I have a question about a bull skull that I am going to paint…The skull sat outside for many years and is cracking, is there anyway I can repair this to get it to be smooth again to paint on? And if so what kind of primer should I use? How do I paint a skull to make it look great? -Kimberly
To answer this question, I turned to former Offbeat Home editor and, in my mind, the goddess of dead animal bone artwork, Cat Rocketship! (Check her Instagram if you want highlights!) Sure enough, she had an answer AND she said “Full disclosure, I happen to be wearing a crown of animal bones right now,” as she wrote her advice and lessons… I rest my case!
How to paint a skull step 1: prep the skull
Skulls are such fun subjects to work with. If the bone is becoming brittle and flaky, there is no repair, but you may still be able to paint it. It will come down to embracing the skull’s worn texture and working with that.
I would start by brushing over the surface lightly with my fingers to loosen any really easy-to-bust bits. Make sure it’s clean of dust, dirt, and cobwebs, especially in those little nooks and cranies around the teeth, cheek bones, and eye sockets.
A primer may help make the skull appear slightly smoother, but it is likely not necessary.
How to paint a skull step 2: pick your paint color
Of course you could go for a white paint (especially a zinc white or titanium white!), but why not go for a more dramatic shade like mars black or go for a mixed color palette!
Now if you’re wondering what kind of paint do you use for skulls, there are two options…
How to paint a skull paint step 3 option 1: spray paint
Spray paint is easy to apply and coat on there more evenly without brush strokes, it’s also cheaper for small projects than buying a whole quart of paint. Usually a quart of paint covers 75 square feet … which is quite a lot.
I like two types of spray paint for bones:
- Montana is an artist-grade spray, available in art supply stores and sometimes skate shops. It’s very opaque (so it covers in one coat), comes in great colors, and works on difficult surfaces like flaking bone.
- If you can’t get ahold of Montana, I recommend Rustoleum Ultra 2x Cover.
Both these two spray paints I recommend are primer-proof…
Lay down a drop cloth on your table top and spray the skull, holding the can about 10 inches away and moving in slow strokes. If it is flaking, you will probably want to spray from a few different angles to make sure you don’t miss any areas.
If you need to apply a second coat, do so either within the first hour or after 24 hours have passed.
How to paint a skull paint step 3 option 2: chip brush + oil enamel paint
If you don’t want to go for spray paint, here’s a dry brush option.
I worked in the paint industry for a good number of years, and another option if you’re wondering how to paint a skull is to use a chip brush with natural bristles brush to dust of the rest of the dirt — this one is great. This is very important because if the surface is dirty the paint will flake off faster.
While an acrylic paint would be the cheapest, if you really want to make this last, use an a oil enamel paint – an oil paint will be thicker than a regular latex paint, and hold up better. Oil is harder to clean but lasts longer, and will help adhere better.
On the back side of the skull, I’d use an epoxy to keep it glued together but embrace the front natural worn texture.
How to paint a skull last step
Allow the skull to cure for 24 hours before moving it or bringing it inside, if at all possible.
Hope this guidance is helpful! Happy crafting!