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Tips and Tricks With Modern Master’s Copper Metallic Paints

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Here are some Tips for Using Modern Master’s Copper Metallic Paints in Your Art or Project

My go to for copper paint is Modern Masters Metal Effects Copper. I have been using this product for years, and thought I would explain my process, and share some tips and observations.  

You can use this paint two ways.  One is directly from the jar to get a shiny effect.  The other is to chemically age it with a solution to get a weathered patina.

Feel free to leave a comment on this blog or contact me at hello@artdivas.net if you have more questions. I am always happy to help others learn from my trials and errors.


The sheen of the copper paint I use is closer to a satin or semi-gloss, but it also comes as a matte finish.

Here is what Modern Masters says about their product:

“These paints are water base and contain real metal particles. They will tarnish naturally over time and when exposed to the elements. Patina Aging Solutions and Rust Activator will speed up the oxidation process to create beautiful, authentic Patina or Rusted Iron finishes on any paintable surface.”

Modern Masters has been around for decades, and I was told they started out providing paints for set design in Hollywood. They have a user friendly website that provides information about their various products, and information about how to use the products in their blog, as well as an inspiration tab. If you have some time to kill it is fun to browse through their site (okay maybe I am a total art nerd, but I find it really fun).


No Need to Cover Up with This StuffYou won't need the head to toe set up mom and I are wearing in this photo, but this stuff is still toxic. So, unless you want to get your daily dose of copper without taking a vitamin, I would suggest doing the following:

  1. Open the Windows: I open up all the doors in my studio when I am working with this paint.  I find with the breeze moving through the studio is enough, and I do not need a mask.  If you are at all sensitive to smelly paint odor I would wear a mask that has the filter cartridge - like the one we are wearing in the photo.  I don’t use this copper paint at live paint demonstrations. Instead, I apply the copper to the canvas a few days in advance. I just don’t want to expose anyone to the the smell.  
  2. Wear Gloves: I also wear gloves because I am really messy when I am painting and I always get paint on me.  FYI a great soap for cleaning paint off your skin is LAVA soap.
  3. Soap & Water Clean-up:  Since this is a water based paint, clean up is easy.  Make sure you immediately clean and rinse your brushes when you are finished.  While painting I will work with several brushes.  The brush I am not using is kept in my water jar so it does not dry out. This may seem obvious, but when you are deep into the painting it is easy to set it down, and grab the next brush. Then, 10 minutes later you have a dead $40 brush that can now only be used by the kids as a harry potter wand.


I buy my Modern Master paints from a local art store here in San Diego.  However, I notice it is now easily available on the internet.  Even Home Depot carries it! I am including a photo of the products that I use in the studio so you can see the exact version I use. The packaging for the copper paint seems different than what is carried in Home Depot, but if that is local and convenient for you it may be worth a try.


This copper paint is very opaque.  It has exceptional coverage, and I find applying one coat is enough for my paintings.   It dries as you would expect for an acrylic paint… quickly.  I’m in San Diego, California, and unless it is very humid, the paint usually takes 10 to 15 minutes to set.


This is not a set it and forget it paint product. The neat thing about this paint is that it metal.   This is not a “copper” colored paint.  It is really copper you are applying to your art.

If you do nothing to your copper paint it will oxidize over time

What is Oxidation: Here is a quick description for the website titled "Living Science":

"Just as iron that is left unprotected in open air will corrode…copper that is exposed to the elements undergoes a series of chemical reactions that give the shiny metal a pale green outer layer called a patina."

Dos and Don’ts: So here are some dos and don’ts I have learned:

If you want to keep the shiny copper look:  Sealing it with an acrylic top coat, or varnish will preserve the copper color.

  • Fine art:  Definitely use a professional grade varnish, such as Liquitex or Golden. There is a trick to varnishing, so if you want me to do an article on that send me an email at hello@artdivas.net.  Also, if you are sensitive to vapor odors I would stick with the Liquitex bottle varnish.

