How to paint a shiny brass light fixture to look like it has an aged verdigris finish. This faux finish paint technique can easily be done with inexpensive craft paints.
I finally did it! It has been a long time since I last mentioned it, but the shiny brass light that hangs over my kitchen island has a new look.
I like the look of unique light fixtures, especially ones with age and character and that have a bit of greenish patina. Do you remember the cheap-o brass builder chandelier I aged with paint a few years ago?
I truly disliked the fixture, but with no budget to buy new, I experimented and painted it to look old. I added strings of crystals and it has become one of my favorite DIY projects.
So when I updated my kitchen cabinets last summer with brushed nickel hardware, my shiny 15 year old polished brass light fixture needed an update. I decided to transform it with paint to look like verdigris.
What is Verdigris?
ver-di-gris [vur-di-grees] noun
Verdigris is a green or bluish patina that forms on copper, brass or bronze surfaces exposed to the atmosphere fr long periods of time, consisting principally of basic copper sulfate.
Painting verdigris is easier than it looks.
It is achieved by layering different colors of paint onto a surface.
Here are my inspiration photos I collected from tumblr, BH&G, and Traditional Home.
As you can see verdigris can take on a few different hues – light to dark greens.
I like the color of the square lights in the bottom photo and tried to achieve that color for my kitchen island light. It is not too light or dark and has a hint of copper showing through.
To paint the light I used: white, light and medium shades of turquoise, emerald green, and metallic copper paint.
The process of painting verdigris is nothing more than dabbing, brushing, and blotting a mixture of paint mixed with glaze onto the surface and then taking a step back to take a look to determine where more or less color and texture is needed.
The actual painting time for transforming the light was about an hour. It took me a few days to complete it only because I had to let it dry between each coat.
How to Paint a Faux Verdigris Finish
Having a photo to keep as a reference as you paint will help guide you to get the color just right. Look closely at the layers on the piece in a photo or a actual item to choose your colors.
I could not create this effect without these 2 items, they are what make the paint take on a translucent and layered look.
The first is clear glazing liquid. I found Simply Glaze at my local True Value Hardware. If you are not familiar with what a glaze is or does, here is the 101.
What is Clear Paint Glaze?
Clear glaze is a water-based medium that when mixed with paint creates a transparent paint. When glaze is mixed with paint, not only does it add transparency to the paint, but also allows you more time to move the paint around into crevices and detailed areas to achieve a desired color look or finish.
How much paint in ratio to glaze in a mix will change the transparency. More glaze = more transparency. Less glaze = more opaque. This is because it dries slowly. Glaze is not shiny by itself, but will take on the sheen of the paint you mix with it.
The other item that is needed when painting a verdigris finish is Natural Sea Sponges. Note the plural in sponges. Most sponges are sold in a size that fits into the palm of your hand.
When painting a large surface like a wall in a faux finish, a large size sea sponge is fine to use.
When doing smaller items, smaller sized sea sponges are better to use.
I like this bag of small sponges because to get a realistic look, you need to have many different textures and patterns. Using a few sea sponges will create a variety of pattern and shapes being applied.
If you use the same sponge and the same side of it when dabbing on paint, it will create the same look. You need to create variation.
I sometimes rip the smaller sponges and use the new ripped edge to add another texture to the pieces I paint.
These are the steps I used to paint the faux verdigris, but no two painted finishes will look the same.
To make it look realistic, you need to layer each color on to the surface and then create a little bit of texture with the sea sponge at the same time.
- Paint – I used acrylic craft paints in the following colors:
- White, Greenish Turquoise, Pale Turquoise, Medium Turquoise, Decor Arts in Plantation Green, Folk Art in Metallic Copper
- Old splayed bristle paint brush
- Small tipped paint brush
- Mixing bowls
- Spray bottle of water
- Paint stirrer
1. Clean the light surface well to remove all grease and dust; let dry.
2. With a small sea sponge or a brush, brush on or dab a coat of medium green turquoise paint. Do not use glaze. Let dry.
3. In a mixing bowl, mix 1 part light turquoise paint to 3 parts glaze. Mix well. I later transferred this mix to a divided tray so I could hold 2 colors in my hand as I worked.
4. In a small bowl, mix 3 tablespoons of water and one tablespoon of white paint together.
Apply all over the surface of the light with a small sea sponge. (wet and wring out sea sponge before using it, this will make it absorb paint) Let it get drippy and show the texture of the sponge. This drippy look mimics how rain would hit real verdigris. Let dry.
You can even use a spray bottle of water to spray the just painted surface to make the paint/glaze drip a little.
5. Mix medium turquoise paint and glaze together, Mix well. I used a ratio of about 50% each.
6. Apply the medium turquoise paint and glaze mixture with a sea sponge. Dab it all over, then blot sponge on paper towel and go back to remove some of the paint. Keep doing this until you like what you see.
7. Apply the light turquoise paint and glaze mixture again. Repeat the application and dabbing off process as you did for previous layers/coats until you like what you see. Let dry.
7. Mix Plantation or an emerald green color and glaze together – 1 tablespoon of each.
8. Wet sponge with water and wring out before dipping in paint. Apply it to the light with a small wet sea sponge. Use dabs as well as just rub the sponge over the surface to create different textures to the layer of paint.
Let dry for about 5 minutes and then begin to dab some of it off. Blot sponge on paper towel and keep removing paint to expose the under layers of color.
Remove more or less depending on the overall color you are trying to achieve.
It should look something like this after you remove some of the emerald green. You can stop right here or if you want to add the look of copper, follow the directions below.
9. Dip a clean damp sea sponge into metallic copper paint. Dab it all over the surface of the light, making sure to move it as you dab so you don’t dab the same sponge pattern all over.
Let it dry for about 5 minutes then using a dry splayed bristle paint brush, quickly and lightly brush it over the surface to remove some of the copper color.
Dab brush on paper towel a few times to remove the paint, then go back and keep lightly brushing over the surface until you like what you see.
Walk around it to make sure you don’t have any blotches of solid color anywhere, If you do, wet the paint brush to dilute the paint a bit and lightly dust over the surface again until you the blotch of color is blended in.
It is OK to have colors heavier in some areas as this will make it look more realistic.
If at any point you don’t like the color, just add another layer of the color glaze/paint you like over it. Dab it on, spray some water over the surface to mimic how rain would fall on the surface.
I used about 10 layers of paint – some very thin and transparent, others more opaque.
Here is my newly transformed kitchen island light. I did not seal it since I want it to look a bit chalky, just like real verdigris.
If you are thinking about painting verdigris or any type of painted finish on an item, experiment first on something you no longer like or pick up an item at the thrift store to try the paint technique on.
The biggest obstacle when painting anything to look real, is ourselves – we are our own worst critics.
Take a step back and have someone else look at it. If they say – wow that looks so real – your job is done!
Want to Create an Aged Brass Look?
If you want to age shiny brass, but still want it to look gold, check out this instant brass aging technique.
If you like the look of brushed brass, try this bright to brushed brass technique.
Here is how to create an old and rusted brass finish on brass.