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Old 01-08-2011, 11:43 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Lure patern tips

Some how-to`s on patern making by

Lure Pattern Tips

I would like to show you how you can achieve a more realistic look to your own fishing lures. More and more lakes and rivers are getting fished harder and harder and fish do become lure shy over time. A great way to counteract this is by making your lure presentation as natural looking as possible. Most predatory fish feed by sight and the stimulus of a darting baitfish (your lure) often proves irresistible to them.

The first one I will demonstrate is a very basic rendering with some key anatomical features that will add pizzazz to your lure. Since my own lures feature carved details, I will demonstrate the first lesson on a rough cut out shape from scrap wood.

The first step after sanding the wood or plastic lure smooth is to add a coat or two of primer/sealer which will also serve a further purpose in the final lesson. I use Circa 1850 Prime-It Plus made by Canadian company Swing Paints.

I use a drafting table with an angled top and wires to support my lures while painting. You can simply lay them on a sheet of scrap paper or clamp one of the head or tail screw eyes in a bench vise.

First we need to establish what the base color will be that will represent the outline of the scales of a fish. In this case we will use a transparent gray.

For this entire paint scheme I use my Iwata Eclipse HP-BS dual action airbrush which allows me to control the amount of paint and air very easily.

Using a sweeping motion across the lure apply a coat of gray which is sprayed thicker and darker on the back and gradually lighter towards the belly of the lure.

Lure Painting Tips

After allowing this base coat to dry place some scaled pattern mesh over the lure which can be held in place with small clamps if you are holding the lure with each end supported. I simply have the top end of the mesh held in place with a spring loaded binder clamp and I use my free hand to hold down the bottom. This mesh can be purchased at a number of companies that sell lure making supplies or at a fabric store. Another good source of this material is a pair of fishnet stockings. Better ask the wife before borrowing her favorite pair!

Now we spray the actual scale color though the mesh. For this demonstration I am using Opaque White. Spray the sides and not the back of the lure. The slight overspray will blend into the back nicely.

After spraying immediately remove the mesh being careful not to smudge the paint underneath. Voila! You now have some half decent looking “scales” on your lure.

Mist some Opaque Black over the back of the lure now letting some overspray blend onto the upper part of the sides.

Now we need to add some eyes to the lure. My own lures have 3D plastic eyes but I will explain how to render some basic eyes using the airbrush. I have a stencil with a large number of circle sizes which I use to mask off the overspray when adding eyes. The first thing I like to do is to give a nice dark area for the eyes to be added. This makes them stand out even more.

I spray opaque Black freehand in a roughly circular pattern and then spray opaque White through one of my stencil holes for the next step.

Now I switch to a smaller sized stencil hole and spray Opaque Black once more for the pupil. Add a little reflection with White to complete them. These are basic eyes but they can make a difference in how many fish will strike your presentation.

To protect the finished lure from hook scratches and teeth marks coat it a couple of times with a two part epoxy such as Circa 1850 Nu-Lustre-55. This will also serve to really give a high gloss wet look and really make the colors pop.

To protect the finished lure from hook scratches and teeth marks coat it a couple of times with a two part epoxy such as Circa 1850 Nu-Lustre-55. This will also serve to really give a high gloss wet look and really make the colors pop.


Now that you have practiced the basics of lure painting, we can start to get a little more detail oriented. For the these next lessons I have already used a Dremel rotary tool to carve in the gill plates and the maxillary bones of the mouth as well as drilled out holes in which to seat plastic eyes.

In the first lesson we sprayed a simply one color base of transparent Gray. For the next one we will spray the upper half of the lure with the Gray and the lower half with Opaque White. Since we used a White primer you could just leave the lower half unsprayed but I prefer the brighter Opaque White.

Put the scale pattern mesh over the base coats and hold it in place again. Now we airbrush gold through the mesh along the top and the sides of the lure but not on the belly. This will remain White. I do not paint the heads of the lures during this step as real fish have a different covering on their heads than the larger scales on the rest of the fish.

Carefully remove the mesh and spray Gold over the head of the lure being careful not to get overspray onto the scales we rendered before. Let this coat dry for a few minutes.

Now we will add some dark bars to the sides of the lure with Opaque Black. Dont spray them on too thickly, just a light coat will do. Also spray a light coat of Black along the back and the upper sides but not so it covers up the Gold completely.

I like to now add some stippling effect with the Opaque Black. There are several ways to get this effect and one way is something that I came up with by accident. On my airbrush I always use an Iwata moisture filter which has a tiny release valve. I press in this valve with the nail one of my thumbs which lowers the pressure for as long as you hold it down. Dont press it in all the way or you will lose all your pressure.

I like to now add some stippling effect with the Opaque Black.

There are several ways to get this effect and one way is something that I came up with by accident. On my airbrush I always use an Iwata moisture filter which has a tiny release valve. I press in this valve with the nail one of my thumbs which lowers the pressure for as long as you hold it down. Dont press it in all the way or you will lose all your pressure.

Now you will see that the Opaque Black is coming out in tiny droplets called stipple. This adds a little more realism as many fish have tiny organisms on them which look quite similar to this effect. Add a number of small dots to the head with the same Black. Also spray the inside of the mouth and the edge of the gills.

You will see that your lure is looking much more lifelike now but it still needs some eyes. I have already pre drilled out the sockets in which to seat the eyes with a ½” Forstner bit. I use 12mm plastic eyes for almost all the lures I make and when I want a certain look I will paint over the eyes with the airbrush and/or acrylic with brushes.

