Our Videos

Loading...

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Info!- So I Decided To Paint My Gun, Part 2

Please dismiss my shabby and unorganized garage

Right! So in Part 1 of this article, I discussed why exactly I decided to paint my AR (TL;DR version: bored, no money) as well as why I thought I might actually be able to pull something like this off without completely ruining my perfectly good rifle (TL; DR version- I have painted models for a long time).

In this article, we'll talk about primarily about two things- the design phase and the actual painting phase. Apologies in advance, this article will likely get a bit long winded. 

Phase 1: Design

When you reach the conclusion that you're going to paint up one of your own guns, devote a little time and forethought into how you want it to turn out before you go and start slinging the paint on it. Selecting a forgiving design (a single solid color or distressed paint job) versus something complicated (ATACS, tiger stripes, etc.) would be a good idea if it's your first paint job because obviously you've got a much better chance at salvaging the paint job if you kinda screw it up. If you haven't painted anything since you were in 3rd grade, it's probably not a great idea to jump into the deep end of the pool with some super intricate, four color design. 

1.1 Pick a color and/ or a scheme

After you decide what kind of overall design you're looking for, you want to pick out your colors. On my first pass at this, I thought it'd be cool to do an OD green distressed design because I LOVE OD green. After black, it's like my favorite color. Naturally, me being me, I dove right in, removed the BCG, slapped a little masking tape over the ejection port and muzzle, and went to work with the spray can. 

As you might imagine, I ended up with an OD green rifle that looked quite a bit like a toy rifle you'd buy your kid to play with. 

I tried to save it, but it simply wasn't meant to be because in my enthusiasm for the project, I'd forgotten that I needed to think about how my colors would look on the rifle. 

I went back and watched Randy Jacob's Distressed Paint Job video again to try and figure out where I'd gone wrong and upon review, it hit me like a ton of bricks- I wanted a distressed look, but painted one solid color instead of doing "blocks" of color like Randy did. 

If you've watched Randy's video, you see that the actual work is pretty simple really. Basically you basecoat, mask off what you don't want painted, spray the 2nd color, then sponge on some paint in what essentially becomes stippled highlights. Simple right? What you don't see Randy do and what you maybe don't realize at the time (like I did), is that you need to think about things like contrast between your colors. This is what I referred to when I was talking about color bands. 

In order to make the rifle look pleasing (to me at least), I needed to break up that one huge block of a single color. This is where the model experience took over and upon review, I realized Randy had done the same thing, either consciously from experience or subconsciously because the guy is an artist. 

He used color blocks. 



Looking at the above, very poorly edited image, you can see the "blocks" I'm trying to explain. Splitting the rifle you're painting into several differently colored blocks can go a long way to making it look cool. Obviously if you're going for a single color scheme (think Chris Kyle's rifle in American Sniper), don't do it like this. But for a distressed job especially, breaking the rifle into blocks and painting them two different colors works pretty effectively. 

1.2 Color theory

Briefly, the colors you pick interact with each other visually as well. Changing from OD green to a gray color worked out much better for me because part of the rifle was going to remain black. Black and gray are both considered monotone colors, so they compliment each other visually. The worn parts being silver works out for the same reason. And since all of those colors are monotone, using a bright accent like yellow for the actionable parts of the rifle also complimented. 

If you remember art class from when you were a kid, you probably know where I'm going next, but if not, I'll break it down for you real quick like... 


Yup, that's a color wheel! I don't know a ton of color theory, but from painting models I would use a color wheel to help me develop paint schemes. It's pretty easy the way I use a color wheel. First, pick one of the colors that you want to be your main color, then move your eyes directly across the wheel to the opposite side of the wheel. That color is the complimentary color for your main. So like if you wanted to go full-on Borderlands style and do something really crazy and wanted a bright orange rifle, a good complimentary color to use for accents or other blocks would be blue. If you think about it, most sports teams use this theory too. The old L.A. Kings from the early days of their NHL franchise used purple and gold. The Islanders have almost always had some combination of blue and orange. The old New Jersey Devils wore jerseys that were red and green. You can probably think of lots of other examples. 

Again, if you're going with monotone colors (black, white, any shade of gray in-between), you don't have to worry so much. Basically any color is a compliment to any monotone color. 

Phase 2- The actual painting

Christ, ok. Now that I'd finally gotten all that nonsense out of the way, it was time to actually start masking off my rifle. 

