Instructions for Painting Decorative Mallard Drake Decoys

Updated March 23, 2017

Decorative duck decoys make for an outdoorsy addition to any home’s decor Unlike standard hunting decoys, which merely give the impression of the duck, decorative decoys become works of art, using precise detail to fool the eye and the mind. While these pieces of art can command hundreds of dollars when purchased, you can craft your own for far less.

Collect reference photos of mallard drakes. Before you can accurately paint your decoy, you’ll need to be familiar with the mallard’s natural appearance. Many photos can be found online for free, many in large size and high resolution. You might also search through books about bird identification, nature photography, or hunting. These pictures should give you a much better understanding of what the mallard looks like from different angles and in a variety of positions.

Create a pattern, or use an existing pattern. Once you have found your reference images, begin sketching a pattern that details the different coloured areas on the duck. The basic portions of the duck include the head, the bill, breast, wings, and black bars. Be aware of small patches of colour, such as the patches of blue found on the wings. Once the rough outline has been created, begin adding details such as feathers.

For greater convenience, detailed patterns can be found collected in book form. These patterns offer a ready-made solution that is quite detailed.

Select the necessary paints. For finer decorative decoys, many artists work with acrylic and oil paints. For the mallard, you will want to gather yellows and oranges for the bill and legs. The breast and body will be primarily shades of brown, khaki, and black. The distinctive green of the mallard’s head will need to be closely matched, as will the blue patches on the wings. Select your paints carefully, and don’t be afraid to mix paint daubs to achieve a specific desired shade.

Prepare the decoy. Whether your decoy is hardwood or cork, store-bought or handmade, it needs to be properly prepared before painting. Once the decoy is shaped as you desire, sand the entire thing to prepare the surface for painting.

Prepare your work area. Because you will be working with paints, you will want to find an area that is free of dust and debris. You will also want to put down a dust sheet of some sort to protect floors and other surfaces from paint drips and spills. If your paints put off any sort of fumes, be sure that your area is properly ventilated. Gather your reference photos and pattern. Collect your paints, brushes, and the decoy.

Begin by painting the larger patches to create the general patterns. Green for the head, browns and khakis for the body. As the paint dries, you may find that you need to apply more than one coat of paint.

Begin painting the finer details. From the white ring around the mallard’s neck to the tiniest feathers, you can add more and more detail to your decoy. Refer often to your pattern and your photographs. Because this is a decorative piece, feel free to add as much detail as possible.

Things You'll Need

  • Reference materials
  • Wooden duck decoy
  • Sandpaper
  • Paints
  • Paint brushes
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About the Author

Brian Westover is a freelance writer, editor and publication designer. He has been writing professionally since 2006, and has written for businesses, blogs, newsletters, and individuals. He is currently studying communications and journalism at Brigham Young University - Idaho.