So you want to paint your airsoft replica, maybe you want it painted like you saw it in a movie or picture somewhere or maybe just to stand out on the field with all other black replicas. Whatever is your inspiration or purpose for the look there are a few thing to think about before rushing headlong into the process of painting it. I will try to give a few pointers for you with this article but I also have to say here that I am not a professional painter and I am purely writing from the point of view of an amateur that have done some painting on his own replicas. So try to take this as my experience and not as a “this is how to do it period”, because I am not the one to say “do like I do”! This more how I do it and if you know better ways then comment and I might learn something also. So lets dive into it.
The first thing you should think about is, do you really need to paint it. I am sure if you paint a gun you will forfeit the guarantee so make sure you are ready for that. The second thing to think about is how you want it painted. For this article I will take the point of view as to paint it in a camouflage for the purpose to suit your specific load-out and not maybe to copy a look from a movie or something similar. My purpose is to get a realistic approach to the look of the camouflage, because I like the used realistic look. Like in the field you never see a pristine looking gun, they are worn, dirty and dusty and that is what I love in replicas. We airsofter usually want to create a realistic load-out and that is why a used/dirty looking replica will fit great with our gear.
Okey, now we are at the point that we will start painting our replica. So first plan for what you want to do, maybe consider the area where you airsoft or if you want a specific look and then get the paints you need. Paints you will want to use are paints that are made for use as camouflage, this way you know that they will do the job. If you do not have access to camouflage paints then get at least paints that have a matte finish and avoid paints with a glossy finish – because you do not need a shiny replica in the forest. You can get camouflage paints in some airsoft shops or maybe gun shops and outdoor supplies stores. I also want to ponit out that camouflage paints do have a fast drying time and that also will help make the project easier.
Decide on what paints to use and what kind camouflage you want, there are quite a wide selection of colors to choose from so try to decide before buying, you do not need a huge contrast between the colors. Also when preparing to paint make sure to get masking material and paint remover in case of mistakes. Next thing to think about is masking material to create the camouflage-pattern and for this you can use whatever comes to mind, leaves and twigs or camouflage nets can give nice natural lines which will blend nicely in the forest. But of course you can also cut paper templates for digital camouflage but that will be a lot of work and I would not recommend it. Painting your replica in camouflage should be done quickly and “as if done in field” because Special Forces guys paint their guns for the mission and it is not like they have a paint shop in the base so take that into consideration. Realistic paint job is better than a super perfect finish.
Step one: Clean your replica from dust, dirt and grease.
It doesn’t need to be ultra clean but a general clean. Grease you might want to get off as much as possible because paint won’t stick to it. Also clean possible accessories you will be painting. If you do use alcohol or any strong cleaning fluid make sure you remove all traces of it before you start painting because i will ruin the paint job.
Step two: Next thing you want to do before painting
Is to mask of areas that you don’t want paint on, like inside you replica, optics, barrel and into electronics or hop-up. For this you can use masking tape or Blu Tack which I found very usable. When masking make sure to do it correctly because you will get yourself in trouble if you get paint into sensitive areas like the motor because you will likely destroy it or at least spend a great deal of time cleaning it. Masking can also be used to create the camouflage patterns but in my opinion the sharper the line between colors are the easier the will stand out in field but that is only what I think.
Step three: Before you start painting
Make sure you are in a well ventilated room or maybe just do it outside. Cover your painting area with some news paper or cardboard to cover your floor or whatever is under it, it will also keep your replica from coming into contact with dirt. Prepare your spray cans accordingly to the instructions on the can. It is good to start painting with the base layer of the camouflage that you want to have. So plan ahead before starting the painting process. When you do the painting make sure to spray several thin layers instead of one thick layer, this will prevent the paint from running. Make sure to repeat the painting until the whole replica is covered. It is up to you how precisely you cover it because you can also make it less perfect if you want to have it look like it was painted in the field. So if it is not perfect don’t panic, this will also look great. If you use spray-paint that is for camouflage use it will dry fast, if not wait accordingly to the instructions before you paint the other side.
Now that the base layer is done it is time to do the actual camouflage patterns. Make sure you know what you want, maybe look up pictures online for reference. Remember to mask areas off for patterns, and for this you can use anything like twigs, leaves, paper cutouts or masking tape. Or pretty much anything you want, the point is to break up the features of the replica and the colors, avoid sharp contrasting lines. Spray from a distance to get a nice and smooth line between the colors. The more smoother the lines the better.
If you at some point realize that you have made an error, just remove the paint with paint remover. But be assure to clean the surface before repainting. When you are done let the paint dry completely for a few hours or a day before using it, so that the paint has time cure.
Step four: When you have your replica painted in camouflage
It is ready for your field, and overtime it will get that nice used look from heavy use. But maybe you want that look immediately, then you have to manually wear off the paint. This is an easy thing to do when the paint have dried for a day or two, just get a cloth and some paint-remover or paint-thinner. Wet your cloth with the liquid and start wiping off the paint from the gun in places where wear would occur, like stock, grip etc.. You can also simulate scratches with a wire brush, but be very gentle with this so that you don’t scratch deep enough to damage the replicas original paint surface. You should do the scratching before you use the paint-thinner, because the thinner will even out the scratches and make them look natural and not like you just scratched them. Repeat this procedure until you have acquired the desired look. Remember that you can never go too far or too little, you can always clean it and start over. And now if you have what you wanted then you are done, maybe you can add some other stuff like grip tape on the hand guard or front grip to finish the look or rub some dust on it to complete that used look.
So this is my suggestion on painting your replica, there are many other ways to do it and I recommend you go online to find other tutorials that will fill your need. But the point of this was to get a fast in field paint job that doesn’t look like it came from a paint-shop. So go try it out and don’t hesitate to comment on what your results were.
Robert aka. RBAirsoft