Mike’s Custom Corvette Airbrush Flames and Airbrush Fire

Mike’s Custom Corvette Airbrush Flames and Airbrush Fire

1.) This is a real treat, we’re starting with a beautiful Corvette that’s in great condition. The Owner of this classic ride has ordered a complete repaint with a side of custom airbrushing. He’s already done a lot of the pre-work disassembly for us, removing things like chrome trim, marker lights, emblems etc. This is a smart move on his part as the neighborhood is a little shady and rare, original emblems sometimes have a way of “disappearing” and ending up on EBAY. Unfortunate but true.

I always remove and disassemble as much as possible to give me comfortable access to all the nooks, crannies and hard to reach areas of a vehicle. Anywhere that water would be able to get to, I want to be able to get to. The more thorough you are at this stage in the game, the better the quality of paint job you’ll end up with. Note: Label everything! This car may be in the shop for a month or longer and although I may be an arrogant, conceited, attractive bastard that thinks he has a photographic memory, I’m not stupid. If you take the time to label everything now as you disassemble, it’s going to save you a lot of pain and headache when you’re ready to re-assemble. Especially if there’s more than 1 person on a project.

Have you ever sat staring at a finished project, holding 2 small bolts in your hand, scratching your head, wondering: “Where the hell do these go?” Yes? I thought so. That happened because you thought you were smarter then God and you didn’t  label anything.

2a.) This is the catalyst that prompted the repaint, (backed into by another driver) it’s a job in itself and the perfect starting point for this project.  The key to a good, strong, permanent fiberglass repair, is getting down to the raw fiberglass material and working your way up from there. On the surface, this didn’t look like much of a hit but once the paint was sanded down, the real extent of the damaged was revealed. It wasn’t life threatening, but it did require some special attention. Use a combination of hand sanding, die grinder, DA Sander and even a flat head screwdriver to remove the paint and get down to the fiberglass. Sandwich in new fiberglass mat from the front and the back, covering 6 to 8 inches around the damaged area in all directions. Apply several layers and once dry, use Kitty Hair (short strand fiberglass) to fill and smooth over as needed. Finish up with a light layer of body filler.

2b.) Doors and hood are removed, the interior and engine bay are masked in preparation for the upcoming body work. The front bumper cover is removed. It was semi sun warped and is being replaced with an updated composite version that does not warp. A front lip is also being added.

3a.) The collision repair is in full swing, you can see where the damage/repair on the upper part of the rear deck lid extended well into the middle of the car. I constantly compare and measure this side with the original undamaged side to make sure they are identical. Tip: Create a template of what the body should look like at different angles by holding a piece of poster board up against the rear or side corner of the body and tracing the profile. Then you can cut it out and match it up exactly with the other side.

3b.) Bodywork has begun. The whole car gets a once-over with 220 grit sandpaper and a DA. This is going leave major sand scratches but they will be filled and covered when I spray the primer. I don’t want to sand off all the existing paint, it was in pretty good shape and I would be hard pressed to get a better seal/adhesion then what’s already on there.  The fiberglass on these Vette’s are like a sponge. They really soak up solvents, oil and other contaminants so the less raw fiberglass that get’s exposed, the better. The exception to this was of course on the back corner where the damage was.

The composite bumper cover has been prepped and installed. We’re going to try and eliminate the seam where it connects to the car and achieve a nice smooth look, by filling it with a non-shrinking, sandable adhesive.

4a.) Are the 20 in. rims too much? Pulled the car out and tried these on for fun, they just barely fit.

4b.) After being prepped, all the individual parts are hung and sprayed with 3 coats of 2K filler primer. The paint booth may look ghetto but trust me it does the job. Right above the back door there is a killer 16 in. Dayton Explosion Proof Fan that pushes air like nobody’s business. There are 16 large gerbils running on a wheel inside that fan to keep things going smooth.  Keep your paint booth clean, always wet the floor before spraying to keep your dust down, if possible do your body work elsewhere and all costs, keep your Gerbils fed. Pretty standard stuff.

