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Fact checked by Steven Lines, lifelong Hunter and Outdoorsman.
Bowhunting and target shooting are two lively sports with avid followers. As the primary tool of both activities, bows are a point of pride for people who are interested in archery. Most bows that you can purchase come with black, silver, or wood finishes.
There are many quality bows out there, and for about $150, you can pick up a quality starter recurve bow.
Whether you have a new bow or one you want to spruce up for the coming season, you may be wondering: can you paint a recurve bow?
The answer is yes, you can paint a recurve bow, and it won’t cause any damage to your bow if done correctly. Some believe that it may decrease the performance of your bow even just slightly. If you are going to paint your bow, you want to be aware of your bow’s parts and whether or not you can paint them. You also want to check the materials that these pieces are made of because this will determine the process and the supplies you need.
You also want to ensure that you use the proper supplies for the job so that your paint job lasts as long as possible.
Parts of a Bow
Several different models of recurve bows, as some of the least complicated bows on the market, have the fewest parts. Some recurve accessories like sights increase the user’s ability to hit their target. Aside from these addons, there are three major components to a recurve bow.
The riser, which can be painted, is the central piece that houses the grips for the archer to grasp and the arrow rest.
The limbs are the top and bottom pieces that flex when you pull back on the string.
Limbs can be painted, but you must take care in choosing the correct paint because these pieces flex. If you paint them improperly, the color will crack and come off of the bow. It is unlikely that this will cause damage. But, it can become very unsightly and turn your paint job from impressive customization to an eyesore.
Finally, there is the string which you should not paint. This piece undergoes too much movement to be decorated.
Now that you are familiar with the major parts of your bow, you will want to check what materials they are made of, as this will determine the supplies and process of painting your bow.
The riser is most often made from wood or aluminum. As it comes from the manufacturer, the riser will likely have paint and some variety of finish on it.
If it is aluminum, the paint will likely be a dull matte or slightly glossy finish. If the riser is made from wood, it may be painted or more often; the wood will have a finish to preserve the natural wood look.
The limbs are usually made from fiberglass, carbon, or wood wrapped around a carbon or wood core. As with the riser, these two pieces of the bow may be painted, or if they are wood, they may have a finish intended to preserve the natural wood look.
Before starting your painting project, you will want to gather your supplies. To paint your recurve bow, you will need the materials below:
- Adhesion promoter
- Clearcoat or finish
There are a few considerations here, depending on the materials from which your bow is made.
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The sandpaper is used to prep the surface and to finish it. Be sure to get a coarser grain for prepping and a finer grain for finishing.
Adhesion promoter will the paint stick to your bow, especially on the limbs. It is often used in automotive applications and helps the paint adhere to any surfaces, especially pieces that resist paint adhesion due to finish and flexibility. Bulldog is one of the top brands, and you can find it easily online.
Choose primers and paints that perform well on materials that flex when painting your limbs. Not all colorants are created equal. You will want to look for paint that is made for structures that flex. These styles of paint and primer are usually labeled for use on plastic and will help increase the lifespan of your paint job.
The finish is essential to keep your customization looking new. You will want to make this choice based on the materials. For metal risers, you can look at products used in automotive applications like a clear urethane coat. This is usually a two-step process that requires a compressor paint gun for application. However, a fantastic one-step spray paint option is Spray Max.
Other options for metal and wood include oil-based urethane finishes and acrylic finishes. Acrylics are more susceptible to wear but can be easily scuffed and then refinished when the acrylic starts to wear.
Once you have disassembled your bow and removed any accessories that you do not want to be painted, the process is the same as most paint jobs. The only difference may be the adhesion promoter; you may not be familiar with this step if you are used to painting stationary objects with no moving parts.
First, you want to prepare the riser and limbs by sanding away any coatings that already on their surfaces. You want to use coarser grain sandpaper here.
The finish and paint that is applied by the manufacturer will stop any new color from sticking, so you want to be sure to remove this with sanding.
Second, apply the adhesion promoter. The adhesion promoter is used before the primer step and will help the primer and paint stick to the hard surface of the bow.
Third, apply the primer coat. Remember to choose a primer that is suitable for surfaces like flexible plastic because your bow’s limbs will flex and bend as you use it.
Because bows undergo a lot of stress and strain during use, you will want to apply more coats than if you were painting a room. Apply 4 or 5 coats of primer and perform a light sanding between each layer.
Fourth, apply your chosen paint! You will want to apply 4 or 5 coats of paint, again because of the heavy-duty use bows see. Make sure to do a light sanding between each layer of paint as well. The sanding will help the color stick to the surface.
Finally, apply the finish to protect your bows custom paint job. The process here will vary based on the product you have chosen. Be sure to follow the guidelines provided by the manufacturer.
There are several good How-To videos you can follow along with to get a more in-depth look at the process. Check out these ones to get started:
Splatter Paint Design
Camo Spray Paint
Automotive paint and primers for plastic are usually used when painting bows because of the paint’s ability to withstand the bending and flexing during the bows use.
When choosing your paint color and finish, you will want to consider how you use your bow.
If you are a hunter, you will likely want a dull matte finish applied over natural colors so that the bow blends into the environment and does not increase your visibility to animals.
If you are painting your bow for use at the range or in competition, you can go with flashier colors and glossier finishes because camouflage is not an issue.
You can also purchase stickers and wraps that can be applied to give your bow that custom look. These are an excellent option if painting your bow seems like too much work, or you want a more elaborate design.
Steven Lines is a hunter and outdoorsman from Safford, Arizona, USA. He has been hunting and fishing since a child, and has over 20 years of experience in the outdoors. Steven works as a hunting guide in Arizona during his spare time and runs a Youtube channel dedicated to sharing his outdoor adventures with others.