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
Protectaclear by Everbrite
Tools I use in the video:
Foredom lathe (https://www.foredom.net/)
Rio Grande (all jewelry making)
Patina Products (for those who want to create “fake” faster patina)
Swellegant (and other) patinas
15 thoughts on “How to Create Blue Patina on Copper”
Beautiful! Thank you🌺
Thanks so much for this — I’ve been trying to figure out how to seal my patinaed copper and love the tip on Protectaclear. Do you spray or brush it on?
Thanks for visiting! I use the can version of Protectaclear and wipe it on with a foam brush. I hang them to dry and check for drips a few minutes after applying (I sponge the drip on the bottom so it doesn’t get too thick with several coats.)
These came out so beautiful!! Love the different colors of blue coming out!! Thank you for showing the complete process in an easy way too! 🥰
Thank you so much for your tutorial. The jewelry is beautiful! Can you please clarify a couple things?
1) You said if the patina doesn’t work, sometimes you have to start over. Do you mean you would pour fresh ammonia and do the same process all over? Or do you have to clean off whatever patina has developed and start again with clean metal?
2) In the description of your copper verdigris oval earrings you mentioned that you added metal dioxides. Is that a different process that you didn’t mention in the tutorial? If it is and you don’t mind mentioning how to do this, that would be great! The colours are so beautiful.
Thank you very much!
Thank you for your comments! To answer your questions, 1) Yes, with starting over I mean completely start over. Clean the metal, and start with new ammonia. 2) Metal dye-oxides are a cross between solvent based dyes and patinas. They essentially act like colorants, but blend well with patina. I used Swellegant product on that particular pair in addition to growing patina the usual way. It’s all about experimenting. If you want to go that route, you could also use a patina product with the dye oxides. Sometimes those type of patinas are called accelereators, meaning that they create real patina (oxidize the metal), but are applied from the bottle and take time to develop. (Many manufactures make patina products, Swellegant, Jax, Midas, etc.) You can add both to one piece if you like or layer them and see what happens. You could even put the piece you applied the products onto into a regular ammonia fumigating patina container to see what happens. I’ve tried that a few times and sometimes it works, sometimes not. It’s all about experimenting and having fun! But that said, the “real” patina growing is the most satisfying, because you created it “all by yourself” naturally.
Mari, thank you so much for taking the time to reply to me with such helpful detail. I’m excited to give this a try! Wishing you all the best!
Hi, may I ask what percentage is the liquid ammonia you are using? I mean the solution percentage
I think it’s full ammonia, no percentage. It’s the common household ammonia you find at any cleaning isle.
Hi I am doing the same exact thing with mine but it’s not turning blue it’s green I don’t understand what I’m doing wrong it’s pretty simple basic instructions but for some reason mine won’t turn blue and it’s frustrating me because I just love the blue so much but it wont work for me ugh!;(
You are experiencing patina mysteries! It happens, sometimes it won’t grow at all. Usually you get blue with ammonia and green with vinegar, but it is not always guaranteed. I get really dark green sometimes or very dark blue black. The atmospheric conditions affect the patina, weather, your room environment. Maybe try in a different room during different weather pattern. Make sure your copper is clean and dry when you put it in ammonia mixture. At times I have to try multiple times, other times the patina grows beautifully in one day. Sometimes I have two containers going and one grows great, but the other doesn’t. Try again and you may be pleasantly surprised!
Hi there, I gave the ammonia patina a go and it gave me lots of dark and medium blues. When I took the copper and left it to dry, the beautiful dark blues faded away in to turquoise. Is there a way to keep the really nice dark blue colours that come out? thanks!
You will get different results on different days. I would do another batch and keep experimenting. Also, often times the longer you keep the piece in the darker it will get. It’s a mysterious reaction, one day you may get a result you’ve never gotten before even if you’ve been doing patina for years!
Hi there, I love the deep dark blues you get – do you let them dry for a day or two, then ProtectaClear them – and does it retain the lively dark colour? I tried an ammonia/salt patina and for a day or two it had nice colours, but they faded within 2-3 days.
That’s interesting, because I haven’t experienced any fading, when they dry completely they get brighter. I actually let them dry twice, first after I take them out and then after I rinse them with water. They need to be completely dry when you coat them. Depending on the weather it may take anywhere from half day to 2 days to dry. I would try again, clean your copper real good. Putting some surface texture by sanding may help, too.