Bodywork took a while, no dents (it’s fiberglass)  but plenty of small waves in the body. Once bodywork was finished, the whole car got 3 full coats of 2K filler primer. After drying for at least a full 24 hours, it was block sanded with 220-320 grit sand paper. After that, pulled it out side, blew it off thoroughly with an air gun then washed and dried it. Time to mask everything off and get ready for sealer.

5.) Using a non-catalyzed sealer on a project like this is crazy talk. If I did do that (which I didn’t) as soon as I sprayed the basecoat, the reducer in the base coat would re-activate the sealer and I’d have a nasty little reaction on my hands (which I didn’t). In fact, I’d probably have to scrape off all the basecoat, (never happen) then scrape off the 2 coats of  sealer (no chance), then clean the primer underneath (in your dreams) and then re-mask the whole bloody thing for the third time!! (that part sucked)

After learning my lesson the hard way, switched to a high quality 2K Sealer and sprayed 2 full coats. Then 4 full coats of Debeers Metallic Blue Pearl (which really kicks ass by the way) followed by 4 coats of clear. You’ll notice the seam around the front bumper cover is looking nice and invisible.

Note: To ensure a perfect color match when re-assembled, I painted the doors, hood and head light covers at the same time as the body. It may not be necessary to do it this way, but with this metallic pearl blue I’m not taking any chances.

6a.)  Pic of the old hood to show how the seam used to look on the front bumper cover.

6b.) Things were looking good at this point, so let’s airbrush already! The hood, door jambs and back deck lid are all going to get touched by an angel. There is really no good cut lines for the clear on this Corvette so I decided to wet sand the whole thing with 600 grit then rinsed and dried it.

6c.) It took about 3 1/2 weeks to get here but we’re finally ready for the fun part. I use 1/8 in. blue fine line tape to layout some classic flames on the left side of the hood. I create a pounce pattern (same technique as used in  custom accord airbrush graphics tutorial) to layout my flames on the right hand side. Usually I would mask the negative space of the flames but for the technique I’m going to use here, I mask the positive part of the flames using 16 in. transfer tape.

I fill the airbrush with a dark purple basecoat and spray in some organic looking TRU Fire keeping my application free and loose. Once I’ve got a good fill of purple fire, I switch to white base coat and spray a second layer of fire. I prefer to use a combination of free hand brush strokes and home made fire stencils. (Sorry for the lack of pics on this one.)

7a.) I wipe it off with a tack rag then using a touch up gun, I cover the entire airbrushed area with a nice coat of Oriental Bue Kandy, make sure it’s dry and then unmask it. Looks pretty cool but it’s begging to be pinstriped. I wipe everything off again with a tack rag to get rid of the overspray and help knock down the paint edge so it doesn’t grab my brush when I try to pinstripe it.

7b.) I use Silver HOK striping paint and a 00 Mack brush to pinstripe the flames. I finished up the airbrushing on the door jambs and deck lid then the whole car got 3 more costs of clear.

7c.) You can see the darker under layer of purple flames better out here in the sun.

8.) Detail.

9.) These aren’t the best photos but quite a drastic change from the classic red Corvette that pulled into the shop about a month ago. Really looked killer once all the trim and emblems had bee reinstalled + the engine on this beast is just as clean and detailed as the rest of it.  A real one of kind custom Corvette. Thanks Mike.

10.) Door jambs.

If you’d like to know how long this project took and what it cost to do it, click here-> custom airbrushed corvette. This is Members Only content so you will need to Login to view it. If you’re not a member already, you can Register for FREE.

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Cesar’s 1997 Custom Accord Airbrush Graphics

1.) This is one of the first graphic jobs I ever painted. Cesar has been a valuable customer and good friend for many years now. He’s making some changes to his Honda Accord and wants to update the graphics with something a little more eye catching. The graphics are going to be done a little unorthodoxically (It is so a word poser!) because he is switching to a 2 tone paint job, keeping green on the upper half and adding a pearl white to the lower half.  Juan of Juan’s Autobody and Paint is handling the basecoat and clear, he’s a magician. I take a picture of the car, scan it into Corel Draw and sketch out a tribal style graphic that’s a little more extreme.. I plan to add a semi-carbon fiber effect to the graphics by using a rubber kitchen cabinet mat as a stencil.

