Patina 101: What Is Metal Patina?


Patina 101: What Is Metal Patina?


Introduction to patina


Everyone loves a patina finish, but very few understand what patina actually means. Almost everyday, we are asked to define what patina is and how one can work with it. So, we thought why not do a Patina 101.


Different patina shades you can achieve 

Patination is caused by oxidation, weathering or both. Patina can also form as a result of old age, wear or even polishing over years. Materials like metals, stone and wooden furniture, form patina to protect themselves against damage by corrosion.

It is a chemical process that occurs naturally over time when materials are left out in the open and exposed to weathering agents such as severe temperatures. Similar to how an avocado or apple begins to turn brown after being chopped. Patina is what gives colour to jewellery and rusts automobiles in a warm, dry climate. However it is different from applied coatings like paints and powder coating, as in that the effect is caused by actually reacting a solution with the metal surface.


Before and after image of the Statue of Liberty
Left: Statue of Liberty in 1886 | Right: Statue of Liberty in 2021

Designing with patina


A patina coating is applied in the design field for its visual appeal. The abstract designs and vintage aged style are what set it apart. With a little help from human hands, this natural phenomenon can be accelerated using chemicals and thus replicated to achieve beautiful looking patinas on metal. Remember, patinas only work with metal and liquid metal. Click here to know all about what is liquid metal and how to work with it.

Each metal reacts differently to the various patina chemicals that come into contact with it. As with any chemical reaction, some consequences are foreseeable while others are not.

When working with patina, it is critical to understand when to pause and when to stop a chemical process. When too much chemical is applied too rapidly, it can result in problems such as metal erosion and the loss of a beautiful surface.

The environment is another significant factor when working with patina agents. The humidity of the air, temperature of the room, and other chemicals already present in the region can all have an impact on the reactions. Finally, the mixture of these external stimuli changes the patinas as they develop. Creating patinas outside of the natural world is an art form. People that are skilled at it often have an eye for art and workmanship.


Reception wall designed using verdigris green copper patina wall panels
Reception wall designed using verdigris green copper patina wall panels

How is Patina on Metal different from Metallic Paints or Paint Patinas


Regardless of the fact that there are some great paints on the market, paint will never have the feel of a patina. This is due to the fact that paint is a solid colour that is applied and thus lies on the surface. A patina, on the other hand, is a chemical reaction that occurs with metal and eventually becomes a part of the metal itself. As a result, the metal can shine through. Each metal has its own unique reflection and a beauty that radiates from within. The reflection and colour change as you move around a patinated metal surface. It bounces light and reflects colours differently based on the plane.

When covered in paint, however, this flow is lost from the equation, and the colour falls flat. It will always be the same colour and tone no matter which angle you look at it from. Even the best products and painters are unable to imitate the natural reflection of the metal patina with paints. 

Patinas, unlike paint, cannot be precisely controlled. The majority of those who work with patinas understand that the best we can hope for is a basic tonal quality. Colors will vary in tone regardless of the technique.


Image Source: 3DM Lifestyle
Image Source: Pinterest

Which metals can be patinated?


Patina can be applied to specialty metals that are commonly used in bespoke metal fabrication. This means that patinas can be applied to copper, pewter, brass, bronze, zinc, and even stainless steel gets a little color.

The most interesting patinas, on the other hand, form on mild steel and iron. We acquire beautiful coloration from chemical reactions because of the imperfections within. Both of these metals naturally patina to a burnt orange shade, known as rust. Since the rust forms on a usually black, charcoal grey surface, these metals guarantee great color combinations. If you look through our textures you will notice the many variations that one can get in iron. 

Image Source: Kinley Systems

Every metal is made up of different alloys and therefore is a puzzle unto itself when we start trying to patinate them.

If you’d like to purchase patina finishes, head over to our online store here.

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