberg

After the metal had completely air dried, I washed it gently in running water to remove any ammonia residue, and then air dried it again.

Now it was a slightly lighter blue:

Patina Resist with Ammonia and Sharpie Pen - Tutorial by Rena Klingenberg

Next I used rubbing alcohol to remove the black Sharpie ink from the metal.

I first tried applying the alcohol with a cotton swab, but the swab was too wide and spread alcohol to the areas where I wanted to keep the patina intact.

So I finally wound up using a plastic knitting needle and dipped it in the alcohol at regular intervals to gently scrub the black ink off the metal.

Then I used a piece of damp steel wool to gently wear off some of the patina for a rustic look:

Patina Resist with Ammonia and Sharpie Pen - Tutorial by Rena Klingenberg

And here’s the final result – nothing like what I had originally imagined, but interesting anyway:

Patina Resist with Ammonia and Sharpie Pen - Tutorial by Rena Klingenberg

Sealing Your Finished Patina

If you don’t use some sort of sealant, your patina will naturally continue to darken or tarnish – which eventually will change or cover your original patina finish.

And because the finished patina surface itself may be harmful, always seal any items that have undergone a patina procedure.

When the patina is finished and dry, seal the patina using a clear spray lacquer.

Apply at least three light coats of lacquer on every patina surface of the metal, drying each coat thoroughly before applying the next coat.

I use a clear, matte-finish, spray-on sealant called “Tree House Studio” Clear Acrylic Matte Coating, from Hobby Lobby.

Krylon also has a product that’s pretty much the same thing, and about the same price.

Patina Resist with Ammonia and Sharpie Pen - Tutorial by Rena Klingenberg

The Finished Earrings!

And here are the finished earrings that we started in Part 1 of this tutorial, Rustic Picture Patina Earrings:

Rustic Picture Patina Earrings Tutorial by Rena Klingenberg

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