In this article I am going to cover the steps to metalizing a skull. A lot of people are looking for something different for their European mounts and a metal finish is just the thing to give a skull a very classy look. The following is not a fake metal lookalike; it involves a real metal finish. You can also watch the how-to video here!
Safety Equipment needed:
Now, a few things to consider and keep in mind about the whole process. You have to work with a skull that is free of grease. If there is grease (or any other debris for that matter) the metal will not bond to the skull correctly. If you need help degreasing the skull take a look at this article on the topic “Degreasing 101- Three Ways to Turn Yellow Bones White”.
You have the option to either leave the teeth natural or metalize them along with the rest of the skull. I personally prefer to metalize them as it just looks a bit “off” when they are left white. But if you did want to leave them natural you can simply tape them up prior to the process. If you are metalizing a buck skull than you can tape up the antlers in order to keep them natural (my personal preference).
There are different options for brands of metal paints but I highly recommend Sculpt Nouveau (I am not being sponsored by the company). Their products are very high quality and the customer service is great. The metal paint consist of fine metal powder suspended in an acrylic. Because it is acrylic based you can simply wash out your brush after each use. I used the same brush for the bear skull used for this article and just washed it out between each layer of primer/paint.
✔ Add Primer.
Add 2 coats of primer and let cure for 6 hours. You can add the second coat as soon as the first is dry. For any areas that you can’t reach with the paint brush I just use a spray can of black primer (I just used a generic black primer). I would highly recommend buying a higher quality paint brush as the cheaper ones tend to loose bristles and these can end up sticking on the surface of the skull and creating unnatural lines in the final metal finish.
✔ Add metal coat
Shake paint well as the metal dust settles to the bottom of the paint container.
If you are using a sprayer you will need to strain the paint first as there can be clumps that will clog the sprayer. Using a sprayer has the advantage of being able to apply a uniform coat. Make sure to thoroughly clean out your sprayer after use. As you will be applying two coats of primer and 2-3 coats of the metal paint, you can leave the primer in the sprayer in between the two coats and the metal paint in between those coats as well.
Add 2-3 coats of metal paint and let cure for 6 hours. You can add the second/third coat as soon as the first/second is dry. To avoid brush strokes add the paint by dabbing the paint on instead of brushing it on the skull.
There are two types of Metal paints by Sculpt Nouveau, a “C” metal coating and a “B” metal coating. The C metal coating has a higher percentage of metal and consist of a body, hardener, and catalyst. The C metal paint is more intended for objects that will be polished to a higher shine. The B metal coating works just fine though for skulls and is easier as there is no need for the hardener and catalyst. Types of metal coatings from Sculpt Nouveau include Silver, Iron, Pewter, Bronze, Brass, and Copper.
✔ Add Patina
Depending on how humid the climate is where you are will dictate the working time for the wet paint and how long the patina takes to fully cure. The patina with start to work immediately but it will take a bit to fully work. If there are areas where the patina did not activate (this can happen if an area dries before you spray the patina on) simply add a new coat of the metal paint to that area and reapply the patina. If the patina is too robust you can burnish the surface with fine steel wool in order to create a more natural patina where the metal finish shows through more on raised areas and the patina in the lower/valley areas of the skulls surface. It does not take much of the patina solution, just a light mist is fine. The Spraymaster bottle is great as you can get a very fine mist.
✔ Add Clear Coat or Wax
Although the metal and patina is rated for outdoor use I still like to add a light clear coat. Keep in mind the clear coat will lighten the patina slightly. I feel that after I burnish the skull and remove the extra patina, finishing with a clear coat seems to tie everything together and give it a more finished look.
If no patina is added you can add a colored wax (I use the black wax) to give an aged look. Simply add the wax on and then wipe off with a rag in order to create an aged/washed out look. The wax has a curing agent in it so it will harden within a day. If you use a wax no clear coat is needed. You can see the how-to video on applying the wax HERE.
Metal finishes on skulls are great because you have so many options for types of metals as well as patinas to mix and match together. If you have any questions feel free to shoot me a message on my Facebook page!
Like I said above I am not sponsored by Sculpt Nouveau but if you do order from them let them know Hunter sent you, who knows, it might help! Some Amazon links above are affiliate links. Thanks for reading and happy metalizing! ~ Hunter