Painting a Fiberglass CB or Ham Radio Antenna
It’s a common story.
You’ve set up your base station, installed your shiny new white A99 or Imax 2000 and have just started enjoy the fruits of your labor when the complaints start rolling in from the neighbors or spouse.
“That big white thing is so ugly”.
“You’re ruining my view, can’t you use something smaller”?
Base antennas are big and in most cases are pretty ugly looking to anyone not in the hobby. Now there are some stealth antenna options available such as a bazooka dipole or even the sneaky flagpole antenna but for most people the best solution may be to try to conceal or camouflage their existing antenna.
Now ideally a basic vertical base station antenna should be mounted fairly high in the air and away from all obstacles but sometimes the hobby involves compromises and that may mean mixing your antenna in with the nearby environment. One of the easiest solution is to paint your fiberglass antenna.
The first thing you’ll want to do is drop your antenna down, either on the ground or on some sawhorses for painting (it wouldn’t make much sense to go up and down a ladder to try and paint it while it’s mounted).
You may opt to tape up certain areas of the antenna prior to painting. This may include tuning rings, coax connectors, etc. Some people have suggested doing prep to the antenna surface but with the newer paints these days it isn’t necessary.
For paint I highly recommend Krylon Fusion for plastic. This spray paint is a great all purpose paint; doesn’t require prep and has very good lasting qualities. Retail you’ll pay about $5. One of the things people mention when painting an antenna is to avoid any paints that have any metals in them. You could possibly experience problems if you coated your antenna in a paint that has metal properties that might cause reflection issues or hinder the abilities of your antenna. Since the advice made sense to me I’ve always avoided these types of paints so I can’t truthfully say how much of an effect it might have on your system but it’s best to play it safe.
Now comes the hard part. Which color do you choose and what type of background are you trying to match? In many cases a white antenna may actually blend well into the sky and clouds while a light blue antenna does well for blending in with blue skies but for many people they’ll be looking to hide their antenna in the trees and a nice green color will do the trick.
For this article I pulled out the Imax I recently had done a review on and gave it a good coating with Krylon Fusion Hunter Green Satin finish. I wanted to experiment with mounting the antenna near a tree in the yard to see how well I could hide it after painting. In the end I was able to apply 3 individual coats and used up most of the can of paint with the job. I also painted part of the mast section and mounting bracket as well to see if I could cut down on sunlight reflection on the metal.
Someone had posed the question – will painting the antenna effect my SWR? In reality it shouldn’t have any effect. In this particular case I installed the antenna and tested SWR’s before and after painting and there was no change. Going back to the point above about metalic paints it might be possible that a paint with metal in it could effect SWR but with all the other non-metallic options there’s no reason to bother finding out.
I didn’t bother to take the time to tape off any parts of the antenna but I did try to avoid hitting the tuning ring section on the antenna so that I wouldn’t run into any problems with the threads later. Below are some pictures of the final paint job and the antenna installed so that it runs up and through a tree in the yard.
In these pictures the antenna isn’t quite as hidden as you might expect but it’s also a bit of trickery by the camera. In person the shadows make the antenna much less visible and as you can see from some of the pictures from further away it does start to blend into the trees and leaves much better.
The end result wasn’t bad in this case and while I’m sure I could have taken the project to the next level and used some different colors to create a true camo look it wasn’t really necessary. In fact when I asked my better half to go out in the backyard and find the antenna she initially had to scan our backyard trees for a full minute before finally noticing the top end sticking out of the tree. If someone who is looking for the antenna can’t notice it right away it’s a safe bet most of your neighbors won’t catch on for some time.
Is it possible to really make the antenna totally blend into the trees? Not perfectly because the straight lines of the antenna will always make it stand out to some extent.. I’m sure those of you with evergreen trees could definitely get a fiberglass antenna painted and hidden better than this example. Remember as well that it’s possible to try to blend your antenna in with the bark or branch colors depending on the types of trees in your yard.
I do know some people with height restrictions who have their antennas only mounted 10′ or so off the ground and near their house. In those cases you could try to match the color and trim of the house to blend the antenna into the siding.
One last point I’ll make here is about SWR’s and mounting near trees. In this install I mounted the antenna in a tree with small branches that were fairly well spaced out but trees and branches can cause issues with reflect so before going out and strapping your antenna to the nearest tree make sure you test out the install and get some good SWR readings. Ideally it’s always best to have your antenna up high above any possible objects it might interact with negatively so try to get as much antenna as possible above or away from the tree itself.
I had three different people email me this month with this question so hopefully this gives you some good ideas to use at home. I’m sure some of the more creative operators out there will soon be posting up their own trick paint jobs.
Fall is coming, so your green antenna might stand out a bit more once the leaves fall off 🙂 73’s.