Don’t you just love the look of rusty metal? For me the earthy tones and pitted, textured appearance tells such a beautiful, tactile story. You can almost feel history embedded in every groove and color shifting crevice. Here’s the thing though, Mother Nature takes her sweet time when she’s breaking down metal. Me, I don’t have that luxury. Instead, I use my cheap paint tricks to create a faux rust effect in minutes.

Looking for a unique and budget-friendly home decor project? We’ll show you how to give cardboard a fabulous faux rust effect using cheap craft paints. It’s an easy way to add texture and personality to your creations, making them perfect for crafts, decorations, or other upcycling projects.

To demonstrate how it’s done, I’ll be giving square cardboard boxes a grungy, rusty makeover.

Looking for a unique and budget-friendly home decor project? We’ll show you how to give cardboard a fabulous faux rust effect using cheap craft paints. It’s an easy way to add texture and personality to your creations, making them perfect for crafts, decorations, or other upcycling projects.

And just for fun we’ll turn them into letter blocks and add some lights too.

Looking for a unique and budget-friendly home decor project? We’ll show you how to give cardboard a fabulous faux rust effect using cheap craft paints. It’s an easy way to add texture and personality to your creations, making them perfect for crafts, decorations, or other upcycling projects.

You can use the technique to create a faux rust effect on almost anything. I’ve used it on wood, cardboard, foam, plastic, and even a glass bottle.

Looking for a unique and budget-friendly home decor project? We’ll show you how to give cardboard a fabulous faux rust effect using cheap craft paints. It’s an easy way to add texture and personality to your creations, making them perfect for crafts, decorations, or other upcycling projects.

Alrighty, before I show you how it’s done, please do me a favor and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Instagram. And don’t forget to subscribe so you’ll never miss a post!

What you need

 For the rust paint effect

To create the faux rust effect, I always use inexpensive craft paint. Cheap, water-based paints (aka acrylic) work best. You only need three colors:

  • Orange
  • Reddish Brown (Burnt Sienna)
  • Black

The rust colors that I used to create the faux rust effect

To make the rust stand out I chose different shades of blue to create contrast. You can use whatever colors you have in your craft cupboard.

You’ll also need:

Light-Up Letter Blocks

To illustrate how the rust effect can be used, I’ll be transforming these small square cardboard boxes into letter blocks that light up.

Small decorative cardboard boxes that will be transformed into light-up letter blocks

If you’re keen on doing something similar, you’ll need:

  • Sharp craft knife
  • Nail scissors (optional)
  • Glue
  • Paper
  • Double-sided tape
  • Fairy lights

What’s covered in this tutorial

I was originally going to make two tutorials; one that shows you how to make letter blocks and another that just focusses on the faux rust effect with cheap craft paint. But it seemed like a bit of a waste and you’d end up hopping all over the place, so they’re bundled together. If you’re only here for the rusty goodness, skip the boxy bits below and scroll down to the “Cheap paint tricks for adding a rust effect” heading.

Turning boxes into letter blocks

I wanted to add a little rusty LOVE to our décor for a while now and this tutorial gave me the perfect opportunity to do that.

Looking for a unique and budget-friendly home decor project? We’ll show you how to give cardboard a fabulous faux rust effect using cheap craft paints. It’s an easy way to add texture and personality to your creations, making them perfect for crafts, decorations, or other upcycling projects.

Turning boxes into block letters is really easy to do. Start by printing out the letters you want to “carve” into the boxes. Simple fonts are easier to cut unless you have one of those fancy cutting machines. Tape the printed letters to the lid of the box.

Tape the letter templates to the front of the box

Make sure the letters line up neatly before cutting them out.

Tape the letter templates to the front of the box

Cutting the letters out

Flatten the boxes and cut the letters out using a sharp craft knife. I found a pack of 3 pencil craft knives with a micro blade that I love using for something like this. I’ve put an affiliate link at the end of the post just in case you need one.

Use the letters as a guide to cut them out with a sharp craft knife

For round letters (or shapes) a small nail scissors works best.

When cutting out rounded corners use a nail scissors

You should end up with something like this once you’re done.

Small decorative cardboard boxes after the letters have been cut-out.

