Ways to protect the colour of anodized titanium

Hi Orchidians,

I have just started to work with anodized titanium and, although it
seems an open field for experimentation, I have to confess I’m a bit
worried about the color durability, since fingerprints seem to have a
dulling effect not very attractive to clients.

First of all, I have done my homework (this is, research) and I have
already contacted the Reactive Metals Studio team, which have kindly
answered my question about using a lacquer or coating on anodized
titanium pieces. Due to the nature of the color in this metal (based
on refraction of light on the oxide layer), any coating will change
the color but this is not bad per se as long as I like the result.

Before I start testing these color changes with lacquer, I would
like to know if those of you who work with anodized titanium use any
surface protectors. I want happy customers!

Many thanks for your insight and greetings from Spain!

Irene Lopez

Hi Irene,

Google for Ted Frater bronzesmith and minter to look at the oxidised
titanium I do.

Now there are 2 ways to colour this metal.

  1. the way you do it ie anodising, and,

  2. using heat. This is far superior to anodising and is the best way
    to go.

But before you start, you need to be sure your using commercially
pure metal.

Dont use any of the industrial alloys.

the results are poor.

so to colour titanium with heat this is what you do.

  1. you polish the titanium to a mirror finish a pain but a must.

  2. you then clean to remove any polish grease residues.

  3. you set up a propane flame from a 1in dia burner vertically on a

  4. with a neutral flame burning at a medium rate,

  5. hold the titanium piece with tongs and slowly lower down toward
    to invisible part of the flame.

  6. Remove when youve the colour you want.

you can watch it change colour slowly.

How long it takes will depend on metal mass, proximity to flame, ie
all sorts of variables.

youll have to experiment to get the technique right.

as to laquering after. You wont need to.

As to colouring finger rings dont, the public will wear off the
colour in no time.

And youll have them back to re do. A very difficult job.

Hope this helps.

Hi everyone, I have been collecting anodized titanium pieces since
1982. None of them have a coating. Every single one of them is as
brightly colored asthe day I purchased them. I wear these all the
time and get tons of compliments on these pieces (This is why I want
to get into titanium work, someday, when I’m rich and have a place
to set up the machinery!)

I would worry more about putting a lacquer or coating on my
titanium, as a lot of people can be allergic to such things.

I just had an experience with a lacquer coating made specifically
for jewelry myself. I’ve never had a reaction to metals before but
this coated piece of copper jewelry I’ve made cause me to break out.
All my other copper items don’t have an effect on me at all.


Hi Irene,

The color change effect from fingerprints is most pronounced at the
lower voltage colors. The lower the voltage, the thinner the oxide
layer, and thus the greater effect of the ‘extra’ layer imparted by
skin oils. So if you run up into the higher voltage colors, you’ll
have less problem. Of course, those colors are less brilliant. So
there’s a tradeoff.

Any coating you add is going to change the thickness of the clear
layer that’s doing the reflecting, which is what’s causing the
apparent color. So anything you do is going to mess with the color
to some extent.

The oxide itself is pretty tough, especially in relation to chemical
cleaners. I’ve always found windex or other non-abrasive glass
cleaner to do a pretty good job at getting the oil off. This leaves
you with a clean, bright surface. Until somebody touches it again. I
also sand/beadblast the surface to give it a non-directional matte
surface, which helps brighten things up. RMS’s "Multi-etch’ solution
does a pretty good job at etching the surface to increase the
brilliance of the colors as well, so definitely give that a try.
About the worst possible surface, from a color point of view, would
be a tripoli or rouge’d finish. It’ll be blazing bright from one
(and only one) angle, and stone dead from most others. (and
fingerprints will stand out like a sore thumb.)

Remember that titanium isn’t really all that strong. It’s tougher
than silver, and has some spectacularly peculiar working properties
that give it a bad rep, but it’s not a whole lot harder than nickel
silver, or hard anodized aluminum. And the colors will scratch if
subject to abrasion or wear. So pay attention to how you’re using
it, and what you’re asking it to do. Make sure that what you ask of
it is something it’s actually good at. “brooch for fancy night out”?
Definitely. Wedding ring? Probably not, unless you like grey.


Thank you all for your help!

Ted, many thanks for pointing out the possibility of using heat to
colour titanium. I may give a try to this alternative in the future,
but I like the precision and finish anodizing provides.

Lori, thank you so much for your insight about the durability of
color in anodized titanium pieces, it’s great to know it lasts so
long. Your collection must be amazing!

Brian, I hadn’t thought the thickness of the oxide layer would
condition its resistance to skin oils. I want to make sure that the
pieces I create will last for a lifetime if proper care taken, and in
this case repairing them (re-anodizing in case of scratches, etc.)
would not be possible because I am combining sterling silver,
anodized titanium, and gemstones in ‘sandwich type’ pieces (I am
aware this makes the cleaning of these pieces not very easy).

I am using commercial grade 1 titanium sheet and I intend to give a
matte finish. I clean it with Multi-Etch before anodizing. I’ve been
given the advice of using a tarnish cloth to clean the silver layer
and then use Windex to clean the whole piece, not heavily rubbing the
titanium areas as that will wear the color. Any other suggestion
regarding the cleaning issue will be very welcome.


Irene Lopez