How to Paint Your AR-15 (2023 Complete Guide)

How To Paint Your AR-15
Alfred Mendoza

Walk inside a shooting range, and all you see are black rifles. Except for the serial number, everything is alike. Painting your weapon can be the answer to that. If you can dismantle a full rifle, you can personalize your gun too. We’ll show you how to paint your AR-15 the right way. 

1. Secure a Safe Working Area

Not only for you to have a peaceful place, but you also wouldn’t want anybody else moving your things. Especially when you are going to dismantle gun parts, you have to be secure to avoid missing parts.  

You have to protect your gun parts and accessories at all times. Spray painting may not be that complicated, but you need your things orderly before you begin to paint your AR-rifle.

2. Prepare All the Materials

While you can have a professional do the paint job for you, doing it yourself wouldn’t be wrong. You can buy all you need from your local hardware store. 

Other than the spray paint(1), get all other materials such as masking or painters’ tape, Nitrile gloves, rubbing alcohol, patterns or stencils, nets, or any other design materials. Being innovative can be useful, but this will be a semi-permanent change you are doing, so better be prepared.

3. Clean Your Rifle

No matter what type of paint you use, it will not stand if there is a hint of grease or oil in the body of your rifle. When cleaning your AR-15 rifle, use AR-15 cleaning kits that include alcohol or brake cleaner to wash out oil or grease thoroughly. 

Once you are definite that the surfaces are clean, let it stand dry before applying painter’s tape to the areas that will not be designed. A brake cleaner can ensure the outcome of your rifle.

Clean Your Ar-15

4. Block Sensitive Parts

Cover areas of the rifle with painter’s tape if you will not include it with the design before you start painting. Ensure that entrances to the gun’s interior are entirely blocked to avoid clogged-up parts and possible malfunctions in the future. 

This includes rifle parts like your trigger, ejection port, and your magazine well. Cover the sharp lines as well. Take extra care with the barrel as this can clog with paint easily.

5. Spray the Base Coat

If your work area is spacious, it would be better to hang your rifle before coating it with the first layer of paint. If not, lay it on a covered surface, on top of cardboard or any clean sheet.

If you want to have it in camouflage, coat the base layer with the lightest color you have. Give it a natural look and start spraying at least a foot away to ensure optimal coverage.

6. Select & Prepare Other Paint Colors

Once the base paint is sprayed and dry, you can start with other colors that you have. Stick to your plan and choose the colors you want to see on your rifle.The color it will wear is your representation, and your imagination is your limit. 

You can break the stereotype and change what is usual. There are a lot of other shooters who are also designing their own.

Select & Prepare Other Paint Colors

7. Choose a Pattern or Design

Camo can be enhanced if you use cool designs. If you do not have limited time, you can look at a gun magazine and get ideas from there. A great design can help with the heat since the paints have cooling effects on the eyes. Simply secure areas with tape so the coats will not over-drip or smudge other parts of the rifle. You may want to pick something you can relate to. 

8. Design It Using:

Mesh Laundry Bag

Spraying over this material will result in a snakeskin design. You simply place the mesh over the area you want to design. Painting it with a darker shade to define this particular part can be done. 

This can be part of the camouflage pattern you can do on top of the base coat. Secure it with tape or just hold it as you spray it on. 


Another interesting idea would be using local foliage. Simply choose leaves outside and place them atop your rifle, sealing them with painters’ tape so that they will not move as you spray paint. 

This will look great on your buffer tube or the outer barrel. Apart from the camo design as a base, this will create a nature-effect on your weapon. 


You also have an option to use this method as this is the most basic of all. Just place the stencil over the part of the rifle you wish to design and coat it with the paint color you want to use. You can also use these elements on your accessories and gear to have a uniform look.

9. Let It Dry

Contain your excitement and refrain from touching or checking the areas that you painted. Wait for at least an hour before you coat it with a clear coat. 

It will serve as the final cover on your camouflage pattern design. Give it another hour to dry, as your top coat on the rifle may be a bit thicker as it will serve as protection to the paint you applied.

Let It Dry

10. Execute a Function Test

After making sure that everything is completely dried and painted, it is time for you to see if it still works perfectly. Test the functionality as it should work the same. 

You already ensured that the sensitive areas are covered, but you should also verify that nothing was changed regarding functionality. Shoot with your new rifle at the shooting range first before trying it at an event or competition.

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Why Paint It?

Why Paint an AR-15?

To Disrupt the Camo Pattern

The typical brown and green camo pattern is prevalent in a rifle, other than, of course, matte black. It will not affect its functionality but enhance its aesthetics. It all depends on the even coat you apply to the new paint job. 

To Mute the Color

Rifles and guns are usually painted black but having a paint job will create a more sophisticated and modern look out of the ordinary. Using colors like brown will give it a more natural look that will blend in perfectly if you use it for hunting or at the shooting range.


Having it done by a pro will range from $60 to $175 if we are just talking about two colors here. Putting more colors would also mean adding more money to the cost. However, if you do it yourself, you will only spend around $50.

For an experienced painter, this will only take about an hour, depending on how many colors you want to be blended in. If you do it yourself and start from scratch with the stock color, it may take longer.

Yes. You can use acrylic, but do not mix it with any other type of paint. A disadvantage with these types of material is that it appears in a different darker shade once it dries off. It also dries up right away, so blending the colors may not work as you want it.

Time To Custom Paint Your AR-15

Custom painting your AR-15 is cheap and allows your inner artist to come through. There are many online tutorials that you can also follow if you decide to paint your rifle. The patterns may be tricky, but these will not wear off easily if you apply the paint evenly, including the last application of a clear coat. 

Nobody will be able to guess that it is just a handcrafted job as long as you make sure you painted your rifle well. The topcoat matters as much as the variation of colors you included on your camo rifle.



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