The Duck Blind – Mallard Painting Tutorial – Cork Decoy Making –

Video decoy painting tips

Mallard Painting Tutorial

This tutorial is centered around the Duck Blind video series on How to Carve Hunting Decoys. The painting segment on the video featured the use of JoSonja (JS) paint products that I replaced with the more durable DecoArt “Traditions” (Jansen) line of acrylics. Although most painting and texturing techniques are the same between the two lines of paint some changes with medium use needs clarification for video viewers wanting to use the Traditions paint. This tutorial can also be used by anyone that is interested in painting a Drake Mallard using the Traditions line of Acrylics.

Step One

Sealing of the decoy is a must to not only protect it from water damage but also for good paint durability. If your decoy body is cork then Traditions cork sealer should be used. This will replace the JS All Purpose sealer used on the video. I recommend two liberal coats of the Traditions Sealer making sure that all the surfaces get covered. For maximum durability 24 hour drying time is recommended.

Cork Sealer can also be used on wood and in this case I brushed out a thin coat on the entire head. I make double sure to have several coats at the joint between head and body. If you are doing all wood decoys then you should consider using the Traditions Multi-Surface Sealer. Again two liberal coats should be applied with a light sanding between coats after 24 hour drying time. The two sealers are basically the same except the cork sealer has a higher acrylic content to fill the voids in the cork. I do not suggest that you force dry with a hair dryer as some moisture could be trapped and cause problems later.

Step 2

My next step is to locate the areas of color change and feather groups as I formulate my plans for texturing. Locating these areas will make blocking in colors easier. In the case of the Drake Mallard I will have three basic areas of base color. The breast will be reddish brown. The head, back, sidepockets and rump will be black and the tail will be white. I will explain my reasoning for the black base coat later in the tutorial.

Step 3

Texturing………This step has several levels of importance. First and foremost is that texturing creates another layer of acrylic protection to the decoy surface. Texture also helps to eliminate shine as well as providing more grip on a wet decoy. Next, texturing yields a great surface for painting and portraying vermiculated feather groups. Lastly, I use the texturing process to block in color areas. The main tool used for texturing is a sponge that has a small and even cell structure. A good example would be the sponge material used in furniture. The texture medium that I will use is Traditions Texture Medium.

Step 4

On the video I used a mixture of JS texture paste and Gesso. The Gesso was added to give the paste more body. The Traditions paste has plenty of body so Gesso should be eliminated when using this product. I do add a small amount of paint color to the paste so that I’m blocking in color and texturing at the same time. If you add to much paint you will dilute the texture and diminish the texture effect.

Use just use enough paint to tint the mixture. The example below will give you an idea of the ratio.

Texture Medium plus small amount of Carbon Black paint.

Step 5

After mixing a small amount of black paint with the paste, I will start the blocking in process by texturing the back, side pockets and rump with the black tinted paste. Using the sponge, dab on the mixture and scrub in a liberal amount filling any voids on the surface. By pushing and pulling the sponge with quick strokes against the surface a bumped up textured surface will appear. Make sure the texture that appears is even through out the area. I suggest that you practice texturing on a paper plate to perfect the technique.

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Once the black areas are dry then do the breast and tail tinting the texture paste with the appropriate color. Tint the breast with Burnt Umber and the Tail with Medium White.

Because I will be using the texture on the back and side pockets to simulate fine vermiculation I tinted my texture paste with black paint but will eventually paint these areas gray. This way, if by chance any of the gray paint is rubbed off the top of the texture, the color will still be black the same as the vermiculated color. This will make more sense after I dry brush the texture to create the vermiculated surface.

Step 6

Now it’s time to paint. The Traditions paint has a very heavy acrylic content and therefore is very durable. For best results use the paint straight from the bottle and do not dilute with water. Even though Traditions is very strong it is possible to toughen the paint even more with the addition of Traditions Glazing medium. I mix about 10% glazing medium into each puddle of paint, so that I do not have to put a final sealer on the decoy. When the paint is dry, I am totally finished and the final sealer built in. However, the Traditions Glazing Medium can be used as a final sealer after painting if you desire and I’ll deal with that later in this tutorial.

I start by painting the bill with Traditions Yellow Oxide plus Glazing medium. For the second coat of paint on the bill I added a small amount of Raw Umber to the Yellow Oxide to give the final color a little greenish brown tone. I’ll detail later.

Step 7

I continue by painting the head Carbon Black. Notice that I textured and painted over the eye. Be careful to cut in around the bill with a clean sharp line. After the head I paint the breast using a mix of 60% Burnt Umber and 40% Raw Umber. I usually like a little more Burnt Umber than Raw Umber but I encourage you to experiment with the mix. Remember to add 10% Glazing Medium to each color of paint for durability.

Step 8

Now it’s time to paint the back and side pockets. For this color I like to use Traditions Light Grey. The Light Grey right out is a bit on the blue (cool) side so I add a small amount of Yellow Oxide plus glazing Medium to the mix a warm grey. A couple of words of caution: First, a small amount of Yellow Oxide goes a long way. If you add to much the grey will be on the green side. Second, make sure you mix enough of the warm grey to finish the job. It’s always best to mix more than you will use.

Step 9

I finish blocking in the colors by painting the upper and lower rump Carbon Black and the tail a 50/50 mix of Medium White and Titanium White. You can just use Titanium White if you prefer. See the pictures below for locations.

