Borderlands Inspired Copper Leaf on Jean Jacket

There are a handful of video game franchises I love, but Borderlands has probably gotten more play time than any other franchise. I figured the Borderland’s vault logo was a great design to use to test out an idea I had about using metal leaf, Copper Leaf in particular, on denim. This process ended up being a little trickier than anticipated (it always is), but I am beyond happy with the results.

To start I snatched up a new jean jacket from Old Navy. If I had an old one, I would have used that and I scoured every thrift store in my area and came up empty handed, so new it was. Thankfully it was on sale. I didn’t wash it or anything, hopefully that won’t be a long-term issue. I also had an old denim bucket hat I had made for Pride last year I wanted to embellish a little more, which I used for testing this process as I was not worried about ruining it (foreshadowing, I kind of ruined the hat).

My freehand leaves a lot to be desired, so I needed a stencil. To start I roughed out the design using some images I found online, made some tweaks and then printed it to the size I want. I don’t have a poster printer, so I ended up printing it tiled and taping the pages together. From there I cut out the main design and laid it out on the back of the jacket to confirm placement and sizing. I traced around the cutout with some light-colored chalk I had on hand and then removed the stencil.

Once I had my outline, I got to work gently brushing small amounts of metal leaf adhesive into the jacket. The adhesive darkened the denim just enough that I could see where I had already applied it. If you decide to try this (100% at your own risk) go slow, take your time and work in small sections with small drops of the glue. The Adhesive is white and has a strong resemblance to Elmer’s Glue in the look and how it applies, the big difference in usage is it stays tacky after it dries. Once I had the entire image painted with the adhesive, I let it sit for about 30 minutes to dry.

After 30 minutes I tested, and it did still feel slightly tacky. I slipped on the cotton gloves that came with the copper leaf and carefully separated a sheet of the copper leaf. I gently laid the sheet over a section of the design, gently blowing down on it to set it against the fabric. With the first sheet in place, I moved onto the next, and the next, slowly working until the entire area was covered in overlapping sheets. Once it was all covered, I placed a large sheet of parchment over that and pressed down, rubbing to press the leaf into the adhesive coated denim. I don’t know if you need to let it sit at this point or not, but I needed to stop for the night anyway, so I left it overnight.

The next day I took a soft brush I had purchased for leafing and gently brushed back and forth over the leaf to break off the parts that were not contacting the sticky adhesive. I saved as much of the copper I brushed off as I could. This was very handy for when I went back and had to touch up a few areas where I did not fully paint the adhesive the first time.

After the second round of adhesive-drying-leafing-waiting-brushing I was very happy with the results. I was pretty sure I wanted to seal the image, but I was not sure which product to use and there is not a lot of information out there on this process. Back to the hat I had, I had leafed the entire brim with the copper to test it before doing the jacket and it looked amazing. I decided to use some Mod Podge Fabric as a sealer. Instead of testing a small patch as I should have, I was too confident it would work, and I sealed the whole thing. Within an hour it was dry, but the copper was mostly oxidized and now looked dark and muddy instead of bright and shiny as it had before I sealed it.

I regrouped, found some other options to try and leafed a smaller patch on the underside of the hat brim. I use this new patch to test some options. The first was using some Gloss Gel Medium I had on hand, this oxidized the copper as bad as the Mod Podge Fabric. The other option I had was Mod Podge Dishwasher Safe. I did not have high hopes for this, but it worked amazingly well. I left it for a few days and there was no change. The sealing brought down the luster of the copper, but only by about 10-20%, and with it unsealed it leaving copper on the backs of chairs when I wore it like it had been dusted with glitter, and I didn’t love that.

I sealed just the leafed areas with the sealant. On the smaller areas you can see where I went onto the raw denim with the sealer, and it stained it a little darker. It is a dark denim jacket so you can only see if you look closely, but it is something to be aware of. I used a foam brush to apply the sealer, as opposed to the Mod Podge brand bristle brush I used to apply the leaf adhesive.

All in all, I am really happy with how this turned out. I will 100% be wearing it to the movie premier in August.




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