Make A Fake Rust Effect for Props and Cosplay

Rust effect for props and cosplay
Rust effect for props and cosplay

One of my favourite themes to create thus far has been the wasteland theme. I just love all the imperfections and the beauty of mother nature taking back what was once hers.

While working on my wasteland props and cosplay, I was creating a lot of rust, as most parts were made of metal (well, metal made from foam). I really enjoyed creating the rust effect and figuring out how it would look realistically.

I'd like to share what I've learnt about creating iron oxide (AKA rust, just wanted to mix things up a bit) and how you can easily make it without creating real rust - and as I learnt from my wasteland armguard, no salt!

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Foam Construction

For this example, I won't use any paticular template, so that I can easily show how I accomplished the rust look, and you can use it however you need.

Cutting a rectangle from foam
A simple cut out rectangle
The first thing I did was actually something I'm trying for the first time. Using rough (such as 100 grit) sandpaper, I sanded the areas of the foam where the rust will be. I sanded along the top and added some drips as well. After this, I heat sealed it with a heat gun and repeated a couple more times.

Adding texture with sanding
Creating a rough texture using sandpaper
Next, I used the common alfoil technique to add texture to the rest of the surface. This was done by lightly scrunching up a sheet of aluminum foil and heating up the surface. Then, I pressed heavily into the surface to create a rough, chaotic texture. Once the foam cooled down again, I hit the rusty surface again with the sandpaper, this time not heat sealing afterwards.

Add texture with a heat gun and alfoil
Texture added with sandpaper and alfoil
There's a million more things one could do to make the metallic texture pop out even more, but for this demonstration, it's good enough.

Onto sealing. I used Flexbond to seal the foam, as I recieved a sample from the Hero Studio and have been trying it out. Mod Podge would work quite well for this as well.

I applied the Flexbond to the foam, scrubbing it into the texture. Once covered but still wet, I then stippled the surface to remove any brush lines. This was repeated twice to completely seal the foam.

Sealing with Flexbond
Sealing the foam with Flexbond


Instead of spraypainting, I decided to use just a black wash. I watered down some black acrylic paint and scrubbed it into the surface of the foam with a mop brush. Using a heat gun on the coolest setting, I dried the paint quickly. This was done three times, each layer decreasing the amount the paint was diluted (making the paint more pigmented). At this point I realised that the flexbond created more texture than expected (possibly because it's thicker than Mod Podge), so the sanding that I did earlier could not be seen. Oh well, doesn't hurt to experiment.

Acrylic Paint black wash
Black-washed surface
Now for the actual painting. Using a rough brush (I honestly don't know what type of brush it is), I lightly scrubbed in metallic paint, with little pigment on the brush (dry brushing). This was again repeated multiple times until I was happy enough with the metallic finish. Not my best metal, but luckily this is a post about rust!

Drybrushing on metal
Metallic finish
For the rust, I started with a heavy layer of raw sienna from Liquitex. This was stippled on, to of course create the rough texture. The brush doesn't need to be as dry as when brushing on the metal, however it shouldn't be too heavy either. It's better to do it lightly and go over multiple times, then to do it too heavily.

Base layer of rust
First layer of raw sienna. The camera made the first layer of rust look much brighter than it actually is.
Next, I darkened the sienna with a bit of black and applied that over the raw sienna. Rust appears to darken the closer to the center it gets, so for each darker layer I added, I made sure to show the previous layer around the edges. It may help to use a thinner brush, especially for drips like above.

I kept going, adding darker layers and a hint of red until I was happy with the contrast of the rust. The more layers, the more detailed the rust. For the final layer, I added small hints of raw sienna to make sure the final layer wasn't one solid colour.

The main things about creating this rust effect is to use multiple layers, darkening each one, and to make sure the texture is rough. Of course, not all rust is rough, but adding this texture makes it pop out more.

Rust effect in the sun

And there we are! A rust effect created with paints for use on props and cosplays. Hopefully you're much more patient than me and are able to do an even more amazing job with rust.

Have any feedback, questions or comments? Please let me know below!

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