Painting Crankbaits using transparent colors

Painting crankbaits with transparent allows smooth color transitions.

If you’re new to painting lures then you might be wondering what the heck a transparent paint is. Many, many years ago when I first started painting crankbaits I remember wondering “What possible use could I have for transparent paints?”

Until then I’d always used aerosol cans to paint my lures, mostly auto touch up paints. That works OK, but it will only get you so far! Once the airbrush bug had bitten I started painting fishing lures with all kinds of exotic paints. In recent years I’ve settled on modern water-borne airbrush acrylic paints, which now come in a massive range of colors, including transparent ones.

For those who aren’t so familiar with the fine art of lure painting, transparent paints are kind of like dyes. Opaque (or more correctly semi-opaque) paints are made up of solvent and matrix (acrylic) with solid, powdered pigment mixed into it. These tend to cover whatever colors you are spraying them over. On the other hand, the pigment in transparent paints is liquid and you can see the base color through it.

Why Use Transparent Colors For Painting Crankbaits?

These days I consider transparent paints an absolute essential in my arsenal. In fact, I use them more than most other paints and couldn’t imagine painting crankbaits without them. Here’s just a few of the uses:

  • Color blends. If you want to start with one color on the back and another on the belly of a lure, for instance, transparent paints are the perfect choice. For example, the classic firetiger lure color is Green on the back that gradually changes to yellow on the sides and then to orange or red on the belly. To achieve this, start by spraying your lure body yellow all over. Then mist some transparent blue over the back and some transparent red over the belly.
  • Painting Crankbaits: monochromatic scales using transparent paints

    Monochromatic scales on a lipless crankbait

    Monochrome scales. A very effective way to create scales is to spray a base color using transparent paint, then wrap the lure in mesh and spray again with the same paint. This creates scales with a light margin and darker interior, but all in the same hue and color.

  • Tinting and toning. Sometimes when I’m painting fishing lures to imitate a particular bait species I’ll mix a little transparent black into the colors I’m using if I need to darken (tone) or transparent white if I want to lighten (tint) the hue.
  • Highlights and shadows. A very light mist of transparent black around the eyes or transparent red around the gills can really make your lures visually impressive.
  • Metallic effects. Occasionally I’ll want a metallic or pearlescent effect but I don’t have the color I want in a metallic paint. No problem! Simply spray the lure in metallic or pearl white, then over spray with transparent colors!
  • Special effects and details. Transparent paints are great for painting fins because they give the impression of translucency, just like real fish fins. They can also be used to create 3D and other interesting visual effects.

If you’d like to learn a whole lot more about painting crankbaits, check out my
Free 10 day lure painting course.