Sunday, March 1, 2009

An Arrow Art Build-Along

I got a request recently for direction on how I do some of the art I use on arrows. I sent the gentleman a pretty detailed email but didn't have any pictures to include. I spent some time today taking a series of pictures for three different techniques that I'll post here.
Here are the supplies and tools I'll use for this series. We've got an arrow shaft that I've already coated with grey paint for a base, three different paint colors, glaze, plastic wrap, a sea sponge, and a plate to mix the paint on.

First, I'll show a simple technique using just the base color and a top color that is mixed with glaze.
Glaze is a paint extender, it slows the drying time and in some instances can change the color a bit. In this application I used a light glaze instead of the transparent glaze I intended to use. By the time I realized I'd grabbed the wrong glaze I was too far along to stop and go get the right one.
For this application I'm mixing paint and glaze 1:1. After mixing the two together I take a little wad of plastic wrap from the kitchen and dab it into the paint/glaze mix. Dab most of the paint off on a paper towel and then randomly dab it on the arrow shaft. Move the plastic wrap around to maximize the random factor. You can put on as much or as little as you wish.

For the next technique I won't use glaze, just the paint. With this one two colors are used in addition to the base coat color.
With a dampened sea sponge the first color is dabbed onto the shaft in a random manner. As you do this turn the sponge around in your hand. Just as in the previous technique, get the paint on the sponge and then take most of it off on a paper towel so you don't get too much paint on the shaft. Most of the base color should be covered over but some will still show through.

After the first color is dry, do the second color in the same manner. To help blend the colors and make softer edges you can lightly mist the shaft with water before putting on each of the two colors.

The effect will look different depending upon which color you do first and the other second. With the two colors I chose there was little difference. If you'll look back through arrows pictures I've posted here you'll see some done with brown paints that look like a dirt camo one way and kind of sand camo the other. Be sure to do what I didn't do today: test your colors before starting the project.

The last technique is kind of interesting. This time we'll mix the paint and glaze at about a 1:5 ratio, 1 part paint to 5 parts glaze. Use the sea sponge to get the paint/glaze mixture on most of the shaft and while it is still wet, wrap it in plastic wrap. Wrap it rather snug. After a few moments, unwrap it and you'll see the plastic pull off some of the paint mix and leave behind an interesting texture.
Here are pictures of all three techniques, and of the bottle of glaze I meant to use...

My apologies for the quality of the pictures. I was trying to shoot with one hand, hold the other hand in the picture, and do it all before the paint dried. I hope you're able to see the process without too much dificulty.

All the paints and glaze are available at craft stores like Michael's, Jo-Anne's, etc. These are the same paints I use for cresting. They are inexpensive, easy to use, and they come in enough colors that always be able to get just what I need.

If you have any questions just let me know.


Anonymous said...

Hello Guy,

Just what I was looking for, cheers for all the pics! You have some amazing designs and I hope I will be able to use some of your innovative ideas on my first set of home-made arrows, Im still trying to figure out how I am going to get the lines perfectly straight haha. Could you tell me what you use to finalize the arrow, laquer or varnish???

Many thanks in advance
Marjan (

Guy Taylor said...

Thanks for the comments, Marjan! I really appreciate them.
For a clear topcoat I use a product called gasket lacquer. It's a nitro cellulose based lacquer. It's available here in the states from some archery suppliers but I have no idea if you can find it in Ireland. You might try Quicks to see what they have available. I looked through their pages with no luck but you may have better results.
A finish that works great and should be readily available to you is water-based polyurethane. It's low odour, easy to use, and gives good results. Polyurethane takes longer to dry than the finish I use which is one reason I do not use it. But if you're not in a hurry that's no problem.

Cheers! Guy