Monday, April 12, 2010

Tips on Painting Airsoft Guns

Here is how a friend of mine taught me to perform custom paint jobs on my Airsoft goodies (works for rifles or pistols).  Apparently, there's more than one way to skin a cat.  With that in mind, if you've got a different method that works well for you, please feel free to share it. 


Prep work is the most important part of painting anything. If the prep work is horrible or lacking, then the paint will not stick, nor will it look good (i.e. dents, deep scratches, etc.). You must prep a gun/part to be painted. What I have found that works best for Airsoft guns is not direct sand paper, but rather a sanding sponge. 120-150 grit is ideal: Here is an example of such a sponge.

They are easy to use and are inexpensive.  The advantage is they do not shred in your hands as easily as sandpaper will when it hits the sharp points of a Picatinny/Weaver rail or other jagged parts of the gun. The sanding sponges can get into tight spaces on the gun, too. I would recommend the trapezoidal sponges because the rectangular sponges are very difficult to get into tight areas. You really don't have to press very hard on the sponge either, but rather in light strokes-just enough to scuff the paint, or to remove scratches and imperfections.

Next, you'll need to make sure that you clean the gun prior to painting. Use a tack cloth, cheese cloth or some other kind of CLEAN light rag to get finger prints, oils, sanding dust and crud off the gun/part. This is vital to the adhesion of the paint. A simple, but important step.

Next, tape off any section you do not want painted or remove them all together. Blue painter's masking tape is advised.  In the case of the P226 pictured below, I took the gun apart to some extent to make sure that I didn't paint certain pieces. You should do this to add depth to the gun and break up shadows and patterns in the guns body/viewable surface.


To this point, most of the guns that I've painted have been with Krylon Camo paint and have had a very positive experience with it. However, I like for my guns to show a bit of wear on the paint for that realistic look. Thus, Krylon has worked well for this because it does wear in places where contact happens; pistol grips, hand gaurds, controls, etc. If you want for the paint to stay on the gun and not wear to a greater extent, Krylon probbly ain't the best option for ya. But if you don't mind a bit of wear, as I said, the Krylon has never done me wrong. You can get it at most Hardware stores for @ $7.

If you want a very strong bonding paint that will not wear as quickly, I would suggest Aluma-Hyde from Brownells. I have used it with great results on a few projects, although it's a bit higher in cost than the Krylon at @ $12 per can. Here's a link: Brownells Aluma-Hyde II Paint. This stuff is pretty legit.

Here are some pointers when spraying on the sugary matte finish of camouflage nectar.

- Make sure that you put the gun/part onto a surface you don't mind getting paint on. I placed my P226 on a large piece of wood that I didn't care about discoloring. The background, or anything behind the paint can's nozzle will get overspray--You have been warned.

- Here is the key to any good paint job: Don't just aim the nozzle at the gun/part and start spraying like you are a tagger from the Southeast side. You aren't painting a clown face on the side of a freight train here, either (don't get any ideas). Instead, start to spray on the right hand side of the part (or left, it doesn't matter) and then move the spray stream over the part and continue past it about three more inches. Yes, you will waste some paint, but this will give you a much more uniform coat and virtually eliminate runs and thick coats of paint. Back and forth.  It does take practice, so try it first on a board, or something else to get it right.  Also, another key: Three to four light coats of paint is better than 2 heavy coats. Yes, this may take a bit more time to finish your project, but the paint will look better and last longer if you do multiple coats.

- Now that you've painted your piece, have patience....This is usually my fatal flaw.  I typically get so enthralled with the results of my right to left paint-jobs that I pick up the gun/part before the paint has time to dry to admire it.  After I get done cursing my Attention Deficit Disorder, I do more prep-work to fix the fingermarks. I have learned to be patient, but still have a long ways to go when it comes to keeping my head out of dark and horrifically foul places. Seriously, practice restraint in this phase, it will save you a LOT of time and headaches.

- Now for that tape (preferably blue painters masking tape I mentioned earlier): Don't remove it until after you have applied multiple coats, but make sure to remove it about 10-15 minutes after your last coat. Give the paint time to settle, but not long enough to completely dry. If the paint completely dries, and you peel off the tape at this point, you run the risk of pulling up your freshly painted gun/part because the paint has dried to the tape. Try to be gentle as you remove it so that you don't fudge the newly painted parts.

- Last step....Enjoy your masterpiece.

Although, not the one I just reviewed, here is a P226 with a candied paint job & fresh rims.  What???

Image Credit: ArmyOfMike

Yep, you're thinking, "Sick money." I know.  Me, too. 

After all this hard work, realize that you just did it all for a toy gun.  A very good looking toy gun.

Prep well, practice a bit on your technique before the final product and remember it's just paint.  It can be removed and redone if you don't like it after the first try.

This is a great way to give those well-seasoned veterans in your collection a very well-executed face lift, unlike this one:


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