Small Projects

How to Hand Paint Metal: Upcycled Brass Elephant Figurine

I’m so excited to share this project with you of how to hand paint metal with this upcycled brass elephant figurine turned teal boho beauty.  There are lots of great ideas about spray painting plastic animal toys, but not a whole lot about hand painting small metal figurines.  I hope you find this helpful, and it opens your eyes to see how a little paint and time is all it takes to easily change an older metal decor item to better fit your current home decor.

Since I had recently purchased Unicorn SPiT, I went looking at a local consignment store for a few small items to try the products on.  I found two things that I had to have: the elephant in this post and this vintage wooden box you can check out here.  The elephant was in good condition with these pretty mother of pearl type inlays in diamond shapes on both of its sides.

Here’s the before picture of the elephant…

Brass Metal Elephant Figurine Statue

Prep Work or Lack Thereof

From what I have found, there isn’t a whole lot of prep work or anything special you need to do to hand paint metal if it’s brass.  I simply gave him a quick wash with a little liquid dish soap and water.  I always wash everything I bring into my home especially from second-hand stores since often times they haven’t been cleaned or have been collecting dust on a shelf.  After wiping him off with a dry cloth I gathered the following supplies:

Supply List:

  • Unicorn SPiT
  • Polyurethane Spray
  • Cotton Swabs
  • Old Rags or Cheesecloth
  • Paint Brushes in small to medium size
  • Small Cup of Water

Hand Paint Metal

To hand paint the metal I used a medium sized paint brush with a 50/50 diluted mixture of Navajo Jewel by Unicorn SPiT(US) to paint a base coat of color.  I could have used the stain undiluted which would have given me a thicker product possibly reducing the need for a second coat.  However, I wasn’t too sure how the stain was going to look and I didn’t want to waste more than I needed to trying it out for the first time.  I painted it on, but you could just as easily use your fingers if you prefer.  The Unicorn Spit Gel Stain is easy to work with, and if it starts to dry just add a little more water to make it fluid again.

Special Note: Keep in mind the brass metal will be a smooth surface to hand paint, so you won’t be able to play around with your painting much.  On the flip side, if you don’t like how it’s looking you can just wipe it off.

After painting two coats working from one side to the other then back around I had gotten to the coverage I wanted. Smaller brushes came in handy to get in the detailed areas and in between the stones.

Paint the Stones

Hand Paint Metal Brass Elephant Teal Pink Blue Stones

  1.  Use the cotton swabs to apply full-strength US gel stain in Pixie Punk Pink and Blue Thunder
  2.  Let it dry
  3.  Use clean cotton swabs to rub and polish the painted stones.


Distressing the Paint

Lastly, I used a lightly dampened cloth to gently rub all the teal ‘paint’ to remove some of the color…distressing it to have a worn or aged look.

Sealing Hand Painted Metal

At this point I liked him, but decided he needed to be shiny and sealed properly. Since US is water-based it has to be sealed.  I chose to spray paint using semi-gloss polyurethane.  As you can see, US’s color changes greatly with the sealer.




Isn’t he so cute!?!  I love how the colors really pop after the sealant and the stones are still a little opalescent.  Thank you for checking out this post.  If you are going to hand paint metal please leave a comment below to share with the community of DIY’ers like yourself.

Oh, and here’s the link to the other US project where I upcycled a vintage wooden box into a custom boho jewelry box.

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