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Got any tips of the trade ?

21468 Views 88 Replies 11 Participants Last post by  alanwebfoot
Wel l since I have been in picture taking mode I thought some people would find these tips and methods useful… I also thought this could be a great way to learn from each other :thumbsup:

Many times we all have seen pictures of mounts where there is no smooth transition between the head/neck/breast junction. People always say that the skin needed to be "taxied" forward. Odds are many people are thinking "what the heck does "taxi-ing" mean.

Here is a bird where you can see a head with a thin neck ending abruptly into a wide breast…

All I did was pull the breast skin forward toward the head to thicken the neck up and to give it a smoother transition for a more pleasing look. This literally takes less than a minute to pull the skin forward and to work the feathers back into place. This is what is ment by "taxi'ing the skin forward". Now you can pull too much forward for the no neck appearance so it is always a judgement call as to how much do you adjust. I did some modification to this hen after the picture but thought you would get the idea.

Another easy fix is the mud or rust stain found on many birds breast and neck areas. On this pintail you can see it has quite a bit of stain…

All I did was applied some Whink's to the stained areas with the feathers being wet. Within a few seconds you will see the stain simply disappear. A second application may be needed if you miss a spot. After the stains are gone I just rinse the skin in water and proceed. There are numerous products that do the same thing so this is just what I use.

I use latex gloves because of certain chemicals so I wanted to share a great brand of them I have used for the past few years. They are super strong and can be taken off and re-used multiple times. I originally bought a box for 14$ from a supplier but have since found that you can buy them for 7$ a box straight from the company. You can hardly by the cheap, rip if you look at them wrong brands for that.

I really want to get other's input on this topic since we are never too old to learn new tricks. Some of us take for granted that we use this or that because it has just been how we learned way back when even though some better method or product has existed. If you have any tip about this or that please post it up.
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Thats hilarious! 6 personal swans is crazy! Bet you gotta wear sunglasses in there!
beretta24 said:
The Waterfowler said:
Two airplanes!! I've got 6 Tundras. Now that I think about it, I am crazy!! That not counting other Swan species. I've sworn off of them now!! Maybe :wink:
Don't have a trumpeter yet, do ya?
Going to start putting in for Freeze-out! Should have already but my calendar stays pretty full.
if you don't like air brushes, here is how I finish almost all my bills and feet. this method was applied to ducks from fish painting, and IMO is not only very easy, but can be done in far less time than with an air brush. I chose a very easy diver bill for this. a Black Scoter. I only use, and have for some time Ted Weyenburg heads. materials needed are as follows:
Acetone, base coat primer flat, pan pastels, watercolor pencils, powder charcoal, scrubber brushes, hair spray and matte clear in a rattle can.


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I then clean the bill with Acetone and prime with ultra cover primer in a base color. the powders and watercolor pencils need to have a bite on the surface to be colored. this will not work on a slick finish


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from there, I base with water color pencils, and apply my pan pastels with the scrubber brush, then seal that down with hair spray. it often takes a few coats to bring up the color you want, all sealed between layers with the hair spray.


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from there, I blend and shade with different color powders to duplicate the natural color transitions on the bill, and seal again with hair spray. this not only locks down the color, from further blending, but is unaffected by the final finish coat of matte clear


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you can then detail your bill, and blend to your liking. I often over brush the whole bill with white or light pink powder to add the natural hue between the colors. both those colored powders tend to fade away when the finished sealer is applied, but add to a more natural and realistic finish. once you are satisfied, I coat with ultra cover matte clear, 2-3 coats. hope this helps anyone who who struggles with airbrushing bills and feet


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Where do you buy all those colors ?

Thx Brian
That actually looks very nice. I have seen pan pastels used in the past on a youtube video just never could find them locally. I may look into these a bit more, seems like it may be better to detail this way over the airbrush.

