How do you create patina on copper? I am talking about the natural way, without harsh chemicals or fake paints. You may have seen natural patina on statues and other copper elements that are exposed to the elements outdoors.
You can accelerate this natural reaction by exposing copper to fumes of ammonia and salt or vinegar and salt. All you need to use are ingredients already in your kitchen cabinet.
How to make the patina happen? It’s really not very difficult or exact science. Ammonia creates a more blue patina in color and vinegar a more green patina. In this tutorial I am using ammonia because I want to create the blue variation. You can use various containers, random amounts of ammonia, and most likely something will happen. I don’t use an exact recipe, mostly because there are other factors that affect the result. Copper reacts to atmospheric conditions, so, for example, humidity in the air may affect the results. If you want more detailed explanation you may want to ask a scientist who is familiar with these factors and metals. The surface preparation of the copper is also important if you want consistent results. “Hey, if it doesn’t work try again. Something was off with the atmosphere!”
Its actually rather interesting to watch this all natural phenomenon to happen. It is a fun and the results are always slightly different. That’s part of the never ending wonderment, why you keep being interested. You get varied end results and color variations. Read on for instructions and a link to a full tutorial video on Youtube.
Ingredients for Creating Patina
- copper sheet metal or precut copper blanks
- salt in salt shaker style container
- plastic container with lid (e.g. large yogurt container)
- copper cleaning agent (Bar Keepers Friend or Bon Ami work also)
- copper wire
- tweezers or small pliers
Safety suggestion: wear safety glasses
Copper Patina Creation Instructions
- Start with clean copper. Yes, it needs to be clean. Don’t touch the copper with your fingers after you have cleaned it, use tweezers or your pliers.
- Add some ammonia in your plastic container, just about so it coats the bottom. Sprinkle on some salt. Soak your clean copper pieces in this mixture for a few minutes.
- Prepare your wire to hang your copper pieces with and make small holes on the sides of the plastic container. (I use 24 gauge copper wire, a new piece every time. If you reuse the same wire it will eventually brake when it corrodes.) Hang them so they dangle over the liquid of ammonia and salt, sprinkle some salt on them and close the lid.
- Now you wait. You can keep on checking on your copper pieces to see the advancements with patina. Just don’t let the cover be off for too long. (Try to keep your nose away when you open, the fumes are powerful.) Some days the patina grows fast (within hours), other times you need to wait for three days to get the same result. Sometimes the patina just doesn’t seem to grow very good and it’s time to start over. (The atmosphere! Don’t get discouraged.)
- When your pieces have enough patina, take them out of the container to dry. (Carefully with tweezers because the patina can be a little fragile when it is wet.) Let them air dry well, this will also show you the actual color of the patina.
- Rinse the patina pieces gently with water to get the ammonia off. Let the water run on slowly, or you will wash off some of the patina. You can also just put water in a container and soak them for a while.
- Let them dry again thoroughly. (If you coat them when they are wet you are in trouble, the patina will keep changing under the clear coat.)
- Coat with your preferred clear coat. I use Protectaclear, 2-3 layers, let dry in between. (I also wipe my pieces with alcohol before I coat them, but it may be overkill. If you do, let dry before coating.)
Sources and Equipment
Samples of Finished Patina Jewelry