Remington 870 Express Shotgun Skull Theme Step By Step(sorta, lol)


Russ Allen

Hey everyone, here's a shotgun I had started some time back and put on the backburner. Theres been a few ask me about my process so here it is. I had an idea of what I wanted, but didn't really have it dialed in until I put the first paint on the spine and then it all started coming to me of how I would apply the certain steps to get the outcome I was looking for. Im sure there's quicker ways to do some, or all of what Im about to show you but this is just the way it struck me to do it. I didn't get all the pics taken at the first that I should have but hopefully I can explain it good enough for you to understand it as its only one or two pics I missed! Here goes:

Equipment Used:
- Paints:
Wicked Detail White
Wicked Black
Wicked 4011 Reducer
Etac Golden Ocher PSTR 103 (Private Stock)
Etac Burnt Umber PSTR 115 (Private Stock)

- Airbrushes:
Badger Krome 2n1
Iwata Custom Micron CM-C+ (for white highlights)

- Compressor:
Paasche D-3000-50

- Tools & Materials:
Xacto knife
Cutting Mat
Paper Towels
1/4" 3M automotive tape

- Masking/Stencils:
PF-1200 Material Backing (HeatPressNation, online)
Cardstock (WalMart)
Mini Fire Set (Airsick Stencils)

NOTES: I will do an entire tutorial on breaking the shotgun down and prepping it, it would have taken up too much room in this tutorial. Its not that hard, just a lot of pics for the breakdown of the shotgun and reassembly.

Step 1:
Step 1C spine stencils.jpg
Step 1D Spine stencil 2.jpgStep 1A skull stencils.jpgStep 1B skull stencils.jpg
Plan out your project before you start (or as in my case, have a general idea of what you want to do, lol, it didn't hit me completely until I started painting). Sketch out your designs or draw them up on the computer and print them or print references off the internet. Using my Xacto knife I cut out my stencils. The spine I just cut out the outline (substrate: PF-1200 Carrier sheet from heatpressnation dot com). The skulls are cut out of card stock. I drew them in Inkscape and was going to cut them out of my carrier sheet but had some issues with adjusting my down force on my plotter so I used the ink pen on my plotter to draw the skulls for me then I cut them out by hand (make sure to cut all your small pieces out first, eyes, nose, etc...then cut the outline out on these small stencils otherwise if you do the outline first you'll fight to hang on to it to cut the lil' pieces out.

Step 2:
Step 2a.jpg Step 3 finishing the backbone.jpg Step 3a.jpg
Now that the stencils are ready, I mix my paints for the bone color. I used Wicked white (reduced 1 part paint to 1 part reducer) and I used a 1oz siphon feed glass jar to mix it in to give you an idea of how much I mixed, the mixture filled a 1/4 of the glass. I then setup my Krome gravity feed airbrushes, filled one of them about an 1/8th of the way with the reduced white. I used the PF-1200 backing as my stencil/masking (it has an adhesive back and is clear, you can see it in the first pic), I place it where I want it, then using 1/4" automotive tape and paper towels I made 4 small shields that I could tape around the stencil to keep overspray down. I then lay down the white paint for the bone. In my other airbrush, I fill it about 1/8th full and add 6 drops of Etac Golden Ochre and 4 drops Burnt Umber, then add 10 -15 drops reducer once again to thin it down even more. You may have to reduce more or less depending on your setup and your airbrush.
When Im spraying the white base down, I use about 20psi. When I am spraying the details with the white, Golden Ochre and Burnt Umber, Im spraying around 8-10 psi, this too will vary some depending on where your sweet spot is for fine detailing. So after you spray the white base in thin layers (very important with waterbased paints) then get your darker mix and start detailing the bones.... Get online and find some references for shadows and textures, will help you a lot and take a lot of the guess work out of it. Once the details are done, move on to the next bone.


  • Step 2 applying stencils and paint.jpg
    Step 2 applying stencils and paint.jpg
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Step 3:
Step 4 backbone almost done.jpg
Step 4a.jpgStep 1D Spine stencil 2.jpgStep 7 back bone started.jpg
Now that I have the backbone laid out, I take the 2nd spine stencil that I made from cardstock(pic 3, and I made the gaps wide in the stencil in case I needed more space in between the disc's on other projects with it) and laid all the white down. Once I had all the white laid it was all free hand from there except a few sharp lines on the edges which I used my Airsick mini Fire stencil for but you can just use printer paper for a stencil as far as that goes.

Step 4:
Step 5A.jpgStep 6 almost done with skulls on front.jpgStep 8a laying the white backbone.jpgStep 8b laying the white skulls receiver back.jpg
Once again, I forgot to take a pick of the lower spine stencils I made. I actually used Greenstar Transfer paper for them since I was taping over areas I had already airbrushed. Its very light tack yet holds a good edge. I made four more small shields from printer paper and 1/4" automotive tape to deflect the overspray. I spray my white base for each little vertebrae and then get my skull stencils out and place them where I want them. Using the negative of the stencil, I sprayed the white base for each skull and was ready to start detailing the spine and the skulls. In the second pic, you can see how light I sprayed the skull stencils, you just want it dark enough to get your reference points to show up and then free hand almost everything else. Once you do all your detailing, take your positive skull stencils and hit the eye sockets and nose area to give them some crisp edges, not so hard and dark that it makes it look stenciled though.
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Step 5:
Step 6b receiver closeup needs highlights.jpgStep 6c elongated skulls front.jpgStep 7a backbone done on front.jpgStep 9 details done needs more highlights.jpg
Here's some pics of it pretty much done, will go back in with the Micron and add some white highlights to a few areas!

This is as far as I've made it but will update the rest as I go. Thanks for checking out my "somewhat" step by step, my apologies, I had actually meant to really put the pencil to this one and make a good step by step but I got busy and forgot to take some pics so it is what it is.

More to come

Here's a close up Pic:
Close up.jpg
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Think I'll still need a few more spots for photos.....
One more spot for photos and that should wrap it up, well after this spot of course, haha
Thanks Diego, will try to wrap it up this week and start a tutorial on the breakdown and prep of the shotgun as well!
Ok i get it now. Sometimes wrapping my head around all the masking steps is the hardest part.

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