Steel Colour-Tempering
Maria Tyakina
Graduate 2016, Bachelor Interior Architecture & Furniture Design

What is the technique you based your material research on?
Tempering is a heat treatment technique applied to ferrous alloys, such as steel or cast iron, to achieve greater toughness by decreasing the hardness of the alloy. When a polished steel object is treated with heat an oxide layer forms. As the temperature of the surroundings increases, the thickness of the iron oxide will also increase on the steel surface. The iron oxide is not transparent by its nature, but such a thin layer causes a phenomenon called thin-film interference, which results in the appearance of a sequence of colours: light yellow, brown, purple, and finally blue corresponding to particular temperatures reached between 620 °C and 770 °C. By precise control of time and temperature during the process, the desired colour outcome can be achieved.

Stainless steel, cold-rolled steel, polisher

Ceramic kiln, enamel oven

KABK Metal
KABK Ceramics


  1. Clean / polish metal pieces (any contamination of the surface will leave an imprint on final piece).

  2. Preheat oven to first setting in a temperature range between 620 - 770 °C.

  3. Place pieces in kiln.

  4. As soon as the colours start to change, immediately remove pieces from the kiln, and let them naturally cool.

Health and Safety Precautions:

The work should be conducted in a well-ventilated area, and heat-protective gloves and mask must be worn when placing and removing pieces from the kiln.

This recipe is part of Touching: A Research Method in Art and Design, an exhibition curated by architect and KABK tutor Laura van Santen, featuring the materials and research of students, tutors and workshop instructors from the KABK.

More information on the display, all samples and recipes can be found here.