Painting copper


I have been researching/experimenting painting on copper (for
earrings & pendants). Does anyone have experience using acrylic
paints on copper with a gesso primer? I created some copper earrings
that are sanded, gessoed, painted, and sealed with multiple Krylon
clear coats. They seem to hold up well. Just not sure if the paint
will peel over time. I’m considering using oils, as well, but put
off by the drying time.

Any suggestions would be appreciated!! Thank you.

Hi Erin;

In my experience, copper and copper based alloys tend to shed
coatings after a while. Everything seems fine for a while, then an
oxide film develops under the paint and ruins its adherence to the
surface. I don’t think the gesso (I’m assuming you mean regular
acrylic gesso) will be immune to this.

On the other hand, painting with oil paint on copper panels has been
practiced for centuries. Here’s a description of the process used to
prepare them:

I don’t know if you really want to mess with the toxic lead primer,
though, or use it in jewelry.

Have you considered using vitreous enamels instead? This is a
time-honored method of decorating copper jewelry items, and is much
more permanent than any paint.

Andrew Werby


There is a product available at Rio and other suppliers called
Colores. I have used it successfully on sterling and still wear one
piece that I made ten years ago.

Find the Rio Grande jewelry company

Search for “Colores”.
Click on resins
Click on Colores Epoxy Resin
Click on Colores Classic Color Set
Click on Colores Pastel Pearl Colors

I have a sterling necklace of discs painted bright yellow. The
Colores is still a bright color and has not chipped.

If you purchase, follow the directions very carefully. Good luck.



You should talk with Maryln DaSilva:

She has been doing sculptural works for years using the technique
you recommend. I took a workshop she taught a few years back and I
dont recall what she said about jewelry.

My thought would be that you would want to only use it in protected
areas that wouldn’t be rubbed to much.

Just my two sence,

The key to getting paint to stick to metal is always the preparation,
it doesnt matter what metal wether copper steel or ali. The way is to
etch the metal so that it has a rough texture. however the weak point
in your paint layer is the gesso. Avoid it if you can. Stick to one
paint medium, wether acrylic or oils.

Drying time is always a hold up.

The other alternative I would use is vitroeus enamel. its a fast,
durable technique on copper and easy. Especially as you I assume ar
using solid, not transparent paints. Solid colours on copper are the
easiest. Firing time from loading into a kiln to cold, some 5 to 10
mins. And if your good enough transparent colours will be a winner
with sales. Done that!!