How to Paint Wood to Look Like Metal

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After several months of contemplating what to put above the crib in the nursery, I finally made up my mind and went with something simple and inexpensive that fit with the rooms theme and looks “boyish”. In this post, I will show you how I created a cool piece of artwork and my technique on how to paint wood to look like metal. 

While searching online for boys rooms and boys nurseries, I came across one that had a lot of the elements I was trying to incorporate into my son’s nursery and one item in particular that made me go ah ha that’s it! 

Here is the boys room and it is from Anna over at Take the Side Street. 

Isn’t this space awesome! It screams boy and I love that! 

So, after using this photo as inspiration as I was just trying update a few things in the nursery, I decided to make the arrow that is above the bunk beds in the photo. I thought it would be the perfect piece to put above the crib with a street sign. 

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This is how I made a piece of wood look like metal…. 

1.     Cut out the arrow
I had help with this part from the Hubb’s. He drew the arrow onto a thin piece of wood I’d say it was about ¼” thick and then used a jigsaw to cut it out. 

This is what we started with. This piece of wood had previously been used as an area to spray paint on, but now we are putting it to good use.
2. Score lines into the arrow
Using a utility knife and level, draw and then score lines where you want them into your arrow. I recommend scoring your lines, adding your rivets, and then painting your arrow; however, I figured this out after starting this project. Learn from my mistakes lol. 

3.     Add Rivets
I purchased a package of white thumbtacks and used wire cutters to snip off the pointy ends which left only the head of the thumb tack. I used a hot glue gun to ahere the tacks to the wooden arrow. Instead of going outside of the line I scored earlier, like Anna did, I decided I liked the look of not having a line and to just have the rivets, so I used the line as a guide to make my rivet lines straight. {I horrible at keeping straight lines}
4.     Paint the arrow
I used a mixture of two different paints. One was Burnt Orange and the other was Burnt Umber. I actually decided not to use the dark brown that’s in the picture below and the color ended up exactly how I wanted it. FYI since the thumbtacks have a shiny finish they will take about 3 coats of paint to achieve good coverage.
5.     Add Salt
I used a mixture of table salt and sea salt to get a good grainy, uneven finish. Make sure you use more salt than you think you need because in the end you want the “rust” of the orangy paint color to show through your top coat and the only way to really achieve this is by using a lot of salt so the spray paint doesn’t adhere to your base coat.
5.     Apply Spray Paint
I chose to use a gray spray paint called Granite by Rustoleum. This way I was able to incorporate both orange and gray into the design which will coordinate with the rest of the space.

Tip: Apply light, even coats for the best coverage. I applied 3 coats. Make sure you don’t spray to heavy or too hard because you can blow the salt off. Remember, learn from my mistakes! 

5.     Reveal the “Rust”
Before the spray paint fully dries {it should be a bit tacky but not wet}, use a sanding block to sand over the entire arrow and pay more attention to the areas where the salt was applied. Be careful around the “rivets” as the paint comes off very easily, so try to avoid them at all costs. You can use a paint brush to carefully remove the salt from the areas around the rivets and if you need to, you can touch up the rivets with your craft paint {like I had to}.
I absolutely love the way it turned out!
What do you think?

The orange really does look like rust, especially from a far and the rivets add so much character and detail.

It was the perfect addition to little man’s room. I was concerned with putting something up above the crib in the event that it was to fall {I know I probably being paranoid}, but it was the biggest reason why I didn’t put anything above the crib all of these months. The arrow is very light and adds just enough detail to this space, so the wall above the crib doesn’t look bare and boring. 


 I would consider this project to be fairly easy to complete and total cost was under $5 for the thumbtacks and spray paint, I had all other supplies on hand but the wood is inexpensive and so is craft paint.
Check out this post for the Nursery Reveal.


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  1. says

    I have a basic Walmart corner desk that is made of that cheap particle board with laminate faux wood finish stuff. I have been looking for a cool way to surprise my man with a newly decorated room to escape too, so I think this would be an awesome way to make the desk look neat for him. If I sanded, primed and then attempted this cool finish does anyone think I have good odds at being successful? Any tips are welcome!!

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