How to resemble metal looks with paints

Hi all,

For a project we are trying to achieve a steampunk look and feel.
Certain props need to get the look of copper (slightly weathered, not green shaded - but darkened) and others silver (shiny). 

We already applied some paint, but unfortunately are not that satisfied with the achieved results so far.

The way we build up the layers:

For copper: 1. Modern Masters Primer 2. Modern Masters Copper Paint (applied with spray gun).
For silver: 1. Motip Black spray paint 2. Liquitex Silver spray paint (water based)

It just misses that extra feel to bring it to live, and the look as if it's really metal. 

I'll add some pictures of the current state. 

Any help, advice and tips would be very appreciated! :)

Thanks guys,
Teun - Imagineer ImagicalWorks


  • As with any weathering job, I suggest starting by looking up reference photos of similar metals and assemblies to see how they weather over time.

    Here's what I would do for the copper:
    1. Lightly polish the surface with some steel wool to add fine scratches and buff up the surface a bit.
    2. Hit it with some hard edged objects to add dents, nicks, etc.
    3. Make a dark brown wash with acrylic.
    4. Spray or brush the acrylic wash onto the surface, then quickly wipe it off with a rag or paper towel.  This leaves the wash in the scratches, nicks, corners, and deep areas, popping the detail and making it feel a bit more real.
    5. A subtle light green wash in the deeper cracks also helps a lot to make it feel real/weathered.
    6. Lightly dry brush any raised edges (like the rivets) with a brighter copper enamel paint.  Testors makes a good copper enamel.  You can mix it with a bit of gold enamel to brighten it a bit if it does not stand out enough.  This simulates areas that have been scuffed with use, scratching away the patina/weathering to reveal fresher copper
    7. (optional) seal it all with a semi-gloss clear coat to protect the weathering

    I would do the same thing for the silver metal.  Scuff/scratch it, dark/black washes, silver dry brush.  You can also add some brown and reddish-brown washes to simulate rust.  I would also add some dark drips coming out from the base of the valve to simulate oil/lubricant stains.  You can also simulate patches of rust with glue and cinnamon. (gives a great texture)

    Another option is to spray the washes on heavily and then lightly spray water on them.  This creates streaky stains.   Typically this is done with many layers, so allow each layer to dry (hair dryer comes in handy) before applying the next, or your new wash will remove the old one.  Also make sure the part is in the same orientation it will be installed in, so the drips/streaks appear natural.

    Here's a quick sample of this method applied to create an aged brass effect.

    Unfortunately this photo was taken before the dry brush phase, which added a lot to the effect.

    And here is a shot after dry brushing and a clear gloss coat.

    Best of luck!

  • Hi Chris,

    Thanks a lot for your extensive comment. Really useful! We are definitely going to apply the tips you mention.

    Just a quick remark: Actually, what we want to try is to start with a new base color. In our opinion both colors should start off way more shiny. Just like the props would come straight out of the factory. Afterwards we want to age and weather them with the mentioned tips. So for instance 70% of surface is threated, 30% stays untouched/ shiny. Our guess is the solution would lie in using synthetic paints, instead of water based paints. Does anyone have any experience with this? What materials should we use? Which steps to follow in applying layers etc..

    so basically: How to create brand new 'factory' silver and copper?

    Thanks :)
  • In addition, some images:

    Detail from the original render (copper and silver):

    reference weathered copper:

  • I would try enamel spray paints.  Rustoleum makes great metallic spray paints.

    Alclad makes amazing metallic paints, but they are a bit more expensive.

    And of corse this lesson on metallic painting is a great place to start:


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