Creating Vintage Charm with Patina Powder Coatings

Posted on Tuesday, April 25, 2023

By Kim Scott

Patina powder coating is a type of application revolutionizing a new genre of exotic finishes. Like traditional patinated processes, it gives metal surfaces a weathered, aged appearance, such as a rust brown or the greenish-blue color of oxidized copper, but without all the traditional headaches of achieving them.

Powder with a Twist
Depending on the application technique, the effect of patina powder coating ranges from simple to heavily distressed, aged looks. Using a special blend of pigments and powders that react chemically with the metal surface to create a unique and varied pattern of colors and textures, the all- powder no-paint method has been applied on projects from architectural to decorative.

Designed to replace traditional methods of patination, it is valued for its durability, resistance to corrosion, and ability to provide distinctive, distressed finishes that can enhance the beauty and character of metal surfaces. The powder effects can span from a deep blue-green hue to a more muted brown or rust color. The full line of exotic effects, called PowderLUX™, is a win-win for the manufacturing and contracting markets currently using traditional paints and etches. Without having to purchase costly premium metals like copper and brass, they can now achieve a similar effect using less expensive substrates, including aluminum and steel.

Products such as outdoor sculptures, ornamental metal, furniture, lighting, signage, automotive, and home goods allow for a high degree of creativity and flexibility in design. To meet these wide-ranging applications, the line has expanded to include blackened steel and rustic bronze, with more in development. Currently, the product portfolio includes 15 effects available in matte or satin finishes. The materials used conform to architectural standards that are AAMA 2604 rated, ensuring quality and durability.

Messing with Tradition
If you’ve ever painted or powder coated clears over living finishes you know they simply will not adhere, failing because the metal continues to chemically age. There is no natural looking solution that can evenly distress the surface of metal and stand the test of time. There is nothing faster and safer to apply than powder coatings and patina powder coatings can fill this gap. That said, single transfer powders are mostly formulated around creating hammer tone or crackle finishes, not distressed looks.

Ross Scott, an industry veteran with over 30 years of experience in paint coatings and the creator of these powders that provide realistically distressed looks, says the list of projects using these unique powders keeps growing. It's even been done on a bike!

As an owner of a local powder coating shop in Hawaii, far from the mainland, Ross is no stranger to out of the box thinking. A local architect hired an award-winning artist and welder for a large patina project on gates in a new development. It turns out there were more gates than could possibly be patinated/aged using traditional acid etching/ chemical induction processes and still meet the project deadline. So, when the artist challenged Ross to try and mimic his own living patina finish, he was inspired. The sample passed muster, not only with the artist who had been creating living finishes for over 40 years, but with the architect as well. Intrigued by the ability to use industrial powder coatings as a creative force in the production of luxury looks, Ross continued to develop the line into what it is today.

In 2021, Ross wondered if he could change the perceived mindset of both new clients and coaters alike. He decided to market the patina powders to consumers but also offer a course to teach the layered application process. With in- person training hindered by the pandemic, he opted to offer the course, CoaterFX, online. His first cohort studied the process virtually with continued technical and sales support.

One of the first coaters to take the course, Denny Young of DJ Powder Coating in North Carolina, feels like it has taken his skills to the next level. “By using Powder Effects, our company has been able to answer the most frustrating questions clients ask in powder coating today. What does powder coat look like brushed? Can I get a copper patina? Can I get it to look like blackened steel? Now we have that answer!” says Young.

Problems with Today's Patinas
For centuries, finishes that make new things look old- world have been about time. The practice of intentionally aging or corroding metal to create a decorative effect dates back to ancient times when artists and craftsmen would use various techniques to achieve different patinas. For example, the ancient Greeks and Romans would use acidic solutions to create a patina effect on bronze sculptures, while medieval blacksmiths would use heat treatments to create a blackened or blued finish on their ironwork. But today's traditional methods for achieving patina in a world that moves fast but still admires prestige have become juxtaposed. They are losing marketplace appeal and are ripe for innovation.

Inconsistency: Achieving a consistent, predictable patina finish can be challenging with traditional methods. This is because the aging process is dependent on the environment and controlling how patinas age can be difficult and sometimes impossible, depending on material and environment. Antiquing is a slow process. Projects can be difficult to scale when premium metals like copper, brass, steel, and gold are required. Inducing living finishes means purposely introducing terminal decay by fuming, tarnishing, or spraying. Over time, it can become chalky to the touch, pattern irregularly, flake, fade, or dull; while painted finishes struggle with adherence on metal surfaces.

Labor-intensive and Time-consuming: Traditional patina finishes are labor intensive, making them unsuitable for large-scale projects. The process involves multiple steps, such as cleaning, sanding, and applying various layers of paints and acids that contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Achieving the desired effect can take weeks or even months because the patina needs to develop over time through natural oxidation and weathering processes. Clean-up is messy and may require extra floor space or ventilation during the curing process. All of these factors can result in higher job costs.

