Introduction: Blue Patina on Copper

Picture of Blue Patina on Copper

Colour plays a large role in design esthetics.  There are many ways to add colour into Jewellery work,  applying patinas are one of the simplest methods; requiring very little equipment or in some kinds expense.  Copper takes a patina especially well. Every metal has its own personality; I like to think of Copper as an Old, Smelly, Dirty, Drunk, Homeless Man; if you've worked with it, you understand why.  Because Copper is such a dirty Metal it likes to oxidize; in simple terms: put it next to a chemical and it will react by changing colours.  This process is called Patination.

There are hundreds of Chemical Patina Recipes; many requiring expensive, hard to find and potentially dangerous Chemicals, all things I like to avoid whenever possible.  Instead, my favorite Patinas are made by more common household chemicals.  My current favorite household patina, is a brilliant blue made by using:  

1. Clear Ammonia (found in the cleaning aisle of your local grocery store)
2. Table salt
3. Water

Step 1: Making a Fume Chamber

Picture of Making a Fume Chamber

First you will need to construct a fume chamber.  Find a plastic container with a lid (clear if possible), large enough to hold your Copper in.  The Copper will need to be suspended in the container; drill or poke holes in the sides of the container large enough to slide a bit of wire through (any type of wire will do).  Depending on what you wish to patina, you will have to customize the hanging mechanism; I used two wires to support the sheet evenly.

At the bottom of the fume chamber place a bit of paper towel.  Dribble some Ammonia on it; you want it moist but do not soak it. Warning - inhaling Ammonia fumes can be harmful.

The Fume chamber is now ready for use.

Step 2: Preparing the Copper

Picture of Preparing the Copper

It is essential the Copper be free of Oxides, Grease and Dirt; otherwise the Patina will not work.  There are many ways to prepare metal for Patination.  In the case of my simple Flower, emerying with 220 grit will do the trick.  Other methods that work: scrubbing with a past mixture of pumice  powder and water or heating and pickling followed by cleaning with soap and water; will also work. Which ever method you choose, always handle carefully during and after; hold by the edges so as not to transfer grease from your fingers.

Step 3: Adding Water and Table Salt

Picture of Adding Water and Table Salt

Run the Copper under water and sprinkle a small amount of table salt onto the side or sides you wish to patina.  The resulting patina will vary depending on how much salt you use; do some experimenting and see what the results are.

Step 4: Going Through the Stages

Picture of Going Through the Stages

Carefully place your copper in the fume chamber and close the lid; again avoid touching the the copper, hold by the edges only.  Your Patina is finished when you are happy with the colour; it may take an hour or two or a day or two.

Step 5: Sealing the Patina

Picture of Sealing the Patina

Once you are happy with the patina, remove the copper from the fume chamber.  The patina will be very fragile so handle delicately. Allow to thoroughly dry.  Most patinas are a surface treatment which can be rubbed off and must be sealed with a lacquer or wax of some kind. My favorite is Pro-craft Lacquer (available at most Jewellery supply stores), applied in 4 or 5 thin layers. Warning - When using Lacquers always have adequate ventilation; the fumes can be harmful.

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Laral (author)2017-07-05

I posted this a while ago but I think this is a good place to re-post it. What I like about it is it works fast and you can just paint or spray the solution on any part you want.

Have a look at:
-- the second formula:

  • 1 Tbsp ammonium chloride (Sal ammoniac)
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 1 oz ammonia
  • 1 qt. bottled or distilled water

Mix all in a plastic container that will be only for the patina mix and
not used for other things. Warm or hot water will help the solids
dissolve better. Spray the patina on the clean oil free copper and let
set for 2 or 3 hours to dry then repeat 3 or so more times until you get
what you want. You can also soak sawdust with the patina and pack it
around the copper piece and seal it in a plastic bag for a day or 3.

I got a sal ammoniac block from Ace at the time
but I don't see it now at their website. I found that eBay has ammonium
chloride powder cheaper than what I paid for the block. It would also
dissolve much easier than the hard block.

Very easy to do, cheap, works great.

Here is my sample done on a copper tubing end cap.

Picture of cr.jpg
lucas.lavoy (author)2014-08-14

Thanks for making this great tutorial. Used this technique recently on a coffee table with fumed copper surface and it came out great

mjohn10244 (author)lucas.lavoy2017-03-16

Great did you do the edges/corners to have them come out smooth?

Are there multiple sheets of copper or one large one and did you patina with ammonia or salt and vinegar/



lucas.lavoy (author)mjohn102442017-03-16

Mike, the table is a rectangular wood core covered with patinated copper sheet (16 gauge) laminated to the core after being patinated. The top is 9 separate plates of copper of different dimensions that fit together to cover the whole top. Sides of the table are also separate 16 guage copper strips laminated to the sides. Patination for all the pieces was 2 stages done in a large airtight plastic tub. First stage ammonia fume only, then a rinse to remove the non-adherent bits, then a second round with vinegar + salt in addition to the ammonia fume.

