Paints Used for Duck Decoys


Unless your duck decoys are used for display only, they are likely taking a beating every time you go hunting. The wear and tear on your decoys often means that they need to be repainted frequently. It is important to use the proper kind of paint for your hunting decoys so that they appear realistic to the waterfowl you are hunting.

Hunting Decoys

  • Hunting decoys need to be painted with paints that can withstand the water and weather. Many outdoor sporting stores sell kits that can be used to paint decoys. Birds can perceive color differences that humans are not able to see, so paints with UV reflection are best for decoys, making them look more realistic to ducks. Decoys can also be painted with paints specially designed for the plastic parts on automobiles. Use gesso first, which creates an ideal surface for the paint to adhere to. Paint larger areas first, then smaller sections and finally use a tiny brush for the detail work. When the paint has dried, cover the whole thing with a clear sealant in a matte finish.

Antique or Display Decoys

  • Decoys that will be used for display only do not need to be waterproof or have paint with UV technology. Oil-based paints work best. Find a picture in a book or magazine of the exact color scheme that you want, and a hardware store or paint store can exactly match the colors for you.


  • Invest in a decoy bag that has a slot for each decoy and stake. This will allow you to set decoys out quickly, but will provide protection for each decoy. Storing them loosely in one large bag offers more opportunity for the paint to get scratched off them. When touching up paint, first scrub the area with a scrub brush and hot soapy water. If you are touching up a large area, lightly sand it first. Try to do touch-up painting after every other season, so you can match the paint that was already there, rather than waiting until it is completely scraped off in large areas.

Color Schemes

  • Decoys that are for decorative purposes often make creative use of paint colors, which is fine. But for hunting decoys, it is important that your decoys mimic the realistic color patterns of actual birds. In order to fool birds into thinking your decoys are real, the color scheme must be natural. Represent both genders in your painting; for example, female mallards have a muted brown color scheme, while the males of the species sport brighter colors.

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  • "Painting Duck Decoys: 24 Full-Color Plates and Complete Instructions"; Anthony Hillman; 1985
  • "The Decorative Decoy Carver's Ultimate Painting & Pattern Portfolio, Series One"; Bruce Burk; 2004
  • Photo Credit Hemera Technologies/ Images Zedcor Wholly Owned/ Images
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