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How to Color Metal | Experiments with Various Metal Paints | Inspirational Designs



Being able to color metal just adds a whole new dimension to handmade jewelry. Some designs might just need that extra splash of color. 

So I began to test out different types of paints for metals. The four products I chose to try are shown below. They each have their pros and cons so which you choose will depend on what you want to achieve. What I wanted is a way to get the enamel look without a kiln or torch!







Don't get me wrong. There is nothing bad about having all silver tone charms and components if you prefer a monotone color.  Here are some TierraCast charms and focals I have received and collected over the years. They are readily available from many sellers.  My favorites are their new nature inspired ones such as the bees, flowers, shells and dragonflies



I wanted to test out the metal paints in a comparative manner so I chose to use these TierraCast Greek letter charms. 


MARKER PENS

The first product I tried was a set of Artistro multi-surface pens with extra fine tips. These are water based, non-toxic and odorless. They can be applied on any surface like rocks, glass, ceramics, metal, wood, paper, polymer clay and so on. 


I did not need to prep the charm surface. The ink just flowed thickly onto the metal. Great coverage. It's cost effective in that you get so many colors in a box. Also worthwhile if you do not intend to do a lot of coloring. But the colors lean on the primary color range and might not be what you want for jewelry making. 



GILDER'S PASTE

The next product I tried was Gilder's Paste - this was the Foundry Bronze. I had to lightly sand the charm surface before the pigment would stick to the charm. A heavier coverage seems to make the coloration look clumpy when I wanted it to look like enamel.

Although I personally did not like it on these charms, Gilder's Paste does work very well in my previous tutorials :

In my Gilded Stamped Earrings tutorial, the Gilder's Paste (Inca Gold) added a lovely touch of color to the textured metal. 


Gilder's Paste also works well on other surfaces as illustrated by my tutorial on how to gild stamped leather bracelets


The key to using Gilder's Paste is to apply it on rougher surfaces. Gilder's Paste can dry out but you can revive it using something safe like baby oil

SWELLEGANT

Swellegant metal coatings come in generous bottle sizes. There is also a sealer as well as surface prep solution . This brand also has dye oxides like red which will add color to a surface that has a Swellegant metal coating. See this tutorial for more on adding beautiful Swellegant colors on metal filigrees. 




For Swellegant to work well, you do have to prep the surface - lightly sand the metal as well as apply the prep solution - before "painting" the metal coating. And definitely go with two coats. The metal coating solution is more dilute in terms of pigment amounts so I found it harder to cover my Greek letter charm. 

Using the sealant is a must to preserve the work. 

VINTAJ PATINA

Ranger's Vintaj patinas like this weathered copper set, turned out to be my favorite for coloring smooth charms. I could achieve an enamel like look without any preparation. Saves a lot of time! I first tried using a fine brush to apply but that turned out to be too much. So I switched to toothpicks - a tip from my friend and reader Aims who uses Vintaj patinas in her work (more about her below). 

Great coverage! 1-2 coats depending on whether you want a little metal peeking through. 



I didn't need much on the toothpick to move the thick paint on the charm.  Tip : Don't throw away the plastic cups. No need to clean them either. Vintaj Patina like Swellegant dries pretty fast - about 15 minutes.  So I just add more of the same color to the cups in the next painting section. 

Again, like Swellegant, the Vintaj sealer as a final coat is a must.

COLORING ENGRAVINGS

Coloring the grooves of the letter charms was easy with three of the products. The fine tip marker pens, Swellegant metal coating and Vintaj Patina can be applied carefully. Any spillover onto the top of the charms should be wiped away immediately.






FINAL PROJECTS

The TierraCast antiqued silver scallop shell components shown below are actually delicate buttons. I converted them into all in one shank button earrings.  See my wire work tutorial here for the instructions. 

I applied Swellegant brass coating only on the low portions of the shell buttons. These were sealed before I added the wiring for making the ear wire and connecting the buttons. The result is a unique rustic look without too much effort! 


I just added a touch of Swellegant Brass on the bees for these pair of earrings using TierraCast small bee charms and the matching honeycomb links


These TierraCast monstera leaf components are small buttons. I only covered half of the charms with Vintaj Patina in moss green

I converted the buttons into easy charms by adding jump rings to the shanks at the back. Note that if you did only that, the buttons will flop forwards. So I used Hypo Cement glue with its precision tip, to carefully glue the jump rings to the back of the buttons.




I also liked TierraCast's smaller charms for stud earrings.


I'm slowing reviving my long dormant Youtube channel.  So please LIKE the short introductory video I made on painting metal to encourage me to do more!


