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Home » Technical Articles » Hardware Guides

How To: Paint Camouflage, Template and Freehand
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0 235871 Sun March 26, 2006
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Description: The template method of painting camouflage

By DJMikeOz
Published March 2006

Do you have a rifle? Do you want to camouflage it, but think that you are completely inept? That you will mess it up entirely? Well I’m going to show you a simple method that will make it very easy for you to accomplish some of the paint schemes that you have been envying lately. This guide is for those of you who believe that they can’t get a good results or a decent finish from a can of good ‘ol spray paint.

What paint should you use?
* Krylon brand paint is the best and most suited for any project, for beginners or the accomplished expert, and it will be your best friend. It is so described because of its ease of use. It doesn’t drip or run and as long as you give it at least 15 minutes between coats it will turn out perfect every time.
* Krylon’s Camouflage paint system is perfect for most colours matching U.S. and U.N. standards so it’s a natural shoe-in for your projects. It is highly recommended by anyone that has any experience painting just about anything so you can be confident in using it on all your projects.
* Krylon’s Fusion paint is specifically made for chemically binding to plastics and has limited uses for some small parts. Especially if they’re clear and will have high volumes of usage. Unfortunately, these paints only come in gloss or satin finishes.
* Rustoleum brand paint makes a godsend called Textured paint, which adheres to plastic wonderfully, is scratch resistant, and adds a finish that resembles professional powder coated surfaces. This paint is excellent for areas where hand contact is high, such as grips, shoulder stocks, and hand guards and binds especially well to clear plastic surfaces.

Every good paint job begins with a clean, oil and dirt free surface. For the best results you should disassemble the rifle into its component parts, or even further, depending on the level of detail you wish to present.
The quick and dirty method is to just wipe the rifle down and start applying paint. This sometimes resembles a hastily applied field application. Not too pretty, but it gets the job done regardless.
Once you have the parts separated you’ll want to wash each part with warm water and a mild detergent such as dish soap. That will remove the oils from the factory and let the paint stick better and stay longer. Oils from your hands can also cause problems with the paint adhering properly, so if you need to do any modifications make sure you wash the parts again and handle them as little as possible after they dry.
Once my parts are ready for painting, I usually stick them on wire hangers with masking tape to keep my grubby hands off of them for one, and two, because you can rotate the parts to any given angle once they are secured. After that you just spray them and hang them from a door or doorknob to dry.

For demonstration purposes, I'm using a half of the DE/Neon M4 Freedom Fighter stock. Make sure you clean all the dust off of your intended target like me. A little soap and warm water is always a good way to start.

The first cote…Primer.
Primer is not always important when painting plastic rifles, but depending on what you start with it can definitely be better for the finished results. For example, a clear bodied rifle will accept any color paint, but if you lay down a couple of coats of flat black first, there will be less chance of being able to see through the thin spots of the rifle like the cracks and molded lines that typically run all over a receiver. You won’t notice this indoors until you take it out in the sun and find that you can see through some of the spots you previously thought were finished.
You do not necessarily need to use anything that says “Primer” on the can unless you are painting metal parts. Krylon’s Ultra Flat Black works for 90% of any job, be it primer, or finish. I typically use two cans to every ½ can of any other color in my collection, so you get the point. Using lighter grays as primers works well also. If you want to fabricate a winter scheme then this works out better than black because it doesn’t take as much white paint to cover it. So, depending on what your planned final results are and what it is that you start with, you may want to primer or you may not.

I masked half of the stock for a coat of Rustoleum textured paint first. This so you can see the difference in finishes in the later pictures. Throw down some paper, grab your spray, and pony up to the task.

The business at hand…Camouflage!
Now here’s the meat and biscuits of the guide. [s]Easy and simple methods to warp young minds[/s]. Painting camouflage on to your rifle with out messing it up. We’ll need a stencil, and we can make one easy. A thin material such as cardboard, sheet plastic, or even thick paper can be used for this application. This is what you will use to make your desired pattern with. Just draw some random shapes, tiger stripes, or a bunch of random squares or circles. Cut them out with a sharp knife or No.11 Exacto blade. This is your stencil. If you want to make more than one pattern then do so. I have provided a couple of examples below for reference. You can make stencils for every color you plan on using in your scheme if that is what you want.

You can cut out a variety of different shapes, including Tiger stripes, Scallops, or digital.

I am using the same template that was used for my Pulse R70 for this same project.

Now that you have your stencil you can prepare to lay down some color. First, you’ll nee the background color that you will lay down your patterns over. You can use any color for this, but I find that it typically gets covered over mostly, so I usually leave the background black and paint over that.
Kayo, you’ve got a background color, you’ve got your stencil(s) and you’re ready to start spraying. But before you do, you’ve got one more thing to learn. I want you to hold your stencil three inches above a scrap piece of whatever and give it a test spray. Now repeat that with the stencil one inch above your scrap. See the difference. At three inches the pattern you sprayed should be much fuzzier around the edges and less defined than the one you sprayed at one inch. If you laid the stencil directly on the scrap it would be a sharp, defined shape. Varying the distance of the stencil from your target will produce different levels of blending and sharp contrasts. After putting down a first color, move the stencil over approximately 1/4 to 1 inch in any direction to lay down your second color. Laying one color over another is okay and produces mixed and random results. Alternate or random placements can create very cool results so try mixing it up whenever you feel like it.
Other methods of making camouflage schemes can be as easy as using a branch or leaf from a bush or tree, or as complicated as masking and spraying multiple areas and colors to replicate intricate patterns.

