Coffee or tea creates a yellowing effect on a paper clock face.

How to Antique a Clock Face

by Kathy Adams

A retro or vintage-style reproduction clock may look just like some of your favorite antique clocks except for one factor: It looks too new. That clock face in a pristine white, perhaps even shiny white, might just look too fresh for your ideal decor. Antiquing a clock face can be accomplished using one of a variety of ways; it varies a bit depending upon the material with which the face is made. Combine techniques for an even more realistic antiquing effect.

Strie Effect

If your clock face looks as if it could be made of metal, such as a reproduction school or business wall clock, a strie effect with a metallic silver or silver and rust-colored paint adds an air of wear and tear to the clock face. Drag a piece of coarse steel wool at an angle across a portion of the clock face toward the outer edges to determine if some of the surface color comes off. If so, you may like the look as-is. If not, mix a small amount of a silver acrylic craft paint with an equal amount of acrylic glaze. Rub the glaze over one area of the clock face, such as the bottom right edges, as it the clock face experienced natural wear and tear of age in one area. Steel wool dragged through the glaze removes most of it, giving the look of scrapes that reveal silver beneath. Add a splash of a rusty paint color to the glaze, if desired.

Coffee and Tea

If your clock face is made of paper or a paper-coated cardboard, age it a bit by dabbing a clean cloth in a cup of coffee or tea, then rubbing the dark substance over the perimeter or entire area of the clock face, keeping the edges darker, since paper tends to yellow a bit more along the outer edges. If the paper has a shiny coating that prevents the coffee or tea from being absorbed, rub some of the shine away with a fine sandpaper, which will also add to the aging effect, then rub on more liquid. Set the paper clock face in full sunlight in a hot, dry area, if the weather cooperates, to help add to the yellowing.

Darkening With Glaze or Paint

If you want the clock face to look as though it's been sitting in one place for half a century, a dark glaze adds the look of decades in just a few minutes. Choose an acrylic craft glaze with a slightly brown or yellow tint, or make a wash by thinning brown acrylic paint with water. Brush on the glaze or watery paint and rub most of it off with a dry rag.

Sandpaper and Whitewash

Sanding removes some of the black from the letters or numbers on a clock, making it look older than it is. Use the edge of a sanding block or a piece of fine sandpaper wrapped around your finger to sand some areas and leave others intact. Another option is to thin white paint with water, then brush it over the entire clock face, especially the letters or numbers, to emulate the appearance of a mineral buildup. You can apply this homemade whitewash solution over a dark glazed clock for a layered look.


If you're feeling ambitious enough to repaint the numbers on the clock, paint over the entire surface with a color such as antique white, then rub over the dried surface with a candle. Paint on another color such as bright white, or white, some wax, then charcoal gray. Rub sandpaper over parts of the clock to reveal other paint shades beneath, giving the look of a chipped surface. Add new numerals by painting them or with decals.

About the Author

Kathy Adams is an award-winning journalist and freelance writer who traveled the world handling numerous duties for music artists. She writes travel and budgeting tips and destination guides for USA Today, Travelocity and ForRent, among others. She enjoys exploring foreign locales and hiking off the beaten path stateside, snapping pics of wildlife and nature instead of selfies.

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