2.) You can see the original graphic (Also done by yours truly.) a little better in this pic. It was definitely time for an upgrade. The car has been washed, wet sanded, rinsed and dried. Or as I like to call it, WWRD’d. I find that the more acronyms I use for things, the smarter I sound and the more I can charge. I laid out the division line for the 2 tone in the first pic and the second pic shows the car just after the white base coat had been applied. Note: Wet Sanding had to be meticulous on this one. The original graphic had an edge on it and if any part of it wasn’t sanded flat, it would have shown through in the final product. At the same time, we also didn’t want to sand through the color on the top half of the car.

3.) Using my Corel Draw sketch as a reference, I start laying out the graphic with 1/4 & 1/8 in. blue fine line tape. I always start with the longest lines first, that way I have a good reference point across the entire length of the car. I try to scale the graphic as best I can by constantly stepping back away from the vehicle and checking my work.  Making this graphic look cool on an 8 1/2 x 11 printout and making it look cool on the actual car are 2 different things. Don’t be afraid to change/adapt your graphic to better fit the space of the car. I want to make sure I’ve got a good balance of negative space and actual graphic. The shapes, curves, angles and spaces in between the different segments of the graphic should stay pretty consistent.

4.) The key to pulling a good straight curved line is doing it all in one motion. Check your work by putting the side of your face right against the body of the vehicle and looking straight down the line you just pulled. This is an easy way to spot a wavering line. Take the time to do this part right. You can half ass everything else on the car after this….totally joking, take your time. A mechanic stool on wheels really helps for the longer lines. Tip: Occasionally I’ll put masking tape around the tips of  my index and pointer fingers (Think Michael Jackson) to help them slide along the tape.

Trim all loose ends and points of the blue fine line tape as needed.

5.) I use a roll of 16 in. masking paper and tape it along the length of the car directly over the graphic. There are several ways to transfer the lines of the graphic to the paper. I happened to have a dull pencil. I lightly press the pencil up against the lines of the graphic at a 45 degree angle and trace the whole thing. A crayon rubbed gently over the whole graphic will work also.

6.) Cardboard or stiff short strand carpet will work for this next bit but I like to use the grey foam flooring pads, the ones that connect together like a puzzle. Place a bunch of these in a row on the floor and then lay your traced pattern on top of them. Use a pounce wheel to trace the lines of the pattern (Old School Baby!) As you can see in the picture, this is going to place a series of small holes along your pencil lines. Once you’ve traced the entire design, line up and securely tape your newly made pounce pattern to the other side of the car. I use the door jambs and seams to take reference measurements from so that I know my graphic is lined up similarly on both sides.

7.) I dump some blue straight line chalk/powder (available at Home Depot) into the only thin black dress sock I own. There are “professional” pounce pads available you can buy, but I figured mine as well put this lonely sock to good use. A regular thick sock won’t work, it’s got to be thin enough to let the chalk pass through it. Tie the sock in a knot at the top so all the chalk doesn’t fall out. Experiment with your pouncing technique; I like to lightly pounce the sock against the pattern and then sweep across the area I’ve pounced to make sure I get a thorough coverage. Ideally, you want to use the least amount of chalk possible because it makes a mess and will effect the the tape adhesion. Check your work by lifting up a side of the pattern to make sure you’re getting a good transfer of the chalk outline  to the vehicle.

8.) If you followed directions, you should end up with something like this, a nice chalk outline of your graphic. If yours didn’t turn out like this, it’s because you’re parents don’t love you.

This part kind of sucks. I need to run my blue fine line on this side now but I’ve got chalk everywhere. I usually take an air gun at this point and try to blow off as much of the chalk as possible without losing my lines. Start with the air gun far away from the surface so you don’t blow all the chalk off at once. Even after most of the chalk dust is blown off, I still find myself using a tack rag to wipe off excess chalk right up against the lines.

9.) Both sides are masked and ready to spray the base color for the graphic. Masking is just as important as any other step in this process. Over spray will find it’s way into each and every little opening  or unmasked area you neglect to cover. It sucks when you’re all finished with a graphic, unmask everything and then have several spots where you have to go back and repair because of a faulty masking job.

