An Old Look for a New Face

Lynn Schoeffler © 2006

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Do you want a more vintage look for your cast-metal charms and buttons? I've been looking for an easy way to do that for some time, and recently tried Pinata Color by Jacquard.

These paints are actually permanent, acid-free, transparent inks in 17 different colors.

My initial purchase included Havana Brown—brown with a Burgundy cast, Burro Brown that is a rich orangey-brown shade and Mantilla Black.

I painted a variety of metal charms that had either a new brass or silver finish; also a few sterling pieces. Pictured below are the results with the original three colors—all of these finishes were achieved by mixing one of the browns with a tiny bit of black, or using the Pinata Extender to achieve a color-wash that was applied to either the original finish, or one that I had already “antiqued” with the Mantilla Black.

Plain Brass Charms

Charms Colored with Pinata


All of the charms I colored acquired a very nice dark brown to black patina, with gold, red and mauve highlights.

To use the inks, make sure you are in a well-ventilated area, with good lighting. These inks are alcohol based, and they dry almost instantly—that is the one drawback when you work with them. You will need to purchase the Extender to increase the transparency of most of the colors—the best aged look is achieved by mixing a drop of color into a tiny amount of Extender—apply with quick strokes of a small paint brush. Let the charm dry for a few minutes, then apply another color, if desired. Too much color? Simply dip your brush into the Extender and remove some. With a little trial and error, you'll achieve the look you want.

When the charm is completely dry, use a Teflon dish-scrubber and gently buff the charm. This will remove a small amount of ink, letting a few glints of brighter gold or silver shine through.

Pinata Inks will color metal, glass, and leather—any non-porous surface. I purchased a few more colors: purple, green, blue, and yellow, and tried them on a variety of surfaces: seashells, opaque glass beads, mother of pearl buttons. All of these items took the color well, including some old metal buttons that had badly damaged finishes.

Damaged Buttons

 Painted Shells

The inks mix easily, and with a little added Extender, you can get an extended range of translucent colors. New M.O.P. buttons dyed particularly well, with the original sheen showing through the color.

Pinata Colors are available from the Dharma Trading Company singly, or in a starter pack that includes the Extender and Clean-Up Solution (you will need both of those).

Piñata Colors

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