Grace: How-to Guide for Custom Camouflage Painting Technique
For Your Favorite Rifle.
would a really kick-ass sniper rifle like this be without
a really kick-ass camo paint job? (Okay, it would still be
a kick-ass gun - but it wouldn't look nearly as cool.)
So I knew before I ever got Grace that she'd eventually have
a great camouflage paint job. Of course, I had to wait awhile
for her (much longer than even I - as well informed on that
particular topic as anyone - ever imagined I would have to
wait). During that waiting period, I started thinking hard
on my cammo plan.
If I can give you only one piece of advice on this topic,
it is this: Think hard and long on the topic before you ever
start painting. It'll save you an awful lot of messy paintwork
- and may keep you from really screwing up the appearance
of your kick-ass gun.
So here is how I did it - the Camouflage Painting Process.
I knew I wanted a Central to Eastern North Carolina look and
feel. If you spend time observing your surroundings (which
I suggest you do if you want an eye for good shooting positions,
as well as good cammo patterns) you start to pick up on what
patterns and textures and most common in your area.
For this part of the state, we have lots and lots of weedy
- where young pine forests and semi-mature hardwood stands
run up against open fields, highways, and developed areas.
These treelines are where I would choose to hide, stalk, and
navigate from - as in most of this part of the state - you
can find your way for miles and miles across country without
ever leaving that kind of concealed cover.
Our treelines are characterized by dense, leafy and grassy
vegetation that grows about 3 - 5 feet tall. In the winter,
this boarder is intense green to sandy brown in color, populated
with everything from ferns and poison ivy to young hardwoods,
pines, and seasonal stalky weeds that look like something
out of the rain forest. In the winter, the treelines thin
out and are brown to gray tangles of tall dead grasses, clinging
brown leaves, a juvenile pines.
That's quite a range of colors and textures to cammo for.
First; there is shopping to do. (It's always good to start
with a shopping trip!)
You will need to obtain:
- A good quality Xacto knife with at least 10 blades
(I recommend more - as changing blades very frequently yields
- A roll of artists quality masking tape. This is preferred
b/c it has less adhesive, so it won't tear the paint if you
have to mask over already painted areas - and it has a dense
texture that keeps paint from rolling, pooling, or crawling.
Do not buy the cheap stuff. Paint will crawl underneath it
and it will tear off paint from freshly painted surfaces.
- Liquid Friskit. This is a specialty item available
only at good artist supply stores. It is a thin, paint-on
rubber cement specifically designed for masking tight areas
(like serial numbers). It's not a necessity - unless you are
anal like me. If you get the friskit - also buy a pointed
camel hair brush that is small - to apply the friskit with.
(If you live in Raleigh, the place to get this is Jerry's
Art-a-Rama on Wake Forest Road just inside the beltline,
just one block north of the Six Forks Road intersection.)
Next stop is Michael's, or a similar "crafts"
store that sells plastic flowers for those cheesy flower arrangements
that housewives who haven't developed a love of firearms spend
way too much time and money at.
Start at the sale bin. For less than $5 I bought long strands
of fern-looking vines, maples leaves, oak leaves, and several
varieties (textures) of grasses that I used to "free
form" mask while painting. These cheap little plastic
decorations are the secret weapon of a great camo plan. Without
them - you just have lots of hard edges and paint blobs. With
them - you have organic forms and shapes that when blended
together really start looking like something you'd see out
Finally, we must consider paint.
The best camouflage paint on the market is Brownells. It's
the most durable against solvents and heat, and comes in a
good variety of colors. It's the right texture (flat - no
gloss or satin), and it lays down very flat so it's great
for covering up mistakes.
The downside of Brownell's is that it's expensive, and it
is very opaque (covers solidly). It is so opaque that - from
my point of view - it is unsuitable for the many layers of
transparency necessary for a good cammo job. The whole point
of doing camo is to break up the hard edges, interrupt the
long horizontal lines, and add the appearance of depth, perspective,
and texture that one sees in the natural landscape. Brownell's
is great paint - but it covers too well - and the colors loose
all transparency and look flat - and painted.