As you can imagine, there was a major edge where that white and green division line is and if I would have left it as is, it would have shown up in the finished product and looked like garbage. I used 400 grit sandpaper to feather that edge and sand it smooth. Blow it off, tack rag it and we’re ready for base coat.

10.) 3 coats of metallic beige base. I let it dry for about 30 minutes then gently wiped the whole graphic again with a tack rag to remove any over spray. Using 1/8 in. blue fine line tape, I mask the outside edge of the whole graphic (pictured). This will serve as my pinstripe.

I used a rubber place holder mat (You can get these at WalMart, they come in rolls.  Commonly found in kitchen cabinets or used under area rugs on hard wood floors to prevent sliding.) taped up against the side of the graphic, as a stencil to spray through to create a kind of faux carbon fiber effect. (Sorry no pictures. This will be covered in a future tutorial.) I added a touch of medium brown base coat to the original graphic color for this part.

Everything is unmasked, the entire car is inspected for any touch ups or small repairs that might need to be done. Off to Juan’s for the clear coat.

11.) Sorry, no side shot with the door down.

To find out what I’d charge to do a job like this and how long it took to do it, click here-> airbrush graphics. This is Members Only content so you will need to Login to view it. If you’re not a member already, you can Register for FREE.

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Louise’s Electric Blue Skull and Flames Airbrushed Honda Shadow

Louise’s Electric Blue  Honda Shadow Airbrush Skull and Airbrush Flames

1.) The owner’s bike has recently been repainted so the paint is in great shape.  There are already light silver flames airbrushed on the tank and rear fender but nothing on the front fender. She would like to add a cool looking skull to the front fender and also some flames that will match the rest of the bike. Let’s do it!

2.) Using a reference pic from Google Images of a human skull, I create a sketch of how I want the skull to look.  I incorporate the  flames by adding a flame lick coming out his mouth and one coming out of his eye socket. To transfer this  sketch to the fender, I’m going to apply  some low tack transfer tape to a piece of copy and then send it through the printer so my skull drawing prints right on the transfer tape. I ‘ll then be able to remove the transfer tape from the copy paper and apply it directly to the fender. Once it’s on the fender, I can cut it out using an Xacto Knife with a brand new blade.

3.) Not much action in this pic, grass is lookin pretty green, could be a bit thicker though.  The fender was washed, wet sanded with 600 grit sandpaper, rinsed and dried thoroughly. This is how you want your parts to look after you wet sand them. A nice even dull finish everywhere. Compare this pic to the first pic above.

4.) And there ya go, all done! It’s that simple. I woke up the next morning and the fender was finished…what a relief!

Sorry for the lack of pics on this one, had to get it done fast and neglected to get pics along the way.  After I had the transfer tape with the printed sketch applied to the fender. I cut out the eyes, mouth and nose first (saving the cut out pieces), sprayed them black and then covered them back up. Cut out the skull and teeth next (saving the cut out pieces), leaving the flame parts still masked. I used white base coat to airbrush/detail the skull and teeth. I add texture to the skull by spraying small cracks, dots and jagged lines.

After I’m satisfied with the white, I switch to a Kandy Purple/Black mixture and use it very sparingly to add some more depth to the skull. It does not take much, I use it to push the jaw back under the cheek bones and on the sides of the eye sockets to give some shape to the head. I then switch to Oriental Blue Kandy to finish shading the skull. I’m not adding any new detail with Blue Kandy, just shading and going over what I already have.

Once the skull is done, back mask it and unmask the flame licks. I use blue fine line tape to layout some semi abstract/classic flames and spray them with a light silver metallic.

To find out what kind of airbrush I used, how long this project took, what it cost to do it and how much you should charge for it..Click Here. If you are not a Member, you will need to Register (FREE) in order to view it.

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Airbrushed Hood on Custom Firebird


1) Here is our canvas, a 2004 white Pontiac Firebird. The owner has installed vinyl graphics on the hood and sides of the vehicle and is now wanting to replace those vinyl graphics with some airbrushed awesomeness. He’d like a black and white shaded Firebird graphic on the hood that’s closer in style to the original 80’s Firebird graphic but with an updated feel to it. He’d also like to see what his vehicle would look like with some flames on the sides and a rear spoiler. He doesn’t want anything too extreme, just a good solid graphic that’s a step up from what he has now. Well guess what? He’s come to the right place!


