How to Color Metal With Food Dyes

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Things You'll Need

  • Clear acrylic craft lacquer

  • Small resealable plastic containers

  • Food coloring

  • Aluminum foil

  • Craft brushes

Like other art mediums, metal craft projects are often in need of elements of color. While many commercially made dyes and paints are formulated for metal painting, dyeing your project with ordinary food coloring allows the color to be transparent, adjustable in tone and as easy to remove as the fixative you use to apply to. Make your own clear metal paints using a combination of standard food dyes and craft lacquer.


Step 1

Prepare the metal. Wash it thoroughly with soap and water, and dry. If it's a soft metal, you can also rub it with sand paper to make the surface a bit more rough and porous to help the lacquer adhere. Bear in mind that this will give the metal a frosty, rather than glossy, sheen.

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Step 2

Divide up the lacquer into separate containers. Use a different container for each color you want in your project, and adjust the amounts according to how much of each shade you need in relation to the others. Err on the side of mixing more colored lacquer than you think you'll need, rather than less, because it will be difficult to mix a second batch that exactly matches the colors of the first.


Step 3

Mix food coloring with the lacquer. Add a drop at a time to each container of lacquer and stir with a bamboo skewer. Use both a swirling stroke and a digging motion to pull lacquer from the bottom of the container to mix with lacquer on the top, ensuring even distribution of the dye.

Step 4

Test the lacquer colors and adjust. Use the craft brush to apply a thin layer of lacquer to a small area on a sheet of aluminum foil; this will give you an accurate idea of how deep the color's tone will be on your metal project. If the color is too weak, add more food coloring. If it is too dark, add more lacquer to the liquid.


Step 5

Apply the colored lacquer to the metal. Use the craft brush and apply with long, even strokes. Keep the strokes uniform by running them all parallel to each other, or apply in small, circular strokes overall.


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