Copper Flame Painting

Scorched Science: Copper Flame Painting

Discovery Place

At Discovery Place Science, we enjoy pushing the boundaries of innovation and incorporating STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) concepts into the design process as much as possible.

In the first episode of our new series “Scorched Science” we are exploring the science behind copper oxidation while showing the craftsmanship of copper flame painting.

Photo Credit: “Celebrate Life” by artist David Rush

First, we want to address some important safety considerations. Because this activity includes fire, we do not recommend trying it at home unless you have the proper training and required safety equipment including fire safety gloves, clothing (lab coat, long pants, close-toed shoes) and face masks or goggles, as well as a fire extinguisher in the event of an emergency. This activity is not appropriate for children.

Follow along in the video as Discovery Place team members demonstrate copper flame painting, then ignite your scorched science knowledge by reading more below!

Flame painting is a unique art form that can take simple copper sheeting and transform it into a colorful masterpiece. The copper is your canvas and the blowtorch is your paint and paintbrush.

With an adjustable flame torch, you can decide the level of detail you want to incorporate into your design. You can create wall hangings, sculptures, jewelry and more with the right tools.

Photo Credit: “Ocean Horizon” by artists Dan and Frances Hedblom of Copper Elements

So, how does flame painting copper work? If you’ve ever seen the Statue of Liberty, you know that copper changes color when exposed to oxygen. The amount of time copper spends under a flame determines its color, as the copper goes through very predictable stages of color transformation.

Photo Credit:“Mojave Fire” by artist Susan Priest

Flame painting essentially controls the copper oxidation process by accelerating and reducing the amount of oxygen the copper is exposed to with your torch – you decide the intensity of color by how long you hold your torch to the copper.

The air surrounding you can also impact the colors you paint. Everything from the chemicals in the air to barometric pressure can alter your painting. For these reasons, no two paintings are identical.

Once the background colors, shapes and details are made to the artist's satisfaction, the final piece is dipped into a lacquer bath of acrylic urethane that preserves the one-of-a-kind colorful design.

Coming soon: Stay tuned for our next episode of Scorched Science about color-changing fire!