Glue the lid to the box to form a block. I kept the back of the box open for later.

Glue the lid of the box down

Making corner protectors

Square boxes tend to be a little boring, so I dressed them up with easy cardboard corner protectors.

A collection of cardboard corners that will be used to decorate the boxes

This quick video will show you how to make them.

How to make Cardboard Corner Protectors #diy #diyprojects #craft #howto

Glue the corner protectors on.

Glue the cardboard corners onto the box

Since I’ll be opening and closing the back of the blocks to switch the lights on, I didn’t use a full protector on those corners.

A view of the corner protectors used for the back of the box

That looks much better.

Small decorative cardboard boxes that have been decorated with corners and letter cut-outs.

Right, so that’s the letter blocks done, and we can move onto giving the blocks a rusty transformation.

Cheap paint tricks for adding a rust effect

Have I already mentioned how easy this technique is? If you look at rusty metal, it’s got a slightly rough texture where the oxygen molecules have chewed into the metal. The rust colors vary from a reddish brown to dark brown with random flecks of orange scattered throughout.

Did you know: The word ‘rust’ comes from the Proto-Germanic word rusta, which means “redness.”

The trick to getting the faux rust effect right depends on two things:

  1. Creating a rough, pitted texture
  2. And using the right paint colors combinations

Adding a rough texture

To create that pitted effect, I mixed up a batch of our homemade texture paste. You can use the store-bought version too. Apply a layer of the texture paste all over the cardboard. While the paste is still wet, use your finger, or a sponge, to dab or pounce the paste.

Apply homemade texture paste to the box

You want the paste to form bumpy, uneven peaks and bobbles which resemble the texture you often see on rusted metal. Leave the paste to dry before applying a second layer. Try and create a random pitted effect especially on the corners and edges of whatever you’ll be rustifying.

Mixing the rust colors

Just like everything else in life, rust ages. Areas that have been oxidizing for the longest are darkest, while the outer edges are lighter and tend to be more orange than red. To achieve the same effect, put large dollops of orange and brown paint on a plate. Add a teeny bit of black and swirl them around with a toothpick or skewer.

The rust colors that I used to create the faux rust effect. Apply the colors randomly with a sponge

Lightly dip a clean, dry sponge in the paint and randomly dab the colors onto the cardboard. Focus on those areas where you want to create a rust effect. Don’t worry if the paint makes little peaks, it will add to the textured look later.

The rust colors that I used to create the faux rust effect. Apply the colors randomly with a sponge

Try to vary the colors. Too much pure brown can make the finished piece look muddy rather than rusty. For those areas where a sponge doesn’t give you the right coverage, use a paint brush and then dab and pounce with the sponge afterwards.

Paint the corners using the inexpensive craft paint rust mixture

Repeat until you’re happy with the effect. You can add as many layers as you want to create interest and depth. Leave the paint to dry between layers to avoid “lifting” the previous one. Just play around and have fun. Almost everything can be fixed with a new coat of paint.

Creating a faux rust effect using cheap craft paints is easy and budget-friendly

To create contrast and really make the rust pop, I added various blues and greys to “un-rusted” areas on my blocks.

Mix contrasting colors to apply to the rusty cardboard boxes

Creating a faux rust effect using cheap craft paints is easy and budget-friendly

For a super quick demonstration on how it’s done, click on the video below.

#DIYRust: The Surprising Technique to Achieving a Perfect Rust Look with Craft Paint!

To finish off, use an earbud dipped in black paint to add screws to the cardboard corners.

And that’s all there is to creating a faux rust effect with cheap craft paint. Now I just need to hide the gaping holes where the letters have been cut out, add lights, and turn the rusted boxes into letter blocks..

Looking for a unique and budget-friendly home decor project? We’ll show you how to give cardboard a fabulous faux rust effect using cheap craft paints. It’s an easy way to add texture and personality to your creations, making them perfect for crafts, decorations, or other upcycling projects.

 

Finishing off and adding lights

To finish off the block letter light boxes, cut a sheet of translucent paper into squares.

Use translucent paper to cover the letter cut outs

Using double side tape, stick the paper squares on the inside of the blocks and pop battery-powered fairy lights inside.

