Easy Faux Rust Patina Using Wood Ashes and Paint

4 Materials
2 Hours

Most people paint over rust to make things look new, but if you love farmhouse and country décor like we do, you'll love this easy method we invented to create a soft, durable rust patina. No expensive additives or kits needed. Ordinary wood ashes and paint make this amazing faux rust.

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We didn't find much online about ash paint. This is truly an original seat-of-our pants experiment that turned out great. Watch how easy it can be to make permanent, realistic rust on metal.

For years we experimented with brown paint to get a rust-like patina. Adding wood ash was the key to making this faux finish easy and effective.

The results won't scrape your skin or deteriorate like real rust. It's a soft but durable finish. Sand the metal lightly before painting, and seal it with a matte sealer when dry and it will be strong for every day use.

To make ash paint, you'll need wood ash from a wood stove, fire pit, or fireplace. Shown above was what we used to do a test run of this finish on an iron baking pan with heart shapes. The rust dish on the upper right was for reference.

When we saw how quickly we were able to get the rust effect with wood ash and paint, we were anxious to start on the metal table we got in a thrift shop.

Here's the table before, sitting on a tarp to catch falling ashes and paint.

Here's a close up of the highlight colors we used over the flat primer. Don't be afraid to use hot, saturated colors. Rust is colorful! But you can use plain, unsaturated earth tones if you like.

Here's the flat primer we used. We've listed this in the materials section. Sand the metal and spray on the primer one section at a time.

No need to pre-blend ash paint. We brushed it on and mixed it "on-the-fly" with this soft paint brush. Don't use a valuable brush. We used disposable and old brushes, though we found that we were able to clean off the paint very easily once completed.

We did the spray and dust technique at least twice to build up the finish, then we used a small brush to dab highlight colors and ashes everywhere. The small brush is good for detail work. Use a larger brush for less detailed rust. Blend the whole piece to help the ashes melt into the paint. It will set up quickly.

These hot colors really look great to us whenever we see them on real rust. The ashes will desaturate the colors. You can keep working with this finish for a long time if you like because the paints take several days to completely cure.

This closeup shows how well the wood ashes added texture along with the various shades of paint.

Amazingly, this was easy to clean up. We simply swept the fallen ashes into the garden where many plants appreciate the extra nutrition. We use ashes on vegetables and flowers, but avoid acid-loving native plants like blueberries and pines.

The next day, we sprayed a few layers of Mod Podge Matte Acrylic Sealer over the finish. This will darken the color a bit. Looks great to rust lovers like us! You too? For more details on this project, the original blog post is here.

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Stephie McCarthy

Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!


Have a question about this project?

3 of 5 questions
  • Jea19435299
    on Oct 29, 2019

    Do you paint the dry ash over the base oaint

    • Stephie McCarthy
      on Oct 29, 2019

      Yes you can do that. You can paint first then mix in the dry ash as you go. The loose ash will drop off and the rest will blend into the paint. Or, you can mix ash into your paint first. Both ways will work. -- Stephie

  • Amber Kenaga
    on Feb 1, 2020

    I'm just now seeing this and OMG ... THE PORCH!!! I LOOOVE IT!

    • Stephie McCarthy
      on Feb 1, 2020

      I was just out there yesterday photographing a wicker rocker! There's a post on how to do the rainbow colors on the wood. -- Stephie

  • Susan
    on May 14, 2020

    thank you so much for sharing this technique!!!! I'll be painting more things this year!!! can the primer in the can instead of the spray be used??

Join the conversation

4 of 12 comments
  • Mary McDonald
    on Sep 10, 2019

    It looks soo authentic! Well done! I have an old fire pit grate that looks exactly like that, if you want it. 😊😉 just kidding!

    • Stephie McCarthy
      on Sep 11, 2019

      Thanks, Mary :D I found a grate that looks even worse than this in my barn, lol! -- Stephie

  • Nichole
    on Jan 31, 2020

    Wow amazing job! I personally do not prefer the look of ALL OVER rust, but I can definitely appreciate the skill and creativity put into it and it absolutely looks fantastic! What a great DIY tip! Just because I wouldn't do that on my own projects, doesn't mean I won't be sharing it with my fellow DIYers that do prefer that full rusted metal appearance! Bravo on coming up with that! And I too like the vibrant paint on the deck. Will be checking out that video for sure!

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