Interested in painting your own steampunk gun? Here’s a simple how-to guide for you!
- Toy Gun
- Arcylic Paint (in a base color and a variety of steampunk colors)
- Paint Brushes (perferrably ones you can throw away)
- Palet (aka something on which to mix paint)
- Acrylic Coating Spray
- Fine Grain Sandpaper
- Additonal Accessories (optional)
- Hot Glue Gun or other Adhesive (if you have additional accessories to add)
Choosing and Prepping Your Steampunk Gun
So what type of gun works best for a homemade steampunk gun? Most of the tutorials I’ve read use Nerf guns, because they’re easily accessible and usually have a pretty nifty design. Using a Nerf gun isn’t a requirement, though. I scoured the toy aisle at Walmart until I found a gun that I thought I could modify to get the look I wanted. The gun I bought is called the Space Raider, by LightUpToys.com.
Nerf guns are, of course, a great option, but don’t limit yourself to that brand. My gun cost $8.98 and it lights up and makes noise, which most Nerf guns do not do. (Although I cut the sound wire because it would drive everyone crazy and I wanted to be able to use the lights without annoying people.)
Once you buy your gun, the first step before painting is to take the entire thing apart. For Nerf guns, I hear this can be complicated because of all of the moving parts. Be careful to keep track of any interior pieces and, if necessary, take pictures of the interior of the gun before taking anything out so you can successfully put it back together when you’re finished. My gun only required removal of batteries, so this was a simple step for me.
If there is any lettering, etc. on the gun, use fine grain sandpaper to sand off the raised letters/images. Since my gun wasn’t name brand, I didn’t have to sand off a name, but there was a recycling icon on the handle that I had to sand off. Simply sand the image until it is no longer 3D. I sanded some other parts of the gun just to get rid of some of the slickness of the plastic, but I did not notice a difference in painting sanded versus non-sanded parts of the gun.
Choosing Your Colors
The first step to painting your steampunk gun is to choose a base color. For this step especially, I suggest that you find a clean, flat workspace to use. (I did most of this project in my bed while watching Netflix. There is definitely some paint on my sheets.) There are base acrylic paints available, or you can use a simple plain black or white. Due to the chance of spots showing through the layers of paint, I chose to use black as my base color.
Once you choose your color, use a medium paintbrush (I used one with bristles about an inch across) to paint the entire exterior of the gun that color. Using a medium sized brush allows you to get the job done quickly, but also gives you more control over where the paint goes. Additionally, you will want to paint any interior areas of the gun that might show through when the gun is completely put back together. You can either paint these areas black, or paint them to match the color that area is on the gun’s exterior. I chose to paint the edges of the interior to match the exterior, just in case they show through at all.
After allowing your base coat to dry completely, you start with the fun part—painting it to look like an actual steampunk gun.
To give you an idea of your color options, I’ll explain my own color choices. Just keep in mind that you can use pretty much any color combination you’d like to give your gun the look you want. I purchased four different bottles of acrylic paint of the brand FolkArt by Plaid. I decided to buy a tan color for the gun handle to give it a wooden look (Color: Raw Sienna), a gold (Color: Metallic Pure Gold), a copper (Color: Metallic Copper), and, of course, plain black for my base. Each bottle of 2oz acrylic paint from FolkArt costs less than $2 at Hobby Lobby or Walmart. Instead of buying eight to 10 different colors of paint, I used combinations of those four colors to create all of the colors used on my steampunk gun. As for paintbrushes while doing the detailing, I used the same paintbrush that I used for the base coat intermittently with a tiny paintbrush for extreme detailing.
For instance, combining black with copper gave me a beautiful metallic chocolate brown, while combining copper and gold gave me a softer, lighter copper color. By the time I finished the gun, I had just about run out of unique colors, but that just means that I had enough options that I still had some left over when I was finished.
Since the paint on my gun already makes it look a little worn, I did not feel the need to alter the appearance. For more information on adding an aged or worn look to your steampunk gun, see step eight of this tutorial on Steam Ingenious.
To finish up your gun, it’s important to spray it with an acrylic coating spray to protect the paint from scratches and other hazards. I used Patricia Nimocks brand, but there are a variety of other acrylic coating sprays available. Krylon is a major brand that offers a variety of different sprays depending on the look you want to achieve. Krylon offers a matte finish spray, which will give the gun a flatter look, a satin finish spray, which will give the gun a more shiny finish, and a crystal clear finish spray, which gives a protective gloss coating but should not change the look of the paint itself. The spray I used on my gun was technically a matte finish spray, but I did not notice a major change in the appearance of the paint. The Kyrlon products are available at Hobby Lobby in 11 oz cans for $7.99/can. I purchased my Patricia Nimocks ‘Clear Acrylic Sealer’ from Walmart in a 6oz can for $4.77.
Apply the acrylic coating to the entire exterior of the gun after the paint is completely dry. Follow the instructions for application found on the bottle. Acrylic coating is generally dry to the touch after about 15 minutes, but if you’re planning on adding to the gun, I would wait at least an hour before handling it for extended periods of time. I applied my acrylic coating before reassembling my gun, just to be sure I didn’t mess up the paint while I was putting it back together. I applied a total of three coats.
Optional: Adding Accessories
Accessories like small lightbulbs, colored glass, tubes, and wires are popular additions to any steampunk gun. Since my gun already has the light up pieces, I didn’t want to add anything more. However, if you want to add to your gun, all you really need are your accessories and some hot glue. I suggest using a low temp hot glue gun, because the high temp guns melt the glue a little too fast, causing you to waste a lot of glue and making it more difficult to apply glue to a small area without getting it all over your gun. Low temp guns are much easier to work with. Craft stores have a good variety of Victorian-esque baubles for you to add to your gun, but you can also use things that might be lying around the house, like springs or gears from a broken clock or other electronic device.
Et voila! You have your very own, very awesome steampunk gun. Congrats!
Note: Adult supvervision may be necessary for all the the above steps of the steampunk gun tutorial. At most stores, the purchaser must be 18 years of age or older to buy a hot glue gun or aerosol acrylic coating spray.