By John Potts

In this article, I wrote it to be a very simple gunner paint job. But at the end, I put a few techniques to fancy it up a bit. If you're planning on trying that, read the entire article before you start to paint the decoy.

COLOR LIST=Gesso ( white ), Titanium white, Mars black, Burnt umber, Burnt sienna, Thalo green, Thalo yellow green, Yellow ochre

mallard-decoy
Coat the entire bird with white gesso. Then paint the entire tail white. Next paint the rump black, leaving a thin line of white just behind the side pocket. Next, mix up a medium gray using black and white. Paint the entire body of the mallard with this gray, except for the white line you left behind the side pocket. Now, mix up some burnt sienna and a little burnt umber to make a chestnut color. Paint the chest, around the neck, and on the back to a triangle behind the head.
drake mallard decoy


Next, mix up some black and burnt umber to make a very dark brown, and paint a line along the top of the side pockets all the way back to the primaries, getting wider as you go back.

painting mallard decoys
Now paint the head with light coats of thalo green - you don't want to paint it on too thick as it will shine a lot when it dries. If you're just painting the eyes on, paint them black. If there are glass eyes on the decoy, just scrape off any paint that gets on them when you are done. If the eyes are just painted, and after the entire paint job and sealant is complete,I like to put clear nail polish on the eyes and the bill to give it that wet look.

paint mallard decoy
Next, paint the bill with a mixture of yellow ochre and a touch of white to make the olive color (use lots of reference photos to make the bill color). Last, paint the white ring around the neck. Then give the paint job 2 days to cure, then seal using a matte or flat sealer. There, you're done.

Now for the fancy techniques, these will give it some more realistic features.



  1. On the tail, using a fine brush, paint tiny black lines on the edge of each feather, make sure the paint is fairly watery.


  2. On the head, you can wet blend yellow green into the cheek to brighten it up a bit, and also wet blend black into the crown.


  3. On the side pockets, using a fine brush, make the little squiggly lines ( called vermiculations )


  4. On the chest, using white, paint little inverted "V's" with a line in the center of it.

painting duck decoys
Always use lots of reference materials. When I paint a mallard decoy, I usually have at least 10 different pictures of that mallard hanging up in the shop. I use different features from each one, depending on the look I am going for.

Painting your own decoys is a very rewarding part of my waterfowling experience.