Do you have to seal inbetween each layer or after your done layering one color to go on to the next.
geez, I thought I replied to Brian, only to find out I didn't. in short, Pan Pastels, Derwent Water Color pencils. shop the internet, or you can get these from the hair spray idea came to me on a weekend nite after a few :beer: the hair spray will lock down your color from further blending, at your will. very intricate detail can be achieved will minimal effort if you interchange the mediums. to my surprise, when I felt I was finished and satisfied, I coated it with hardware rattle can matte clear, over the hair spray, and found for whatever reason, the two were completely compatible. the subtle color changes, as well as dedicated edges, are far more realistic with powder over airbrushed finishes
Well Bruce, that makes much more sense, since you and I talked. Thanks for sharing. I'm making all useful posts stickies, but might one day create a list of useful tutorials. It takes a bit of work on my part to separate and repost them, but I will have to eventually, because there are plenty of friendly people willing to share such good info, but our page is filling up quickly!

Thanks again! Keep them coming!

Since I am a simple man and need things as simple as possible, could you please list the specific types of the pencils and pastels ? I went to the site and there are apparently numerous types listed for each and I got confused really quickly :grooving: I would hate to buy a couple hundred dollars in art supplies for my kids and not my taxidermy :lol3:

Thanks !!!
Brian, pg 802 of the McKenzie Catalog shows a color pencil set. it is not made by Derwant and it is way overpriced. what you are looking for is Derwant Inktense Pencils. if you Google that, plenty of suppliers will pop up at discounted prices. I have the largest set of both the pencils and Pan Pastels since I use them for fish, mammals as well as birds in my studio. the 36 pencil set should have what you need to start, and you can order it for under 40.00. as far as the Pan Pastels, they sell them in different color sets, and you can always order single colors if needed. I would start with the basic primary colors, since you can mix the powders to make your own colors. you will also need what is called Scrubber Brushes, that you can get from McKenzie. the two best places I have found besides EBay or Amazon are as follows: or
if you have any questions, give me a hala. hope this helps.Bruce
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Very cool! Would like to see the surf bill when its finished!
Mike, how funny. I am finishing one now, and have been photographing all day. geez it sure takes a ton of time. wanted to follow through on a very detailed bill, and one of the, IMO, one of the prettiest bills of all duck bills, and one of the hardest to pull off with an airbrush. did you get my PM? am going to send you a package
here ya go Mike. working on a complete tutorial for a drake Surf, and once I re size the pixs I will post the whole process I use in the new section. thanks so much for that! another great transition for a first class site! quick shot of the under bill completed


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Well I'm super excited to see the tutorial. I believe I will be ordering some new supplies soon. I do have a question. We talked on the phone, could I use a water based matt spray clear coat to seal the colors in versus what you use? Just curious how much you experimented with other sealers? And I can wait to ask after your tutorial is posted. :thumbsup:
Pete, thanks so much for what you do to keep this site the way it is. bravo! as far as your question. in short, I have not tried any water based finishes that you can order from a taxi supply comp, so I can't reply to that. since this method can be applied to all finishing methods in taxidermy, I try to find sealers, and fixers that are compatible with the material I use as locally available as possible. waterborne acrylic in rattle cans tends to spit, and the finish, as far as I am concerned is way to thick. hence my choice of hair spray, as the fixative and clear matte for the final coat IMO, Mod Poge is my enemy when it comes to birds, and IMO is the worst thing you can use as a finish.hope this helps Pete
If hairspray works, and it ain't broke, you know the rest....

And thanks for the compliment, but this is a union of great people. Some come, some go, but some stay. I like the guts who stay and build friendships with. I also like having people at every level feeling comfortable enough to share their work, and participate in advice giving. Guys with 5 birds experience can share their shortcomings with other new people, and people like yourself can share 40 years experience as well! I love it!

You're right Bruce, this IS a great place! :beer:

Thanks for the additional info. I will be doing more searching when I get a chance :thumbsup:

Just wondering how long it takes you to do a colorful bill like a surf or woodie ? I understand that you have pretty much mastered your method but was curious.
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