How To Paint Copper: Your One-Stop Guide

Any item made out of copper has a certain air of elegance to it. From copper vases to copper plates, these surely make a statement piece in your home. But here’s the catch.


How to Paint Copper

Photo form Canva

Copper can slowly tarnish over time and lose its luster. If you’re feeling bold and in need of a change, this article will show you how to paint copper.


We’ll go through a small list of things needed, before diving into 4 baby steps on how you can paint copper at home. Let’s get started.

Things You’ll Need

You won’t really need a list of items, simply because these are items you may already have on hand. They’re few and super basic, let’s go over them below.


  • Copper cleaner or lemon and salt
  • Sandpaper and scrubber
  • Metal primer
  • Metal paint

How to Paint Copper?

How to Paint Copper

Photo from Canva

Let’s not beat around the bush. We’ll give you what you want right away. Read each and every step carefully after you’ve headed to the store to get the required items.

Step 1: Clean the Copper

Before we get into the complexities, the copper surface needs to be cleaned! If you don’t remove all the tarnish and oxidation, the paint won’t sit.


Professionally, this is done by dipping the copper item in an acidic solution. But don’t do this when you’re taking the DIY route. Head out and purchase a copper cleaner if the tarnish is super bad. These are readily available nowadays and also easy to use.


All you’ll need to do is take a scrubber and sprinkle some cleaner on your copper surface. Then rub in circular motions and wipe away to reveal shiny copper.


If you’re working with a decorative piece like a copper bowl, you may want to clean using natural methods such as lemon and salt.


This will bring back shine and luster to your copper and who knows? You may decide you don’t even want to paint anymore!


Step 2: Prep the Copper

After you make the copper squeaky clean, it’s time to prepare the surface of the copper. The smooth metal surface of copper needs to be rubbed to a rougher texture.


This will allow the primer and paint coats to adhere to the copper. Moreover, you won’t run into the risk of your paint chipping after a few uses.


So take a sandpaper or wire brush and create some texture on your copper surface. Rub the sandpaper firmly in circular motions to scrape any oxidation away.


Be super careful to not scrape too harshly. Or else you may end up damaging the copper itself.

Step 3: Prime the Copper

Still hanging on? You must really be set on painting the copper.


After you’re done with removing all the tarnish and oxidation, now it’s time to prime. Now you may wonder why the need to take an additional step.


Paint doesn’t adhere to metal easily. If you were to just paint directly on copper, it’d be a recipe for disaster. A primer basically acts as a middle layer so that the paint sticks on the copper.


Apply an even layer of primer and let it dry first. After it’s dried completely, go for a second coat. This is to get the smoothest application possible.


Now don’t go and grab the nearest primer in your paint shop. Ask specifically for metal primers since this is what we’ll be needing in this DIY project.


Step 4: Paint the Copper

Done with prepping and priming? Now let’s come to the fun part, painting! For painting on copper, you’ll need special paint just like a special primer.


When buying paint, look for paints that are formulated to go on metals. This will give you the best and most vibrant look. Moreover, the paint will last a long time.


Now there are bazillion paints available for metal. Which one should you choose?

Water Paint vs Oil Paint: Which One for Copper?

How to Paint Copper

Photo from Canva

This may seem overwhelming but fret not! We’re here to help. Which paint you should choose actually depends on what you’re painting.


If you’re painting an outdoor surface like a copper roof, go for oil-based paint. Outdoor paints need to be more durable. Oil paints are good at doing just that. Even though it’s a bit more pricey, the investment will be well worth it.


So should you totally skip water-based paints? Absolutely not! Water paints are great for indoor items that really don’t have a rough use.


They don’t emit smelly fumes like oil paint and come way cheaper. Moreover, they’re not prone to fading like oil paints.

How to Paint?

Once you’ve picked your desired paint, take a paintbrush or roller depending on the size of your surface, and paint away. Make sure you apply the paint in even strokes and don’t miss any spots.

Now you’re done with the first layer of paint. Allow the paint to dry as per the instructed waiting time. The drying time may vary depending on the type of paint you use. But don’t get tempted to layer on two to three coats and get a solid finish.


Your paint will only crack and be less durable. Slow and steady wins the race! Apply an even layer and wait for it to dry before applying another one.


Moreover, don’t forget to always wear protective gear when you do any kind of painting job. This will keep you safe from all the toxic fumes that paint can release. Also make sure that the room you paint in, is well ventilated.

Bottom Line

That’s about it from us. Painting on copper is easy peasy if you know what kind of materials to use. We hope this post blew away all of your concerns regarding how to paint copper.


Still doubtful about something? Or perhaps you’ve painted on copper and have a nugget of wisdom to share with us? Let us know in the comments below!

Call us direct at Earles Paints on 07 4121 5202 for all the information you need and visit us : Earle Paint Place Maryborough.

We’d love to hear your feedback. Until then, ta ta!







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