A Side Note about Golden Spray Varnish: The Golden spray is good, but boy you really need to have some advanced skills.    I can use multiple cans on a large painting over several days, and at $21 per can, make sure you are incorporating that into your cost.  Also, be prepared for your painting to be stinky for a week (aka don’t do it on a commission 2 days before your unveiling).  On the other hand, this spray varnish can be a God send and it definitely has its purpose.  It’s like a double stroller, you don’t use it all the time, but when you need it you really need it. That is how I would describe Golden spray varnish. Okay…back to copper paint…

  • Crafts: Using Mod Podge for crafty projects is fine. I prefer the spray version if the design is intricate or you don’t want to see brush strokes.   I love to paint it directly on if I want to add more texture to the finish of a project – say a paper mache’ Halloween pumpkin (yep I’m not only an art nerd but crafty too).
  • Refinished furniture or heavy use items: Use a polyurethane top coat. I am including a photo o a gloss product I use.  If it is for cabinets or re-purposed furnishings, I would suggest using the satin finish. That’s my favorite…I’m just out of it at the moment and couldn’t take a photo.

Add Chemical Solutions to Quickly Create a Patina:

  • Metal Effects Patina Aging Solutions: I am familiar with both the blue patina aging solution, and the green patina aging solution. I have been using them for years, and even using them side-by-side on my canvas, I cannot tell any difference between the two patina colors.   They both have a light blue/green hue.   I would love to hear from my fellow artists if you have experienced the same thing. I still buy both, and I still make decisions on which patina aging solution I use for a particular painting based on if I want a green or a blue patina.   However, at the end of the day….I see only blue/green patina with both.
  • YES, Modern Masters is my favorite patina solution. I am not getting paid to say that.   It is the truth.  I have tried other products recommended by my local art store. They are a better value, but in this case they do not react as robustly as Modern Masters.   If you are going to the trouble to use the copper paint, and try to patina something, just use the Modern Masters aging solution.   Another aging solution product I used took over a day to see anything, and it was a very anemic reaction.
  • Liberally Apply the Solution: Now is not the time to be stingy with the solution.   I puddle it onto my copper paint and leave it. You can see it react quickly, and in about 15 minutes it is dry.   You can reapply if you want a deeper patina.   In the photo of my “Dragon’s Back” painting I put two coats of the blue patina aging solution on the center of the wave, and you can see it is a brighter blue.  For the rest of the wave I wanted the colors to be softer, and more muted, so I applied single and light coats of the blue and green patinas.  I some areas I let the shiny copper peek through.  For larger areas I will pour a little bit of the patina straight from the bottle onto the painted area and then use my brush to move it around.

Should the Copper Paint be Dry: I usually wait for my copper paint to dry before I add the patina solution. This is around 15 minutes.  I have applied the patina solution first, and then added the copper paint just to see what happened.  The color changed a little,  but not as much as if I had let it dry and then added the aging solution.   I get impatient, and if I am in the painting zone I will put the patina on my wet paint.  It does the trick, but you risk smearing your paint with your brush.   I would suggest just waiting 15 minutes….unless you can’t…then by all means go for it.

Acrylic Gels & Pouring Mediums – Definite Do’s and Don’ts:

  • DO put it Directly onto the Copper Paint: Go for it.  Add your acrylic gels, pouring mediums, etc.
  • DON’T put it Directly onto the Aging Patina Solution: Don’t do it.  It will get funky, and messy, because some of these products don’t adhere well to the chemicals in the patina, and you can end up messing it all up.
  • DO put it directly onto the Aging Patina Solution that has been sprayed with varnish or Mod Podge. You can avoid the funky mess by spraying a layer of acrylic sealer, varnish, or Mod Podge between the patina solution, and the acrylic gel or pouring mediums. This is where the fun happens, because you can create your copper paint layer, patina it, seal it and then go for another epic layer of crazy acrylic gel, glass bead gel, colored pouring medium, etc.

Please contact me if you have any questions or insights with using copper paints.  Dotty and I love the times when we get out the studio and meet our friends here in San Diego at local art shows. But, sadly, the life of an artist can be solitary and introspective. So if you want to talk art, send me an email at hello@artdivas.net or comment here.

Watch me paint “Dragon’s Back” live at Del Mar Gifts

Sunday, October 4th from 10am to 3pm

1440 Camino Del Mar

Happy Painting!


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