How to prepare turkey feathers before painting on them

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How to prepare turkey feathers before painting on them
Turkey feathers make good canvases for small paintings. (feather image by jeancliclac from

A traditional Native American art form is painting on feathers. Artists today still paint on feathers, enjoying the incorporation of the texture of a feather into the design of the painting. Turkey feathers are one of the preferred feathers for this craft because of their larger size and robust nature. Preparing a turkey feather properly involves cleaning it and creating a durable surface to which paint will adhere. In addition, an artist will want to secure it to the easel so that it is stationary during the painting process.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Turkey feather
  • Washing up liquid
  • Water
  • Blow dryer
  • Clear gloss spray or fixative
  • Painters tape
  • Craft paper
  • Hard surface
  • Masking tape

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  1. 1

    Dilute a drop of washing up liquid in lukewarm water. Wash the turkey feather gently in this solution, rubbing it with your fingers. Be careful not to rub too hard so you do not separate the feather during washing. Avoid submerging the feather and swishing it around vigorously.

  2. 2

    Blow the feather dry using a blow dryer set to Low and Cool. Hold the dryer at least 45 cm (18 inches) from the feather. You do not want to see the feather flutter in the airflow; you only want to evaporate the water. Smooth the feather into its original shape gently with your fingers during drying if necessary.

  3. 3

    Spray the turkey feather with clear gloss craft spray or fixative. Hold the spray can at least 45 cm (12 inches) from the feather and coat it evenly with a back and forth motion. Alternatively, you can dilute white glue in water and coat the feather lightly with your fingers, smoothing the feather as you apply the diluted glue solution. Make sure to use a glue that dries clear. Whether you use a clear gloss spray or a glue solution, allow the feather to dry completely before the next step.

  4. 4

    Cover a hard surface such as a painters palette or drafting table top with craft paper and use masking tape to secure it in place. This will serve as the easel for painting the turkey feather.

  5. 5

    Tape the prepared turkey feather in place on the kraft paper using painters tape. Use two strips of painters tape about 5 cm (2 inches) long to secure the bottom part of the feather. Use another 5 cm (2 inch) strip to secure the top. Use very tiny pieces to hold down the edges. Cover only the slightest bit of feather on the top and sides. You want to leave as much area as possible on which to paint.

Tips and warnings

  • Remove the painters tape from the top or sides of the turkey feather as you reach that area in your painting. After the paint is dry you can replace the tape because this type of tape does not pull paint up with it when it is removed later.
  • Use any chemicals such as gloss spray or fixative in a well-ventilated area.

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