I am sharing here all of my knowledge of many years on professional drum painting.
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These instructions from 2018 were made to paint a Remo drum - both the Remo Buffalo Drum, as well as the Remo Fiberskyn Drum. They both have the same vegan material they are made of, which is called Fiberskiyn. The name "Buffalo" refers to the deep bass sound and the power animal, not the material.
After 3 years, I decided it was time to make an update video on what art supplies and tools I use to paint my drums! I am still using the same Molotow markers and the varnish, but I have found additional tools and helpers to make painting drums even more graceful!
Remo Buffalo Drum or Remo Fiberskyn Frame Drum (Both of these are vegan and use a synthetic material. You can also paint animal skin this way but it is important to make sure the drum skin has not been oiled, as that can interfere with acrylic paints, so check in with the maker of the drum!) I regularly use 16 inch drums, occasionally 14 inch drums or 22 inch drums:
You can also find those at Amazon, Ebay or Remo US.
Pencil, eraser, sharpener for making a sketch either on a template or on the drum itself. If you draw on a template, use HB. If you draw on the drum directly, use 2B. Use a good quality eraser that does not smear. I use Uni Boxy erasers.
Acrylic paint with a good lightfastness rate (and brushes) or Acrylic Markers (I use Molotow All For One Acrylic Markers 2mm for most colors. That size works best for me. I also use some 4mm ones to fill in backgrounds.
Since 2023 I also use the Molotow Twin markers with a smaller and a wider tip - 1.5mm and 4mm.
The thinner nibs 1.0 and 1.5mm are a bit tricky to use. They dry up easily or get clogged, or a big blotch of paint comes out at first. Be careful with these.
If the tips do dry up after some weeks or months of not being used, you can revive them by taking them out of the pen with tweezers and soaking them in water for a few minutes, the drying them off with a paper towel and putting them back in - works like a charm!
All of these markers use the same acrylic ink, and you can buy refill bottles, which is great if you do end up painting a lot. For painting one or two drums, you will not need to worry about refills, though.
A little piece of paper for making first paint strokes as the markers sometimes clog up or spill, a clean paper sheet to rest your hand on, so you do not touch any painted areas with your hand. Also, if you want to make a template, you will need paper for this.
Compasses to help you with accuracy of drawing circles. I use several compasses. One is just a regular school compass by Faber Castell. One is a If you want to make bigger circles, you need to buy the extension for it.
Ruler / protractor / stencils to measure your design if you go for something symmetrical. Also stencils will be useful for drawing small circles! A protractor will be great for mandala designs. Following links are just examples, you can order any other brand or similar product:
Mask areas you do not want to spray. You will need this to mask the handle of the mallet to get a clear line, you will use it to stick a template to your drum, or to mask the rim of the Remo frame drum. This tape comes off easily and does not leave any residue. I use CT washi tape.
At the end, you will want to varnish you drum to make it playable! I recommend acrylic varnish (I use Molotow UV Acrylic Varnish Matte - make sure your varnish is compatible with your paint or markers - ask in art store and do test runs!)
If you work with black, the glossy makes the colors pop more and the black look more beautiful.
Update 2023: I have spoken with the company Molotow directly and they recommended their Molotow One4All Water based clear coat. The difference between this varnish and the UV varnish mentioned above is that the UV varnish is mainly for color protection and the One4All varnish is best for durability as it contains PU.
Both varnishes work.
Creating a template is optional, you can always draw directly on the drum with a soft pencil, like 2B). But if you do want to make one, as it is very comfortable to draw and play around with ideas on paper, what you will need is paper in the size of your drum - for a 16" drum you need A2 or glue smaller papers together with either washi tape or scotch tape or get a bigger paper.
You will need scissors to cut out your template.
Get Carbon Tracing Paper / Graphite Paper for template in black for a white drum. If you want to paint a drum black and then see the lines, the tracing paper would need to be white or yellow.
This video is not specifically about the drum painting process, but it will still be useful for you to watch if you plan on using gold on your drum. The winner of all the methods tested is the DecoArt Paint Pen Marker, an oil based golden paint marker that almost looks like gold leaf.
(The only downside of this marker is that it has a strong odor - like all oil based pens, you will need to ventilate your working area well.)
1. Cover up the Remo logo with Molotow All4One Acrylic Marker 229 nature white. This color matches the drum very well. While you let it dry, go to the next step. Sometimes, you might need to repeat this to fully cover the logo - if you add a layer of other color on top, once is fine.
2. Plan your design and create a template on paper. You can use a compass for this, or turn the drum around and draw the shape with a pencil. Then cut it out with scissors. You can also directly draw your design on the drum with a soft pencil (2B works best, as HB is too hard for the drum surface).
3. Fixate the template on your drumhead with washi tape (masking tape) on two sides and trace with tracing paper. Make sure you have the tracing paper with the dark (coated) side facing down - if in doubt, make a quick stroke and check if it worked!
4. Start tracing - just draw over the templates pencil lines and it will be transferred onto your drum. Be sure the template is securely taped on the drum - if the tape comes off, it is troublesome as it will never be exactly at the same spot again. Geometric designs require that precision.
5. Remove the template and start coloring with acrylic markers or paint. For bigger areas you can use the Molotow One4All Acrylic 227HS with the 4mm nib, or the Acrylic Twin by the same brand. I tend to avoid painting over an area with my markers, as it doesn't work so well, so I leave out big areas to fill in later.
6. Let it dry. If you have lots of different colors, let one color dry before you apply the next so they do not run into each other. A hair dryer can help speed this process up.
