Craft Ideas for Adults. Create a delightful aged brass patina on a 3D printed Artwork
If you’re looking for craft ideas for adults and enjoy experimenting with novel techniques then check out this new and rapidly developing area of arts and crafts.
Hi, I’m Koogee Brown from koogeebrown.com. I make original decorative art and jewellery from 3D printed art decorated with mixed media and craft materials.
Straight out of the printer, 3D prints usually have an artificial surface finish, often with visible layer lines. Sometimes this suits the artwork, but that said, I find that adding an interesting patina greatly enriches the art. In this tutorial I’m going to show you how to order a 3D printed sculpture from an online 3D printing marketplace, and then add a wonderful aged brass patina using metal leaf treated with vinegar. It’s quite easy to do and it’s a lot of fun if you enjoy making decorative crafts.
Step 1 If you’re like me you may find this a bit daunting but it’s really very easy and fun. I want you to choose and order a piece of 3D printed sculpture or jewellery from an online 3D printing marketplace such as Shapeways. See my tutorial “Diy Home Decor Ideas” for easy instructions.
For now 3D printing is moderately expensive, but the technology is evolving rapidly and prices and turnaround times are gradually improving. Remember that these original designs are not mass produced so you will likely own a rare piece of art.
“Shapeways” is a well-known 3D printing company based in New York and the Netherlands. Their online designer shops hold a treasure-trove of incredibly beautiful sculpture (mixed up with many weird and nerdy creations). Many designers like to show off the unique capabilities of 3D printing by making their work very intricate. However for the purposes of this tutorial we need a piece with easy to reach surfaces which are relatively flat so we can display our lovely patina. If you are willing to spend some time patiently browsing, you will find perfect designs for this technique.
Step 2 Order your chosen 3D printed sculpture. Once again you may find this a little scary if you haven’t done it before. “What if I order the wrong material or size or the thing doesn’t print properly?” Never fear, when you understand the basics it’s easy (see my tutorial “ Diy Home Decor Ideas” for all the info.) The 3D printing material used in this tutorial is called “strong and flexible plastic” but it has a unique “chalk like” surface finish. If I get a little technical it is more accurately laser sintered nylon and it really is strong and quite flexible! For this technique I recommend “white strong and flexible” which is the unpolished version. The polishing process can sometimes blur out fine details and anyway the patination process we’re using will have a smoothing effect.
Shapeways frequently introduces new materials and many of their existing materials may be suitable for this method. See their “Materials Page” to learn about their qualities. Remember that the material you choose must be paintable for this technique to work.
Step 3 You should receive your 3D print in 2 to 5 weeks depending on where you live in the world. I live in Australia so I have to be patient but if you’re in the U.S. or Europe it should be quicker.
Although “Shapeways” is very reliable, double check your object for faults. There may be a small amount of nylon powder left over from the printing process so give it a quick rinse in water and dry thoroughly.
Next, you need to undercoat all surfaces with two coats of spray primer. It is important you do this because, amazingly laser sintered nylon is actually porous and will initially suck up any glue or paint you apply. (Unlike the hundreds of injection moulded plastic things you have in your house)
STEP 4) Base Colour
The finished surface will feature a mixture of shiny and dull brass with a base colour showing through in some places. The base colour can be any shade you choose but I used artist’s “Vermillion” (orange) enamel which I applied by brush. Brush marks are visible on the finished model which I like, but you could avoid these by using canned spray paint.
Step 5 Now we put on our imitation gold leaf.
This is an easy technique, see this instructional youtube video. From a store that sells Art supplies get hold of some imitation gold leaf (not real gold), “leafing size” (the glue), and some medium sized soft paint brushes (don’t order yet, there are more items below). You will also need tweezers and cotton gloves (to handle the leaf). I borrowed (stole) one of our kitchen knives to cut the leaf and I used a folded handkerchief as a cutting board.
“Imitation Gold Leaf” is actually a type of brass alloy which contains copper and zinc. Any patinating treatments which work for copper (see my tutorial) should work for this metal as well.
After letting the (size/ glue) dry for a half hour as per the instructions I basically “patted” the “gold” leaf on with a small artist’s paintbrush. The very thin sheets of metal will tear and fragment but don’t worry just keep patting it on. Cut small pieces with a kitchen knife on a folded handkerchief. Small leftover fragments may be picked up with the brush and applied to gaps. Wear cotton gloves (supermarket) and use tweezers for placing smaller chunks. I found it best not to attempt to cover every tiny gap with a second coat because it’s easy to miss small areas of glue leaving them exposed, often on top of earlier layers of leaf. This will wreck your patina by making shiny metal areas.
STEP 6) OXIDISING WITH BALSAMIC VINEGAR
To “age” or oxidise the metal I used balsamic vinegar from the supermarket. I applied with a spray bottle in the laundry sink and reapplied every 15 minutes. I allowed the balsamic vinegar to react for about one hour and then rinsed well with tap water and allowed to dry. Wear latex gloves.
Step 7 To finish and protect the patina I recommend two to three coats of clear gloss spray paint. Of course you can use a matt or semi-gloss finish if you wish. I used gloss enamel but I think acrylic (shown) should be Ok.
I hope you’ve had fun and have produced a unique and delightful piece of decorative craft. Well done having to courage and determination to give it a go!
If you have questions feel free to use my email firstname.lastname@example.org or use the comment box. Also I’d love to see photos of your efforts.