Airbrushed Helmets – Eric’s Torched Tiki Helmet

1.) Airbrushed Helmets – Lucky for us this helmet was recently painted; base coat black with 3 coats of clear. I start by removing the visor and wet sanding the whole thing 600 grit sandpaper. I use a red scotchbrite to scuff the harder reach areas like seams, corners and the visor vents. The trick to working with red scotch brite and not getting sand scratches in the final finish (especially on black) is to use a consistent pressure and be thorough. f you press too hard with a new piece of scotch brite, you’re going to get deep sand scratches. Apply medium pressure and go over the area several times. After sanding, I mask off the interior of the helmet. 1.b) I over did it a bit with the sanding in some areas and ended up sanding through the clear so I hit the whole thing with 2 quick coats of basecoat black.

2.) The owner of this helmet has a tattoo of a tiki head with glowing red devil eyes and if you stare at it too long…your soul will be devoured. This sounds pretty cool to me  and seeing as how my wife already owns my soul for all time and eternity, I’m not too worried about using it as a reference for the helmet design. I sketch out a similar looking tiki head and for good measure, I add some tribal type flames coming out of his mouth and eyes. Pretty standard stuff for any bad ass tiki.

3.a) I scanned my drawing into Corel Draw, traced it to make a vector image out of it, exported it as a .eps file to SignBlazer PRO and then cut it out on my plotter. There are 2 main things in life that actually qualify as “tricky” First, as Run DMC said: It’s definitely tricky to rock a rhyme. To rock a rhyme that’s right on time is tricky. I think we all know that’s a fact. Second: It’s tricky to apply vinyl cut stencils on round surfaces. The key is to apply them one at a time in small sections. when using a squeegee, always start in the middle of the sticker and squeege your way out toward the edges. It may also be necessary to make small relief cuts to get the vinyl to lay down flat.

3.b) I also cut a vinyl stencil for the tiki head and I lay that down on top of my flame pattern. I then trim the parts of the flame pattern that I want to be behind my tiki head.

4.) We’re going to put the owner’s last name across the bottom of the helmet underneath our main design. I use 1 in. masking tape to mask off the area. I draw the last name in pencil, trace it with a sharpie and then cut it out carefully using an Xacto Knife with a brand new blade. I think we’re just about ready to paint. Airbrushed helmets rule, girls drool.

5.) I mask off the tiki head and spray a light coat of white. I know I’m going to be using Root Beer Kandy later and so I lay this white down as a base for the Kandy.

6.a) I printed several copies of this design on regular printer paper. I use an Xacto Knife to cut out the main shapes of the tiki head, like the teeth, cheek bones and brow line.

6.b)  Using the printer paper cut outs as a loose shield, I hold it over the helmet and spray lightly with white base coat. This gives me perfect reference points to follow and I can now start airbrushing in the details.

7.) Still with white basecoat, I freehand the details. Following the contours of the tiki, I  airbrush small vertical lines over the entire thing to simulate woodgrain. If you take your time here and really work out all the details in white, the rest of the project is a breeze.

8.a) I switch to Root Beer Kandy and start adding color. Though it may look like it, I’m really not adding any new details with the Root Beer Kandy. I’m focused on adding depth and shape. I.e., I keep the tops of the cheek bones lighter and the under side of the cheek bones darker. Once I’m satisfied with the Kandy, I add a few drops of black  to the Root Beer and use it sparingly in the darkest areas like right underneath the brow line and inside the hollow of the nose. Tip: I really don’t want to have to go back  in with the white to add highlights here. So I’m very light with the Root Beer Kandy in the areas I want to keep as my highlights.

Up until about a year ago, I would have called this tiki done. It’s got a good amount of detail and it looks pretty rad. But then I learned something new. (Thanks Robert)

8.b) After unmasking the tiki, I use a small outline paint brush with dark brown/black basecoat and I go back in around the teeth, eyes and nose to add the final details. Adding this one simple step will really help take you’re airbrushing to the next level. It’s like the difference between a regular TV channel and an HD TV channel. It’s like the difference between regular pretzels and chocolate covered pretzels. It’s like the difference between good and evil.

9.) I back mask the tiki to cover it up and start laying in flame licks with white basecoat. I use a freehand stencil sparingly and focus on creating sporadic, organic lines and shapes freehand. I’m trying to make the flames look like they’re originating from the mouth vents up front, heading back and up into a flaming mohawk, then disappearing into the vents on top of the visor.

10.) More flames. I want to get a pretty good coverage with white so that my Kandy colors will really pop and be bright.

11.) I cover all the flames in a couple good coats of Kandy Tangerine Orange.

12.a) I go back in and add white highlights to just a few spots in the very middle of the flames.

12.b) I cover those white highlights with Pagan Gold Kandy, then switch back to Tangerine and blend them in a bit more. Lastly, I spray Kandy Apple Red around the outsides of the flames to add some more depth and color.

13.a) Unmasked everything. Difficult to get a good pic without the glare. I was going to leave it like this but the more I looked at it, this tiki just didn’t seem freaky enough. I felt like I was in no danger of going mad or having my soul devoured.

13.b) That’s better.

Want to know what it cost to do airbrushed helmets? click here-> Airbrushed Helmets – Eric’s Torched Tiki Helmet. 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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How To Airbrush Painting

How To Airbrush Painting is covered in depth at our online Airbrush School here at Sid Vicious Art.com. Everything you need to know to go from average Joe to seasoned Pro. Start with the basics in Airbrush Pre-School, work your way through Elementary School, Junior High, High School and College.