Put on some music you love! Stretch in between layers! Have some water!
7. Fill in other areas with paint. One after another, but let each color dry first before proceeding. Always be careful about paint that is wet, to not smear it. Mistakes are hard to fix. Be mindful. Only paint when you feel well and highly focussed.
8. Use a compass if you desire perfectly drawn circles. Check in the materials section what I wrote about this tool (Copic clip on compass) and other tools, like rulers and stencils that will help you a lot!
With stencils, be careful, as they easily smear the paint! You need to wipe the stencil clean after each use.
9. Adding metallic colors. When I am mostly done with the other colors, I add golden outlines and circles. Metalic paint is very fragile and I need to be careful to not smear it or damage it.
It is best to add metallic paint at the end, or as late as possible. Otherwise you might need to add a second coating.
10. At the end, add finer details and at last, the golden codes. It is important all other areas are really dry before this step, and that you protect the drum with a sheet of white paper, so your hand doesn't touch any painted area.
11. Masking and getting ready to spray on varnish! For painting the mallets, cover the heads, as you do not want spray on them. Then go outdoors and spray a thin coat of varnish on your mallet and your drum. Follow spraying instructions in the bottle.
Let it dry for a day. Then gently remove the masking tape. If you paint a Remo Frame drum, it is a good idea to mask the wooden frame. The burlap material of the Remo Buffalo drum on the other hand doesn't require masking.
12. Congratulations! You painted your own drum! Yay! You did it! Celebrate your awesomeness and enjoy your new drum!
Maybe you feel like doing a ceremony or ritual to meet the spirit of your drum!
If you want, send me an email with your creation or tag me on social media. I love seeing creative projects!
Yes, it can and I have painted many drums and they have been in use for around six years by people from all over the planet. Just make sure you spray it at the end with protective acrylic varnish. A drum that has been varnished is safe to be used and no, no paint is chipping off!
Most people use acrylic paint, I have also heard of people using oil paint but I have no experience with that.
The trick is to apply only a very thin layer of paint, and a thin layer of varnish. Then the change in sound is only minimal (for the shaman drums). Some people might not even be able to tell the difference at all.
If I however paint the drum with acrylics, perhaps many different layers applied with a brush, that will alter the sound and muffle it. It will still sound ok (hopefully), but you will notice a difference. As I don't work with acrylic paint, only markers, this is not an issue for me.
So I would advice you to be mindful to apply the paint as thinnly as you can to not change the sound.
However, if you want to paint your FRAME DRUM, and you plan to play this drum with your hands, you will hear more of the sound changes, as a frame drum has more overtones and the hands bring out a bigger sound spectrum than a mallet.
In that case, you might want to have several frame drums - a painted one and an unpainted one. So you can play with different sounds.
I haven't found a safe way to remove the logo. However, I do paint over it with the acrylic marker by MOLOTOW in nature white. Usually, I do this in two rounds - I fully cover the logo, let it dry and paint over a second time.
There is also a signal white one marker - the nature white works better. You can also use regular acrylic paint, however, you would need to mix a slightly creme / eggshell color to match the drum as it is not plain white.
If you plan to paint your drum with acrylic paint, you might not need to cover the logo. That depends on if the color you are using is going to be transparent, semi-transparent or opaque. For example, if you paint over the drum with a dark blue, purple, brown or red, the logo will likely be covered by those colors. If you cover it with yellow, orange or pink, the logo might shine through and it might be a good idea to simply cover it with paint paint first.
The Remo Bahia Black Earth Drum is the same size as the Buffalo drum but has an additional vinyl coating that produces a strong bass. I have tried to paint that model but gotten mixed results, so I no longer paint it. If you do want to try, you need to lightly sand it first so paint can stick better to the vinyl surface. Due to the soft surface, tracing from a template will not work well. So you will need to hand draw your motif on the drum or find another way. Apply paint not too thickly to not dull he sound. At the end, spray with varnish. The varnish will remain tacky if you do not cover the whole top surface with a coat of acrylic paint first, before adding markers etc. So make sure you follow that step, to not directly varnish the vinyl, but to have a coat of acrylic on top.
So here again the steps of painting the Bahia drum:
1. Sand top surface lightly
2. Cover the whole vinyl surface with a layer of acrylic paint (foam roller, brush on etc.)
3. Add your painting with markers, brushes etc.
Molotow Acrylic Markers (All4One) in 2mm. There are also bigger sizes, however, I find the 2mm most suitable. The 1mm only comes in black and white (plus tips you can replace the 2mm with), and those are hard to use as the paint sometimes cloggs them up or suddenly a big chunk comes out and spoils your artwork - so do the first splash on a paper before going on the drum. With the 2mm size, that doesn't happen, but it is still good to have a smear paper ready to get them started and when they clogg up, you can free them on the paper.
Alternatively you can look up POSCA markers, they are popular in the US, but they do not have the easy refill system that Molotow offers, so I don't use them, except their gold which is more shiny than the Molotow gold.
Lastly, regular acrylic paint out of the tube or bottle will work as well. I recommend getting a good quality brand like Lucas, Schmincke, etc rather than super cheap paint that might not hold well over the years and lose its color. I also love to use the refill bottles of the Molotow brand, this can be applied with a brush also.
Always use varnish at the end - and ask your local shop what varnish suits the paint you get plus try it out on a piece of paper before you do everything on the drum. Some varnishes will smear your paint, I have heard. Not with Molotow, but other brands.
I hope you enjoyed this page and all the info that I shared with you. If you have any additional questions, feel free to reach out!
Much love to you!