What’s the best paint for fishing lures? Well by the time you’ve finished reading this article you’ll have my honest opinion! For me lure paints are about ease of use, safety and turning out top notch lure art that lasts. Fish after angry fish……
After all, the satisfaction of turning out awesome looking lures is great. But it’s pretty short-lived if your paint shrivels, peels, chips or cracks after a few weeks or a few fish. That means wasted time, effort and money.
So in this article we’ll take a look at some of the more common paints used in lure making. Then I’ll go into detail about the product I personally use in my workshop – and why I reckon it’s the best paint for fishing lures.
Paint Products For Lure Painting
Let’s start with a quick intro to the various paint products that get used in wooden lure making. Or, if you want to skip the full assessment and go right to what I personally use, you can jump to:
This article is mostly concerned with airbrushing lures, so the products we’ll discuss lean heavily that way. But there’s nothing wrong with using an artists brush and some poster or model makers paints to color up some lures. It just depends where you’re at in your lure making journey!
Or, you could use aerosol cans from the auto or hardware store. In fact, if you’re new to lure making that’s exactly what I suggest you do. You can always invest in an airbrush later (after the lure making bug has fully bitten).
Airbrushing your fishing lures requires a little more investment in equipment, of course. And you’ll need to learn some simple techniques too. But there’s no denying it’s the best way to get really professional looking results. By the way, I’ve reviewed a couple of my favorite lure painting airbrush models….. Check out my Iwata HP-C plus and Neo CN reviews.
Common Paint Products For Lures
- Poster Paints And Artists Acrylics. These are fine for hand painting, but for airbrushing they’re not generally considered to be the best paint for fishing lures. The pigments are usually too coarse and I find the solvents don’t keep the paint flowing nicely through a fine nozzle. The result? You’ll spend more time unclogging your airbrush than painting lures.
- Acrylic Lacquers. These are mostly automotive paints, which look great and are popular for lure painting. Most seem to flow through an airbrush OK, though they do tend to be a little soft after drying. Just watch the flammability of the solvents and make sure you’re working in a well ventilated area.
- Polyurethanes. These are great, tough, high gloss paints and some of the 2 pack products don’t even need a clear coat. They’re a bit of a nuisance to clean up. And it’s hard to get lots of colors in small enough quantities for recreational lure makers. But the main reason I stay clear of them is the safety aspect – they’re way too toxic. Just wearing a chemical mask is not nearly enough. And I’d rather not have to suit and glove up every time I paint a couple of lures.
My Pick Of The Best Paint For Fishing Lures – Acrylic Airbrush Colors
Water based acrylic airbrush paints are definitely my favorite choice for lure painting. In fact, I use them exclusively these days.
Wicked and Autoair brand airbrush paints get my #1 vote for the best paint for fishing lures. But there are plenty of other brands available. Createx colors are also very popular with lure makers. They’re made by the same company as Wicked paints but are designed more for fabric painting. Wicked paint is formulated for hard surfaces and is better for lures.
I love that water based airbrush acrylics are non-toxic, non flammable, easy to use and come in a massive range of colors. Apart from opaque colors, I use fluorescent, metallic, pearl, color shift and transparent paints on my lures. They’re easy to clean up, making them ideal for recreational users and lure painting pros alike!
In order to get my vote for “best paint for fishing lures”, a product has to be available in small quantities in a wide range of colors. Autoair and Wicked paints play nicely together, so the color selection is massive….. even in quantities as small as 2oz!
6 Airbrush Acrylics And How I Use Them For Lure Painting
1. Airbrush Sealer
Before I get to shooting colors at my lures I treat the wood with epoxy as described in this article on sealing and hardening lure bodies. This ensures I have a hard, waterproof, non porous surface to paint on. Next, I use airbrush sealer to give my paint strong adhesion to the lure surface.
I used to use Autoair light or dark sealer, depending on whether my base colors would be light or dark. But recently I’ve been using white Autoborne sealer instead, and tinting it with a transparent autoair paint. I find it this dries harder than the Autoair and takes less coats to get coverage.
Speaking of coverage, don’t worry if you can see wood grain, glue lines etc through the sealer. It’s not there to cover those flaws, it’s there to give a good bond. I just spray two or three light coats of sealer, then move on to spraying a coat or two or opaque white before starting on base colors.
2. Base Colors (Opaque and Semi-opaque)
Wicked refer to their base colors as opaques. Autoair prefer to refer to them as semi-opaque. To me, they’re one in the same! Opaque base colors are like the standard paints you’ll find anywhere. Except that they’re formulated for the airbrush, of course!
I usually start with a few coats of Autoair Brite White or Deep Black, depending on what color will follow. With these coats I’m looking to cover grain or other imperfections that the sealer coats didn’t cover up. I want a uniform base color for the next step of the painting process.
Next I’ll choose the opaque base color or colors that will cover most of the lure body. 2-5 coats usually gives full coverage, depending on the color and how much I’ve reduced the paint.
3. Base Colors (Metallic & Pearl)
To lure makers, metallic and pearl paints are pretty much the same thing. They can look a little different on something big, like a car. But on lures most people can’t tell the difference. Both contain tiny particles of flashy material that creates a shimmer.
I use metallic or pearl colorss to create flash and shine. This is important because fish can see and respond to flash long before they can see color. And it can trigger a feeding instinct in many species.
I’ll happily spray metallics and pearls over the top of either the Brite White or Deep Black Autoair colors.
