Metal Embossing Tips – Patina Process for Pewter and Aluminium

How to use patina in your pewter art and metal embossing projects

1) Pewter patina

What is patina and how does it work?

Patina is a highly corrosive, blue coloured chemical liquid used to age pewter. It gives pewter and aged antiqued look.

It is applied to your finished pewter artwork after embossing and filling the design with wax. It can be applied using a brush, foam applicator or cotton wool.

The patina works by lying in the recesses created when embossing your pewter design. The longer you leave it on, the darker the metal becomes and this adds depth and interest to your pewter artwork.

Before applying patina, it is critical to clean your pewter thoroughly with Methylated Spirits to remove any oily residue on the metal, otherwise the patina won’t “take” and might leave the pewter “blotchy”, which is difficult to polish out.

Here are some pictures of what pewter looks like before, during and after the patina process:

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Pewter design before applying patina
Pewter Cow before applying the patina

Pewter design after applying patina, before polishing

After applying Patina
Pewter design after applying patina and polishing
After applying patina and polishing

It is important to know that leaded pewter has a “right” and “wrong” side, and patina won’t take on the wrong side. The wrong side has a blueish tinge, but it can sometimes be difficult to distinguish this if the lighting is poor. A good tip is to test which side is the right side by applying a bit of patina in a corner that won’t be obvious after your design is finished.

Important things to know when working with patina

a) Patina is highly corrosive

Because patina is a highly corrosive chemical liquid, it is important to wear gloves when working with it.

Be careful when working with patina, and please do not let it come into contact with your embossing tools as it will cause it to rust.

If you accidentally got your tools into contact with patina, immediately rinse it off with clear water, as this neutralizes the effect of patina.

b) Patina can be diluted

If you feel the effect of the patina is too strong and it makes the pewter too dark, it can be diluted with a bit of water.

When you choose to do this, mix a little patina and water in a separate, small container, just enough to finish your current project.

c) Patina can become polluted and loose its effect

When working with patina, I advise to pour out a little bit into a small container, and use a seperate piece of cotton wool/fibre every time you apply it.

If you use the same cotton ball you already applied patina with, it will contaminate the remaining patina and it will loose its effect, turning the pewter brown, instead of black.

Herewith a video of how to apply patina to pewter and polish it to a nice shine using metal polish:

How to apply patina to pewter

Copper Patina

Herewith a quick video explaining how to use copper patina to add copper highlights to your pewter

2) Patina process for Aluminium

The process for adding an aged look to Aluminium differs a bit, as patina doesn’t take on aluminium and won’t darken it.

There are various ways to age Aluminium, but the easiest and most cost-effective way is to use black craft paint.

You can see how this is done in this video:

Adding “patina” to Aluminium using black craft paint

Other option to age aluminium include black shoe polish, or coal stove polish.

In this video, I show you how to “polish” Aluminium.

Polishing aluminium after applying patina

Patina on Copper-Plated Aluminium

Lastly, I received a question from Justyna, asking how to do the patina process for copper-plated aluminium.

Now again, as actual chemical patina won’t take on aluminium, copper-plated or not, this is how I answered her question:

I hope you now have a better understanding of the whole patina process, and how pewter patina differs from aluminium patina.

Quick recap video of the Patina Process

If you would like to learn how to emboss metal from start to finish, you can sign up for our online Metal Embossing Made EASY course here.

For your FREE Basic Metal Embossing Techniques Cheat Sheet, please click here.

For all you metal embossing tools and supplies, please visit our online shop here.

And as always, your questions and comments are always welcome!

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