altering metal filigrees using acrylic paint post feature

Tutorial of the Week: Altering Metal Filigrees Using Acrylic Paint

Good morning, everyone!  It is time for another tutorial…sheesh, does a week fly by or what?  Well, last week I said we were going to get messy in our next tutorial together…and messy we are going to get!  This week, I will be going over different ways that you can alter your metal filigrees using acrylic paint.  …but, I also have a special treat…I did the tutorial in video form this week as well 🙂  Read on for the text version, but if you just want to get to the video, you can find that at the end of this post.


The materials you need for this tutorial include:

  • superfine steel wool
  • dish soap
  • towels / rags
  • a glass with water
  • paint brushes (nothing fancy needed)
  • acrylic paint

I use a variety of different acrylic paints…I have FolkArt from Walmart, but Martha Stewart and Lumiere are my favorites 🙂

Surface Preparation

The single most important step in this whole tutorial is surface preparation…I cannot stress this enough!  Your paint job will only be as good as your surface prep because if you skip this step, your paint will likely peel or chip off of your metal piece.

Step #1

Buff your metal filigree in a circular motion using superfine steel wool.  This will give the paint some “tooth” to grab on to.

buff filigree using steel wool

Step #2

Now you need to wash the filigree using either dish soap, or rubbing alcohol or an alcohol wipe.  This will remove any “dust” that was created in step #1, and also remove any surface oils that may be on your filigree.  You’ll also want to make sure you dry the filigree really well, too.

Method #1 – Solid Paint

The first, and most obvious, method of painting your filigrees is to just paint them a solid color.  …why would you want to do that, you ask?  Well, think of how beautiful white filigrees would look on a wedding album, or baby pink on the congratulations card you give to a friend after having her first baby girl?

It is important to apply your paint by dabbing it onto your metal filigree using a paint brush.  This is for a few different reasons:

  1. you can get paint into all the crevices much easier,
  2. it will eliminate the appearance of brush strokes, and
  3. you can apply a thicker coat of paint and ultimately get better coverage so that the metal will not show through.

dab paint to get good coverage

Method #2 – “Finger” Painting

The second method for painting your filigrees is to apply it to the high spots of your filigree with your finger.  This will bring out more of the texture in your filigree, and you can coordinate the colors with your projects 🙂

It is important to use only a very tiny bit of paint on your finger so that you do not make too much of a mess.

apply paint using your fingers


Don’t be afraid to use more that one technique on your filigree, either.  In this picture, I just used my finger to apply the paint to the flower on the left.  The filigree on the right was painted black first, then I applied more paint in a different color using my finger…AFTER the first coat of paint was completely dry.

finger painted filigrees


Method #3 – Dry Brushing

This next method is extremely subtle, and is great if you just want to tone down the metal a little bit.  You want to use a dry brush for this, and add only the slightest bit of paint to your brush…the brush should still feel dry with paint on it.  Kinda like this:

add a tiny amount of paint to a dry brush

Then all you need to do is brush the paint onto your metal piece:

dry brush paint onto filigree

Here, you can see the difference between a filigree without paint on the left, and the one that has been dry brushed on the right…like I said…this effect is very subtle:

contrast of dry brushed filigree

Method #4 – Shabbifying

This is my absolute favorite method of painting filigrees with acrylic paint!  …and it is super easy, too!  It yields a very shabby looking filigree.  It can also be used to make it look like your metal has a patina on it.

Step #1

Apply a thin coat of paint to your filigree…you want to cover the entire surface, and make sure you get into all those crevices.

apply a thin coat of paint to your filigree

Step #2

Before the paint dries completely, grab a rag and wipe the paint off your filigree…I waited only about 5-10 seconds!  This will remove all of the paint from the high spots and leave paint in all off the crevices.  You can apply several coats, depending on how much paint you want left on your filigree.

wipe paint off of filigrees

Here’s a picture of a few pieces that I used this techniques on:

metal filigrees shabbified using acrylic paint


Once you’ve painted your filigrees, it is important to add a finishing coat to them.  This will help ensure the longevity of your paint job.  There are a few things you can use as a topcoat:

  1. spray lacquer – Krylon brand is very popular, and comes in 3 different finishes…matte, satin, and gloss
  2. Glossy Accents
  3. Diamond Glaze
  4. Mod Podge

My personal favorite is the spray lacquer because it is much easier to get a nice even coat without any brushstrokes.

Where’s my video?

If you’re more of a video watching kinda person, here’s a look at the complete video I created to show you exactly how to do all the techniques discussed above:

Quest for the Perfect Bronze

As many of you know, Julie (thepaperbaglady1 on YouTube) and I are great friends.  Well, Julie is on a quest to find a technique that can be used on any color of metal to create the perfect bronze.  So, since I am starting to get into changing up the color of your filigrees, I thought we could have some fun together and try to help Julie out 🙂

I did alot of playing around with different paints and mixing techniques we talked about above and this was the result:

bronze quest using acrylic paint

The filigree in the middle is the standard bronze you can purchase from the ButterBeeScraps shop.

The filigree on the left was first altered by mixing a little bit of black with Lumiere Old Brass paint and dabbing the paint onto the entire surface.  After the first coat of paint was dry, I added some Lumiere Brass paint to the high spots on the filigree using my finger.  The recesses don’t look quite as dark as the standard bronze filigree, but this method has promise if you were to mix a bit more black into the base coat to make it a bit darker.

The filigree on the right resembles the standard bronze much more closely than the left filigree.  I started with a base coat of Lumiere Old Brass.  I let that dry for quite some time, and even heat set it.  Using Method #4 above, I added a thin coat of black paint and quickly wiped it off…just to darken those recesses a bit.  I then finished the piece by adding a tiny bit of Lumiere Brass paint to the high spots using my finger.  I’m still not entirely happy with the result.  The color definitely works, but the “crispness” of the detail is somewhat lost.

…I shall continue on this quest in upcoming tutorials, and challenge anyone else out there to come up with a good solution.  If you have any ideas, please let me know in the comments below 🙂  Cheers and thanks for stopping by today!

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