Oil-Rubbed Bronze Finish

In this DIY tutorial we are showing how to paint the perfect oil-rubbed bronze finish, the perfect technique for giving that toilet handle a makeover

Painting a Perfect Oil-Rubbed Bronze Finish

Brent’s parents recently completed a bathroom makeover and shared with us that it turned out exactly how they wanted and everything went smoothly except for of all things, a pesky toilet lever. They bought a brand new toilet but it came with a silver handle.

They purchased a new lever to match the other new oil-rubbed bronze hardware in their bathroom but once it was installed they soon learned that it stuck out too far and prevented the seat from staying up. And I think we can all agree that as homeowners one thing we do not want is that shocking and potentially dangerous surprise of the seat slamming back down on our unaware guests.

Then they bought a new slow closing toilet seat but the handle still stuck out too far. They thought they were going to have to put the original lever back on and live with the silver when Brent suggested we could paint it with an oil-rubbed bronze finish ourselves. So when they came to visit this past weekend we gave it a try and it turned out great!

That got us thinking that toilet handles are often one of the last pieces of hardware that get upgraded in the bathroom. We are working on converting all of our hardware throughout the house from a silver finish to an oil-rubbed bronze finish and we hadn’t even thought about switching out the toilet lever.

Once we realized how easy it was to remove the handle and paint the perfect oil-rubbed bronze finish to match our other bathroom hardware, we knocked out both toilet handles in one afternoon and had an instant upgrade! By doing it ourselves and using the existing handles we didn’t have to worry about any handle and toilet seat conflict.

Today we are sharing our process of painting a perfect oil-rubbed bronze finish.

How we Painted a Perfect Oil-Rubbed Bronze Finish


Painting a Perfect Oil-Rubbed Bronze Finish

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Paint Oil-Rubbed Bronze Video Tutorial

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Paint Oil-Rubbed Bronze Tutorial

Painting a Perfect Oil-Rubbed Bronze Finish

1. The first step is to remove the lever from the toilet.

Painting a Perfect Oil-Rubbed Bronze Finish

2. Use a piece of sandpaper to rough up the surface of the handle so the spray paint can grab on to it.

Painting a Perfect Oil-Rubbed Bronze Finish

3. Tape off any areas of the handle with painters tape that you don’t want exposed like the threaded piece.

Painting a Perfect Oil-Rubbed Bronze Finish

4. Spray paint an even layer of Krylon ColorMaster™ Primer Spray Paint in Black and let it dry for the recommended amount of time.

Painting a Perfect Oil-Rubbed Bronze Finish

5. Then spray paint the copper layer with the Krylon Copper Metallic Spray Paint and let it dry for the recommended amount of time.

Painting a Perfect Oil-Rubbed Bronze Finish

6. After the copper layer has dried, put on a coat of the Rust-Oleum Metallic Satin Oil Rubbed Bronze Spray Paint and let it dry for the recommended amount of time.

Painting a Perfect Oil-Rubbed Bronze Finish
Painting a Perfect Oil-Rubbed Bronze Finish

7. After it is nice and dry take a piece of sandpaper and gently scratch some of the oil-rubbed bronze paint away to reveal streaks of the copper paint layer underneath. This process recreates the highlights that can be found on most manufactured oil-rubbed bronze hardware.

Painting a Perfect Oil-Rubbed Bronze Finish

8. Finally, you can install the handle back on the toilet. It is that easy!

One piece of advice, it is important to let each layer of paint dry for the full recommended time, overestimate just to be safe. We learned the hard way what can happen if you try and sand too soon.

On our first attempt we didn’t let it sit long enough or use a primer so when we went to scratch the oil-rubbed bronze paint layer away, it peeled off all the paint and exposed the original silver layer, which is not what we wanted.

Painting a Perfect Oil-Rubbed Bronze Finish

They do sell oil-rubbed bronze spray paint so you may be wondering what the purpose of the copper spray paint layer is. We found that most of our hardware throughout the house that we purchased had areas of bronze exposed around the edges that perfectly matched the color of the metallic copper spray paint.

It is a subtle effect but really takes the look to another level and can’t be achieved with just one can of oil-rubbed bronze spray paint.

Painting a Perfect Oil-Rubbed Bronze Finish
Our toilet got a facelift for only the cost of spray paint. It might not be the most glamorous project but it really makes a difference when updating a bathroom to have all the hardware in the room match.


  • Nice Article. I enjoyed it. Question: I wonder if you have thought about using a Dark Brown Satin Paint instead of the Oil Rubbed Bronze Paint. The reason why I ask is because I see that the Oil Rubbed Bronze paint looks pretty shiny and metallic. The Oil Rubbed Bronze hardware don’t look metallic and flat. Thanks.

  • Better method, after the copper is dry, coat it with several layers of lacquer, each drying thoroughly. Then, cover with the O.R.B. paint, and while still wet, gently wipe down on the edges until you get the look you want. Then when dry, cover with lacquer, matte finish.

  • Had a quick question. Great tutorial, btw. When I used sandpaper to allow the copper to shine through, the chrome color (original color of the lever) was shining through.

    Is there a specific grit of sandpaper to use? Should I spray paint 2 layers of each color? (I only did one coating.) I feel like I allotted enough time to allow all layers paint to dry well. How long did you both wait?

    • We are sorry to hear about that. Two coats could help but the most important thing would be to make sure that the original surface is thoroughly sanded. If the chrome surface is slick and not roughed up enough by the initial sanding before the copper coat the paint will not stick and produce results like you describe. We used 150 grit sand paper.

  • great tutorial! Do you think I could skip the first two steps on a mirror that already has a copper/gold frame? or would it still need to be sanded and primed first? TIA

  • Love this! Watch out door knobs, lamps. light fixtures and anything else I can paint, here I come. What else? Switch plates, cupboard door handles. There is no metal surface in my house that’s safe!!!!!

  • I have been wanting to change out all my door knobs. Why not the bathroom too? Great tutorial! Thank you for sharing!

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