Red Patina on Copper

Hello everyone I have just spent a day trying to achieve a deep red
patina on copper using one of Hughes and Rowes boiling recipes that
worked well for me a long time ago. After buying chemicals, worrying
about the hazards and all the time involved in dealing and disposing
of them and the laborious cleaning process AND then failing I wonder
if it is all worth it. So, after reading the great posts on green
patinas I wondered if there was anyone who had any simpler home grown
solutions. There must be a way… Thanks in advance Christel in West Oz

The best way I have found to get a red patina on copper is to heat it
until it turns red, and then immediately put the piece in water. It
cools the copper and keeps it red. You may have to practice a bit
first, and of course it never looks the same twice, but it’s the best
way I have found to do it without using chemicals of any kind.

Hello everyone I have just spent a day trying to achieve a deep red
patina on copper using one of Hughes and Rowes boiling recipes that
worked well for me a long time ago.  

John E. Traister in his book Professional Care and Finishing of Gun
Metal suggests

1/2 ounce of sulfurated potassium (liver of sulfur)
3/4 ounce of sodium hydroxide (lye)
32 ounces of distilled water.

Heat the solution (but not to boiling temperature) and dip the
object in it. When the preferred color is attained, rinse in tap
water, dry, and lacquer. (Color will vary from red to bronze to brown,
I’m not sure in which order.)

I’ve not tried this. But looks like a cheap smelly alternative.

Copper can be patinad with organic looking patterns of rose, copper,
black, grey blue, purple and dark gold shading to brown using nothing
but a gas kitchen range (or propane torch), laundry grade borax, water
and denatured alcohol. Alcohol/borax leaves a cleaner, coppery finish
after heating. Water/borax leaves an uneaven granular flux coat and a
spotted, streaked finish. Heating without any coating at all leaves a
wide variety of color varying from subtle or firescale if heated too
much. Or one could coat with borax, mark a pattern with fingers or
toothbrush or other object and heat, mark a second pattern then heat,
leaving a series of solors. The color can be preserved with a light
coating of kitchen wax or lightened/removed with a Brillo pad. Much
less tacky looking (in my irritatingly opinionated opinion) than
commercial patinas. Geo

I have gotten very nice, cherry to burgundy red patina on copper by
using heat. Just flux the piece, heat it until it glows dull red, keep
it hot for a few seconds. The copper will at this point look black.
Thow the pieceinto water (not pickle!) while it is still hot, the
black oxides will come off and leave the copper an attractive red. In
fact, I made a bola slide with silver overlay on copper and achieved
this effect by simply dropping the piece into water instead of pickle
after the final soldering. I made that piece appoxmately a year ago
and the color of the copper remains unchanged, despite the fact that I
did not treat the finished piece.

Hope this helps!

Hi! Although not always the “exact” art, heating the copper and
quenching quickly, in water, will produce a red patina.

There’s a good book on patinas and colors for metals out, can’t think
of the name right now. Anyway, red is really easy to get on copper,
all you do is heat it to a red color and dunk in boiling water, no
chemicals needed…Dave

Crystalguy Jewelry, Art Jewelry for the Mystic Soul
Paddle Jewelry for River Addicts


Amazon has “The Colouring, Bronzing and Patination of Metals” by
Richard Hughes and Michael Rowe Hardcover 372 pages, Publ. 1991, $56.00
US ISBN 0823007626

Charles Lewton Brain Has a book for sale thru this website.
Patinas for Small Studios” You can order it online for $15.50

Many thanks for so many responses already! I am such a bozo, I forgot
to mention that I am looking for recipes other than heating and
quenching in water. I find that the colour is often too pink and not
uniform enough for what I am doing. It’s a deep orangy red that I am
after,something like the sand in the Australian outback and Ayres
Rock. So if anyone knows anything else, please let me know. Will
definitely try the silver cleaner and your recipe Connie. I have
always used sodium hydroxide and distilled water alone to blacken
copper, so this one sounds interesting. Thanks so far! Christel

I also have gotten beautiful deep reds with the use of paste flux, as
soon as the flux goes to the glassy stage remove from the torch -
pickle then I put the peice into baking soda solution for about 15
min. if it isn’t red enough repeat the same process untill you get the
right one, I have done several torch fired enamel hearts this way,
leaving the edges about 1/4 the way in to be the heat patina & center
is enamel & enamel chunks, people ask me what the stone is they cant
beleive it is enamel & heat patina, - I also seal the peice with
jhonson paste wax (for wood) the patinas have not worn off in 3 years

  • good luck Aileen

Hi there,

I have been out of town, but wanted to put in my two cents. A guy
from Louisana taught me how to achieve some unique reddish coloration
with copper. You finish the piece, buff it with rouge, heat it evenly
with a blow torch so that it turns somewhat blue when you remove the
flame and it cools. ( this of course takes some practice and you may
vary the final colors by changing the length of time you subject the
piece to flame)

Then buff it lightly with rouge again. The color is not a solid red,
but the effects are beautiful. There may be some excess rouge bits
to scrape off the edges…very carefully. It also takes some
practice to get the effects you want.