RJB14 (author)lucas.lavoy2016-10-14

very nice

MithunK13 (author)lucas.lavoy2016-09-16

Hi How did u make this without using air tight chamber? Or what was it that u covered the table top with?

ChrisC19 (author)lucas.lavoy2015-03-22

What prep did you use and how did you apply your salt lucas.lavoy? I followed the above method and my coverage looks nothing like yours! Great job!

lucas.lavoy (author)ChrisC192015-03-25

Just standard spray bottle with salt water (lots of it), came up bright blue. The difference was I scrubbed off the unstable parts of the patina afterwards and did a second application and second fume chamber exposure. Somehow that made it much more green than blue.

Sebastiaan Mollema made it! (author)2017-01-01

Hi Thanks for sharing.

My patina project went great, see the pics. Thanks to your input I was able to make it work!

I even made a little video how it went.

RJB14 (author)2016-10-14

force patina copper with pink himalayan salt and aquarium salt in same style fume chamber

RJB14 (author)2016-10-14

pink himalayan salt brings out some good blues as does aquarium salt

NellBennett (author)2016-09-20

Thanks for the useful tips about using household products. Do you know what household products might work on Brass to get a similar vibrant effect? Thanks

KarinC13 (author)2016-09-17

thanks, great instructions.

RebeccaW88 (author)2016-07-06

I have tried this several times and the first time I got this beautiful shade of blue - like the pictures. But since then, I've tried repeatedly and it keeps turning black. Anyone know what I'm doing wrong?

Janevarley (author)RebeccaW882016-08-09

Try wetting your copper, coating it in lots of salt and leaving it for longer. You can gently rinse the residue off and dry it on kitchen towels. Mine went black and then blue when I added more salt.

wpsutton (author)2015-08-17

I have 3 large panels (replacing glass in china cabinet) They are about 1'X3' ... can you do this w/o creating a fume chamber?

MartijnH4 (author)wpsutton2016-05-28

Soon I will try making a fume chamber by suspending plastic like garbage bags above my piece and put a bowl of ammonia inside it, not under it but next to the piece.

WilT1 (author)wpsutton2016-05-12

What about using a large Rubbermaid tub or something similar?

siobhanm (author)2015-06-05

Is it possible to do this in a way that only part of your copper object will have the effect?
something like this?

MartijnH4 (author)siobhanm2016-05-28

Use vaseline where you do not want patina. Remove it later with acetone/thinner.

peppermohr (author)siobhanm2015-07-10

I'd trying covering the part you don't want patina on with masking tape

dangerous dan (author)2016-02-18

excellent inscrutable! I was wondering how I was going to color this copper plate on a project I'm working-on. -this color is beautiful!
I sprayed it with clear enamel: (Rustoleum), and it looks great!

Now to drill all of those holes out for fiber-optics.....

jacketman (author)2015-07-12

Thanks for posting this and using household products. Would this work on a copper roof that is about 8-9 years old if I did consistently for several days or even weeks? Although it is easily accessible with a ladder or sprayer from the ground, it would be difficult to do the prep work described in step 2 and almost impossible to cover the roof area securely? I can send picture if that would help.

pedotto (author)jacketman2016-01-25

use a sand blaster for the salt rent it from home depot and use a finer salt then use a fish pump or something smple to spray the solution

bluemoon6 (author)2015-08-17

The color is beautiful ..I have been making jewelry for 20 years and just now getting into metals..Thank you for this great patina method...I have use the salt in an oven but the pretty blue isn't the result ...

pthom (author)2015-08-13

Useful tip on patinating copper

PeteP1 (author)2015-04-23

Lovely ad green patina is most desirable on copper

dirtysmith made it! (author)2015-03-06

Used this for the back of a full sized mirror.

PeteP1 (author)2015-02-28

nice.these guys have some lovely copper works as well

pikeman666 (author)2013-04-22

How well does this stuff color if used with a brush? And have you ever tried masking to achieve a pattern of patina?

BobbiWired (author)2013-02-20

How long did it take your piece to get that dark?

fretted (author)2012-10-29

More Patinas and processes found here :

graydog111 (author)2012-10-28

Beautiful patina. I thought all copper patina was green. I learn something every day.

zomfibame (author)2012-10-27

That's very cool. I'm gonna' have to try this some time.

About This Instructable




Bio: I've been making jewellery for 22 years and teaching jewellery making classes for 13 years. Recently I've started an online jewellery magazine packed ... More »
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