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How to antique copper

Intro / synopsis: Depending on the reader's experience level and artistry, it is possible to use acids and salts to react with the copper to obtain the desired color. However, average users may find proprietary patinating solutions more practical because they involve first 'painting on' a surface which has controlled concentrations of specific grades of copper particles so that the patinating chemicals have a consistent substrate to react with. Patinas may be clear coated for improved durability.

Q. Hi,

I've used Modern Masters Oxidation for years as a decorative artist and I love it. I'm doing something for myself now and I feel paralyzed! And after reading the questions here, I'm nervous. Soooo, I'm installing copper countertops and I do want to age them faster than the natural process takes. If I used Modern Masters or Sculpt Nouveau (which I'm thoroughly intrigued by since reading about it here) does anyone know if:
1. I can leave it unwaxed and unlacquered and
2. does it retain its antimicrobial properties? I don't want to wax or lacquer.

Thank you so much,

Robyn Chapman
- Covington, Georgia
February 4, 2018

A. Hi Robyn. You can certainly leave the copper unwaxed and unlacquered and it will retain its antimicrobial properties. The only thing is, it will not stay bright, it will turn brown like old pennies.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

⇩ Closely related postings, oldest first ⇩

Q. What can I apply to bright copper to rapidly produce the weathered green appearance? Thanks for any suggestions.

Alan Ziskind, M.D.

Q. Want to put a finish (patina like) on copper tubing to be used as lamp base. Tubing is from plumbing supplier.

Sarah A [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
artist - New Orleans, Louisiana

Modern Masters Green Patina
from eBay or

(affil links)

"The Colouring, Bronzing & Patination of Metals"
by Hughes & Rowe

on AbeBooks

or eBay or


(affil links)

Reactive Metallic Copper (for uniform substate/base)
on eBay or


(affil links)

A. Hi. You can theoretically age the copper to a nice green patina with various solutions of acids & salts which the readers will advise you of here. And I would not want to discourage such real home-made artistry. However, in view of the various different grades of copper, and the many different surface conditions from different factory operations and prior attempts at aging, etc., it can take a patient artist to get a consistent and attractive finish from treating your copper surface with acids & salts :-)

So, probably the fastest and most reliable approach -- but not the cheapest or most creative -- is to first "paint" it with a special "reactive paint" designed to contain a controlled amount of properly activated tiny copper flakes, followed by a patinating solution designed to interact ideally with those flakes. This two-part process doesn't rely heavily on the surface conditions of your copper sheeting or your copper tubing, or its alloy composition, to provide the desired patina. Good luck.


Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

A. Try Getting it powder coated with a patina or other weathered look finish. It may save you a lot of money and hassle.

Jim Cummings
powder coating - Buffalo, New York

A. The patina that you wish to apply to copper is a form of copper carbonate [on eBay or Amazon] that usually forms over a long period of time on items left outdoors. However to speed things up, the metal finisher has mixtures that can do almost the same thing. I would recommend that you seek out a lamp restoration shop that does metal finishing and plating. Any chemicals should be used carefully, and with full protective gear as is appropriate. One suggested formula is:

copper nitrate [affil links] 4 ozs.
Ammonium Chloride 4 ozs.
Calcium Chloride 4 ozs.
Water 1 Gallon

Parts may be immersed, and the solution allowed to dry on. Repeat. Another bath used many years ago was a solution of copper carbonate and ammonia. However, due to the fumes from the ammonia, I would not suggest that you try this.

ed budman eb sig
Ed Budman [dec]
- Pennsylvania
With deep sadness we advise that our good friend Ed passed away Nov. 24, 2018

Q. Don't know if I can be of any help, but I need help. My wife has given me the task of finishing copper panels in a cabinet over our fireplace. The copper is like a new penny. She would like it to be old penny. Without waiting six months for it to do it on its own, what can I do? Each of the ten panels had a design punched in it, like a basket of flowers, rose bud, etc. Save me!

Sam P. Wehunt

Q. I am seeking a method to chemically treat new copper counter tops. I would like to see them in a nice brown bronze patina color can you help. if you could give me a formula to treat the surface it would be greatly appreciated. someone else recommended Liver of Sulfur but I can't find it anywhere to purchase it. Thank you so much

James acevedo
- Freeport New York

Liver of Sulfur

on eBay or


(affil links)

A. Hi, James; hi, Sam. Liver of sulfur is available as a dilute, ready to use liquid, or as a crystal-like solid to be diluted in water, and as a gel (which may be handiest). Formulas for various color patinas can be found in "The Colouring, Bronzing & Patination of Metals" [adv: this book on eBay, Amazon, AbeBooks] . Good luck.

Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

Q. My bronze sculpture received some pinpoint scars during a tornado. I have obtained a bottle of liver of sulfur. I need to treat these tiny scars. Do I dilute it with vinegar or use it as it comes?

Jerry Griffith
- Hoisington, Kansas, USA

A. Hi Jerry. I've never done it myself and don't know the best strength, i.e., by how much to dilute it with water if you use the stones rather than the pre-made solution, although I've heard a fingernail size to a small bowl of water.

I strongly doubt that you are supposed to dilute it with vinegar, and would caution you to not even consider that unless you know it to be correct! Acidification of sulfur compounds (vinegar is an acid) tends to release copious quantities of suffocating hydrogen sulfide and related airborne toxins.

Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey


Museum Wax

on eBay or


(affil links)

A. A beautiful rich deep brown can be achieved on copper by using first the liver (correct name: Potassium Polysulfide) which is available from most chemical suppliers. It comes in the form of solid dry stones which are easily dissolved in water. One small stone, about the size of your smallest fingernail will be enough to mix a solution of 600 ml. Put this in a spray bottle and apply to the copper while consistently heating with a gas torch. Then gently rub down the surface with a wet scourer until you have an even light brown color. Then reheat the surface, this time applying a weak ferric nitrate, this will richen, redden and darken the brown that you achieved with the liver, when you are happy with the color, coat the surface with either a wax (floor wax is sufficient) or clearcoat.

Mal Louis Wood
sculpture foundry - Australia

Q. We have just built a bar counter top with copper. I'm want to give it an acid washed, spotted look. Like something was spilled on it or like it was rained on. Do you have any ideas on what to use on it?

Gary Zuk
engineering - West Bloomfield, Michigan

Brass Lacquer
on eBay or


(affil links)


A. It is very simple indeed:
- wet a cloth with HARPIC 'the toilet cleaner'
- wipe the copper
- wait for one day.
Gently wash under running water to wash off the remaining Harpic. Do not scrub or rub as that will remove the patina formation powder.
- after drying, spray with clear lacquer to fix the patina formation.

I have been doing this often to give my copper sculptures a patina coating

Soumyajit Choudhury
- Indian presently in Dubai



Q. Hi all,
I have been soaking my antique brass fenders & copper coal bucket (together) in vinegar to bring them up looking like new and using 0000 wire wool to remove any tough bits. However the result has been disastrous!

I put both copper & brass fenders into a vinegar bath together and the brass has come out copper looking(?), which I can't seem to be able to remove using wire wool or 'peak' cleaner. The copper coal box has a blue/green crystallized coating just above the part that wasn't under the vinegar which again I can't seem to be able to remove.

Any advice great appreciated and needed!

Pat Rogers
Hobbyist - Navan, Meath, Ireland
July 21, 2008

A. Hi, Pat. Unfortunately you can't put mixed metals in a solution like that. What resulted is the same idea that your high school chemistry taught you in coating an iron nail with copper by putting it in copper sulphate. Fortunately the coating is very thin. You'll have to polish the copper off of the brass, probably with a stronger polish and perhaps a little buffing wheel for your electric drill.

You also can't leave parts sticking partway out of solution like that. You need to put them all the way in or not put them in. Good luck.


Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey
July 22, 2008

thumbs up signThank you Ted
Any suggesting on what a stronger polish might be or should I use a more coarse wire wool?

Regards, Pat

Pat Rogers(returns)
Hobbyist - Navan, Meath, Ireland
July 30, 2008

Automotive rubbing compound or cutting compound, which is designed to remove the outermost layer of dull paint, is what I'd try on a buffing wheel for removing this copper plating. I would not use courser steel wool because you may scratch your items.

Of course, another approach, if you want to live dangerously, is to put your copper colored brass fenders back in vinegar, this time with some galvanized roofing nails, and see if the copper will deplate from your fender and deposit on the nails, leaving you with brass once again. It is tricky and I wouldn't guarantee success, but it may be possible.


Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey
July 30, 2008

Q. I'd like to know if there is any easier way than using the recommended liver of sulfur and heat to antique copper jewelry beads to give them the dark brown finish. I am trying to antique beads to use in my jewelry designs and many beads are a brilliant finish instead on a burnished or aged finish.
Any help would be very greatly appreciated.

