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DIY: My Method for Painting an Antique Gold Patina Finish on Frames

Instructions for creating antiqued finishes abound on the internet- and, trust me, I tried a lot of them in my quest for an authentic antiqued/patinaed finish.

Through trial and error, plus some old trade secrets from the coppersmith workshop where I grew up,  I developed this method for antiquing frames that creates a metallic old-gold finish. The trick? Using a thin coat of high-quality acrylic paint rubbed into crevices to create a faux antique finish that softens the metallic gold with a vintage, slightly grungy feel. Here’s my technique, start to finish. Share your results in the comments below!

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Supplies Neeed for this Tutorial

Rmoving paintfrom highpoints creates the rubbed antique gold patina

How to Paint an Antique Gold Patina Finish

Paint Metallic Gold Undercoat

Begin by painting a gold base coat with gold foil paint

Paint frames with gold foil spray paint, taking care to cover the top and sides of the frames evenly. Gold “foil” spray is essential to get a rich sheet on the final patina. I like the foil spray paint because it’s the best for replicating a real gold brilliance, not just a “gold color”.

Metallic paint overspray can be tough to clean up- so spray paint on a protected surface. I usually paint on my driveway on top of cardboard boxes. The cardboard boxes protect permanent surfaces from overspray and lift the frames up a bit so the process doesn’t require constant bending over to reach all surfaces.

Allow Basecoat to Dry

Before continuing to the next step, the base coat of metallic foil gold paint should be fully dry. In warm air and low humidity, you should be able to continue in about an hour. Paint will dry slower in cooler temperatures and higher humidity.

Prep Towels

This method of creating an antique gold patina works by applying brown paint liberally and then wiping 80% of the paint away- which highlights raised areas and leaves brown paint in crevices. Before spraying the top coat, have towels (more than you expect to need!) handy, plus an easy way to throw them away without staining anything. It’s important to be able to work quickly- before the top coat dries- so be prepared.

Apply Brown Topcoat Paint

the combination of premium brown paint and metallic foil undercoat create a rich, authentic patina

Once the gold paint is completely dry (wait a minimum of an hour or two) Add a thin coat of the Liquitex Professional Spray Paint – Raw Umber, as shown.

NOTE: Not just any brown paint will do. Trust me. I’m a penny pincher, I’ve tried the thrifty route already and resorted to this artist’s grade paint. It makes a HUGE difference.

Liquitex “raw umber” is the perfect tone of brown for creating the authenticity we’re going for. The artist-grade pigments in this spray paint make a huge difference. Rather than the typical watery-texture of spraypaint, this stuff goes on in and even, thick, and buttery coat.

Hand Paint To Get Full Coverage

Use a paintbrush to get the brown paint deep into crevices

Working quickly, use the brush to work the brown paint deeper into crevices of the frame. (At first, your brush will remove more paint that it moves, keep going and add paint if needed until the paintbrush is saturated and moving excess paint into crevices)

Use Towels to Add a Rubbed Finish

Now that the brown paint is deep into crevices, you’ll need to remove paint from the high points of the frame- like edges and ridges – to create that rubbed patina finish.

Wiping the still-wet brown acrylic paint off with a soft, clean rag or paper towel will remove enough acrylic paint from the points to create this effect.

Estimated Cost: 15 USD

Supply:

  • Paint
  • See Supply list

Tools:

  • Paintbrushes

To make your patina less obvious, rub a little more aggressively, clearing more of the brown paint from the crevices.

That’s all it takes! As you can see from the close-up photos, the final effect is a rich, vintage, expensive-looking finish that you can add to dollar store frames and thrift store finds. The more texture and recesses a frame has, the better this technique tends to turn out. Simple, flat frames can still be made a little more aged and elegant looking with this painting method, but the highly ornate style frames explode with depth and interest with the multiple layers of paint and distressing.

Can I use non-spray paints

Can I paint a Antique Gold Patina without Spraypaint

This project depends on having a highly viscous, but highly pigmented paint for the top coat. This viscosity allows the brown paint to seep into cracks and crevices and give the appearance of age. It may be possible to replicate this without spray paint, but you’d likely need a product like high flow raw umber paint.

