Purchase several squirrelette brushes of varying sizes. A soft-
bristled brush is important so that the bristles gently flow the paint
onto the feather without separating the vane barbules.
Figure 2C: Painting leading edge
Figure 2D: Painting trailing edge
Once you have your paints, a selection of brushes, paper towels
and a work area that can withstand a little mess, you’re ready to
paint. (See Figure 2B, previous page) With the feather laid out flat in
front of you paint one side at a time. I use an old sad-iron to hold the
feather down thus keeping my hands free. On the leading edge, the
dark color comes down farther on the webbing. (See Figure 2C)
There is a lot of variation from one eagle to the next but generally
speaking the leading edge comes down farther along the rachis on
feathers farther from the center of the tail. As I’ve mentioned before
there is no ‘center’ feather but the two in the middle often have a
leading edge and trailing edge that nearly match each other. Paint in
short strokes with the grain of the webbing, from the center to the
edge, applying an even coat of paint. Pick a reference photo to
determine how you want to finish the bottom of the dark section with
a swirl or dip or spots and speckles.
When finished on the first side, move over to the trailing edge.
(Figure 2D) This side does not come down all the way to match the
leading edge. Once again there is certainly a lot of variation among
real feathers so refer to your reference photos for ideas of how to
finish off the bottom of the dark section.
Use a fine-tipped brush to add detail markings below where the
color ends. (Figure 2E, next page) I apply detail markings in as many
as four layers. I hand-stipple detail spots and specks with a fine-
tipped brush then spritz on other layers of specks with a toothbrush.
Tear a hole in a paper towel and flick the bristles of the toothbrush
with your thumb to spritz paint onto the feather. The hole will guide
just where you want the paint spots to go. (See Figure 2F, next page)
I also lay two paper towel edges together in a V or along one side of
the rachis to direct the paint spatters. I don’t want it to look
haphazard and carefree but deliberate and intentional, as if those
spots are there in that particular pattern because that’s exactly what I
saw in the reference photo. Take your time on the detail markings.
Not all feathers have a lot of detail markings while others have a lot.
Check your reference photo often and scrutinize it carefully for the
details as you transfer those details onto your feather.
Before setting this feather aside to dry, use your medium or fine-
tip brush to carefully paint the rachis to a point just below where the
main color ends on the leading edge. Flip the feather over to paint
the rachis of the underside of the feather. Do not lay the feather
down to do this, but hold the feather in one hand while lightly
brushing over the rachis.