Step 10

Now it’s time to learn about dry brushing and taking advantage of the texture. For this procedure I use paint right out of the bottle and a “DRY” brush. I prefer a flat brush and in various widths depending on the area that I’m painting. Starting with a dry brush is a must and you should try hard not to get paint into the heel of the brush. This will take a bit of practice to perfect but a light touch and the use of building the paint layers slowly is in order. Basically you are dragging the paint brush across the top of the texture and adding color just to the top of the peaks and not the valleys. I use the side of the brush to avoid accidentally pushing the brush tips into the texture valleys. The paper plate or board that you used to for texture practice would be perfect for learning the dry brushing techniques. Clean your brush on a paper towel. You can see how the towel texture gets painted.

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Pull the flat side brush over texture top. Do not push the brush tips into the valley.

If by chance you make a mistake with to much paint it is very easy to repaint the textured area and start over. Also, make sure that you add glazing medium to your drybrushing paint color to make it more durable. Lastly….never dilute your paint with water.

Step 11

Now that you practiced drybrushing texture it’s time to put it to work on the head, by creating the highlight for the head color. For this procedure I like to use Traditions Light Grey paint. Basically anywhere you plan to put color you should dry brush the Grey. Use your reference as a guide or the pictures below to give you an idea of color areas.

The Drake Mallard head has several colors but it is basically green. Make sure the Grey is dry before proceeding to adding the colors. For the Green I am using Medium Green and for the blue I’m using Ultra Marine Blue. I start with the main color of green but leave an area at the back of the head for a slight blue color. You will notice that when you are dry brushing the color on that the green will disappear into the black. That is why I create the highlight of Grey first. If you really want a brighter color than you can simply make the highlight brighter in color. Again check your reference or my pictures.

Once you are happy with the color areas you can go back with the Black and drybrush all the areas that should appear black blending into color. The great thing about this process is you can always go back to black and start over. As a reminder don’t forget to add a little glazing medium to your colors for the durability. You will be amazed how soft this will look from a distance.

Step 12

Using a 50/50 mix of Burnt Umber and Raw Umber, I paint the brown area on the back that starts above the side pocket and extends to the end of the tertial feather. This area of brown also goes down the middle of the back and ends at the tip of the tertial feather group.

Step 13

Now it’s time to put the white (Titanium) around the neck and the flank area. Utilize the texture to drybrush and soften the transition. The neck ring on a wild Mallard does not go all the way around the neck and is open at the back of the neck. Refer to the picture of the flank area and again using the drybrushing technique, blend the white into the grey on the flank. You can then drybrush the other edge of the white with black.

Step 14

Using Medium White I will outline the tertial feather group.

After the white outline is completely dry then using Medium Beige I will drybrush up to the edge of the white giving a two tone effect with a white outline.

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Step 15

Now it’s time for bill detail. Use Carbon black and paint the nostrils and the nail. After the bill is completely dry, paint the entire bill with two coats of Glazing Medium. The Glazing Medium will give the bill a slight sheen and also protection

Step 16

To uncover the eye I use a “#11” X-Acto blade and score around the eye, then scrape off the paint. Don’t worry about scraping the eye as the knife will not cut glass.

In the picture below (left), you can see the white ring left from opening to the proper shape.

To eliminate the ring, make a wash of black paint and a small amount of water and flood the eye with the mix using a small paint brush. Wipe off and soak up the excess with a paper towel.

Step 17

Using Medium Beige I paint in the tail feathers and also a hit of primaries. See the pictures below for location of both groups.

Step 18

Next I like to give a hint of a vermiculated surface by using the drybrush technique and the texture on the back and side pockets. Use a wide soft brush and Carbon Black paint being very careful to just paint the top of the texture. Again be careful of over loading your brush………. it’s called drybrushing for a reason.

Step 19

With the decoy painting basically finished, it is time to add the keel. I will not go into great detail regarding the keel design in this tutorial, as that is a subject unto itself. I like to use composite decking material for my keels because it is heavy and seldom needs extra weight. Lastly, it is very important that the keel is attached to the decoy and sealed properly so there is no chance of water wicking around screws, bolts, or dowels. Some folks will rely totally on glue to hold their keels. I will use glue and screws but ideally I like to use dowels and Titebond 3 waterproof glue for keel attachment. After the glue is dry then I will paint the decoy bottom including the keel and then put two heavy coats of glazing medium, full strength, making sure that all surfaces are completely covered. Let the glazing air dry between coats. Once it is dry then I heat set the entire decoy with a hair dryer to strengthen the paint.

If you chose to add 10 percent Traditions Glazing Medium to each puddle of paint color while you were painting, then you are completely finished. Let dry 24 hours and then final heat set with a hair dryer. If you did not add the glazing medium to your paint, then you may want to put on a protective coat at the end just as a preventative for scuffing of dark colors. I personally make a dilution of 50/50 Traditions Glazing Medium to water and then apply to the entire decoy. You may want to experiment with the dilution, as the Glazing Medium will add some sheen to the decoy. I’m of the opinion that a little sheen is great and looks natural, but others think that a flat look is the way to go. Flat to me is lifeless. The more Glazing Medium in the dilution, the more protection but also the more sheen. One or two coats will do and let this dry 24 hours and then heat set.

Now it’s time to go hunting!

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Mallard Head Tutorial Mallard Body Carving Tutorial Cyber Classroom Tutorial List

Willy McDonald

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>