Variations:

Creating a “Dirty Antique Gold” Patina Finish

When I was in college, I experimented with a similar antiquing method to create a grittier version of this antique gold finish. To add grit and the appearance of age, you can try the method I used: sprinkling sifted soil on the wet paint after the top coat is applied. By adding a dusting of literal grit, and then rubbing it into the cracks and crevices, you may get closer to the antique gold finish you’re looking for.

Professional artist spray paint is the trick. The high pigment paint sinks into crevices creating the patina we want
Professional spray paint is the trick. The high pigment paint sinks into crevices creating the patina we want

Using Cloth Rags instead of Paper Towels

I used to think Acrylic paint would stain permanently anything it touched, but hosting Bob Ross Paint-Along Parties taught me that that’s not the case! The secret? Have a big bucket of water handy and immediately submerge acrylic-paint saturated rags. As long as the paint doesn’t dry on fabric, it will wash out!  Since you’ll get a LOT of paint on your rags with this method, be sure and give your rags a thorough handwash before tossing them in a washing machine, especially if your washer is a low-water washer or a portable washing machine. A prewash will prevent paint transfer onto your washer, pipes, or clothing. 

One of my frames after the last step of this diy gold antiquing method

Want to learn more about using this technique on objects other than frames? I use this technique, modified slightly, to preserve and present vintage metal objects like old horse shoes. Click the image below to visit my tutorial on gilding & antiquing old horse shoes:

framed gold equestrian horse shoe
If you love gold it can be tempting to create a wall of all gold frames, however balancing antiqued gold frames with vintage frames in other colors- perhaps containing gold accents within the framed image/object, creates variety and interest on your wall.

Bob

Friday 17th of December 2021

I have a mirror with a frame like this that is currently antique gold, but we have changed our colors in the room and I would like to try and change it to a silver. If I try this technique with silver foil paint, would burnt umber still work or should I use a black?

Lindsayanne Brenner

Tuesday 21st of December 2021

GREAT question! I would use black to replicate tarnish in crevices.

Frances Brothers

Saturday 20th of November 2021

I really want to try your method, but am also having trouble finding the products to buy. Michael’s has Liquitex raw umber paint in a tube. Would that be a satisfactory substitute for the spray paint? And Lowe’s doesn’t have the Krylon foil gold but they have Krylon gold that is supposed to look like gold leaf. These are the products I may have to settle for.

Lindsayanne Brenner

Saturday 11th of December 2021

I have never tried this method with anything other than the spray paint- spray paint creates a brush-stroke free finish and reaches into the crevices of ornate frame- but you might be able to get similar results with a paintbrush.

Doris Rudd

Saturday 2nd of October 2021

Having trouble finding the Krylon Foil Metallic gold spray paint. Has it been discontinued? I can find Krylon metallic gold. Is there another brand that could work?

Excited to try this technique on some old gold color picture frames. The colors all vary and I'd like them to be the same color. I think your process may work well.

Lindsayanne Brenner

Monday 4th of October 2021

Hi Doris, from Krylon's website, it looks like it's still an active line. Finding a specific spray paint can be tricky, though, because online retailers don't like to carry and ship spray paint due to the special handling required, and brick and mortar stores often don't stock a full line. I'd recommend trying a big box hobby/craft store if you are having trouble finding it online.

Lorraine

Wednesday 29th of September 2021

Hello, I ordered some of the liquitex spray in raw umber that you had recommended in your antiquing frames segment. Received the paint and it is beige, did I order the wrong color? Any idea why the color isn't the same. Thank you

Lindsayanne Brenner

Wednesday 29th of September 2021

Hi Lorraine- that sounds frustrating! Was the can fully shake before spraying? Raw Umber is a pretty standardized color- especially from an artist's grade paint manufacturer like Liquitex. If shaking it well doesn't have it spraying a true raw Umber, you should exchange it with the store you purchased it from for another can.

Mary O.

Monday 18th of January 2021

This is exactly the finish, “Dirty Antique Gold” variation, I've been looking for to paint the un-pretty metal base on my thrifted coffee table! Thank you so much. I won't be tackling the project until after I move hopefully within six months.