This faux finish technique is one I learned from one of the leading masters of decorative paint and stenciling in the nation, Melanie Royals of Royal Design Studio here in San Diego. Actually, I changed the recipe somewhat so that I could use the materials I had on hand in my workshop. My version of the technique, which she calls “Shimmer Rust” and is available for purchase by visiting her web site RoyalDesignStudio.com,, is not as subtle as hers but is still a nice faux finish technique.
This decorative technique uses a material that will produce actual rust onto your surface. The rust is achieved by using an iron paint sold by Modern Masters and available in many paint stores. We will also use a metallic plaster called LusterStone sold by Faux Effects International.
To begin this decorative faux finish, I began by rolling on two coats of the Modern Masters acid blocking primer. You need this acid blocking primer because later on in the process we will use a reactive solution to induce the iron paint to rust quickly and this solution could damage your surface if the primer isn’t applied first.
Once the primer coats have dried I rolled on two coats of the iron paint allowing each coat to dry before the next coat was applied. I then created two batches of LusterStone that I mixed with the same iron paint at a ratio of one part iron paint to about 9 parts LusterStone. The LusterStone colors I used were Azure Blue and Sage. I used these colors because I had them on hand. You could use whatever colors you think would look appropriate for your needs. The sign of a good faux finisher is the ability to improvise and make it work.
I troweled these two LusterStone colors onto my surface in random patches but with a distinct vertical appearance. Again, you could change the direction or application of the metallic plaster to sit your needs. When applying the two metallic plasters, I tried to blend the colors somewhat but I also wanted to keep some areas where I could see the either the Azure Blue or Sage colors undisturbed. There were also patches of the black iron paint that I intentionally left exposed. Doing that will give more complexity to your decorative finish.
Once I was satisfied with the appearance of the metallic plaster and I had allowed it to dry fully, I began the process of applying the rust activating solution. It is recommended that the solution be applied by spritzing the surface wit a light mist of the solution several times rather than drenching it once. I agree with this idea but I also like the idea of forcing the issue or rust in this case where I want it to be more dramatic so in those areas I moisten some tissue with the activator solution and stick onto the wall. Nice trick and it works well too.
Once your surface is dry, you can then create a rusted stencil element effect. I chose a stencil from Royal Design Studio and placed it on my surface. Using a small chip brush, I stippled on a coat of iron paint through the stencil elements. You don’t need to be real careful with your stenciling because this is a distressed decorative finish anyway. Once the iron paint is dry, I spritzed the stenciled elements with more rust activator. Once dry, apply a couple coats of the Modern Masters rust sealer as directed. Don’t skip this step. Remember your surface has real iron and real rust on it now and will continue to rust if left exposed to the elements.
This decorative finish would look nice on cabinets or an armoire or anyplace you want a rustic (pun intended) look.