A view of the inside of the letter blocks with fairy lights

To close the blocks I used masking tape. Not a very elegant solution, but it works for me and it makes it easier to switch the fairy lights on😉

Looking for a unique and budget-friendly home decor project? We’ll show you how to give cardboard a fabulous faux rust effect using cheap craft paints. It’s an easy way to add texture and personality to your creations, making them perfect for crafts, decorations, or other upcycling projects.

Once the blocks with their faux rust effect are stacked you’ll never know what’s happening behind the scenes.

Looking for a unique and budget-friendly home decor project? We’ll show you how to give cardboard a fabulous faux rust effect using cheap craft paints. It’s an easy way to add texture and personality to your creations, making them perfect for crafts, decorations, or other upcycling projects.

I’ve added a few more real rusty bits. This little bird cage……

Looking for a unique and budget-friendly home decor project? We’ll show you how to give cardboard a fabulous faux rust effect using cheap craft paints. It’s an easy way to add texture and personality to your creations, making them perfect for crafts, decorations, or other upcycling projects.

And a framed paint brush that’s full of grungy, rusty deliciousness.

An old rusty paintbrush serves as an inspiration image to create the faux rust effect.

And when the lights go on, the rust junkie inside of me does a little happy dance.

Looking for a unique and budget-friendly home decor project? We’ll show you how to give cardboard a fabulous faux rust effect using cheap craft paints. It’s an easy way to add texture and personality to your creations, making them perfect for crafts, decorations, or other upcycling projects.

While I absolutely love this technique, it’s best suited for indoor projects. If you want to use your rustified piece outside, I would apply a polyacrylic sealer and avoid using cardboard as a base. Just a heads up, most sealers have a satin or gloss finish which will change the look.

If like the idea of giving old cardboard boxes a gorgeous rusty texture, don’t forget to pin it for later.

Looking for a unique and budget-friendly home decor project? We’ll show you how to give cardboard a fabulous faux rust effect using cheap craft paints. It’s an easy way to add texture and personality to your creations, making them perfect for crafts, decorations, or other upcycling projects.

Sharing is caring

Looking for a unique and budget-friendly home decor project? We’ll show you how to give cardboard a fabulous faux rust effect using cheap craft paints. It’s an easy way to add texture and personality to your creations, making them perfect for crafts, decorations, or other upcycling projects.

Oh BTW, if you’re looking for some of the things we used, we’ve got you covered. Disclosure: Clicking on the links below, means we may receive a commission from Amazon. But don’t worry it won’t come out of your pocket, and it helps us make more amazing crafts to share with you 😉

Rust Effect

Sale MESHA Small White Gift Boxes 4x4x4'' 10 Pack, Gift Boxes with Lids for Bridesmaid Gifts, Groomsmen, Godmother, Valentine's Day, Wedding & Party Favor, Bridal Shower, Cupcake Boxes
Shuttle Art Acrylic Paint Set, 15 x 12ml Tubes Artist Quality Non Toxic Rich Pigments Colors Perfect for Kids Adults Beginners Artists Painting on Canvas Wood Clay Fabric Ceramic Crafts
Ranger Texture Paste, 3.9 fl oz
Slice 10416 New Precision Cutter 10416, Craft Cutter, Micro-Ceramic Blade Lasts up to 11x Longer Than Metal, Hobby Knife With Precision Blade, Replaceable Blade

And if you prefer to buy rather than DIY, then maybe these beauties will appeal.

Maoerzai Farmhouse Home Decorations for Living Room, Rustic Wooden sign, 4 Sides-This Is Us Sign&Our Life Our Story Our Home Letter Blocks, for Book Shelf Mantle Coffee Table Top Decor.
Everydecor Metal Hanging Heart For wall Decor - Galvanized Steel Decoration in Rustic Style for Living Room, Bedroom, Kitchen, Gallery, Office - Measuring 6.4'x 6.25'
JOYYPOP Baby Boxes with 42pcs Letters(A-Z+Baby) for Baby Shower, Transparent Balloon Boxes Blocks for Gender Reveal, Bridal Shower, Birthday Party Decorations (White)

And as always, wishing you a wonderful, crafty week filled with lots of love. Thank you for popping in for a visit.

Made with love by a Crafty Mix