Rusty Patina: How to Create Rusty Old Mini Liquor Bottles

Are you one who loves a rusty patina?

A while back, a friend stumbled upon several boxes of vintage miniature liquor bottles. 

She was sure that I’d have a creative use for them. I was thinking they needed to go in the trash.

The bottles remained tucked away in my cupboard for a while until recently, inspiration struck.

A box full of very old mini liquor bottles

I decided to embark on a project to paint them and apply a patina spray for an authentic rusted patina that would fit my Halloween table perfectly.

And look at the end results. These bottles were so fun to make and they became the highlight of my Halloween table.

A Rusty mini liquor bottle that has been rusted with a Bats Brew label on the front. A small pumpkin and a black crow are placed on the top for decoration.

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What Is A Rust Patina?

A rustic patina, also known as a rust finish or rusted appearance, is a surface coating that develops on iron or steel when it comes into contact with moisture and oxygen over time.

Rusty patina on mini glass liquor bottles was achieved by using a unique painting process.
Rusty mini liquor bottles are created with a unique painting process.

It is a type of corrosion that occurs as iron or steel reacts with the oxygen in the air, forming iron oxide, commonly known as rust.

Rust is often regarded as an adversary, prompting us to reach for rust remover to banish its presence.

Nevertheless, a group of individuals (like me) cherish the inherent beauty in the aging process that rust embodies. They find a unique allure in the natural patina and the earthy, rusty colors that envelop an item as it matures.

How Do you Make Something Look Rusty?

Mother Nature often creates the natural process of rusting. Leaving a metal surface in the elements without a protective barrier often creates surface rust. 

You can also use a rust treatment to create your own patina finish.

There are two products I love to create a rusty look on glass: ceramic or metal. The first is Modern Masters Metal Effect Paint, and the second is the Dixie Belle Patina collection.

These paint collections require a base coat, a few coats of metal paint, and a patina spray. 

What Does A Rusty Patina Look Like?

A rust finish can vary in appearance depending on several factors, including the type of metal, the environment in which it forms, and the duration of exposure to moisture and oxygen.

Typically, a rust finish exhibits earthy colors with an aged look.

The patterns and distribution of rust are unique, with swirls, streaks, and irregular patches of color, adding to the distinctive character of the rust finish.

A rust finish often has loose rust pieces that can chip off the metal.

What Supplies Do You Need to Make A Rusty Patina?

Here is a list of the supplies you need to make these fun apothecary bottles. 

How Do you Make something Look Rusty?

The process of crafting these bottles is straightforward and very enjoyable. What’s genuinely captivating is that each bottle is entirely unique, and the element of surprise adds to the excitement – you never quite anticipate the outcome.

Step By Step To Creating A Rusty Patina

  • . Choose an assortment of shapes and sizes of bottles. 
5 old mini liquor bottles
Five mini liquor bottles in a bath of water, removing labels and dirt.
  • Clean your bottles and remove any labels.
  • Paint a thin coat of primer onto each bottle and allow it to dry. 
  • Apply a second coat of primer and allow to dry.
5 clean mini liquor bottles with labels and dirt removed.
Five small bottles with a coat of primer preparing them for a rusty patina finish.
  •  Paint a thin layer of black coating (Iron metallic paint) and allow it to dry.
  • Apply a second coat of patina paint (Iron metallic).
Glass bottles with one thin coat of Black Iron Metal paint to prepare for the rusty patina spray.
  • While this second coat is still wet, spray the rust activator and watch the color changes happen right before your eyes. 
  • You can continue adding more paint and patina spray for a more rustic patina effect until you have reached the perfect faux finish of rust. I even tried two different patina sprays on some of the bottles. First I added a coat of copper paint and sprayed the green patina. Then I painted a coat of the black iron paint and sprayed the rust patina. I even got a beautiful blue version of the finish. The beauty of these products is you can mix the patinas and try different things.
After receiving two coats of black iron paint, the bottle, and the patina spray.
It's an old mini liquor bottle with a rusty patina finish.
Free Apothecary labels for Halloween bottles.
Rusty patina bottles with apothecary labels being put on.
Rusty bottle with apothecary label on the front that says Happy Halloween.
  • Print my free bottle labels
  • Cut the labels out with small scissors.
  • Attach them to your bottles using Mod Podge. 
  • (You can use dark antique wax over them after they dry if you want them to look more aged).
  • Lastly, I painted a few small pumpkins with the same process and inserted them into a small cork on the top of the bottle. I then added a few small black crows for some added character.
Small mini pumpkins from the Dollar Tree. I am getting ready for a rustic patina.

