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Equipping Creatives to Do-It-Themselves

Tag: Unicorn Spit

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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DIY Jewelry Box

How to Turn a Vintage Wooden Box into a

Unique Boho-Inspired Jewelry Box

DIY Jewelry Box Using Unicorn SPiT™ Gel Stain!

Please note this post contains affiliate links like this one… Unicorn SPiT gel stain

I found this old wooden box (fantastic carved details) at a local antique store, and decided it would make a great DIY project to use Unicorn SPiT gel stain. I decided the size made for a perfect little jewelry box; measures about 8″w x 5″d x 2″h. A couple little cracks on the bottom which I filled with wood glue, but still a beautifully handcrafted find.  I tend to forget to take a ‘before’ photo, so shown is after I was a few steps into the project.  If you’re a beginner DIY’er this is a great project to start with.  You can find all the materials used at the bottom of this post.

Stripping the Finish


I started by stripping the clear finish off the box using dish soap. I rubbed a little water and soap all over the box and let it sit for a couple minutes. If it started to dry I put a little more water on it. Then I used a metal scraper to gently scrape off the finish. I found this method on Featured on here.  It worked great! I also gave it just a light sanding to get all of the remaining finish off.


Painting with Gel Stain

I started painting with the gel stain by using undiluted Unicorn SPiT™ in Pixie Punk Pink™ just as you would paint; hand painting it directly on the flowers and letting it dry.

Using the same paintbrush, I dipped it in water and blended the color, thinning it out a little. I focused on the crevices since I was going to add a second color to accent.



To paint the center, I used red undiluted Unicorn SPiT™ in Molly Red Pepper™, full-strength then doing the same blending with water as I did to the pink.




Dry Brushing and Layering Colors

For the remaining of this project I mixed colors using my four base colors: Blue Thunder™, Pixie Punk Pink™, Molly Red Pepper™, Navajo Jewel™ (all Unicorn SPiT™). By using all the colors to make multiple new colors everything blended nicely and I achieved a lot of layering of the colors and differentiation throughout the entire piece.


The circles became a shade of purple. I just played around with the colors on a palette to get different colors I liked then dry brushed each one all over.  Aside from the flowers and circles, everything was dry brushed.




Here’s the inside with some light dry brush layering done. As you can see I did not overlap a lot of the lighter colors. I would do one color at a time then mix something different and add that all over.


Creating the Inside Jewelry Storage Area

I used a watercolor painting on paper which I cut to fit the base of the inside of the box. I had some craft rope/trim I also measured for around the inside.  A piece of foam, and an old shirt I found to make a ring holder.

**Note:  Make sure you take into account the thickness of any material you’re covering the ring holder with, and any trim pieces that may go between the holder and the wall of the box.  Put everything in place to double-check your measurements.

After these were all measured I set them to the side, and sprayed several coats of Polycrylic over the box. While that was drying (layer after layer), I coated the watercolor paper with several coats of Mod Podge, and allowed it to dry.  I used an exacto knife to cut several deep slits (don’t cut all the way through!) in the foam block.  You can make yours whatever size and shape you want to fit your box.  Just use good scissors or a blade to cut through the foam.

Making the Ring Holder

I re-purposed material from an old shirt and jeans(wrapped around sides) to cover the ring holder.  To make the ring holder, I laid the material on a table and put the foam slit-side down on top of the material. I glued the top end (use a side without the slits), then I put glue in the first base of a slot, and used a small crochet hook to push/wrap the material up into the slot then slid the hook out. This gave me a way to wrap the material around each section without getting my fingers too close to the glue and risk burning myself.  You could use the handle of your paint brush, too.  You can never be too careful while using a hot glue gun.

Assembly Time!

To assemble the inside, I first glued down the watercolor paper, the rope trim, and lastly the ring holder.

As you can see, I added a little piece of rope which I looped and hot glued under the edge of the lid, so that I can pull it open easily.  The poly darkened it a little (happens with the Unicorn Spit™ gel stain), but sealed it nicely.  That’s it!  Although it doesn’t hold a lot, I love how it turned out plus it looks so cool on top of my dresser.

Materials I used for this project:

You can get a variety of colors in this set: Unicorn SPiT™ Gel Stain & Glaze in One – 10 Paint Collection

Basic Materials You’ll Need, But Should Have On-Hand:

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