Instructions for creating antiqued finishes abound on the internet- and, trust me, I tried a bunch of them in my quest for an authentic antiqued/patinaed finish.
Through trial and error using other tutorials, plus some old secrets from the copper-smith shop where I grew up, I developed this method for antiquing that creates a metallic old-gold finish, using a thin coat of high quality acrylic paint rubbed into crevices to create a faux dirty 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!
- Liquitex Professional Spray Paint – Burnt Umber
- Krylon Foil Metallic Gold Spray
- 1 Chip Brush (or other very large, soft-bristled brush
- Paper Towels (lots of them!) rags will work but require special cleaning*
- A box or trash can where you can toss paint-soaked paper towels.
STEP 1. – Paint Undercoat
Paint frames with gold foil spray paint, taking care to cover top and sides evenly. I usually paint on my driveway on top of cardboard boxes. The cardboard boxes protect permanent surfaces from overspray and lift the frames I’m painting up a bit so the process doesn’t require constant bending over.
I like the foil spray paint because it’s the best for replicating a real gold brilliance, not just a “gold color”.
STEP 2. Dry, then Apply Topcoat
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 – Burnt Umber, as shown.
Notice I did NOT say “brown spray paint” friends. 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.
The “burnt 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 milky-texture of spraypaint, this stuff goes on sort of thick and buttery- and very evenly.
Step 3. Hand-Paint
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)
Step 4. Creating a Rubbed Patina Finish
Now that the brown paint is worked into crevices, you’ll need to remove paint from the high points of the frame- like edges and ridges.
Wipe the still-wet brown acrylic paint off with a soft, clean paper towel will remove enough acrylic paint from the points and ridges to create this effect:
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.
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, to prevent paint transfer onto your washer, pipes, or clothing.
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:
Lindsayanne is a professional artist, writer, and serial-DIY-er with a knack for solving problems creatively at home, in the studio, out in the garden, and even online. Learn more about Lindsay, her training, and her background here.