NOTE: I'm not a gunsmith, nor a professional painter. If you follow my suggestions and end up screwing up your rifle, that's on you because I fully admit I don't really know what I'm doing and what didn't negatively affect my rifle might totally screw yours up. So proceed at your own risk! 

2.1 Environmental Conditions

Before we get into the nitty gritty of painting, I want to strongly suggest you find an area like a garage to paint inside. If you're outside, even on a calm day, you'll likely have a hard time keeping your spray from blowing around in the wind. Be sure your space is well-ventilated of course, but it really is much, much simpler to do all of the following indoors rather than out.

Secondly, if at all possible, try and do your painting and clear coating when it isn't raining or especially humid outside. This kind of thing varies greatly with what part of the world you live in of course, and painting inside a garage will definitely help, but it can be very difficult to get good results with spray paint and clear coat in humid or damp conditions because your paint/ clear coat will trap moisture on it's way out of the can and onto your rifle. The end result is you'll have a very uneven surface that you'll probably think looks like crap. You and your buddies might think it's because you bought cheap spray paint and/ or clear coat, but usually it's just because it was damp when you sprayed. If it's raining, wait and paint another day. I spent the better part of a month (check the dates on my posts) painting my rifle- not because it took a long time, but because I don't have a ton of free time and it rained a lot at the beginning of March here in Southern Indiana. Believe me, there's nothing worse than pulling off a dope-ass paint job and then subsequently ruining it by clear coating while it's raining outside. 

2.2 Masking

Thinking about the moving parts I wanted to try and keep away from the paint and clear coat I'd be throwing around, I removed the entire bolt carrier group and ran a couple of long strips of masking tape over the trigger and chamber from the inside. I also put a piece of tape on the inside of the ejection port and the mag well to try and prevent paint from getting up into the rifle to start with. Upon mating the upper back to the lower and closing the rifle, I closed my ejection port as well. 

I taped off the end of my muzzle and then paint the entire rifle with two coats of flat black Rustoleum spray paint. 

2.3 Basecoat

One tip I'd give you here is the same tip I give most folks when it comes to painting- do thin coats. 

I know it's tempting to just blast the shit out of everything and get things done faster, but if you wonder why you end up with drips and streaks and stuff every time you spray paint things, you definitely want to do thinner, lighter coats. Spray paint especially doesn't take that long to dry. In most conditions, 15-20 minutes is plenty then you can spray another coat on. Keep your can moving the entire time you're spraying, stay back at least 8"-10", and resist the temptation to spray on a ton of paint in the interest of good coverage. We're not painting a wall with a roller here- don't slop a bunch of paint on and try to then even it out. Spray on light coats and if you don't get full coverage (i.e. the basecoat is bleeding through the current coat or the current coat looks kind of spotty or isn't fully opaque), let it dry then spray on another coat. Two or three coats should really be all you need, so again it's not like you're going to have to spend all day painting on extra coats. It'll also go a long way into not filling in details on the receiver stamp and anywhere else you've got letters, serrations, grip patterns and stuff like that. 

I painted on a black basecoat to try and make all of the different blacks on my rifle uniform and also because paint kind of sticks different to different materials. Not painting on a basecoat is sort of asking for your rifle's final paint job to look kind of uneven, and if your rifle is like mine, you've got at least three different materials you'll be painting here- metal (upper, lower, barrel), plastic (stock), and rubber (grip). Even though you already have a black rifle, throw a coat of black paint on it to ensure the final color is even across the board. 

2.4 Masking again

After the black basecoat was fully dry (grips will take the longest- rubber doesn't take paint all that well in my experience), I left the masking tape from the previous step in place and then  taped off my optics' glass and the parts of the rifle that I didn't want to be painted gray. 


Nothing partciularly special here about the masking tape- I just used regular painter's tape from Menard's. Use a pocket knife or flat blade screwdriver to get the tape to follow the lines on the rifle or to stick to where you want it. 

Start spraying your main color on (in my case, gray) and use the guidelines I mentioned above for getting good results from spray paint- can at least 8"-10" away from the surface, thin coats, keep the can moving while painting so you don't get too much paint in one area. 


