Paint Aging Techniques and Making a Steel Ladybug




Introduction: Paint Aging Techniques and Making a Steel Ladybug


In this Instructable, I'll demonstrate a method of making your metal projects look beaten and worn by scraping the spraypaint off while its still soft. This creates a worn, beaten look that also doesn't look dirty or unattractive, and is sealed in place so it doesn't come off on your hands if you touch it, the way rust or dirt does.

You'll also see some metalworking techniques that I'll use to make a small Ladybug project. If you're interested in these techniques, please check out my other Instructables. I have several on basic sheet metalworking techniques.

I hope you enjoy reading. :)

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Step 1: Materials and Tools

This project needs quite a few tools and some material to complete. They are as follows:


- 22 gauge sheet steel
- Wire
- Red and Black spraypaint
- Clear spray coat
- Masking tape and stickers

Safety gear:

- Earplugs
- Work gloves
- Goggles
- Breathing mask ( for painting )


- Ball-pein hammer
- Drill and 1/8 inch bit
- Tin snips
- Anvil
- Leather
- Wire strippers
- X-acto knife
- Scissors
- File
- Needle-nose pliers
- Center punch
- Tape
- Soldering iron and solder

Step 2: The Design

I drew up a small design in Paint that I will use as a template. We will need it to mark holes for the legs and antennae.

We need to transfer the design to the material. For this project we're using 22 gauge steel. This will be thick enough that it will be sturdy, but not too thick that we can't cut it with tin snips and not too tough to bend. It will respond nicely to hammer blows.

We begin by printing it to the size we want and cutting it out with scissors. Using loops of tape, stick the design down to the metal so that we can trace around it with a scriber or other sharp object. Once it has been marked around, take the center punch, and using a hammer, punch a hole through the paper at each one of the feet and antenna holes, so that there is a visible mark on the metal. Now we can peel off the ladybug design. Take the tin snips and snip out the basic shape of the ladybug. Don't worry about getting close to the marked edges, that will be easier once we separate the ladybug from the main sheet of metal.

Once the ladybug is roughly cut, snip away the excess, following the line. Try not to close the snips completely, as this will bend the metal at the end of the snip mouth.

When its completely cut out, we can move to the next step.

Step 3: Shaping and Hammering

First, you will notice that the edges around where we cut are extremely sharp. Place the ladybug on the anvil and hit around the edge of the ladybug. You will see the edge be softened and smoothed by the hammer blows. Flip it over and repeat on the other side. You can see in the picture at the bottom of the step ( from another project of mine, but the same material and concept ) Use the file to remove any more remaining sharp spots.

Drilling the holes now is a good idea, because it will be impossible once the body is curved. Drill the holes in the marked spots. We will re-drill them later as they will get a bit deformed during hammering.

We need to shape the ladybug so he is dome-shaped. We will do this by using the ball-peen side of our hammer to make the metal curve in two dimensions. Place a piece of leather on your anvil to protect the anvil and also help the metal curve easier. Pick a side to be the bottom, and hit it with the ball-peen, starting in the center and moving around all over.

After a while it will start to take on a domed curve. Make sure that the dome is both horizonal and vertical, and that the ladybug is fairly symmetrical and evenly curved. Just keep hitting until you're satisfied. Lighter hits will take longer but will make a more uniform and less bumpy curve.

Our next step is hooking up the antennae and legs.

Step 4: The Legs and Antennae

The feet and antennae I made out of solid-core copper wire that is zinc plated, I believe. Very typical wire that you can buy cheap from pretty much any electronics store or Radioshack.

Strip a long length of wire and feed the end through the hole, through the bottom of the bug. Loop it around the edge and back through the hole twice, and leave the excess so that it is on the bottom of the bug.

Take the long end and extend it out like a leg. Make it about 1 cm longer than the intended leg size, and bend it back 180 to the bug. Snip it off with about 2 inches of extra, enough to loop up through the bug and around two more times. When you're done, the two ends of the wire should e on the bottom of the bug. Pull the wire loops tight, cut off the excess and solder them together on the bottom of the bug.

Now, grip the end of the feet with your needle-nose pliers and spin the bug so that the leg twists, as shown in the pictures below. This will shorten them a little, but make them much stronger and more sturdy. Do this for all six legs.

The antennae are quite simple. Cut about 8 inches of wire to make sure that we will have enough for the curls on the end. Loop the wire through one hole from the top of the bug, then up through the other, back around and down through the first hole, and back up through the 2nd one again. Pull both ends tight and the wire should be pretty firmly in place. Squeeze it with pliers so it doesn't wiggle around at all. Solder it in place.

To roll the antennae up, grab the end of the wire in needle nose pliers, and loosely wrap the wire around the end of the pliers when they are closed. Then, slide the little coil off the end of the pliers.

Our next step is painting and masking.

Step 5: Painting

To do the ladybug, we're going to paint it all black, then mask off areas and paint it all red. Then we peel off the tape.

Paint the top and bottom of the ladybug black. Spray it from side to side, without putting too much paint on with each coat. It should take a few coats to cover it completely. After the paint has dried in about an hour, flip it over and paint the bottom. Once that is dry, inspect it for any spots that might have been missed. If everything is well covered, let it cure overnight.

About 24 hours later, cover the legs and antennae with masking tape. Cut a piece of masking tape to go up the back and separate the ladybug's wings. Get some small round stickers and put them on the back to cover up some areas and make the ladybug's spots.

Paint the ladybug with red paint the same way we did the black.

The next step is important to getting the old beaten look.

Step 6: Aging the Paint

About 3 hours after you painted the red paint, it will be dry but still very soft and nowhere near cured. Don't worry about messing the paint up, theres not much you can do to mess it up at this point. Fingerprints and the like won't be an issue.

Peel the tape off the legs, head and back. Peel off the stickers too.

Now heres the interesting part. Carefully take an x-acto knife and scrape the paint off in spots. The soft red paint will cut through easily but the black paint won't be as soft. Scrape it down to the metal whever you want it to look damaged and abused.

Now, take some 120 grit sandpaper and start sanding all over the back. Sand through to the metal on the edges of the ladybug, and on the feet, but don't sand through most of the red areas. Push down the sandpaper with your finger to sand into the scrape marks you've made. This will sand the black paint out of them, which will make a fine black powder. That black powder will get stuck in the soft red paint, and look like dirt and soot. Do this anywhere you want until you have the look you want.

When its the way you want it, let it sit for 24 hours so that the red paint can cure.

Now, take the clear coat and spray the top and bottom of the bug, the same way we did the black paint. Let that cure for 24 hours in a dry environment. This will prevent the exposed spots of metla from rusting and make the whole thing look a little more shiny.

Step 7: Completed!

There you have it, a interesting little metal ladybug that has a abused antique look, but also a hint of futuristic well-worn machinery look.

Unforunately, this method only works on metal, since the knife would slice bits of plastic off as you try to scape the paint off.

I hope you enjoyed reading this Instructable, and I hope it helps someone with their steampunk or computer case-mod project.

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    2 Discussions


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Hmm... Now I if I could just a get a workbench and an anvil... of an steel... Then I would be set! Haha, nice job, I might look into metal working in the future.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    it's very nice! if I didn't know better I'd say it's super-old