Faux Metal Planters




About: I'm an artist, environmentalist, animal lover, gardener, recycling nut, a high school teacher, crafter, Mom, Christian and widow who reads a lot in between figuring out how to do things.

 I've admired these beautiful copper and cast iron pots that I've seen, but alas my bank account doesn't care for the price.  I get my pots usually at the discount warehouse store and they're...ugly plastic. Or my pots come free with the plant, you know the black plastic ones?

So I decided to try and paint them to match some of the beautiful aged patinas with...spray paint!


plastic pots
spray paint (Krylon makes a wonderful spray paint made for plastic- has a satin or glossy finish)
plastic bags and/or newspaper

Step 1: Scrub a Dub Dub

Cleaning or not:  The spray can recommends that you wash older pots with an ammonia based cleaner, but since I like to water my plants while I'm washing things (can the lawn tell if it is clean water or dirty water?) I used a cleaner that I could use the grey water later without worrying about my environmental issues, or killing the little grass I have.

If you're using new pots, the directions say to lightly sand the surface so that the paint will stick. Then wipe off with a damp cloth.

Now as I was playing with colors and practicing techniques, I found out that both of these washing instructions were not necessary for the technique I was doing, in fact NOT washing was a better choice to give texture. I think the washing step is for a smooth finish, whereas I was trying for the rusty texture finish.

Step 2: Patina

Next came for me the hardest part, deciding on the color of the patina. I finally concluded that I should do what I could find spray paint to match. I used a green, red,  orangish-brown, black and bronze. Nothing will completely match the patina of the beautiful iron planters, but of course they are $$$ each and (duh) real metal!

A long time ago, I'd painted two of the pots with some latex paint to match the brown house color. I learned then that latex paint will paint plastic, but doesn't stay on very well.

I painted first with red, and then with green (red and green are complements of each other plus I was hoping a bit of the color would show through at the very end). Then as it wasn't working quite like I wanted, I added the orangish-brown.

Each layer of color took a day-- because of temperature and humidity. In Houston during the summer it is 85 before you know it with too much humidity-- so this took several days to paint as it got too hot and humid in my garage and outside. Maybe if I had a nice inside space, I could've done this quicker. But alas- it isn't February- but July!

Next I added black and bronze with plastic bag sponging while wet. After you spray and before the paint dries, you can take a plastic bag and sponge on the surface, exposing some of the paint underneath and giving it a more "aged" look. You can also turn your stuff while you're painting without painting your hand (too much).

After I finished with this step, it was nice, but too glossy. And not streaky enough. Sigh I guess I could've stopped here. But the inner artist was not done. So inside I went to my cramped little studio to try dripping some acrylic on the top of this. This effect was beautiful before it dried- but after it dried, because I was using very liquid acrylic, it wasn't as opaque as I wanted. Later I'm going to try with some left over latex- but because time is running out for the contest I want to enter, that picture will have to wait til later.

Step 3: Other Experiments

Now, as I said I haven't got quite the look I want, but I'm getting close. So I included some of my other experiments for your edification.

I had some aha moments after I finished. As a teacher, THEY always tell you to do your sample first before doing the lesson with your students. Usually my best example comes after I've played around a bit. So some of my "aha's" are below. Later on I'll come back and edit this with more pictures. (I added a few more pictures of some later versions, but still not finished...)  Maybe. As an artist, I kind of feel like things are never really done. Sigh.
  1. Dirty pots work great for a nice texture.
  2. If you paint your pots black  as the first coat, (flat or satin paint) then some of the grooves will have that nice shadow.
  3. If your pot is slick and you paint all your colors quickly on top of each other and squish with plastic, you get a wonderful texture- so the sanding part was also not necessary.
  4. Water also makes a nice texture effect as the water acts like a barrier to the spray as well as giving a nice chemical reaction.
  5. Too much spraying on one day is bad for your brain, I think I lost a few brain cells spraying too long and breathing the fumes. Use your respirator! I sprayed several pots today and didn't get dizzy/ light headed. It is a good thing and worth the investment.
  6. The more you do, the better you get.



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    8 Discussions


    6 years ago on Introduction

    I especially love the square/Art Deco planter. Both the shape and the effect.

    I've been wanting to do this, but only have seen the ones that look like clay or stone. I love this effect. Thanks!


    1 reply

    6 years ago on Introduction

    I love this idea!!! I have been wanting to update the look with all my planters in my house and this one will help tie it all together.
    I do however have a paint advise that can help those who want to get this project a bit more metal/rust looking on plastic pots or just about anything. I have found 2 great products. One is Metallic paint and one is a rust activator paint., these are a bit pricey but not as much as a real metallic planter.


    7 years ago on Step 3

    I think there's a product for the brain cell / fumes issue. Respirator? I've got one, I imagine they sell them in Houston too! :) Although I look forward to more fume-induced art, could reach a new level of creativity... Good work here tho!

    1 reply

    Reply 7 years ago on Step 3

    Yeah, I've got one of those on the shelf. Guess I should try putting it on!