I haven't yet decided what to do with the rest of the components and charms I colored but adding just a little color does make them look different. These were spruced up with Vintaj Patinas. 



Aims is the Canadian jewelry designer behind Big Blue Barn Designs.  I am a novice at metal painting so she graciously sent me photos of her beautiful work using Vintaj Patinas on her often copper etched metallic designs.  These include decorating her silver plated heart charms. Aims said the painting effectively covered up areas where the silver plating had come off! Thanks for the inspirations!


Where this metalsmith really excels is her copper earrings and cuffs. She uses a combination of metal etching techniques and Vintaj Patinas to create her striking designs!  Such wonderful inspirations!











Before You Go:
Photography 
I used  my iPhone 8+ for final product photography in natural light. I used  the Orangemonkie studio which comes equipped with LED lights - for artificial light photography in my windowless basement studio. The Foldio2 Plus is excellent . I use the Foldio3 because I need the room for tutorial photography. My online class Easy Guide to Smartphone Jewelry Photography is now available. Read more about it here.  


Disclosure 
 This blog may contain affiliate links. I do receive a small fee for any products purchased through affiliate links. This goes towards the support of this blog and to provide resource information to readers. The opinions expressed are solely my own. They would be the same whether or not I receive any compensation. 
 ______________________________ 
Original Post by THE BEADING GEM 

14 comments:

  1. Great post,since I too use a lot of colour, here are my two cents. Any paste incl Gilder like you rightly pointed out needs a rough or textured surface - it works great on filigree as well. You get good effects when you apply with your fingers or a soft cloth. Swellegant is good for giving a coating all over a component but if it streaks then you have a hard time covering it up. Yes, it can get clumpy if not applied properly. A dedicated fine bristle brush can be used to avoid most flaws. Patina inks are the easiest and most durable on smooth surfaces. Upto half inch spills can be cleaned up using hand sanitizer and a Qtip/wet wipe. My suggestion, pour it onto a plastic sheet/craft mat than a cup to avoid wastage. But if you want the enamelled look then nail polish is the best for small areas. The yare extremely durable if you seal them well.

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    1. Thanks for sharing your experiences - they validate mine! I have used wax paper instead of plastic cups. I prefer the latter as I save them for reuse!

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  2. Hmmm, I learned much here! I would have used nail polish to color the charms... I haven't actually tried it but I'd think it would stick well after cleaning/prepping the surface. So cool to see Big Blue Barns Designs- very creative!

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    1. You also have to be careful about sealing when using enamel and enamel like paints including nail polish.

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  3. That's a useful read, Pearl! I've been wanting to add color to charms for a long time but as I have no affordable access to Vintaj or the other products (shipping to Bulgaria is too expensive), I tried with permanent markers (Sharpies) and nail polish. The Sharpies looked good on silver color charms but I have no idea how durable they would be. I tried to seal them with nail polish and it smudged the colors. I used red nail polish on some charms and they looked good. Aims's designs are very beautiful and interesting!

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    1. Do you live in Sofia or near it? I googled and found there are craft stores there!

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    2. I live in Sofia and we have many craft stores but there are no patinas for metal. I found some Vintaj alcohol inks that were not specifically for use on metals and they didn't work. But I will look for the other products you have mentioned :)

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    3. Bairozan.

      I tried using sharpies on a project and sealing it with my Americana Acrylic Sealer/Finisher. What a mess! The sharpie ran and I had to take rubbing alcohol and remove everything and start over.

      I think you'd be better using acrylic paint and sealing that.

      I do all my painting with toothpicks and the ends of wire dipped into whatever painting I'm doing. I find that I can't get the detail otherwise with brushes. Maybe I haven't found the right brush - stiff - short - with a fine point - so the toothpicks and scrap wire work perfectly for me especially if I'm outlining something with another colour.

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  4. I always apply a couple coats of Americana Acrylic Sealer/Finisher to my pieces. Not only does it keep the Vintaj paints from being scraped off but it also seems to keep them from tarnishing quickly. My cuffs and earrings haven't tarnished and I've been wearing a set for over 4 years now.

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    1. Hi, aims, I checked this brand and it looks like it's not water-based, right? Just to make sure what to look for locally :)

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    2. Hi Bairozan - no it's not water based - it's an acrylic sealer.
      The can says it contains - acetone - toluene - propane - n-butane.

      I've used it on a wide variety of products and it seems to work on everything.

      It's a DecorArt product if that helps.
      www.decoart.com

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  5. Thank you once again for sharing your in depth experiments. I especially liked the idea to glue jump rings to the buttons/charms. You're ingenious!

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You're AWESOME! Thanks for the comment and feedback. You do make a difference on my blog!

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