Thrifty Decorating: Faux Verdigris Finish
Verdigris Paint Effect: From Gaudy to Elegant
The photo shows three items I painted over a span of years. Verdigris -- or rather faux verdigris -- has been one of my favorite paint finishes for most of my adult life. It's an easy-to-apply paint finish that looks good in shabby chic and Tuscan style rooms... as well as the genuinely shabby.
Faux patina doesn't take a lot of talent, and it can be applied to used items after just a clean-up or wipe down. It's a good choice for thrift store items or things you find in your garage (or your parent's garage if you're young enough and so inclined). It can give cheap accessories an elegant look and make the merely old look antique.
How do you know if an item is a good candidate for a verdigris makeover? The object doesn't necessarily have to be metal, but it should look like it could be made of metal. Ornate items look good in a blue-green patina. You'll have an easy time creating verdigris if you go with items that are already gold or bronze colored (whether real metal or a heavy-handed paint job). If you like the verdigris look, you'll want to train your eyes to look for the color gold when you go into a thrift store. Gaudy gold spray paint? No problem -- bring it on home.
Image by the author
Assembling Materials and Getting Started
You can use a kit or purchase paints or glazes in teal, aqua, and (optionally) white. Opaque paint will work if you apply it lightly enough, but a thin glaze gives an especially nice effect -- you might want to purchase extender.
Many people apply colors in a step-by-step almost scientific way, going from dark to light. I recommend blending colors on a palette instead. You go mostly from dark to light, mixing as you go, but the colors aren't entirely distinct. Use sponges or sponge brushes to apply the paint and a finer bristle brush for crevices.
Optional is stencil cream in white and gold.
Making a Faux Patina Flower Pot - Stages of the ProcessClick thumbnail to view full-size
Creating the Perfect Patina
On a metallic surface
Begin with an item that's painted in a copper, gold, or bronze hue. Clean it with soap and water or Chlorox wipes.
Use a sponge to dab on some deep teal glaze. You can use a spouncing or drybrush technique. Let some of the metal show through in places.
Add a lighter aqua and blend together on the palette. It's not necessary to keep the layers distinct.
Continue to add progressively lighter shades of turquoise. Finish with a bit of transparent white glaze or white stencil cream applied lightly here and there.
Optional: For a custom look, dab a bit of gold or copper stencil cream here and there as well. Again, use a light touch! I believe the miniature and the frame pictured here both have a bit of a metallic accent added at the end.
Ask yourself if it looks right. You can work backwards if you need a bit more of something.
Things that Look Good in Verdigris
- Metal Picture Frames
- Old Bathroom Cabinets (can be reborn as display cases)
- Flower Pots
- Old Metal Daybeds
- Mirror Frames
- Door Knobs and Fixtures
- Candle Holders
- Metal Doll Furniture
A Secret Ingredient: Folk Art Extender
Extender increases open time (giving you longer to work and making your brush strokes more forgiving). It will also make acrylic paint more transparent... and runny. It can mask brush strokes and help your patina look as if it really was created by water. You can buy this in 2, 4, or 8 oz sizes... or online in packs.
Folk Art Extender is the product that I've used, and it's an economical and effective one, but I suspect that other acrylic craft products that use the word "float" would also work. You can generally mix different acrylic products, but not completely different types of paint.
Faux Verdigris Finish Video
Here you can see how to turn old toys into brushed copper art. There's an extra step here. The artist begins by base coating the pieces a deep metallic shade. He uses different materials but does blend them on a makeshift palette -- blending is recommended for a realistic look.
If you are more confident buying your materials together as a kit, there are several options. The Decoart kit is one that I have seen at craft stores. it's designed to go on any paintable surface. It includes a bronze base coat and two shades of teal.
I am less familiar with the Vintaj Patina Kit. It has been designed to let you paint on metal. All three colors in the weathered copper kit are shades of blue or green -- I guess that's because they expect you'll have real metal peeking out from beneath. But for a little extra metallic glitter, you can add in the ancient coins kit.
I haven't used the Perfect Pearls set either. I understand it's suitable for paper and petite craft items.
More Resources for Creating Verdigris Paint Effects
It seems everyone has a different technique!