DIY Camo: How to Make Your Own Cheap and Easy Camouflage

A step-by-step guide to creating your own "rattle can" camo

The Author's finished product: A Savage Mark II .22 Rifle.
The author's finished product: A Savage Mark II .22 Rifle.Tyler Freel

Long before the days of dip-coating and silk-screening, outdoorsmen were using spray paint to dress their gear with custom camouflage. Nowadays, even though production camo application is durable and available in a number of proprietary designs, there are still a number of advantages to picking up a “rattle can” and applying your own camo pattern. A Krylon paint job will give your gear a layer of additional protection from the elements, and your custom pattern can match the colors and shadows where you’ll hunt, all for a fraction of the price of production camo.

Here are a few easy techniques you can use to make a pattern that suits your needs and the specific terrain and vegetation where you hunt.

Apply base layer
Step 1 Apply the Base LayerTyler Freel

It’s important that your base is a neutral color like a tan or dull green, shown here on the rifle that I’m dressing up in a foliage-pattern camouflage, which matches the rocks and mixed forest of the place I often hunt in interior Alaska. It’s important to use paint with a flat finish—glossy and satin finishes are too reflective.

Use Small Blotches of Color
Step 2 Use Small Blotches of ColorTyler Freel

A shortcoming of many camo patterns is that they are painfully two-dimensional, with large swaths of unbroken solid colors and lines that are too crisp. Their foliage elements are often so realistic they can’t be used in a range of places. Your rattle-can pattern should balance lines and shadows to break up the outline of whatever it is you want to disguise.

Arranging Foliage Stencils
Step 3 Arranging Foliage StencilsTyler Freel

One of the oldest tricks of camouflage is to use natural foliage as an element of your pattern. Use twigs, leaves, clumps of grass, or even unnatural items like keys, rifle shells, or knives to give your work a distinctive look.

Layer Stencils in Reverse Order
Step 4 Layer Stencils in Reverse OrderTyler Freel

Instead of starting with your background color and then stenciling darker browns and greens around your leaves and sticks, think in reverse. I apply a base coat of green, lay down my green foliage, paint over it with brown, then lay down my brown sticks and paint over them with green. This method ensures that your foliage is rendered in the correct color.

Use Webbing to Break Up Lines
Step 5 Use Webbing to Break Up LinesTyler Freel

Once you remove your stencils, you can add additional depth and further break up your pattern by draping mesh or netting over your work and spraying a coat of neutral color.

Apply a Drizzle Effect
Step 6 Apply a Drizzle EffectTyler Freel

I use two different techniques for my final paint layer. First, I use short, quick strokes from the spray can. This reduces running, which can bleed under my stencils, and gives my lines a soft, shadowy texture. I also drizzle paint onto the pattern. Barely depress the nozzle, and the paint will sputter out in droplets that break up the pattern and make it appear three-dimensional.