If you’re wondering, “Can you patina copper leaf?” you’re in the right place. Patina is a natural process that can happen when metal comes in contact with oxygen and water vapor. Though natural, the look is often so beautiful that people have worked hard to figure out how to replicate it on their own.
In this post, we’ll detail the methods you can use to patina copper as well as the results you can expect to get from each. So, if that sounds good to you, get ready — we’re uncovering the details right now!
Table of Contents
- Does Patina Work on Copper?
- How Do You Make Copper Leaf Look Old?
- What Is the Fastest Way to Patina Copper?
- Patina Copper With Sodium Sulfide Solution
- How to Seal Patina on Copper
- Can You Copper Leaf Patina? Absolutely!
Does Patina Work on Copper?
Yes, patina will absolutely work on copper. Copper naturally “tarnishes” over time anyway, unlike real gold. Therefore, you can expedite the oxidation process by applying a mild acid to achieve the desired effect you’re going for.
How Do You Make Copper Leaf Look Old?
Copper leaves that look old are often the result of patina. In natural terms, this patina look is the result of copper oxidized copper items that can yield different colors depending on how long they’ve sat and what was applied to it.
Patina copper yields an antique look that is one of a kind and a beautiful sight to behold. Shades of green patina, brown patina, blue patina, magenta patina, and other colors come alive when copper has a mild acid applied to it.
So, how exactly can you go about oxidizing copper leaf? We’re glad you asked!
How to Oxidize Copper Leaf
There are several ways you can oxidize copper leaf. We’ll give you just a few to start before breaking down the steps on our favorite way to patina copper later on in this post.
Tried and true methods to form copper patinas include mixing:
- White vinegar with potato chips
- 6 tablespoons white vinegar with 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 part Miracle Gro with three parts water (patina forms green shade here)
- 1 part Miracle Gro with three parts red wine vinegar (patina forms blue shade here)
- Use of dry chemical and water (we use sodium sulfide which yields a variety of colors)
- Mashed boiled eggs in a bag (place your copper items in the bag and let sit until it reaches a light brown or dark brown color–the sulfur from the eggs is what causes the chemical reaction here)
- Ammonia vapors (yields blue patina)
What Is the Fastest Way to Patina Copper?
There are many quick ways to patina copper, especially if you use the methods mentioned in the previous segment. Though you should see results in as little as 30 minutes with nearly all of the aforementioned methods, you should know that getting your final desired color and outcome may take more time.
Still, you can expect patina done with a dry solution (such as sodium sulfide) mixed with water to be one of the faster solutions, although you’ll need to be careful when handling this caustic substance. More details on how to go about using patina this way coming up!
Patina Copper With Sodium Sulfide Solution
When choosing to patina copper using either sodium sulfide or any of the aforementioned methods above, it is best to do so on an object that is already gilded. Never lay loose copper sheets in water or liquid, as it is much too delicate to handle such an event. Instead, pick a copper item, copper object, or copper piece that is already gilt to apply your selected acid.
Before getting started with a patina solution using sodium sulfide, it is important to know general safety procedures. Be sure to wear protective gloves and safety goggles during the entirety of the process. Also, be sure to work only in a well-ventilated area to prevent yourself from inhaling fumes. Lastly, always be sure to add your dry chemical to water and not water to chemical.
Note that this method also works for gold and silver gilding metals, though the focus of this post is mainly on copper leaf.
To get started, you’ll need:
- 1/8 teaspoon dry chemical/1/4 cup warm water
- Protective gloves and safety glasses
- spray bottle filled with water
- Tissue paper
- Damp sponge soaked in sodium sulfide
- Paper towels (for drying afterward)
- A soft brush (for pushing tissue paper onto copper objects)
Lay your copper leaf using typical application methods
Spritz copper lain piece with a water bottle to provide a layer of moisture
Lay cheesecloth directly over the wet surface.
Lay tissue paper on top of the cheesecloth.
Spritz the tissue paper with water using the spray bottle. This helps it better adhere to your copper surface.
Once you’ve got the cheesecloth and tissue paper adhered to your copper surface, you’ll want to take your damp sponge and soak it in your sodium sulfide. Be SURE to wear protective gloves during this phase.
Use the soaked sponge to apply your sodium sulfide to the tissue paper over your copper leaf surface.
Once the sodium sulfide has been applied, let the tissue paper, solution, and copper soak until you achieve the color you want. Remember that sodium sulfide will first produce orange, then magenta, then bluer patina. You may want to do a test run to determine just how long you’ll need to let your mild acid sit to achieve the coloring you want. The longer the chemical stays put the more chemical reaction it will undergo.
Once finished, give the newly patina copper surface a spray down to remove unwanted chemicals and to stop the color-changing process.
Dry with a paper towel and set aside.
How to Seal Patina on Copper
If you’ve followed the instructions above, you likely love your new patina copper objects. Allow the new patina piece to dry overnight before topping it with lacquer, varnish, or shellac. This will protect your copper patina and prevent it from tarnishing.
Can You Copper Leaf Patina? Absolutely!
Not only can you copper leaf patina, but it looks absolutely beautiful once you have done so. Though shiny copper can be a sight to see on its own, turning gilded items into copper green, blue, magenta, or light brown colors can be purely majestic.
Use patina solution methods to give copper jewelry an antiquated look or use it on vases, artwork, or other pieces to breathe new life into it. Either way, know that copper patina can be achieved in a variety of ways; it’s up to you to determine which works best to achieve your desired outcome!
There are patina “aging” solutions out there that may help you patina a copper painted item.
If blue patina is what you seek, try mixing three parts red wine vinegar with one part Miracle Gro. This tends to yield a rich blue hue that is absolutely stunning to look at. You can also use ammonia vapors but be careful to use an abundance of precaution when selecting this method.