How to fake galvanised steel – the easy way

How to fake galvanised steel – the easy way

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I love the rustic, worn look of galvanised steel (my Pinterest is a testament to my love affair with the stuff). What I don’t love is how hard it often is to find galvanised steel home decor at a reasonable price, at least here in Australia. So what do you do when the real stuff is too pricey? You create fake galvanised steel, like a gosh darn liar.

You can create fake galvanised steel finishes in a few different ways, but this particular technique is my favourite for four reasons:

  • It requires no fancy equipment: Just a paintbrush, some paint, and ground cinnamon.
  • It’s very quick: Most of the time spent on the project is simply waiting for paint to dry.
  • It produces a realistic finish: In fact, it’s so realistic that a teenage boy once screamed (yes, screamed) “What sort of Willy Wonka house is this!?” when I showed him that the ‘galvanised steel’ letters on the wall were actually white plastic.
  • It’s versatile: I’ve successfully used this technique on plastic, wood, and metal with great success.

Yep: It’s easy, quick, versatile, and realistic. My favourite things in a DIY project!

Anyway, enough of my rambling. Let’s get going.

How to fake galvanised steel

To create faux galvanised steel, you will need:

Step 1: Apply metallic silver paint

Woman's hand painting pot with metallic silver paint

To begin, use your paintbrush to apply a thin layer of metallic silver paint paint. Make sure to vary your brush strokes – do both short/long, and horizontal/vertical strokes.  Applying the paint like this creates a nicely textured base which is essential for getting your fake galvanised steel looking realistic. Real galvanised steel does not have a perfectly smooth surface – neither should your fake galvanised steel.

Woman's hand painting black plastic pot with metallic silver paint

Once you have applied the first layer, allow the object you’re painting to dry completely. Paint sometimes takes a while to adhere to plastic so allow plenty of drying time if you’re painting a plastic object.

Once your first coat has dried, apply a second coat using the same technique. Allow to dry.

Step 2: Apply black paint

Now for the fun part: Using a sponge to emulate the imperfect look of galvanised steel.

Lightly dip a small corner of your sponge into your black paint, keeping most of the sponge clean. Remove excess paint by dabbing your sponge against a rag a few times. Having a small amount of paint on your sponge is absolutely key to getting this technique to work – too much paint and you end up just repainting the pot black.

Sponge with black paint on one corner

Once you have removed your excess paint, dab your object very lightly with the painted part of the sponge a few times.

Dabbing black paint on pot with sponge

You then want to blend the black paint so it fades gently into the surrounding silver. Do this by dabbing the edges of the black paint with a clean part of the sponge.

Repeat as many times as necessary, paying particular attention to the edges.  When you’re done, you should have something like this.

Pot with silver paint and black paint dabbed on with sponge

Allow to dry.

Step 3 (optional): Apply ‘rust’

I like to add a little rust to my fake galvanised steel. If you don’t want rust, feel free to skip this step.

To add fake rust, grab your paintbrush and dip it in a small amount of silver paint. Brush a small, light coat of paint where you would like the ‘rust’ to appear.

Applying a small amount of silver paint to pot

As soon as you have dabbed the paint on, sprinkle a small amount of cinnamon directly on to the paint.

Apply rust to fake galvanised steel by using cinnamon

Shake or flick your object with your finger to remove excess cinnamon. Use the same technique to add more rust as desired.


And that’s all there is to it!

Finished plastic pots painted to fake galvanised steel

I’ve never bothered sealing any of the projects I’ve used this technique on and they’ve held up just fine. However, if you’re doing fake galvanised steel on something that will get a lot of handling or be exposed to moisture, I would recommend sealing your object with an acrylic paint sealer. I personally like Rustoleum’s clear matte sealer (cheap and good coverage!).

If you liked this upcycled home decor tutorial, please consider pinning it for later ♡

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