2) I snag a quality reference pic of the original 80’s design from Google Images and do a pencil sketch of how I want the main outline/shape of the new graphic to look.  To save time, I draw only the left half of the image, scan it into Corel Draw, duplicate it, mirror it and then merge the duplicate with the original. (You’ll find the Corel Draw tutorial Here) A few thing to keep in mind: First, I already have a good idea of how I’m going to paint this, before I even start drawing. I.e., I know I’m going to mask the hood with transfer tape and use a projector to trace the image on the hood. So I don’t spend time adding a lot of detail to the sketch, all I need is a good dark outline. Second, I’ve added a 1/4 in. outline to the body and wings (not pictured) to give the graphic some depth and punch. If I just left it as plain basic shapes, I’d end up with a plain basic graphic not much more exciting then the original vinyl graphic he already had…and I ain’t goin out like that!


3) Imported a pic of the car into Corel Draw, added some subtle flames and a rear spoiler. (You’ll find the tutorial for this Here) The owner wants the hood graphic to fill the entire hood, doing that with this particular design is going to visually “weigh down” the front of the car and give it an overall unbalanced look, especially with the ram air hood. An ideal design here would be something more complementary to the existing shapes and lines. You can see how the original vinyl design actually “flows” with the shape of the hood a little better. In an effort to counteract the unbalanced effect we’re going to get with our new larger graphic, I’ve faded the flames away from the front of the car. This pulls some of that weight from the hood and shoots it back towards the rear. Or at least that’s what I’m telling myself.

I go over the design and layout with the owner, settle on a price and a time frame, collect the down payment and it’s off to work…


4) The owner has decided to do only the hood at this point. It is removed, washed with soapy water and rinsed. The entire top of the hood is wet sanded with 600 grit sandpaper, being especially careful on the edges and scoops not to sand through the clear coat. To ensure good, lasting paint adhesion, it’s important to take your time here and get a nice even sanding throughout. It’s a little more difficult on a white hood to see the small areas you may have missed. View it from different angles and look for any spots that still have a glossy reflection. Once you’re confident you’ve done a bang up job, wash and rinse everything again and then dry it thoroughly, using an air gun to push water from seams and cracks.

Once it’s completely dry, I cover nearly the entire hood with 15 in. transfer tape.


5) Lights out! I use an Artograph projector to project the design to the hood and then I trace over it with a sharpie marker. You can now see the 1/4 outline on the wings as well. After I’m done tracing, I turn on the lights BEFORE I move the projector to check for any areas I may have missed. If I did miss any areas, lights back off, projector is still lined up, and I trace the missing areas. If I need to make any changes after the trace is complete, I’ll use a different color marker to draw the new lines. This makes it easier to keep track of which lines to cut when the time comes.

Because I’m perfect, I didn’t miss any lines here and I don’t need to make any changes. Let’s cut this thing…


6) I use an Xacto knife with a brand new #11 blade to cut out the design. I use just enough pressure to cut through the transfer tape but not so much pressure that I cut into the clear coat. This will take some practice. Never try to cut out the entire design in one fowl swoop. I start with a small section of the wing, cut that out and then check my work by trying to peel up the tape. The edges of the tape should lift clean and easy, and there should be no score marks underneath in the clear coat. Once I know I’ve got the right pressure, I continue cutting, checking my work every third wing segment or so. Don’t be afraid to use several new blades to cut something out but do be afraid of  dying from boredom while you cut it out.


7)  Done cutting…that Xacto knife can suck it. I remove the inner portions only of the tongue, the body and the wings, mask any exposed areas of the hood and then spray in a light/medium grey base with a touch-up gun. Note: On this project I’ve just thrown away the masking I removed. I don’t plan on using it later and if I do run into a situation where It would have been nice to have it, the shapes and curves on this design are simple enough that I could use a freehand shield instead, if I needed to.