After the mask was removed from the Rustoleum, I laid down a little dark brown Krylon. It's not my favorite color to stand out so I laid it first. The O.D. will cover over about half of this color so it won't show through as much. Also, notice how the paint gets more fuzzy and undefined as it reaches the edges of the stock. I did this by laying the template directly on the stock and spraying. The contours of the stock show how the distance from the template will effect your pattern.

Now that the O.D. is on it you can start to see how easy this is going to be. Move the template over a little and spray right over everything. BAM! Notice also how the two different surfaces are now reacting in different ways to the light. The Rustoleum was applied to the right side of the stock.

Here is a great shot of how the two finishes react to light. The side closest to you is without the Rustoleum and no undercoat, just paint on plastic. With a proper clear coat that shine will vanish from the Rustoleum side, but the side with out an undercoat will scratch off much, much quicker.

Now that you have painted your rifle set it aside for a 24-hour period and let the paint cure. The longer you let it sit with out you touching it, the harder the paint will be after it dries. After a full day it should be rather difficult to remove, but probably still scratches off with some effort. Just don’t try to scratch it off on purpose. Common backyard play and abuse will put that worn look into it soon enough.
Clear coat is the last and final step on the road to completion. It galvanizes the finish and with many coats, protects the finish for better resistance to rough handling. If you can find some in a flat sheen that would be recommended, but most of what you will find on store shelves is gloss or semi gloss. That won’t do at all. What you need to look for printed on the can is a “FLAT” finish or non-reflective. If the can does not specify, chances are, that it is a gloss finish.

The steps…short version.
1. Disassemble the gun and clean the parts to be painted.
2. Primer and lay down a base color.
3. Using your stencil(s) spray some different colors or patterns to your liking.
4. Clear coat all finished parts and set aside.
5. Set aside all parts or partially assembled sections to dry for at least a full 24-hour period before abusing the paintjob in competition.

This is was what my rifle looked like before I painted it.

And the after photo. I did not use a primer on the stock so the paint will likely scratch off much sooner than any other spot on the rifle.

A little about freehand painting
As suggested by Souske
By DJMikeOz

"I agree that stencils allow for more detailed works, for I have 'converted' from the free-hand method to the stenciling method. But some people may not want to spend the time to use them. Likewise, most pictures I've seen of SF guys with carbines usually free-hand the patterns. The only operators I've seen using stencils are the snipers (say like the M24, SR-25, SPR, and M82). Another ironic thing is that most paintjobs I've seen on M4's by the real guys aren't very detailed, and don't always look the best. But I must say, some of the sniper’s paintworks are also very good." - Souske

Kayo, let's sat you've read the guide above, but you agree with Souske. You don't want a detailed camouflage pattern, just a basic functioning one that is more like the hastily applied operator jobs of the common soldier. No problem, I can tell you how to do that also. You'll want to lay down your base coat first, of course. This base coat will be your most visible color so make sure your not bringing an O.D. green rifle to the sands.

Once you have your base coat down and dried, you will need one or two other colors. If you've already put down a sand color then brown and O.D. would probably be your next choices, but it's up to you. Soldiers in the field use what is available so consider that also. Now before you just start spraying paint all over the place let's get a few guidelines out there first.

1. Don't spray any closer than 3 inches from your rifle. The results are thick and don't look blended.
2. Don't spray your patterns too close to one another. You want an even amount of paint from one end to the other. For example; your rifle should mostly remain the base color with a few "patches" of color to break it up.
3. When spraying freehand you must always have a clear idea in your head about where you want these "patches" to be. Usually the largest parts of the rifle like; Stock, receiver, foregrip, and a silencer if you have one.

Remember, you want your base color to be the same as your environment. The other colors are just to break up the form, or shilloete, of the rifle.

Alright. Now to spray some lines on to your rifle and create this effect I am referring to. When spraying these lines you don't want to push the spray nozzle down while holding the can over the rifle. You want to push the spray nozzle down before you are over the rifle, wave your can over the rifle in a more or less strait line, then release the spray nozzle. This is how the pros do it. I was told years ago, never start spraying over the object you are painting.

Once you've got that down, do it two or three times more over the rifle using quick strokes over the rifles surface no more than 3 inches or more from the rifles surface. Switch out colors and repeat. After a few stripes with a couple of colors you should have a nice looking scheme. If it looks imperfect and kind of sloppy in some places that's okay. Do you think the guys in the field are professional painters? You have most likely just produced a very authentic field applied camouflage paint scheme to your rifle. Congrats. Now go post your pictures in the gallery so that everyone can enjoy it.

Thanks to all who suggested tips and secrets I hadn't thought of. This is for all ASR readers, future and present, enjoy.

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