After I got that side done and it fully dried, I turned it over and painted the opposite side. Once that side fully dried, I flipped it back over and put the second coat on the side I began with. Repeat these steps until you have nice, even coverage over the entire rifle. Since your rifle isn't a perfect block, you'll need to take some time to spray from different angles to ensure you get good coverage everywhere on the rifle- the front of the receiver below the barrel nut, up into the bottom of your collapsible stock, stuff like that.

2.5 Overspray

When I'd completed the main gray layer, I wanted to grimy it up a bit before I started doing the scratches. The easiest way to do that is to to do a little over spray.

Now, this is something you'd never be able to do with a model, but on something big like a rifle, it's no problem. As with the scratches steps below, the main thing is don't overdo it- a little over spray will go a long way. Two things I'd keep in mind- 1) if you're doing this under some bright light, bear in mind that when you are in more normal light, potentially your rifle is going to look much darker, so again- go easy on this step. You can always add more if you need it, but you can't really take it back off without creating a lot of work for yourself. 2) Doing this step is going to slightly darken the overall appearance of your gun. I wouldn't go so far as to pick a lighter main layer color as a result, but because of the hundreds of little black dots you're going to end up with on your rifle, it is going to appear slightly darker than it did before. Mainly the place you'll notice this is on attachments you add on later. Obviously you'll remember to paint them your main body color, but if upon attachment to the weapon you're looking at it going, "Man, why does this look so much lighter?", it's probably because you didn't over spray it. This actually happened to me with the Troy rail I stuck on there.

Over spray is what you call it when you accidentally get spray paint in areas that you didn't intend to. Usually this is a bad thing, but for this, it's actually what we want.

If you haven't already (i.e. if you been painting your rifle from a hanger), lay your rifle down on it's side. Grab the can of spray paint in the color you did your primer or basecoat (in my case, the black) or whatever color you want to grimy up your rifle with. Spray from 4'-5' above the rifle and just let the black spray droplets kind of drift down onto the rifle. Note I said four or five feet there. Like if you've got your rifle on the floor, you're going to stand above and hold the can out about chest high and spray a short (like maybe half a second long) and then just let the paint drift down onto the rifle. The droplets will dry very quickly and once they do, flip the rifle over onto the other side and over spray again. Then either balance the rifle on a mag or otherwise get it standing so you can over spray and let the paint drift down on the top of the rifle, then turn it upside down and do the same for the bottom. 

2.6 Unmasking and touch-up

Once your main coat and the over spray is even, opaque, and dry, you can pull all your masking tape off (on the outside- leave the tape on the inside of the mag well opening, trigger, etc.) and for the first time imagine how your rifle is going to turn out when it's done! 


In between these steps, I added a 15" rail to my carbine setup, but that's a whole other article...

Before you start distressing, you want to make sure your masking tape did it's job. If you have a little overspray where the paint got between the layers of your masking tape, or you wish you would've masked off some extra piece of your rifle, now's the time to fix it. Get a plastic container of some kind, put on some gloves if you don't want to paint your hands, and spray some of your spray paint into the container. Get an old brush and carefully touch-up what you need touched up. Allow to completely dry, check for opaqueness and blobs or drips of paint, etc. 

Once you've got things all touched up, it's time to start distressing. Like picking your colors, the actual distressing is pretty easy, but if you put a little thought into things beforehand, it'll produce a much better result in the long run. 

2.7 Distressing

Ok, so I wanted my rifle to look distressed and beat up through heavy use so all I did was imagine the places where a rifle would get scratched, scraped, scuffed, and dinged up if it was being carried constantly in an urban setting- namely the big, flat, areas of the rifle mainly starting from the muzzle and moving back in more or less horizontal lines and raised up parts of the rifle like the rail, shell extractor, and other parts that kind of stick out, and edges on most everything- the mag well, the stock, etc. 


Since my basecoat is black, it made sense for the scrapes and dings to be black- like the gray overcoat had been scraped away to expose the original color underneath. 

To make the scratches and stuff, get a sponge, paper towel, or even an old paint brush you don't mind cutting up a little. Basically you just need something that will streak paint unevenly rather than laying it on uniformly. Spray a bunch of basecoat colored paint in a container and dip your sponge, wadded up paper towel, or whatever you're using in there. Get a little of the excess paint off on a piece of scrap cardboard or something, then with a very light touch, start applying your scratches and scuffs in quick, light motions. Kind of imagine you're more scraping your sponge/ brush along the surface rather actually executing a painting stroke. 