Environmental Concerns: The VOCs found in many traditional patina finishes can contribute to air pollution and other environmental issues. As a result, many industries have been searching for a more sustainable solution that is kinder to the environment while still delivering a high-quality patina finish.

Limitations: A limited variety of effects and colors are offered by traditional patina finishes, which hinders the design options available to architects, designers, and end customers. In addition, some countries are limiting large- scale production processes, including traditional finishes like patinas, due to restrictions and laws forbidding the use of environmentally harmful products. This puts downward pressure on the future of artistic finish methods, while demand continues to grow. In an effort to follow the green movement, specifiers and clients are searching for better solutions to replace outmoded ones.

Survey Says…
Chances are you’ve searched for a truly protective coating solution to replicate aged copper or bronze at one time or another. And you wouldn't be alone. Over 90% of respondents to a patina powder coat market research open survey that lives on the Maui Powder Works website rated it either as very innovative or extremely innovative.

Replacing traditional aqueous methods for safer, cheaper, more durable finishes that mimic old world looks could be perceived as higher in value in the consumer marketplace. The most impressive results of the survey relate to the likeliness of replacing current product with patina powder coating. Ninety-two percent said they were more than likely ready to replace. Such responses indicate that a whole new marketplace awaits for powder coating where there has never been before.

Aesthetic Appeal: Patina powder coating provides a unique and natural looking finish that can enhance the beauty and character of metal surfaces. The research found that customers are attracted to these finishes because of their realistic look and the longevity powder coatings offer whilst manufacturers look to reinvigorate their skills and passion for powder coatings.

Durability: Powder coating in general is known for its durability and resistance to corrosion, making it an ideal choice for outdoor applications. When asked where they see this application being used, over 43% of survey respondents replied in architectural fenestration work with another 19% in custom work and 15% for outdoor/landscape products.

Customization: Patina powder coatings can be formulated in a variety of colors and textures, enabling a high degree of customization and creativity in design. Additionally, the range of unique finishes and customization options available is highly appealing, allowing for a more personalized touch. This makes patina powder coating a popular choice for artists and designers who can use it to create unique and personalized metal finishes for their projects.

Sustainability: Powder coatings are generally considered to be more environmentally friendly than traditional liquid coatings, as they produce less waste and are often made with non-toxic materials. The fact that patina powder coating is virtually VOC-free and environmentally friendly was also highly praised. Many respondents mentioned the importance of using sustainable, non-toxic products in their homes or businesses, and patina powder coating meets that criterion.

Cost-effective: Compared to other types of metal finishes, patina powder coating can be a cost-effective option, as it does not require the use of expensive chemicals or premium metals to achieve the desired effects.

Lower Barriers: Patina powder coating can help burdened businesses pivot paint lines for less. Implementing this novel system eases the barriers some manufacturers have with growth, innovation, and market crossover. Because it is a skill-based training application with a specified color palette it lowers the barrier to entry. Now manufacturing doesn't have to wait to replace or age out equipment to jump into a new market. Compared to dye sublimation, an expensive alternative with restricted uses for small part production and custom fabrications, it offers great flexibility without a large learning curve. With the same surface integrity and minimal lag times between coats it can transform everyday consumer products with a greater perceived value in the global marketplace.

The Trend is Your Friend
It's helpful to visualize just how far these exotic finishes can grow globally when you consider going beyond ornamental finishes. Today’s industry is geared around single transfer powders that do one thing: coat perfectly.

Patina powder coating is a disruptive technology that has the potential to help this industry gain a competitive advantage in outside markets. Leading the way are six market forces:

  1. Government regulations to lower carbon footprints.

  2. State/local governments want cleaner efficiency in facilities with safer environments.

  3. Companies with set sustainability goals seek others that meet those capabilities.

  4. Manufacturers seeking crossover growth in powder coatings or workforce retention.

  5. Changing consumer needs around safer, more sustainable coatings.

  6. Searches for readymade custom looks that connect with nature and have a level of hand touched craftsmanship or artisanal feel.

The range of styles and variations of patina powder coating finishes are only limited by one's imagination. These luxury looks can fool even the keenest eye without the hefty price tag of using expensive metals, harsh chemicals, or retooling. The demand for these finishes is increasing, with many end customers specifying them due to market demand, desire, and tightening environmental legislation.

Overall, it seems that people appreciate the combination of durability, customization, and sustainability that patina powder coating offers. These qualities make it an attractive option for both residential and commercial applications. Patina finishes using powder coatings are not only possible but also an innovative solution to traditional methods. The new era of patina powder coating has arrived!

Kim Scott is director of sales and marketing for Maui Powder Works LLC.