How to camo paint a bow’s back

I will show here my procedure to quickly paint a camo (here on a bow blanc). It doesn’t take much more time than an hour plus drying times.

The back ring is chased, sanded and degreased. The edges, back/sides, are left sharp. After the paint process the edges will be broken.

Well normally the painting is one of the lastest steps in bow making, this one still needs tillering, tip overlays and some things more …
At the handle section are two additional layers of growth rings. This allows a nice and comfortable rounding of the grip.
Intention is to paint irregular three-dimensional spots on the back. This is a quick made sketch with a pencil.
I want the pattern fade out at tips and at handle.
Now, here is the trick: the sketched spots get roughly masked with thinned shellac.
Same here fading out at the handle. Let it dry then for some hours.
I use a stain made from iron chloride, applied with a sponge or a brush. Of course every water(!) -based stain will work, such as walnut hulls ore iron – vinegar.
That iron chloride stain is nearly clear when applied, but darkens soon. The pencil sketching is still visible.
Here it comes along.
At the fades …
… and at the tips.
Allow the stain to dry completely.
Here is the shellac removed with alcohol. The spots have now the color of the natural back, pencil marks are gone. Surface now looks very matte.
After applying some finish oil the contrast gets better.
At handle aerea
Another detail, note how the grain direction comes out. You can stop here now and you have a spotted camo then.
But with a simple rough shading you get the idea of a three dimensional object.
The detail show how roughly this work is done (and quickly).
The black shadows are done with a brush and artists ink. This ink is a bit water soluble when fresh. Here is already the next step to see: a watery brush has brought out a greyish tone.
Here is the detail, four colors: the natural yellow of osage, the stain, the black ink, and the grey dissolved ink.
At last a white ink makes some lights on the bubbles (or whatever you see).
Following pics are some impressions of the ready paint job.
Now it’s the right time to break the edges. This produces a yellow strip at the sides and the painting have a determined border. It gives an elegant touch and the limbs look much more slim.
Here are some details.
The bow from this ‘how to’ is on the left. The first four are osage, the three on the right are black locust. All are stained with ironchloride.
Detail from the bow blanc from this buildalong.
Stain, masked spots and red accents here.
Only stain and masked spots here.
The spots here are shadowed with black artists ink
The triangels are edged with an additional color: reddish stain.
No pencil sketch here, the shellac pattern was done with a pipette.
I avoid precision, I like the more primitive touch. The triangles are sketched just by eye balling.


simon- i am not a bowyer but like your camo technique so much i tried it on the wooden spyglass i made ! i use iron chloride and vinegar/steelwool. for the mask, clear fingernail polish . i have pictures but don’t know how to include them here.
thanks for sharing your creative endeavors.
Allyn Myers

Thanks Allyn,
I’m glad you find those ‘endeavors’ useful.
I’m really curious about that wooden spyglass, never heard about something like this.

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