Knife Painting: How To Paint a Knife Step-By-Step

Do you want to know how to paint a knife? Whether you want to paint a survival, tactical, bushcraft, or just a simple pocket knife, this post is for you.

If you have ever gone to a gun and knife expo, you might have noticed that some people have taken common tactical knives and painted on them. Some of these knife artists paint just the blade, some paint just the handles, and others paint the whole knife.

If you love knives and art, you might be interested in painting some knives yourself (or at least giving it a try). Here is how you can try this unique painting hobby in a step-by-step guide.

Knife Painting Instructions:

  1. Assemble Your Tools
  2. Preparing The Knife
  3. Freehand Painting vs. Drawing on the Design
  4. Painting One or Both Sides?

First, Assemble Your Tools

You can choose any type or style of tactical knife and you can start small with a smaller blade or opt for a much larger knife. Beginners might find that painting a larger knife is a little easier because it doesn’t require you to paint with such tiny strokes. If you have a little more experience painting detail, then smaller knives are good for you.

Next, choose your paint. This should be a craft paint that specifically states on its label that it can be used for painting metal and plastic surfaces. You may also use artist’s professional grade acrylic paint or cans of outdoor metal furniture paint.

Be sure to buy the small cans, and not the spray cans because you can’t paint the knife with spray paint unless you are doing something very abstract or avant garde. Do NOT use any oil-based or egg-based (tempera) paints because these will not adhere to the knife’s blade or handle effectively.

Make sure you have a variety of brushes that will help you paint small strokes on the handle and/or blade. If you want to be sure your design will work, trace the knife on a sheet of paper and do a test run painting of the design on the paper first. If it looks good on paper, it will look good on the knife.

Keep in mind that you will have to make the design slightly smaller on the knife because a traced outline of the knife is slightly bigger than the knife itself. Flat edged brushes and tiny detail brushes are best for this kind of project.

Also, have a sealant to use on the knife after the paint dries and some painter’s tape. If you want the knife to remain functional, be sure to cover the blade with painter’s tape before you start. After the paint from the design dries, the sealant will prevent the paint from peeling and flaking off. Additionally, you may want a paint thinner or paint remover and some cotton swabs to remove any paint that is either a mistake or to remove applied paint if you decide that you do not like how it looks.

Preparing the Knife

Decide ahead of time if the knife will continue to be functional or if it will just be art/decorative. If you still want it to be functional, tape off the edge and point of the knife with painter’s tape. The tape will prevent paint from leaking and dripping onto the blade.

Now you will need to stabilize the knife and/or prop it up while you are working on it. A table vice is a good option because it can hold onto the knife tightly while you paint. You can also build special support out of wood and/or styrofoam that can then be reused or thrown away later.

The base of this support has three “bridge” supports that stand upright out of the wood or styrofoam base. They have prongs that will hold onto the knife and keep it from moving around. Now you are ready to paint.

Freehand Painting vs. Drawing on the Design

If you feel pretty confident about your painting skills, you can start by painting the design on freehand. Remember that paint colors will blend if you try to paint one color over the top of another, so take time in between applications of neighboring colors to let the paint dry. If there is another area of the knife you want to paint while the first area dries and the first area isn’t directly touching the next area of paint, you can paint this way to save time.

If you are nervous about freehand painting, try using a fine-tip permanent black marker to put the design onto the knife. This works regardless of whether you are painting the blade or the handle. The paint you use can paint over the lines you use as a guide, or you can leave the lines slightly exposed if you want a clear outline. Some artists will even go back in later and use the marker lines to create defining paint lines in black or another dark color.

Painting One or Both Sides?

You could just paint one side of the tactical knife, but you could paint both sides if you feel adventurous. To do that, you have to wait until the design on one side is complete and completely dry. Apply the sealant, making sure no sealant ends up on the opposite side. (This is where the cotton swabs come in handy a second time; you can dip them in sealant and “paint” the sealant over the painted side of the knife.)

After the sealant has dried, flip the knife over to start the other side. Follow all of the previous steps for painting the second side. Let the whole thing dry before putting it on display.

Fairly Simple, but Not for Everyone

Painting a tactical knife is a fairly simple process, but this hobby isn’t for everyone. As you can see, it takes a lot of patience and prep time to get everything in place. The painting and design aspects are a lot of fun, but that takes some planning too.

There are a lot of decisions to make along the way, and correcting the mistakes you make versus painting over them is always something to consider. Still, if you like this hobby, you may keep painting knives until you get the hang of it and turn out some really decorative items.

Did you like this post on how to paint a knife? You might also want to check out our post on the best concealed carry books for more information on knives, gadgets, and gear.