For my money - Krylon Camouflage paint is the way to go.
It comes in just as many colors, but it has more "carrier"
and less pigment. It takes a few coats to completely cover
a dark surface, but will give you a very translucent coat
if that's what you are going for. Very often with your cammo
job - translucent is what you are going for. Krylon is also
a lot more affordable than Brownells - and it's almost as
resistant to heat, chipping, and running.
Last paint consideration is clear-coat. You will want to spend
some money here. Brownells flat, matte, epoxy clear coat
is the best way to go. Barring Brownell's, any good quality
epoxy matte clear coat will do.
Do try to get epoxy - as it dries hard and is very solvent
resistant. Standard clear coats (polyurethane or acetate based)
tend to want to gloss up, some get cloudy, and most have no
resistance to solvents or heat. This is the finishing step
in all your hard work - so spend the money and get the good
Masking is perhaps the most important thing you'll do. Do
it sloppy and you will screw up your gun.
Let me reiterate. Do not be in a hurry. Patience will save
you time and money and heartache. If you get paint inside
the guts of your gun - on yours scope lenses, or in the trigger
- you will hate yourself. So don't take shortcuts.
Take the bolt out of the gun, put it in a zip lock bag, and
put it in the gun safe. We'll come back to it.
Completely tape over all the open areas of the gun. This includes
the most obvious cavities exposed by the removal of the bolt,
but do not forget about the trigger area, safety, ports, etc.
If you do not completely tape these off - you will rue the
Flip open your scope caps and very carefully tape over the
scope cap bodies so that you have a completely covered set
of lenses. (For specifics, see the images below).
After you have finished taping up the areas of the gun and
scope you need to protect, get out your trusty Xacto and carefully
trim off the excess tape. Again - for guidance on trimming,
just refer to the images below. Pictures serve better than
words for stuff like this.
Final masking is what I call the "vertical break-up".
You will want to lay down some masking for wide horizontal
lines that visually break up the long vertical lines of the
You do this for what to me are fairly obvious reasons: The
human eye can pick out pattern and regularity. What we want
to do is eliminate pattern and regularity. We want to replace
the vertical patterns that are unnatural in a woodland environment,
with horizontal patterns that are more natural in appearance.
Let's get started painting camouflage:
The key here is that you will lay your masks down in the negative.
Let's think of our horizontal masking as representing young
tree trunks. These will be dark brown to black in color. They
are round (so they "stand out). They cast shadows. And
weeds and grass grow in front of them.
So you will want to create a mask set that includes not only
the horizontal tree trunk, but also the shadow that is cast
by the tree trunk. The shadow is behind the trunk - it's the
darkest area - but it is not round - it's flat and falls backward
Your "shadow" mask will be black - and if you are
starting with a black gun (as I was) - you can simply leave
it unpainted through much of the process by leaving it masked.
Your tree trunk is the first painting you will do. When you
begin painting, this should be your first step. You will paint
a very dark color, large horizontal blocks - leaving most
of the gun unpainted.
When you are done. Remove all the other masking except for
Let the paint dry thoroughly (an hour?), then flip the gun
over so that you can paint the underside of it first. (This
is important - if you leave it till last, you will have a
lot of overspray on the top side to deal with. More frustration.)
Select your lightest color (in my case - tan).
Start painting over (with soft, light, translucent coats)
the rounded and detailed edges of the gun like the butt stock
edges, the trigger guard, forearm. Anywhere where there is
a nicely "designed" man-made edge, hit it and lay
down a "flattening" spot.
The goal here is to flatten out shakes, and angles that are
unnatural. These will become very apparent as you paint from
one direction or another - as the curves and edges and angles
will become accentuated by the first light spray over. The
"Porsche lines" will emerge. You must DEFEAT THEM!
