September 12, 2011

Monday's Makeover: Using Mica to Repaint Candlesticks!

Guest post from fellow member of Upcyclers, Jason Bosh of  
JTB Metal Designs on Etsy.

Mica Powders in Arts and Crafts

What are Mica Powders
In this article, I will discuss mica powders as inorganic pigments.  More specifically, I will refer to their addition to paint mediums and coatings and applying them as metal finishes.  Usually, a specific color of mica is made by grinding a natural mica to a specified particle size and then applying various inorganic additives that create the desired color by creating and interference layer.  The light strikes the modified mica and bends creating the color needed.  This is very similar phenomenon that you will find in a parking lot where oil and water meet.  For a more technical essay on this topic click on this article about polarization and interference colors.  A good place to buy micas is cosmetic and soap maker suppliers as these are the largest nonindustrial consumers of these pigments. 

How my use of micas differs
Most crafters just use mica powders for scrap booking, embossing, or perhaps for precious metal clays. This link is a typical example of these uses and does link to related articles.  What I am offering here is a truly unique perspective on using mica in art.  First, I will talk about the adding the mica to a clear painting medium and second, I will relate this to applying a painted finish on metal art.  In this article I will talk about my experience with a water based acrylic medium.  More specifically, the 3D crystal lacquer made by Sakura craft.  This seems to be the most preferred 3D lacquer for crafters.  It is water based acrylic that is thick and dries especially shiny.  More on acrylic paints can be found here .  All water based acrylics are opaque but dry clear as the water evaporates.  This is because water based acrylic paint is an emulsion.  Later, I will write about adding micas to oil based mediums.

An Application example
The pictures I am adding show two candle holders my wife asked me to repaint for her.  We paid $2.99 for them at Goodwill and they where cheap steel artifacts mass produced in China that had the most hideous fake brass paint on them.  This was chipping off so I used my steel bristle brush to finish off the coating.  I applied Rustoleum white primer and flat black spray paint.  The black finish was to be my canvas to which I would work.  Since these works are our personal use,  this was an experiment in technique and a learning experience. I learned that you need very little pigment for a given volume of medium.  Especially if you are using the special interference micas that appear white but have coatings that change color on light angle.  Too much of these leaves the finish very frosty looking.  I had this problem with the moon holder and I used hot soap water to strip down back to the black finish.  As you can see using cautions in mixing works very well.

This particular finish was a deep blue metallic blue with a light coating of interference purple.
This gave the moon a peculiar blue violet look which I feel the real moon possesses.

You can see how the other one, a sun, turned out as well on my blog~ JTB Metal Designs! You will also find a wealth of tutorials, informative articles on metal processing and more!

Here's a peek at Jason's shop on Etsy!


  1. Thanks, Jason! You write very clearly and it's interesting to see what your experiments result in. I'm off to check out the rest of your blog.