Having either metallic or pearl white in my lure painting kit gives me a lot of options. For example, using metallic white under transparent colors can increase your range of metallic options. And it does so without having to buy so many metallic colors.
4. Base Colors (Fluorescent)
I reckon fluorescent colors are awesome for dirty water and low light. But for maximum intensity , I like to get full coverage with AutoAir Brite White first. Light sealer is definitely not enough for this, you really need an intense white base to get the full effect.
However, one thing to be aware of with fluorescent colors: They fade over time. Fluorescent pigments have a habit of breaking down and losing their brilliance….
5. Transparent/Detail/Candy Colors
In the search for the best paint for fishing lures you really can’t go past transparent paints! They’re about the most useful, versatile product you’ll add to your lure painting kit. The best way I can describe them is as being more like a dye than a paint. They don’t cover up whatever is underneath – and adding more coats intensifies the colors but doesn’t make them opaque. It just deepens the color – like adding more cordial to a glass of water.
“Transparent” and “detail” are just AutoAir and Wicked terms for the same style of paint. But candy colors are slightly different in that they’re more intense. All are great for shading, tinting, toning and color transitions. I also use these colors exclusively for scaling, gills, fins and craw shells.
6. Transparent Base
Perhaps this product doesn’t fit entirely within the realms of paints, I don’t know! In fact, transparent base is all of the components of an acrylic airbrush paint, but minus the color pigments.
I find this product particularly useful for building depth and for reducing color intensity without over-thinning the paint. If you’re wondering why I’d want to do this, the answer is simple. It gives better control over paint build when I’m doing detail work.
5 Of My Favourite Lure Paints That Deserve A Special Mention….
Product 1: Autoborne Sealer
Sealer might not seem as sexy as the color coats, but if you want your lures to stay looking good year after year it’s important you use a good one.
For many years I used AutoAir white sealer (4001) and dark sealer (4002) for this step. And they’re still a great choice. But more recently I’ve switched to Autoborne sealers. Here’s why:
- They spray like a urethane lure paint, but without the toxicity. Very easy to use and minimal tip dry!
- Uses the same reducer as Wicked and Autoair colors, so no extra solvent to purchase.
- Seems to dry harder than AutoAir sealer and give exceptional adhesion.
- Can be bought tinted in 12 colors, which allows you to seal your lure and start laying down the base color at the same time. This reduces the amount of base color you need and makes metallic and pearl paints look great.
If you’re an acrylic paint user then Autoborne Sealer should be part of your lure painting kit, in my opinion. It plays nicely with both Autoair and Wicked brand paints.
Product 2: Autoair Water-based Candy Colors.
Once you’ve used these to paint lures you’ll wonder how you ever did without! As far as I can tell, this is the only true water-based candy color. I believe it’s quite a tech breakthrough – but who really cares? All that matters is that it’s an awesome lure paint! In fact, I’d rank candy colors as among the best paint for fishing lures…..
Candy pigment is similar to transparent paint and is used the same way. The main difference is the intensity of color. Candies are more intense and it takes less coats to build up phenomenal depth.
Like transparent paints, candy colors atomize better than opaques. For lure painting, that means you can use lower air pressures, which is perfect when you are doing detail work or using stencils.
My favorite application for candies is when I’m foiling lures and of course over metallic, pearl or fluorescent base colors.
Product 3: Auto Air Flair Color Shift Silver Spectrum (4446).
This is a relatively new product in my lure painting kit. It’s basically transparent base loaded up with micro holographic flake. The sheen it gives is hard to describe, but kind of like the effect when oil sits on water, a silvery sheen with rainbow flashes.
I usually spray it over other colors to add an awesome sheen or mix it with transparent colors to add some “pop”. Other times I’ll lay it down over a base color and then apply transparents on top. It’s also great sprayed through scale mesh to create a kind of holographic “ghost scale”.
I find the best effects come when Silver Spectrum is sprayed over dark colors, especially opaque black. This is not a cheap product, but it’s one awesome lure paint!
Product 4: AutoAir Gem Color Shift Turquoise (4402)
This is the perfect lure paint if you’re doing lots of baitfish styles. Laid down over a deep black opaque base color, the gem color shift turquoise switches from emerald green through to purple as it’s turned through the light.
Take a close look at some common freshwater and saltwater baitfish. You’ll be surprised at how common this kind of color shift is in nature.
Like a lot of flake paints, color shift is most effective and intense when applied over a dark background. Try spraying the back and shoulders of your lure black, then transition to a lighter color on the side. Go over the black with Gem turquoise and you’ll get intense color shift on the back. On the sides the intensity of the color shift fades, just like on a real baitfish.
Product 5: Autoair Flair Tint Blue/Copper (4413)
I reckon this is one of the best paints for fishing lures that will be used in freshwater. Have you ever noticed how many freshwater bait species have a coppery sheen? This lure paint captures that perfectly!
Once again, it’s much more intense when it’s sprayed over a black base color. But like the Gem Turquoise, you can fade out the black and overspray with the Blue/Copper to get transition effects.
Flair tint blue/copper is also the secret weapon in my blue copper craw (pictured). It gets the blue copper sheen over areas that have been outlined in black. But it gives a green copper effect over yellow and orange base colors.
Obviously, this article is just my personal opinion on the best paint for fishing lures. It does come from many years of lure painting and teaching lure painting though. And to be honest, it’s just scratching the surface of the lure paints that are out there. New products come along every day…..
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