Use enough coats from every angle so that when you stand back,
the edges flatten - and you can no longer see those pronounced
Allow the paint to dry thoroughly, then flip it over and repeat
When you are done. It'll look a lot like the image below:
If you look carefully at the buttstock on the right, in front
of the trigger, and along the forearm, you can see the areas
of vertical breakup that I created with the first mask layer.
You can also see masking tape still in place for my shadows.
This is what your first few laydowns of paint should look
like. You are not trying to coat the gun all at once. You
are just laying down under coats that will give a sense of
depth, irregularity, and translucency to your paint job. Much
of this initial work will improve the quality of the surfaces
you lay down in the next few steps.
Detail: Look at how I have taped over the scope caps lens
Detail: That's a foam earplug in the muzzle. Very important
step. You don't want paint down your barrel.
From here, go ahead and polka dot in your next two darkest
colors. You will want to put a few less polka dots in each
color than you did the previous. You will want to always start
each color with the bottom of the gun.
You can sprinkle in some of your masking flora. You will want
to keep it light and translucent No big blotches. When your
done, it should look "wispy".
Once you've done all that - pull off your shadow masks and
start really working with your fake leaves and flowers.
Remember that you want to work in the negative. So if you
want a light colored leaf, you will want to lay the leaf down
over a light area, and spray dark over it. This is the primary
,mistake many people make in cammoing. They can't think in
In the image below - you can clearly see both tree trunks
and shadows, and the negative masking effects of the leaves
and grass I've used as my mask textures.
From here on out - it's just adding layers of this same effect.
You will want to pay close attention to areas of the gun that
are most visible - like the scope and scope caps. These should
be carefully cammo'd. The barrel needs attention. As does
the butt stock.
The "snake skin" texture achieved on the barrel
is just a simply military netting (laundry bag) laid over
a light area and painted medium green.
Now we are getting somewhere!
With the next layer (below) - we concentrate less on the leaf
forms and textures (they were just above) and more on really
working hard to break up the horizontal and add depth, texture,
I've used plastic grass to do this, by spraying browns and
greens over my lighter areas in an angles manner. This creates
the illusion of filtered light, the illusion of layers of
organic material. Starting to look like a treeline, isn't
Detail. Looking good (except for that one blotch!) We can
fix that. Cammo is nothing, if not flexible.
Okay. Now we have a camouflaged firearm. But it's soft looking
(above.) We need to give it some definition. Start very conservatively
masking in darker areas, specifically to the places that catch
the most light. Like scope turrets, round edges, etc.
Nows the time to STOP. You will not want to stop. This is
addictive. Maybe it's the fumes. But take my advice. Stop
and let the gun for a few days.
Next step is clear coating.
Again, start with the underside of the gun. Apply the coating
in wide, even strokes. Covering as much of the gun as you
can in one movement of the arm.
Clear coat is bizarre stuff. It will lighten your paintjob
overall - so keep that in mind. It also (especially if you
are working in a dusty environment) create little strings
and spiderwebs. Don't sweat these. They will buff off easily.
I used three-5 coats of clear coat. Let the paint dry overnight
before you touch it. It takes nasty fingerprints. To properly
clearcoat the gun - takes at least two days. (One day for
the underside. One day for the top end.)
When you are done, and the gun is completely dry. Start buffing.
Do this final step with all your masking still on. It will
create dusk and you don't want paint dust in your gun or on
I buffed with chamois and tee-shirt. I get the best results
with tee-shirt. You'll have a nice, pebbled surface - hard
enough to resist most scratches that might otherwise occurs
from ordinary handling, plus a fairly heat resistant - kick-ass
looking camouflaged paint job.
Grace below. Complete (except for bolt).
With the bolt - do exactly the same steps - except you can
probably skip the leaves and textures. It's gonna get real
worn anyway. Just be sure to get all the oil off with some
degreaser, mask it up really securely, and oil it before you
put it back in.
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