8.) Keeping it quick and conservative, I used a darker grey to add some simple shading to the inside of the wings and body of the bird.


9) Satisfied with the shading, I then remove the masking on the head and the border around the wings and body, to reveal the white beneath. At this point there is still a 1/4 in. border masked around the body of the bird. You can see this better in the finished photo below.

I switch to a lighter shade of grey (lighter then the base coat I initially used) and start to lightly fog it in on the exposed white areas. The only shading I do is a quick fade from the tips of the wings inward.


10) All masking is removed, revealing an audacious new Firebird graphic strutting it’s stuff in full effect! Off to clear coat.

To find out how long this project took, what it cost to do it and how much you should charge for it..Click Here. If you are not a Member, you will need to Register (FREE) in order to view it.

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How to Airbrush

The Airbrush School is brand new for 2010.  Check back often for updates and other special features.

Pre-School-Intro to Airbrushing

No, it didn’t go out in the 80’s, you’ll be happy to know that airbrushing is alive and well. In fact it’s been around for a long time now and it’s going to be around for a long time to come. Why? because it’s awesome! Airbrushing rules and airbrush artists’ are smart and attractive with muscular physiques, shiny glistening, silky smooth hair and lightning fast reflexes.

Don’t know what I’m talking about? Start here with our Intro to Airbrushing class and discover what an airbrush is, how it works and what you can do with it…prepare to fall in love.

Kindergarten-Airbrush Anatomy

Single-action, double-action, gravity-feed, siphon-feed, internal-mix…what does it all mean? Come to Kindergarten and find out. We’ll examine the intricacies of the airbrush, dissect the most common styles and types available and explore the advantages/disadvantages of each. You know what they say:   different dagger strokes for different folks.

1st Grade-Airbrush Compressors




2nd Grade-Airbrush Paints





3rd Grade-Airbrush Substrates






4th Grade-Airbrush Workspace







5th Grade-Airbrush Excersices

6th Grade-Airbrushing T Shirts

Summer School-Pinstriping

7th Grade-Metal Prepwork

8th Grade-Automotive Base Coats

9th Grade-Automotive Clear Coats

Summer School-Cutting and Buffing

10th Grade-Airbrush Stencils

11th Grade-Projector Power

12th Grade-Using a Vinyl Cutter

Summer School-Software Shortcuts

College Freshman-Hoodie Project

College Sophomore-Flame Job Project

College Junior-Wall Mural Project

College Senior-Motorcycle Project

Grad School-Starting an Airbrush Business

Advanced Techniques

Airbrushing Tips and Tricks

Airbrush Troubleshooting Guide

Airbrush Glossary

How to Paint a Utility or ATV Trailer

1.) Freshly built ATV/Utility trailer ready for a paint job. Yes that is a sandblast trailer you see in the background and yes we are going to sandblast this bad boy. I remove the wheels, mask off the hubs and we’re ready to start shooting. This is going to be a quick tutorial.

2.) An hour later. Sandblasting really takes all the fun out of prep work. You blast it, you blow it off, that’s it…ready for paint. No bondo, no block  sanding and a lot less profanity.

I move the trailer into the booth and set it up on some steel jack stands. Blow it all off with an air gun then hit it with a good direct to metal 2K Epoxy Primer. After the primer dries, I apply 3M seam sealer to all the seams and joints. This is not necessary but it’s a nice touch and makes for a better finished product.

3.) It’s a good rule of thumb to always check with the owner to see what color they want their trailer painted. Otherwise you may end up painting it black when it’s really supposed to be red. That can happen sometimes and it may or may not have happened with this very trailer…we’ll never know for sure so just drop it.

After primer and seam sealer, I hit it with 3 coats of Valspar LIC 40 Single Stage industrial paint. I’ve had great success with this paint. Easy to apply, looks great and very durable. I used a pressure pot and gun to paint this trailer. It was perfect for this job as I could crawl right under the trailer and shoot with the gun at any orientation without having to worry about spilling paint. Plus the gun is very light.

After everything was said and done, put the wheels back on and then used the trailer to haul me and my tools to a new job interview since i got fired for painting this the wrong color. Can I borrow some money?

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