The influence of alloying elements, deliberate or otherwise, and material processing on the performance of aluminium during surface treatment and finishing are considered. Thus, with a significant focus on copper, but with consideration of other elemental additions, the behaviour of aluminium during growth of oxide at ambient temperature, etching or pickling, conversion coating and anodizing, essential processes for generation of fit-for-purpose products, is highlighted. Further, such processes generate, modify or transform the initially present air-formed alumina film. Consequently, with knowledge of the phenomena proceeding at the alloy/film and film/environment interfaces and those within anodic or other films, the possibility of controlling features of nanoscale dimensions for improved performance arises. For example, deliberate selection of alloying elements enables control of nanotextures formed at treated surfaces, and formation of compositionally and morphologically modified films as well as generation of nanoparticles with various functional properties.