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Colored pencils are a great tool to color metals, especially copper. They are inexpensive, easy to find, and easy to work with. This Instructable will show you how to color copper using colored pencils, how to blend, and also how to protect your creations for lasting use.

Step 1: BoM

Copper pieces (most of my copper blanks comes from FDJTools on Etsy)

Sand paper

Texturing tools, hammers, pliers, etc.

Gesso & paintbrush

Prismacolor colored pencils

Turpentine or an workable fixative *

Heat gun (if you have a crafts-dedicated toaster oven etc that will work as well)

Sealer

Wax paper or other material for protecting work area

Masking or painters tape

*If you want colors to blend, use turpentine. If you want to layer colors and not have them blend, use a workable fixative. Hairspray may also achieve the latter effect, but I haven't tried it yet so I can't attest to how well it works.

Step 2: Prep Copper

Prepare your copper by cutting the shapes you want, sanding and then cleaning with dish soap or alcohol. This is also the time to add any holes if you are going to turn your pieces into jewelry or want to attach them to something. Careful not to get finger prints on the copper as it'll cause adhesion problems. Let dry or blot with paper towel.

Step 3: Gesso

To protect my work area, I'm using a piece of wax paper. I taped my copper pieces down with masking/painters tape to keep them from sliding around and to help limit how much my fingers actually touch them. Slide a piece of tape under the unsanded side of your copper and then tape edges down.

Next I applied two layers of gesso, letting it dry a few minutes in between each layer. Let the gesso dry, or use your heat gun to speed things up.

Step 4: Prismacolor

I'm using Prismacolor pencils because that's what I have. They are somewhat expensive, but they last forever. I still have a set of 48 colors that my mom bought me in high school (late 90s). I've added to that set over the last few years with the help of 50-55% off coupons from Michaels and A.C. Moore (make sure to check the boxes, the last time I bought a set at A.C. Moore it was opened and used). Prismacolor is also available open stock so you can pick just the colors you want.

Prismacolors are a bit softer than regular color pencils and are very popular because of the range of effects they can achieve. They are easy to blend and easy to work with, but a pain in the butt to sharpen. Regardless, Prismacolor is definitely worth the investment.

Step 5: Coloring

When you color in your copper, use the side of your pencil to go over things lightly. Use the very tip for more delicate work.

If you're using turpentine, use a very tiny amount as a little goes a VERY long way. Wash your brush in between uses as the color sticks. Let your piece dry in between color/turpentine layers, some people bake or use a heat gun.

After I lightly colored the copper with the 3 colors I'm using, I blended the piece with turpentine and then went over it with my heat gun for about a minute (pictures 1 and 2). Then I lightly colored the piece in again with the darker pink and orange and then repeated the turpentine and heat gun process (picture 3). Repeat this coloring/turpentine process until the copper won't accept anymore color.

Step 6: Seal

When you are done coloring your copper, the next thing to do to protect the color is to seal it. This can be done with a finishing fixative spray, a wax like Renaissance Wax, or another metal-friendly sealer. I'm using Ranger's Glaze Metal Sealer.

After your piece cures it's ready to be added to your jewelry or other art.

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Bio: I am a teacher outside of Boston and I love making cool stuff! Any prizes I'm lucky enough to win will go directly to ... More »
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