How to Stain Deer Antlers – The 3 Best Ways
Do you want to stain/color those antlers that are pretty much “colorless”? I’ve tried many methods and I believe I’ve found the best way to color those antlers.
Using wood stain to color those antlers is what I’ve found that works best. I prefer using the Minwax brand of wood stain, but other brands will also work just as well.
Keep reading and I’ll discuss the 3 best methods of staining those deer antlers back to their original – or close to their original colored antlers.
Also remember to mask the skull before you start any of processes below that I’ve outlined for staining your antlers. We want to color the antlers, not the skull. Remember to degrease the antlers as well, or at least get the dirt, dust or grime off of them before you do any staining of the antlers. Degreasing is really just using a good soap to clean the antlers.
1. Acrylic or Oil Paint
Using acrylic or oil paint on antlers gives you a lot of different options of applying paint. Many taxidermy studios use a paint brush or an airbrush to apply this paint to the antlers they are working on.
When using a paint, whether it’s acrylic or oil, the preparation of the antlers to accept the paint is more crucial than using a wood stain or coffee grounds. It’s important to use some type of degreaser or cleaner on the antlers before painting them. Also, you may need to roughen the surface of some antlers that you are about to paint. Regular steel wool will work for roughening up those antlers. Go very easy with the steel wool, you don’t need to do a whole lot of work here.
After you’re done taking steel or even a fine grit sandpaper to the antlers, I’ve found that using a regular dish soap will clean the antlers sufficiently so that the paint will adhere properly to the antlers. Antlers are very porous and don’t need a whole lot of preparation to take paint, stain or coffee. When using paint as opposed to coffee or wood stain you do have to do a little more work with the steel wool. In fact I rarely use sandpaper or steel wool when staining antlers with coffee or wood stain.
With painting using acrylics or oils, you can get some nice effects while using an airbrush. Just remember to thin your paint.
I prefer using acrylic paint over oil and I have found that the best color for antlers (if you’re using acrylics) is “burnt umber”. This comes down to personal preference. Try a couple of different colors to narrow down what might be your favorite color.
Using coffee to color antlers is an awesome choice for coloring antlers. This is my second choice for coloring antlers. Just get some coffee beans and grind them up fairly well. After grinding the beans up, place some hot water in a container with the grounded up coffee, mix it up real good and then let it sit for a few minutes.
Now after letting the coffee/water mixture sit for a few minutes you should have a soupy mix of coffee grounds and water. Now you can apply the grounds/water mixture directly to the antlers with your hands (wear rubber gloves, remember…coffee does stain) or a rag.
You can also use instant coffee as well. It also does a great job at staining those antlers. You can use whatever instant coffee for this. Try using Folgers or Tasters Choice. Those work great, but I’m sure any brand of instant coffee will work.
Right after applying the coffee grounds to your antlers, you can remove the excess grounds off your antlers with a brush of some sort.
3. Wood Stain
My first choice in staining deer antlers is to use wood stain. Why? Well, first of all it takes more prep work when using acrylic or oil paint not to mention it just takes longer. And secondly, as far as using coffee it’s more messy and it’s just a sin to waste coffee on staining antlers when you can use something far better – and that’s wood stain.
Just about any name brand wood stain will work, but I have found that my favorite is the Minwax brand. As far as color of stain – that’s up to you, but I have found the best color is “Black Walnut”. You’ll have to experiment with the different colors of stain, but “Minwax Black Walnut” is the most accurate deer antler stain that I have found.
As far as application of the stain, just use an old rag. Dip the rag into the stain and just start brushing the antlers doing just a little bit at a time. I like to put less stain on the tips of the antlers because I think it’s more realistic to have the tips more white than brown.
And whatever you do, make sure you mask that skull so no color gets on that skull. It’s a bummer taking the time to get your skull all nice and white just to blow it by getting stain on your skull because you forgot or were to lazy to mask the skull. When I mask a skull, I use plenty of masking tape and paper. I’ve used plastic grocery bags instead of paper and then finished up with tape as well.
Check out my video on how I stained two whitetail deer antlers.
After Staining those Antlers
After staining those antlers you can go ahead and hang them however you like. Many people wonder if you have to add any type of clear coat to the antlers. I’ve only done this once because I thought I would see how it looked. I used a semi-gloss polyurethane and it came out a little too shiny (see pics below). Since that time I haven’t added anymore clear coats to my antlers. They look just fine without clear coating and the staining methods used above do the job just fine and the color always holds up. I’ve also heard that some people have used Mop and Glo on their antlers.
Just stain the antlers and hang that skull. Using any of the methods above will give you awesome results. I wouldn’t worry about putting a clear coat on the antlers.
Easy, Inexpensive and Sturdy Way to Hang your Deer Skull
There are many ways to showcase those newly stained antlers, whether you are making a European skull mount or you are just wanting to show off a single antler or two. Pinterest has all kinds of ideas for displaying your antlers or your European mount. Check that site out and do a search for “antler display” or “European mounts”. Below is a video on using an inexpensive way to display your deer skull with a simple utility hook.
I hope this information has been of help and whether you are coloring the antlers on your trophy mount or you are just trying to touch up those nice sheds you found while walking through the woods, then this information will get you down the path to getting those antlers looking awesome.