How much you distress the rifle is completely up to you. You can wear it lightly or wear it heavily. Me personally, I went rather heavy but took a lot of short breaks to let the paint dry and to kind of back off of it to evaluate so I could be sure I wasn't going to end up with something so worn out looking that it just looked like trash. 

On the parts of my rifle that are metal, I also sponged on some silver spray paint using the same techniques mentioned above. I put the most wear on parts that stuck out (the BAD lever, mag well), and when I only had a little paint left on my sponge, I dabbed a bit onto areas of the lower here and there just to try and break up the black. Resist the temptation to overdo it and take a lot of breaks to stop yourself from getting on too much of a roll. 

Accents pre-black wash

Once I had all of the distressing done, I was surprised at how much my mag release button, BAD lever, and charging handle had disappeared from view. While that was pretty cool from a camouflage perspective, not being a professional operator operating professionally, I thought I should do something to pick out those very important controls to help me find them easier in the event of usage during an EPO. 

2.8 Accents

I picked yellow because 1) it's an EPO color, 2) it's bright, so it fulfills the want for easier to locate controls, 3) I'd already used it to paint-fill the markings on my CZ P-07 Duty, my Ruger LCR .38 Special, and CZ Scorpion Evo, and 4) I had it close at hand on the work bench. Note that the paint I used for this was some enamel Testor's model paint. Model paint is great for stuff like this because it's usually pretty thin to start with, what with it going on little model tanks and whatnot, so it's going to go on very smooth comparatively. Use an enamel rather than acrylic because it will hold up MUCH better in the long run. It's also better than using your wife's nail polish for the same reason. I've got about 500 rounds through my CZ since I filled it in and the color is just as complete and vibrant as the day I applied it. Even wearing it as my daily CCW and taking it in and out of a holster!

Accents pre-wash

If you want to do an accent color like this, just carefully brush the paint on in several coats to get things even and bright, allowing the paint to dry between steps. 

2.9 Black washing

Once you've got a nice even coat, if the accent is too bright (which it probably will be), don't panic! Mix a little black spray paint with some enamel paint thinner and you'll create something akin to a paint wash. Model painters use washes as a way to add highlights and lowlights very easily to models by mixing acrylic paint with water (normally you have to actually paint on highlights and lowlights in shades lighter and darker than your main color, which as you can imagine is much more difficult and time consuming). Since the wash is much thinner than paint by itself, it tends to flow from raised up areas into cracks and crevices, which makes them darken up a bit. I did basically the same thing with my rifle. By mixing the black paint with some thinner (like probably 10:1 ratio of thinner to paint here- use very, very little paint), you'll be able to darken up your accent pieces by getting some of the wash to collect in serrations, cracks, crevices, and contours and it'll bring the color down without changing the hue much at all. If you accidentally get the mix wrong, you can always repaint the accent color if it appears too dark (wait until it's dry before you repaint) and start over again, or if you're not too far off, try brushing a little thinner directly onto the darker paint and try to get it to run while the paint is still wet. Conversely if your wash is too light, let it dry and then get a little black paint and thinner in your brush and try again.

2.10 Clear coat and final clean up

Once you've completed all these steps and your rifle looks exactly how you want it to look, it's time to clear coat to protect all this hard work! 

Your masking tape on the internals should still be in place from when you started this process, but if you took it off at some point, re-apply it. 

You can either hang your rifle up or just put it on it's side, but either way you're going to follow the same exact rules for clear coating your rifle as you did for spray painting it earlier- can 8"-10" away, keep the can moving, don't overdo it with thick coats. Me personally, I think it's much easier to clear coat something lying flat on a piece of cardboard, because I can see the cardboard get wet easier than I can see clear coat collecting on the object I'm painting. Takes a little more work because you have to spray from more angles, but I don't like to clear coat stuff hanging up because I almost always apply too much because it's harder to track my progress. 

Once your clear coat is dry, flip it over and do the other side. I went with two coats total. After everything is completely dry, open up the upper from the lower and pull out all that masking tape you stuck in there to protect the internals. Check the rest of your rifle carefully for any other pieces of tape you might have missed. Heck, I just went ahead and lubed mine up just to be safe and to also find any other bits of tape I might have missed on the inside just to be safe. 

After that, you're finally done! Enjoy your newly painted rifle! 


Final result with black washed accents and clear coat


 Final result with black washed accents and clear coat

Final result with black washed accents and clear coat