Today I want to share with you the technique I use to add color to metal tins. You can use this technique on any metal product. It especially looks great for shabby or distressed styles.
Begin by removing any hardware, if any if possible. In this example, I am using a Maya Road mini lunchbox. The handles and clasps are all attached with a metal flange that can be un-bent, making the pieces removable. Be sure that any pieces that you remove are done so in a way that will allow you to put them back if desired. If the piece has hardware that you can not remove, just work around it.
Use masking tape to tape off any areas that you don’t want painted.
Apply a thin first coat to the tin using a foam brush. I prefer using white gesso. It works like a primer, adheres well, and gives me a nice neutral base for my color.
As you apply the first coat, whether you use paint, gesso, or a primer, be sure to keep your brush strokes consistent. The brush strokes will show on the finished piece so keeping them consistent will look nicer on the finished piece. This layer does not need to be perfect in coverage, it is mainly laying a base to build on. Streaks and thin areas that are uncovered are okay.
After the first coat is thoroughly dry, apply the next coat. In my case, this is paint. You can use any type of acrylic paint. I really like the Claudine Hellmuth paint. It has a really nice consistency that gives a lot of color in a thinner layer.
Try to apply very thin coats and avoid the urge to try to achieve full coverage in on or two coats. A thin coat will dry faster and adhere better. Multiple coats will take longer to apply, but the finished product will be better.
Allow each coat to dry thoroughly before adding the next. I generally add 2-3 thin coats of color.
As you apply each coat you will see that the color coverage becomes more solid.
After your final coat is dry, you can add other layers of products to create other finishes. Picket Fence Distress stain can be applied for a shabby white wash look. You could also dry brush white paint on for a similar look.
If you like a distressed or chippy look, you can sand some of the edges to expose the metal underneath. I like to add sanding to smooth out any uneven places in the paint. Sanding and adding some imperfections is a great way to detract from any unintentional imperfections.
Another way to add some age or distress would be to apply Distress Ink to the edges with an ink blending tool. Keep in mind that when you apply a sealer, if it is a wet product, the ink can lighten and move. I generally choose an ink color slightly darker than what I want. The ink will move with your brush strokes when you apply the wet sealer, so go with a less is more application.
The paint will scratch off of tin so depending on how much handling your piece will receive, you will most likely want to seal it. I prefer to use a clear wet medium like Claudine Hellmuth’s Matte Multi Medium. Apply the medium with a thin foam brush, again using thin coats and following the previous brush strokes. Generally, you will only need 1-2 thin coats.
After the pieces is dry, you can see how the Distress Ink changed. It is lighter and softer looking.
You can re-apply more ink to the edges if you want to darken them. It dries well on the sealed surface and keeps it color well. Keep in mind, that this layer of ink is not sealed and on this surface, if it were to get wet it could possibly come off. I tested my sample with a wet wipe after a few days and only had a very small amount of ink come off. I think adding ink after that fact looks great, but thought I should mention the durability part of it just in case…
Once the paint and ink layers are all dry, you can remove any masking. If any edges are rough, clean them up with a craft knife or sanding.
The final step is to replace all of the hardware and clean up any wayward paint on the inside of the box. I usually find I can scrape it away with my fingernail and a baby wipe.
One huge word of caution. . . DO NOT close the lid (if you have one) on your tin for a few days after you have painted and sealed. Even though it feels dry, it is best to let it cure a bit before putting on or closing any lids. I painted a round tin once and was in a rush to photograph it and put the lid on right way. The lid bonded like nothing I have ever seen and would not come back off. I pried and twisted and used every jar opener known and could never get that lid off! So a word to the wise, give it a few days before closing a box or putting a lid on, you will be glad you did! When I follow that rule, I have never had a problem with one opening, even after sitting closed for a long period of time.