Out of necessity I first began experimenting with painting cork decoys I had carved, and then later two part foam decoys produced using a mold with readily available acrylic flat house paint which saved the hassle and expense ordering expensive kits and waiting for shipping. With favorable results I looked at a pile of faded plastic decoys in my garage and thought how much better they would look with bright fresh colors. Learning to paint these decoys was simple as an outline of anatomy already existed. Later I realized how hens could be converted to drakes along with conversion of one species to another. Using Krylon 1311 matte finish as a top coat a natural sheen and protective coating was achieved. Before proceeding with below instructions repair any cracks or pellet holes in decoys to be repainted.
To maximize paint adhesion and durability a very clean surface is needed. Take your time and don't start this project a week before season begins.
Plastic - Thoroughly scrub decoys with a wire brush to remove any dirt or loose paint in the feather detail molded in plastic. There is nothing to gain by removing all the paint, only loose flakes. Scrub again with a stiff bristled nylon brush using a cleaner that does not leave a residue behind such as Dawn. Rinse multiple times with water and allow time to completely dry. High pressure sprayers at a car wash an option making sure to rinse well with plain water after using soap cycle. Lining decoys up in the corner of the wall and floor along with pinning with your foot works good to keep them in place. A pair of rubber boots is a good idea unless a soaked pair of shoes is okay when done.
Foam - If just made ensure any type of release agent used during the molding process is removed that could prevent primer sticking. A rag saturated in acetone works very well for this. The surface should also be roughed with 150 grit sandpaper. Be sure to follow all instructions on the acetone container to guarantee your personal health and safety!
Cork - Two coats of reduced spar varnish should be used to seal newly carved decoys. A 1:1 ratio of varnish and mineral spirits will allow better penetration and quicken drying time. When sealing black cork I like to fill all the voids by mixing cork dust with the varnish and rubbing it in using pvc gloves. After 24 hours has elapsed for drying, brush on a single coat of oil or acrylic based primer before painting. If repainting a small wire brush and sandpaper is recommended, much like the description above for plastic.
Here's where the fun starts. Begin applying colors referencing paint color pdf documents below which include anatomy charts for mallards, pintail, black mallards, and widgeon. Here are a few highlights of the video instructions available below.
If decoys have plastic eyes they should be covered with small pieces of masking tape or a dab of Vaseline.
1" foam brushes work very well for outlining various patterns with a smooth edge such as the wingbars or breast area in front. Artist brushes also well and can be used to create dry brushing effects.
Always handle duck decoys by the keel only to avoid contaminating surfaces with oil naturally found on human skin.
Do not place in direct sunlight to shorten drying time.
Multiple thinner coats are preferred versus one heavy coat. Avoid saturating brushes as small puddles will form in textured areas.
It is very important to apply 2-3 light coats of Krylon 1311 matte finish after wet paint has been allowed to cure at least 24 days. This step will add a very durable coating along with natural sheen. DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP.
Available at both Wal-Mart or Home Depot speak with an employee who will look up the proper pigments of these colors to be custom mixed. Home Depot does have Behr Premium available in sample sizes versus quarts which in many cases is more than a person needs. Important: Only use exterior flat, do not use satin.
Decoy Paint Colors - .pdf documentDrake Mallard Instructions 1 2 3 4 5