Walleyes have a glossy white over the pupils giving their eyes milky appearance. To do this I simply spray a little Opaque White onto the Black centre of the plastic eyes.Your lure should now resemble the coloration of a Walleye which is often the food of choice for larger predators like Pike and musky due to their abundance and easy to swallow profile.


Next we will add even more details to the lures already pretty lifelike appearance. What I try to do when Im about to do a baitfish paint job is to identify key anatomical features that make each bait fish instantly identifiable. In the case of Walleye, one of them is a White tip on the tail that really stands out when you see them in the water. Using opaque White, spray a patch onto the tail end of your lure. Its looking more and more like the real thing with every additional step.

We still need fins to bring the lure to life though, so we need to make a stencil. I like to use mylar because it is clear enough to see through for positioning and it is very durable. Use some reference photos of the real fish to give you the correct size, shape and location of these fins. Cut out the fins using a sharp pointed craft knife or a stencil burner. While holding the stencil against the lure in the right position, spray some Transparent Yellow through the cut out hole.

Let the paint dry for a few moments before turning the lure over and repeating the process on the opposite side.

Once dry, add the spines to the fins with a soft lead pencil.

I usually only add the pectoral fins as they help draw attention to the head of the lure which is where most predatory fish aim when attacking. In the final lesson, I will show how to render even more details to fins but for now you have a nice basic pair of fins which adds yet another level of realism.

Another detail we can add in now is some red along the opening of the gills we did previously. This can be done either using a fine paintbrush with acrylic paint or by using the airbrush.

The last step in this lesson is to detail some teeth into the mouth. Spray Opaque Black in the space between the upper and lower jaw if you havent already done so at this stage. A freehand template does a great job of masking the overspray.

I use a tooth pick and some White paint to render a few teeth. Now it’s really looking more and more like a real fish!


In this final lesson I will show you how to add the final little details that will turn a good looking lure into a true work of art! For this one I use an Iwata Hi-Line HP-CH and an Iwata Custom Micron CM-C Plus which have a special little feature called the Micro Adjust Valve or MAC. I make great use of the MAC valve on these airbrushes to dial in the perfect air pressure as I switch from paint to paint.

It allows me to get in really close when needed without the fear of spidering the paint from using too much pressure. Another thing Ive discovered is that I waste less paint because, if Im careful, I can dial in just enough air pressure to actually spray the left over paint in the brush back into the bottle without blasting it all over the place. Hey, Im frugal, what can I say!

We are going to paint a Bluegill pattern which incorporates all of the steps of the previous lessons and has some nice little touches that add an even further level of realism.

Lay down the base color which will be the same Transparent Gray used in the other lessons. What this doing is rendering the spaces in between the individual scales when it is removed.

Now cover the lure with the mesh and lay down some Olive Green over the back and upper half of the lure. I mix my own custom color using Forest Green and a drop of Black to try and match the actual fish as best I can.

Add some Transparent Violet to the middle of the lure now, making sure to let the overspray blend with the edge of the green we sprayed before. Lastly, spray White through the mesh onto the lower third of the body and also on the belly.

Bluegills have prominent bars down their sides which we can render using Black sprayed through the mesh. Use dagger strokes to get the bars wider at the top and tapering as they go lower. Spray these through the mesh also.

Now well use the stippling technique explained in an earlier lesson to add the little Black dots to the sides of the lure. However, with the MAC valve, I can fine tune the stippling effect by shutting the MAC valve completely and then slowly opening it while rocking the trigger back and forth. I do this against a sheet of scrap paper first until I achieve the desired effect.

Bluegills also have a noticeable Orange patch on their bellies. Remove the mesh and spray Orange patches onto each side of the lure. The Orange goes all the way from the bottom of the belly and part way up the sides near the head.

Once that is done we move on to the head which, as always, I like to paint separately from the rest of the lure. Mist some Transparent Ultramarine Blue over the entire head and also over the lips. Add some darker lines with the same color as shown in the photo.

Next I spay some Golden Acrylics Interference Green onto the gill plates mostly on the upper portion and mist a little over the upper half and on the back of the entire body. This adds a really nice sparkly green which looks even better after clear coating has been done.

Now add the prominent Black spot that is on the gill plates to complete the look.

Of course we need some fins now which once again we render by spraying through a stencil we have made from Mylar or other such material. Use Transparent Yellow for these fins and be careful to allow the paint underneath them to show through.

Once they have dried add some spines with a pencil. In this final lesson we take things a step further by adding a soft shadow under the fins with Transparent Gray. This really makes them appear to be standing out from the body of the lure.

Next we are going to render the lateral line which runs down each side of the fishes body. This is done with the back edge of a craft knife by carefully nicking the paint so that the White Primer shows underneath. Now its looking less like a lure and more like a real fish.

Now its time to add a few reflection highlights with Opaque White to really add that final touch. Using a freehand template to block off overspray highlight a few edges of the gills and fins. Dont forget (As I nearly did!) to add some blood red for the gills.

For the last step I custom paint the eyes for an ultra realistic appearance. I searched the internet for some good reference photos and try to recreate the look with the airbrush and a fine tip paint brush. This particular lure I signed as it is a special one to be auctioned. I dont usually ruin the illusion by putting my name on them afterwards!

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Old 02-29-2012, 10:38 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Lure patern tips

Wow!! I dont know how I missed this post Rick. There are some really good tips in there. I wish I had the talent to paint some of my own baits, I cant even paint a wall.
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