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

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!

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Supplies needed: gold foil paint, brown acrylic spray paint, a chip brush, paper towels, and frame(s)


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.

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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

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)

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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:

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To make your patina less obvious, rub a little more aggressively, clearing more of the brown paint from the crevices.DIY antiqued gold frames 65

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. 




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.


My method for creating an authentic antique gold patina on thrift store frames, metal objects, and even period costume props

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Wednesday 3rd of April 2019

Hi, I just wanted to double check the brown spray paint! Your link goes to a Burnt Sienna, your post says Burnt Umber, but the picture of the can of spray paint says Raw Umber haha.

I'm so excited to try this, but I want to make sure I'm getting the right thing since it's kinda pricey! Please let me know :)


Wednesday 3rd of April 2019

SO glad you checked! I remember feeling these frames were a bit more reddish-hued than I liked, so recommend the one I linked- Burnt Sienna (but any medium/dark brown should work). I think for this project the viscosity of the paint plays a bigger role in success than the color.


Friday 21st of October 2016

I loved all the ideas. Especially removing rust. My dad was a blacksmith and I have forge tools that are rusted and want to clean and display them. Thank you so much!