Painting lures is one of those really weird things. Let’s be brutally honest, fish usually don’t care that much. Even a newbie to lure making can turn out a fish pleaser. On the other hand. fishermen really do care…. a lot! Most guys who are serious about wooden lure making spend more time painting lures than any other step of the process!
So in this article I’ll give my top 12 tips for painting fishing lures using stencils and masks. The good news is, you won’t need a Masters Degree in graphic art. You’ll just need to practice a few techniques that really aren’t that difficult.
Stencils And Masks Turn Painting Lures Into Child’s Play!
Sure, there freaks out there who are just naturals at painting lures freehand. Trust me, I’m not one of them! In fact, I SUCK at anything artistic! I can’t draw, sketch, paint, sculpt, interior decorate or take photos. I have ZERO artistic talent. But painting lures? Well, that’s different. And if I can do it, so can you!
Fortunately, painting lures doesn’t require much artistic ability. Unless you want all of your lures to be one-off original works of art. Wooden lure makers usually want a fast, repeatable process . So it’s all about having a process to follow and getting consistent results. That’s where masks and stencils come in!
Now, for purists, I actually do know the difference between a stencil and a mask. I just don’t care! In lure making we have our own definitions….. For us, masks are something sticks to the lure body (eg tape). By comparison, a stencil is anything held in front of the lure during spraying. We really don’t care about the male and female forms of stencils and masks 😉
Five All-Important General Tips For Using Stencils And Masks
1. Drop The Air Pressure
It’s logical when you think about it. High air pressure results in more paint being delivered, faster. It’s easier to accidentally lay the paint down too thick. There’s also more overspray, more bounce back, and a much greater chance of paint being pushed under the stencil or mask.
Lower air pressure gives much greater control over paint delivery, so the results are generally crisper and cleaner. I usually work between 5-10 psi for painting detail.
2. Thin The Paint Really Well
For getting crisp detail, atomization is everything. Well atomized paint gives clean, crisp results, poorly atomized paint gives spatter. Compare a newpaper photo with a glossy magazine pic….. it’s the same deal.
At the low air pressures used for fine stencil work, the paint needs to be very thin or it won’t atomize properly. And that means poor results.
3. Spray The Stencil, Not The Lure
One thing I talk about a lot during my webinars, classes and in my books and eBooks is the idea of “letting the overspray do the work”. You want fine detail, not clumsy, heavy handed, dark lines. Getting fine detail is often as simple as pointing your airbrush at the edges of the mask or stencil, not at the lure itself. This gives much better paint control and allows you to build color more gently.
4. Use Multiple Light Coats
This is normal practice for just about any kind of spray painting, but especially painting lures with stencils or masks. Multiple light coats allows you to build the color gradually until you’re happy with the result. It also reduces the risk of over-wetting, which can lead to paint bleeding under the stencil or mask.
5. Get Quality Equipment
You’re going to need a good quality, dual action, gravity feed airbrush if you want to paint detail on your lures. You’ll also need the right compressor and regulator or you’re headed for frustration. I recommend Iwata’s HP-C Plus as the best all-round airbrush for painting lures. But the Neo for Iwata CN is also excellent and a little more affordable if you’re just getting started.
5 Tips For Masking Lures
It’s slower and more laborious to use a mask than a stencil. Left and right-hand versions are required (not so for stencils) and they get destroyed or lose their tack after one or two lures.
But masks have some advantages too. For starters, they’re by far the best way when you want a crisp, sharp edge. So here are some tips for using masks when you are painting lures:
- Masks have an annoying tendency to remove paint when you peel them off. Good paint adhesion is your best defense, so use a good sealer/primer before painting your base colors.
- Quality painters tape solves many of the problems of masking. Blue scotch tape is good. PVC painters tape and artists frisket are even better. These give a clean, crisp edge to your work, with minimal “bleed” of paint under the masked edge. They are also low tack, so they’re less likely to remove paint.
- When removing masks, don’t pull them away from your lure at right angles. Pulling the tape back over itself (along the lure) reduces the risk of lifting the paint below.
- When masking over a solid, uniform base color it pays to spray one or two coats of the base color over the mask. Then switch colors and spray your top coat. Doing this seals the mask so that the top color can’t bleed underneath.
- When masking over more complex patterns or colors, a couple of coats of transparent base can seal the mask. Again, this will give you crisper edges.
4 Tips For Painting Lures With Stencils
Stencils tend to be more commonly used in lure painting than masks. They’re quick, easy to use and generally give sharp enough edges for most of our needs. Plus they’re reusable many times and you can usually just flip them to paint a mirror image on each side of your lure.
Here are some tips for using stencils
- Holding a stencil close to the lure gives a sharper edge to the paint, holding it back away from the lure gives a softer edge.
- Stencils for painting lures don’t need to be complex. I often use pieces of thin paper, card or plastic cut with a scalpel. Soft, flexible material works best because it can mold around the lure body. Focus on getting smooth curves and clean edges.
- It’s good to have your lures held “hands free”. One hand will be controlling your airbrush and the other hand holding the stencil.
- Use multiple simple stencils when for complex designs with lots of shapes or colors. It’s easier than making and working with very complex stencils.
One Final Tip For Painting Lures…….
Hopefully this article has given you some useful insights. Maybe it’s even solved a frustration of two. I hope so, anyway!
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