Picture of Steampunked Nerf Gun
Transform the Nerf N-Strike Night Finder into a steampunk gun with paint and a few buttons!
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Step 1: Paint the gun.

Picture of Paint the gun.
I first cleaned the gun with rubbing alcohol to remove any grease, dust, dirt, etc. Then I used a variety of sizes of paintbrushes (just the normal artist's brushes from Michael's or Aaron Brothers that come in a pack of five) to paint the gun. Use the fine tip brush to get the edges and little details like the nails. Work slowly.

I used the cheap acrylic craft paints from Michael's (Americana or Folk Art) that you can find on sale for $0.39 each. For the main body of the gun (yellow and gray parts on the original) I used the Raw Sienna color. The recessed and raised details are Pure Gold. You will probably need two coats to get the right coverage. For the "metal" pieces I painted them Slate Grey first, then used my fingers to rub/buff on some Metallic Silver to get the right look.

Step 2: Dirty it up!

Picture of Dirty it up!
To get the antique, this-gun-has-been-through-a-lot look, I had to dirty it up with more paint. I thinned some black craft paint with water, then used my fingers to rub the mixture all over the gun. There's nothing scientific about this step; just rub all over and if it's too dark, wipe it with a damp paper towel before it dries. To get the authentic aged look, pay especial attention to the nooks and crannies that would normally collect dirt and be hard to clean: around the "nails" and in the grooves around the ridges.

You may need a couple of coats to get the right look. Just let it dry and look at it again after a break to see what it still needs.

Step 3: Decorate it!

Picture of Decorate it!
To cover up the very un-steampunk giant "Nerf" logo, I looked through my button stash for giant buttons that still had the gold/brass steampunk aesthetic. If you don't have a button stash, look through the button aisle at a Jo-Ann Fabrics or any other well-stocked fabric store; they have so many choices for large gold buttons. You'll want ones that either have a flat back, or are made of plastic.

I chose these gold and crystal-esque buttons, but they had a buttonhole thing on the back that stuck out and prevented them from lying flat. Since they're plastic, I was able to use a hammer to smash the back a few times and then break off the sticky-out-y piece. Lay your button on a thick mat (I used my bath mat) before hammering!

I also felt that the bright gold color of the button wasn't quite appropriate for the antique look, so I colored over the edges with a black Sharpie.

Once the button backs were flattened and the front was "antiqued," I used hot glue to attach them over the logo.

I also found a couple other buttons to put in the grooves on either side to dress the gun up some more. I chose a wing for one side and a wood-looking button with a tiny crest for the other side. I attached them with more hot glue.

On the top of the gun, just for a little more visual interest, I attached the handle of a plastic paintbrush that I painted gold and a brass capnut.

Step 4: Make more!

Picture of Make more!
This basic series of steps can be applied to any plastic gun. I used the same paints and similar embellishments on a tiny little water gun from the dollar store for a similar effect. Think about how you can incorporate the existing parts of the gun in your steampunk aesthetic; for example, I left a little bit of the neon green plastic showing here because it can function as a cool little vial of chemicals.
MomFishx223 days ago

Very nice! Using buttons to cover up the logo is a nice touch. And, by the way, the sticky-outy thing on the button is called the shank.

The orange tip is a safety feature, but I have wondered if distressing or dirtying it up like the rest of the gun would work.

RoseS33 months ago

Thank you so much for sharing this brilliant tutorial! Just featured it on my blog as one of the best geeky DIY projects I have ever seen!

That is a great design and will look good with my modification! Only thing is: That gun is the Nerf Nitefinder, not the name you listed above
0;)Angel5 months ago
thanks for the tips. kmart had them on sale for $2 a piece. they completed my steampunk costume.
ello chaps im 16 and im in the process of modding/steampunking my recon cs-6 now dont get too excited the only things ive done to it so far is taking out the trigger lock and mag lock and hot glued a twist dead bolt and a hindge to my gun but anywho my question is how can i paint my gun too look steam punked very cheaply oh also just fyi if you want a really grimy look ive found that using old somewhat melted electrical tape makes it loook really grimy if you put it on then take it off next day careful though kinda sticky
Question: You didn't sand it? Maybe I just missed that, unless you used special paints?
My husband paints miniatures, and he's always painting right onto plastic. He might have a special primer that he uses to make the paints stick, but he's never had any problems with them coming off. Acrylic paint is basically tiny bits of plastic suspended in paint-stuff, so you'd figure that it would handle being put onto plastic pretty well.
rc262042 years ago
The nerf gun looks great. But the only thing I disapprove is the painting over the orage barrel. I think it is required by law that dart guns must have a orange tip if you bring them outside the home.
Cation Designs (author)  rc262042 years ago
I had no idea that that law existed! I've brought this to large events before and nobody ever said anything, nor did I see any modded Nerf guns that had retained their orange tips. I think this is pretty obviously not a real gun, but I guess that can be disputed. Can you link me to a site explaining this law?
i don't know if that is the exact law. But we have a nerf gun event at my collage and i attended a safty meeting where a police officer explained that the tip can't be painted. I think this has more to do with police knowing that what your carrying is not a real gun. I see the reasoning with that when it comes to campus safety
Cation Designs (author)  rc262042 years ago the events I went to, they have a weapons check and as long as something is peace-tied, or has no ammunition, or is obviously a toy, it's allowed. Maybe rules vary by location?
I think that may be the case. I just know it is against the law in my location.
ryannui2 years ago
what would the "craft paint" be.
Cation Designs (author)  ryannui2 years ago
If you go back and look at Step 1, I mentioned that I used the "Folk Art" or "Americana" brand of acrylic craft paint from Michael's or Joann's, both brands work just fine for this purpose. Just water down the generic black color for the dirt look.
RavenHawke3 years ago
just an fyi, i am working on the nerf gun thing too and 60 grit sand paper will take off any unwanted logos (nerf) or lettering (do not point in anyone's eyes) lol, and 320 grit smooths it out again. :) I'm at the painting stage but i havent had time!! arg.
and these are not specific. i basically bought very rough sand paper, and very fine sand paper. it doesnt matter exactly what number...
TheHobbit813 years ago
Very nice. A good guide.

I have some folk-art paint and some model paint, the folk-art would be good for the wood and/o leather parts and the model paint would be good for the metallic parts.

I think that you have provided enough motivation for me to start my own projects, thanks, 6 stars.
notalis19703 years ago
It's NOT boring!!! It's cool as hell...I have the same gun and now I want to do it, too.
Yes, this nerdy 41 year old mom of two went out and armed herself with Nerf guns and ammo, just for hell of it. I shoot my kids and dog, and husband occasionally. I'll paint it so it looks more serious ;-)
Cation Designs (author)  notalis19703 years ago
Haha thanks! I hope one day I can be as awesome of a mom! Right now the Nerf gun is just for playing with the cat :)
Your cat looks pissed off :-) BTW, no one calls me cool. Kids call me NERD and husband calls me IMMATURE LOL
Cation Designs (author)  notalis19703 years ago
My cat was not pleased with the fact that I was paying attention to this plastic thing and not to him ;) My husband definitely does his fair share of sighing when he sees most of projects!
Kiteman3 years ago
I love this, but when is somebody going to give a similar make-over to the darts?
Cation Designs (author)  Kiteman3 years ago
I actually just colored the orange on mine with black Sharpie. I was going to paint the suction cup originally, too, but was concerned it would affect its suctioning abilities.
black hole3 years ago
Very well done. So much cooler that ugly yellow.