When you are working with metals, sometimes you need to turn a shiny or glossy metal into something with a more matte finish. You might be looking to make your product look aged, or you could just be trying to change the color.
So, how do you make shiny metal matte? There are lots of ways to make your shiny metal have a matte finish including rubbing it with steel wool. Some chemicals such as vinegar and liver of sulphur can also be used to make a metal less shiny.
You may need to experiment with a few different options to produce the matte finish that you are looking for, and the method you chose will often relate to the starting material you are working with.
Produce a patina with liver of sulphur or simply age your metal by putting it in a mixture of vinegar and salt and allowing it to sit for a little while.
How to Make Shiny Metal Matte
Metal with a nice shine to it is gorgeous, but sometimes, it’s just not what you need.
If you’re looking to give your shiny metal more of a matte look, there are five simple ways to do it. Some of these methods will “age” your metal with an artificial patina, so you may get extra use out of them when creating vintage-looking pieces.
Let’s get started with matte-ifying your metal.
1. Sanding Your Metal
The simplest way to make your shiny metal appear more matte is to sand it down.
To sand your metal into looking more matte, take a piece of sandpaper and rub it all over the material, ensuring you get into any grooves. You can also use a piece of steel wool to sand your metal down with.
Once you have sanded your metal down, you should rub it down with a bit of mineral spirits on a cloth or even a little vinegar to help remove any residual metal dust.
There you have it! The added texture will automatically make your surface look less shiny.
2. Using Paint to Make Metal Less Shiny
You can also use paint to make your metal appear more matte or even aged. This takes a few more steps than merely sanding the metal down, but it can change the appearance significantly.
Here’s how to make your metal look matte with paint:
- Rub the metal object down with 80 grit sandpaper or use a sander. Make sure you rub the metal until it has lost all of its shiny finish, which will help the paint adhere better.
- Wipe away any dust left behind with a cloth dampened with mineral spirits.
- In a well-ventilated area, put some matte black paint onto your painting palette. For best results, dampen your paint brush bristles with water and then get started painting.
- Using your brush, make small strokes or dab your paint brush on the metal. You will likely want to have a little variation in your strokes to help produce make the metal look like it has been aged, if that is the look you are going for.
- Make sure you paint in all of the crevices of your metal object.
- Allow the paint to dry. Typically overnight is sufficient.
- You may consider layering on other colors over your paint. Matte gunmetal grey makes a great accent color. If you want a more bronzed appearance to your metal, you can consider umber paints, such as raw umber and burnt umber.
- To add accent color, you can paint with a brush, dabbing gently to add a little color. You can also try sponging some of the accent color onto your piece. Generally, you want to add the color unevenly. Consider accenting areas around crevices or the edges of the metal piece.
- After you have allowed the accent paint to dry, look over your piece a final time. You can sand areas that need a little “wear” or add a bit more paint to get the look you are aiming for with your metal project.
3. Using Acid To Make Metal Less Shiny
If you want to make your metal project look white or even cause it to develop a little rust, you might consider aging the metal with acid.
You can even use something you probably already have at home – an acidic toilet bowl cleaner! Who said using your bathroom cleaner can’t actually be an enjoyable experience?
Here’s how to do it:
- With a piece of sandpaper, ideally 80 grit, or using a sander, sand the entire piece of metal to remove any finish. Make sure you wipe it down to remove any lingering particles.
- Get an acidic toilet bowl cleaner to age your metal object with. Set the metal up in a very well ventilated area and consider spreading plastic down under the object to help prevent the caustic toilet bowl cleaner from ruining any other materials.
- Wearing protective eyewear, gloves, and ideally a long-sleeved shirt, spread the acidic toilet bowl cleaner all over your piece of metal.
- Coat your piece of metal with the toilet bowl cleaner, ensuring it gets all over the metal. You should use a piece of steel wool and rub the cleaner into the metal, making sure to get everything, including any handles or divots.
- After you have allowed the metal to age to a degree that you are happy with (you will be able to see it occur before your very eyes), you need to wipe the cleaner off. Make sure to keep your gloves on and wipe the metal down with a clean cloth.
- Allow your metal object to dry or gently buff it dry with a cloth.
4. Making a Bronzed Patina
You can make the green verdigris patina that bronze is known for as it ages with a few household ingredients. Typically you will want to start with a copper or bronze piece of metal for best results.
Here’s how to make a bronzed patina for copper and bronze jewelry:
- Your chemical solution will be a mixture of one part non-iodized salt to three parts apple cider vinegar. If your metal object is small, you can use a bowl to hold the ingredients, although you will want to make sure it is a non-reactive bowl.
- You can also mix the ingredients in a spray bottle, which may be useful if you are planning on making a larger piece of metal look different.
- Soak the metal in the solution for at least 30 minutes. If you are spraying the solution on, make sure to apply it several times. If you are soaking it in a bowl, ensure it is completely submerged.
- Take the metal out of the solution. Allow it to soak on paper towels to develop completely. It will need several hours to finish processing. If you are not happy with the appearance, reapply the solution.
- Once your metal looks the way you want it to, wipe it down with a clean cloth to remove and residual vinegar and salt solution. Make sure the metal is completely dry before you finish the last step.
- Finally, apply a lacquer or wax to the metal to seal in the final color.
5. Using Liver of Sulphur to Create a Patina
Liver of sulphur is a chemical product that can result in an antique appearance to your metal. The metal reacts with the sulphur product, which oxidizes and turns dark. The look is generally black, although different metals can produce a range of colors.
This is an especially useful technique for textured metals and designs. You can use it on a range of metals, from sterling silver to metal clay!
You should wear gloves when handling materials such as liver of sulphur to protect your hands. Plastic tweezers can be very helpful in putting your project into the bowl with liver of sulphur. When using the product, mix it in a non-reactive bowl, which could be plastic, stainless steel, glass, or ceramic.
Make sure your metal piece is otherwise finished before putting it in the liver of sulphur mixture. You want to make sure there is no polish left on the piece, so clean it well and consider cleaning it with a teaspoon of sodium bicarbonate (a.k.a. bicarbonate of soda) with several drops of water to make a paste, rinsing well when done.
Here’s how to use liver of sulphur to create a patina:
- Mix approximately 10 drops of liver of sulphur into about half a cup of hot water. (The water should not be boiling.)
- Swirl the liver of sulphur and water mixture gently and then add your piece of metal.
- If your mixture is fresh, the metal will darken quickly, generally within a matter of minutes. Using your plastic tweezers, remove the piece from the bowl of water. You can speed up the reaction by warming your metal piece with a hairdryer or warm water first.
- Rinse the object when the metal has reached the desired level of development.
Note: You can experiment to produce other colors than black. Change up how much liver of sulphur you add or use cold water instead of warm. Not heating up your metal piece will also keep the reaction rate slower, so you can halt it when it gets to the level you would like to see it at.
How Can You Dull Shiny Fake Gold?
An easy way to take the shine out of fake gold is to spray it with a little bit of spray perfume. Often, even spray deodorant or hair spray will work. These chemicals react with the fake gold to produce a duller appearance.
Do Vinegar and Salt Make Metal Rust?
If applied too long, a vinegar and salt combination can make your metal rust. The reaction can be sped up by adding hydrogen peroxide to the mixture.