The finished product

Rusty bottle with pumpkin and crow on the top dressing up a Halloween table.
Rusty bottle with pumpkin and crow on the top dressing up a Halloween table.


How Do You Make Rust Look Old?

To make rust look old and achieve an authentic weathered appearance, you can follow these steps:

  1. Expose to the Elements: Place the metal object outdoors, preferably in a location where it will be exposed to moisture, humidity, and air. This allows natural rust formation to occur over time.
  2. Accelerate Rusting: If you want to speed up the process, spray the metal with water, salt water, or a rust-inducing solution, such as vinegar and hydrogen peroxide. This will accelerate the rusting process and create the aged look more quickly.
  3. Enhance Texturing: Promote a textured appearance by occasionally scraping or roughening the surface with a wire brush, sandpaper, or other abrasive tools. This helps create a more weathered and uneven texture.

What liquid makes metal rust the fastest?

Saltwater is one of the liquids that can make metal rust the fastest. This is because saltwater contains dissolved salt (sodium chloride), which is an electrolyte. When metal is submerged in saltwater, it becomes more electrically conductive, allowing for a more rapid electrochemical reaction, which leads to accelerated rusting. 

A picture of the ocean with salt water.

You can use muriatic acid (hydrochloric acid) to rust metal intentionally. Muriatic acid can strip away existing rust and prepare the metal’s surface for rusting or accelerating the process. Here’s how you can use muriatic acid to rust metal:

Safety Precautions:

First and foremost, always take safety precautions when working with muriatic acid. Wear appropriate personal protective equipment, including gloves, safety goggles, air ventilated mask, and suitable clothing—work in a well-ventilated area, preferably outdoors.

Clean the metal:

If the metal has existing rust, clean it by removing as much rust and contaminants as possible. To prepare the surface, you can use a wire brush, sandpaper, or a rust remover.

Dilute the Acid:

Muriatic acid is highly concentrated and caustic, so it should be diluted with water. Typically, you can use a solution of one part muriatic acid to three or four parts water. Always add the acid to the water, not the other way around, and do so gradually.


Apply the diluted muriatic acid solution to the metal surface using a brush or a spray bottle. Ensure even coverage and allow it to sit briefly, usually a few minutes, to start the rusting process.


After achieving the desired rust effect, neutralize the acid by rinsing the metal with water. Baking soda or a baking soda-water solution can help neutralize any remaining acid.

Accelerate Rusting: 

If you want to accelerate the rusting process further, you can expose the metal to moisture and air, which will react with the exposed metal and develop rust more quickly.

It would be best to exercise extreme caution when working with muriatic acid, a hazardous chemical. Additionally, the rusting effect obtained through this method may vary based on factors like the type of metal, environmental conditions, and the concentration of the acid solution, so experimentation may be necessary to achieve the desired result.


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How to create rusty patina apothecary bottles out of mini liquor bottles.

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  1. I’m a subscriber and was browsing in your freebie library. Sadly, the Halloween bottle label folder was “Empty” when I tried to download that item. Thank you.

    1. Thank you for letting me know, I sent you an e mail with the link.

  2. Oh, my uncle used to collect such bottles and he had a lot of them. It just became his hobby, and he really liked doing it. He was constantly in his garage polishing his bottles. He devoted a lot of time to this and it was clear how much he was getting high from the process. I think this hobby is actually cool. It is soothing and very cool to be able to see the result of your work. It’s very beautiful, I really like it. Keep up the good work!

    1. Hi Tony, thank you for stopping by. I love to hear these kinds of stories from the past. I frequent a lot of estate sales and it is so interesting to see what people collect. I am glad you enjoyed this project. Have a great week-end.

  3. I’m so glad you didn’t throw them away! The bottles are such interesting shapes and I love the rusty patina! Spooky!

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