Alcohol Ink: Adding Color to Bronze

Do you love the way that patinas can turn silver blue, purple, golden, and even red? I know I do. However, I also like working with bronze. The usual patinas only turn bronze black. Baldwin’s patina, while it can install a lovely color on copper, doesn’t do much to bronze. This post describes an experiment in adding color to bronze jewelry through alcohol ink.

First, I made two pairs of straightforward bronze earrings. Figuring that the depth of the texture would have an impact, I gave one pair a very deep texture and the other a shallow texture. After finishing, firing, and tumbling, I was ready to experiment with color.

I had two bottles of alcohol ink, one blue and the other green. Finding the pure hues a bit less complex than what I wanted, I mixed them to yield a blue-green ink. Then, using an old, disposable, paint brush, I painted the earrings.

If one merely dabs the color on, the effect is underwhelming. To get the effect you want, you need to thoroughly coat the metal. In fact, I coated it so heavily that the texture almost vanished. I let the ink dry to the point that it was no longer tacky, but not truly try either. Then, using a nail filing sponge, I scraped off the ink. The result was that the ink remained in the depressions but came off the raised places, much like regular patina. The results appear below.

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In the deeper texture (the stars/flowers/however you see them), the ink looked almost black. In fact, to notice the color, you needed the light to hit them just right. In the shallow texture, the color was quite apparent.

After doing this, I realized another benefit of alcohol ink. Most patinas, even when wiped off, darken the bronze. Alcohol ink did not. Thus, the non-colored part of the earrings were extremely shiny. This broadens one’s options — a way to simultaneously patina bronze and leave it shiny.

While I only used blue and green, alcohol ink comes in a wide variety of colors. If you are interested in coloring your bronze pieces, consider giving alcohol inks a try.

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