Penelope Consales
artist, jewelry maker - Tucson, Arizona
September 11, 2008

A. Hi, Penelope. If you are buying finished beads they may already be lacquered, and the lacquer must be removed with acetone [on eBay or Amazon] or lacquer thinner [on eBay or Amazon]. I'm not seeing what's hard about using liver of sulfur: it's dirt cheap, it's readily available, and it's designed to do what you're trying to do.

But if you want a "green" approach, put the jewelry in a plastic baggie with crushed hard boiled eggs overnight (thanks to James Watts for this tip). Let us know how it works. Good luck.


Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey
September 18, 2008

Q. Hi. I'm wanting to antique some copper wire & beads and saw the advice to use the liver of sulfur. My concern is: do I need to finish it with something else afterwards to protect the wearer and / or the jewelry? Or will an application of wax be sufficient?

And any suggestions on the best way to do the wire?

thanks so much for your help,


Kathy Hutchinson
artist - Canada
April 21, 2009

A. Hi Kathy. Wax would probably have very limited life if not periodically restored. A clearcoat might be better -- either automotive two-part clearcoat or possibly a UV hardened lacquer (basically the gel stuff they apply in manicure salons and cure under UV light).


Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey
October 2013

Q. My name is Ben. I am from Colorado Springs, CO. I just hung approx. six sheets around my customers bar and now they want it with a used penny/brown patina. how do I accomplish that without removing it from the wall. A no fire solution would be great. Thanks in advance!

Ben Foley
Fabricator - Colorado Springs, Colorado U.S.A.
July 15, 2009

Q. I had untreated copper countertops installed in my kitchen in May of this year. The aging process has been unattractive so far, in that it's inconsistent and looks spotty.

What can I apply to get a rich patina without waiting years for all these spots to connect on their own to create a full patina.

I'd appreciate some guidance on what has worked for you, and more importantly what has created a big fat mess.

Thanks to all,

Ruth Merkner
- Valparaiso, Indiana
July 18, 2009

A. Hi Ruth. Please see my response at the top of the page. Indeed it can take experience and artistry to directly patina copper countertops, so using the metal reactive paint may give easier and better results. After you've got it, apply lacquer or automotive clearcoat. Good luck.


Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey
October 2013

Q. I have used copper pipe for balusters on my deck and my wife wants them to go green. I have had them up for five years and they have just gone dark brown.

Colin Kilpatrick
Do it yourselfer - Michigan
April 21, 2010

Q. 1. We want to give the brass jewellery antique look. How is this possible?

2. We color the metal in three colors: gold, white and gun metal. We want the life of the plating to be as long as possible. What can be the possible solutions?

Kindly suggest

Roshan Nair
plating shop employee - India
August 25, 2011

A. To help all of you wanting an 'instant" patina on copper countertops and panels: I purchased a product from a company I found online, the name is Sculpt Noveau. They were very helpful over the phone and gave me quick instructions on how to get the finish I wanted. They have several color choices, green, blue (more like a turquoise) and a natural rusty brown which is what I chose. I placed the liquid in a spray bottle and spritzed it on my new copper island top. I immediately covered the wet top with a very lightweight piece of plastic. Don't smooth it out, as the wrinkles and bunchiness of the plastic on the wet top will make the pattern. I left it on about 30 minutes or so then carefully pulled back the plastic from one end. I let the top dry completely then used a spray from the same company to lightly spray the top. After a few days, I used a wax (also by the same company) to further protect the top. I apply the wax maybe a couple of times a year, which might take me all of 5 minutes. My island is beautiful and everyone always comments on it. Best of all I did it myself!

Diane Day
- San Clemente, California
October 22, 2011

Ed. note: Thanks for the clear instructions Diane! Send a pic.

Q. Dear Sir,
We are manufacturer of copper bath tubs and want to do the finish of antique brass on the outer surface; please help me to tell us the process.

Thanking you,

Riyaz Anwer
copper bath tubs - Moradabad, India
July 22, 2013

A. Hi cousin Riyaz. Sorry for the misunderstanding, but this is probably a good time to interject this for everyone's benefit. This isn't a free consulting service where people plop their needs on the table and run off, expecting specialists to rush to fill them and at no charge :-)

Rather, this is a public forum for camaraderie with our peers around the world, offering interesting global interaction, fun, & information exchange. You are in this business and must know a good deal about the subject, and there are already over two dozen postings on the subject on this page ... so please don't ask people to start over; instead please try your best to actively participate in the discussion, helping others out, and framing ongoing questions in terms of some of the discussion already underway. What have you been trying, and what happens? Thanks!


Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey
July 23, 2013

Q. I built a 42"x 84" kitchen table out of thin sheet copper and would like for it to have an aged look including random mixes of green, black & browns. Can someone direct me in a process for something this large?

Rober Oakes
- Taft, California
November 4, 2013

Q. I'm thinking on purchasing a Hammered Copper, Antique finish, kitchen sink...I would like to install an overflow hole towards the top of the basins by drilling holes and soldering copper fittings with drain lines down to the main sink drain. By doing so, I'm sure to affect the patina of the copper in possibly a great area. My question, would the Liver of Copper be the product I'd use to restore the original look? or at least come close? Maybe it's a bad idea in the first place to install the overflows. Open to suggestions or even rebuke of the idea.

Leonard Meyer
DYI home remodel - Billings, Montana, USA
November 29, 2013

A. Hi Leonard. Please talk to a plumber friend. I would be virtually sure that there are plumbing fittings available that would allow you to screw something on with a washer on the back side rather than soldering. The face of this new overflow fitting could then be patinated and you would be able to do experiments on a little fittings/faceplate without ruining your sink.


Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey
November 29, 2013

Q. Hi, I got a beautiful high heat hammered copper table a few months ago. I'm not sure what was set down on it but I noticed a raised ring about 3" diameter. I tried cleaning it off but it was still raised so I very unwisely scraped it with my fingernail and it came right up. I obviously took off some kind of finish because then I had an indented circle on my table. Today without thinking I looked up how to burnish copper and tried a vinegar /salt solution which to my horror worked immediately and turned my circle into a shiny circle. I realized too late that I guess I want oxidized instead of burnished. I hope someone can help me. Thanks.

Kella Ettinger
- NAPLES, Florida, USA
January 28, 2014

We are the makers of an easy RIY (Restore It Yourself) kit to restore and repair an oil rub Brown-black patina to copper surfaces of sinks, counters, etc it is called Copper Patina Repair kit

Barry Feinman
Barry Feinman
supporting advertiser
Carlsbad, California
February 1, 2014

Q. I just did the same thing as previous writer. I used a salt/vinegar combination on my hammered, round copper dining table. Whatever was previously used on the table top is now stripped in the small section I sampled the spray on. I have a section of shiny and the rest is aged in brown, red, black.
I'd like a green patina. Should I do the 2 step painting process, since I don't know what the finish is?

Sarah Keith
- Louisville, Kentucky USA
March 18, 2015

Q. Hi,

I've been doing sculpture and architectural metal conservation for many years now, and my go-to green patina on bronze & copper has always been copper nitrate [affil links], hot applied. I sometimes use a base of liver of sulfur, depending on how well the surface reacts to the Cu-nitrate.
I have a set of door frames in cast bronze with a beautiful green patina with 80 years of small scratches and dings (the patina has been overcoated with an oil based varnish which darkens the overall appearance and adds a hint of yellow to the overall color; this oil varnish can be stripper and solvent removed leaving the patina behind and looking much lighter and "whiter green").
I need some hints on
a) how to determine what the original patina was made from and
b) what can I use to touch up the scratches and not damage the existing original patina?

I know this is a tall order, I just want some more input before I start doing anything to the frames themselves.

Ed Bowkett
metal conservation - Ottawa, Ont, Canada
March 24, 2015

10% Sulfur Ointment

(affil links)

A. We found that sulfur ointment 10%, used for acne treatment is easy to apply evenly to the copper item you wish to antique. It is a thick consistency that covers well, and is very inexpensive from your local drugstore.

Lora Harbour
- Spring, Texas, usa
June 21, 2016

Q. I am hoping to patina several sheets of copper for a wood storage bin (approximately 20 sq ft). My concern is that most of the patinas seem like they will scratch off easily. Are some patina methods more durable than others? Will any method be resistant to pieces of firewood sliding back and forth?

Alan Willwright
- Ogden, Utah, USA
January 17, 2017

2-component Automotive Clearcoat

(affil links)

A. Hi Alan,
2-component automotive clearcoat is not endlessly durable but is probably the most robust answer.
Luck & Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

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