How to Color a Metal Chain

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Metal chains come in a variety of sizes from quite tiny, such as jewelry chain, to quite large, such as the anchor chain on boats. Many types of chain change color over time due to rust, environmental exposure, or other reasons. There are several ways to change the color of metal chain including painting directly onto the links, dipping sections of chain or hanging and spraying the chain with spray paint.

Things You'll Need

  • Spray cleanser (optional)
  • Denatured alcohol
  • Rag
  • Power washer (optional)
  • Wire brush (optional)
  • Strippable coating (optional)
  • Small artist paint brush
  • Painter's tape (optional)
  • Paper clip
  • Plastic sheeting (optional)
  • Spray primer for metal
  • Spray paint for metal
  • Clear coat for metal (spray paint)

Clean your metal chain using a spray cleanser, denatured alcohol and a rag to remove any oils. On smaller chains, such as those used for jewelry, handling will leave oils and paint will not adhere to oil spots. On larger chains it may be necessary to use a wire brush and power washer to clean the chain surface.

Paint any objects attached to the chain that you do not want to color with a strippable coating. This forms a removable mask that will protect the surface during the painting process. On a jewelry piece the strippable coating would be applied to gemstones using a small artist brush. Allow the coating to dry for four hours before painting. Painter's tape can be used on larger chains to protect areas from paint.

Bend a paper clip into a double hook shape and string the end of the metal chain onto the last link. Use the second hook to hang the chain in a location where you can easily spray all sides of the chain. Larger chains (too heavy to hang) can be spread out in serpentine fashion on a plastic painting sheet.

Spray the metal chain with primer. Move the spray can in even passes at least 10 inches from the chain surface. Be careful to spray a light coat. Globs or thick coats will gum up small chains and look unsightly on larger chains. Allow 15 minutes between coats. Allow the last coat to dry four hours. Chain on sheeting will need to be turned in order to coat all sides.

Spray the metal chain with paint. Apply the paint in even passes in thin coats. Very little paint is necessary to change the color of jewelry chain. Large chains may require several coats to produce the effect you desire.

Paint very thin coatings of paint on jewelry chain by filling a small bowl with thinned paint and dragging the chain through the thinned paint. Wipe off excess paint with a rag. This is often necessary with very small chains that gunk up fast. Paint can also be lightly applied using a small artist brush. This works well for spots of color rather than consistent color applications. Allow all paints to dry completely before using the chain.

Apply a finish clear coat spray paint to chains where the painted finish needs additional protection. Either hang or spray the coating as detailed above.

Remove any strippable coatings or tape after the clear coat has dried completely (about 24 hours).

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