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Crystal’s Custom Cobalt with Airbrush Flames

1.) Washed, rinsed, dried and ready for action. This project is going to be a little bit unorthodox. It is going to be a classic flame job but instead of wetsanding everything, then painting the flames, then clear coating everything, I’m only going to scuff and clear where the actual flames will be. Doing it this way does have the potential to save a lot of time but it also has the potential to create some other issues, like a pretty thick paint edge.

2.) I start by measuring the hood width wise at the front and back then running a piece of 1/4 in. blue fine line right down the middle of the hood to get my center line. I always work from the center of the hood heading left over and around the fender and into the passenger door. I layout the flames using 1/8 in. blue fine line tape. Sometimes I’ll take a picture of the vehicle first, import it into Corel Draw and layout my flame pattern there, then print it out so I’ve got a good reference to follow as I lay them out in real life.

I pay special attention to make sure that every inch of tape is securely adhesived (It’s a word) to the body of the vehicle because I know I’m going to be scuffing right up against the edge of it. Once I have the flames laid out along the left side, I create a pounce pattern (Outlined here) to transfer the layout to the right side of the vehicle. I mask the positive shape of the top layer of flames and the negative shape of the bottom layer of flames with 16 in. transfer tape.

Remember, nothing has been prepped or sanded yet. I can’t very well wetsand with everything masked off, so I use several pieces or new Scotch Brite (Red. If the car were a darker color, I’d use the grey Scotch Brite) and start scuffing the exposed area of the flames. The most important step here is to make sure I get a good thorough scuff everywhere but especially right up alongside the edges of the tape because that’s the first place that paint/clear would likely lift from. I also use a Tack Rag constantly to wipe away the cleardust as I go.

3. After scuffing, I clean the surface with a wax and grease remover. I’ve decided to spray and then back mask for the pin stripe on these flames. I spray blue right along the edges of the top layer of flames and then purple along the edges of the bottom layer flames. Note: When you know you’re going to be doing a sprayed pinstripe like this, make sure you account for this extra 1/8 of an in. when you first layout your flames. If you don’t, you’ll end up with flames that look a bit too skinny. You can see the difference in the photo below. The grey flames look a little bit skinnier than the white flames do.

I run 1/8 in. blue fine line tape along the edges of both sets of flames to cover up the blue and purple I just sprayed. Then I spray a silver/grey metallic everywhere else. I remove the 1/8 in. blue fine line to reveal the new blue and purple pinstripe. Lastly, I finish with 3 coats of clear.

4.) This is the tricky part. I don’t want the clear to dry fully in place with everything still masked off. I carefully remove all the masking as soon as possible to give the clear coat a better chance to settle and flatten out around the edges. This is another good reason to keep your shop clean, you don’t want to be kicking around dust while you’re unmasking near fresh clear coat.

All in all, doing it this way did save some time/material and it’s nice to have my pinstripe protected under the clear. Not something I’d do on every job but a nice option to consider if you don’t have the tools/space/resources available to re-clear almost the entire car.

5.) I love the dual layer flame look and yes, that is a 1990 Dodge Grand Caravan with a faux painted, carbon fiber, custom made ram air hood you see parked behind the Cobalt. Sid Vicious baby!

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Abraham’s Custom Cutlass Lowrider with Airbrush Graphics

Custom Cutlass with Airbrush Graphics

1.) Our project begins with a freshly painted black Oldsmobile Cutlass. The owner would like to add some lowrider style graphics to the sides, roof, trunk and hood of the vehicle. I take a pic of the side of the vehicle, the hood and the trunk.  I’m going to be using a plotter to cut some of the graphics, I  take key measurements on the car so that I can scale it correctly when I start working in Corel Draw. For example, I measure the height and width of the door, let’s say it’s 20″ x 40″. This will make more sense in the next step.

2.) I import my pics into Corel Draw and enlarge them as necessary so that the measurements I took in real life, match up with my measurements now in Corel. I.e., make sure the door measures 20″ x 40″. (Click Here for the full Corel Draw Tutorial. Coming soon.) I always print a plain outline of the vehicle on copy paper so that I can sketch out my design in pencil first. You could certainly do the whole thing in Corel, but It’s easier for me to draw what I want in pencil first and then when I’m happy with the design, scan it back into Corel and trace it there. That way I’ve got a digital copy I could modify for potential use on a future project.

After going over some options with the owner of the vehicle, we decide on these charcoal grey metallic graphics and ornate scroll work.

3.) While the car was being wetsanded in preparation for the upcoming graphics, I cut out the more detailed parts of my design on Gerber Masking Material with a 24 in. Vinyl Cutter/Plotter. This is a huge time saver and ever since I got the cutter, I’ve used it on almost every project.  Although, I stayed away from trying to cut out the side graphics on this project for a couple of reasons. First, the side graphics are going to closely contour the lines of the body, especially around the wheel wells, it’s hard to get this exactly right unless you do it by hand. Secondly, it may look nice on the printout but often I’ll change and add to the design as I go to account for the larger spacing between the graphics that I’ll have on the actual vehicle.

4.) Juan’s Body Shop handled the prep on the Cutlass and we’re ready to begin!

5.) I layout all of the major lines for the side graphics in 1/4 in. green fine line tape first. To make this easier I stretch a thin piece of string, taped tight at each end, along the body from the front to the back to get my main center line. Now I’ve got a good reference point that I can take measurements from as needed. I use a white Stabilo pencil or a small piece of tape wherever I need to mark a measurement on the car. For the center graphic, I run a piece of 2 1/2 in. masking tape down the middle first, then run 1/2 in. masking tape on each side of that and then run 1/4 in. green fine line tape on both sides of that. I remove the 2 1/2 in. tape and now have a consistent width for the entire center graphic.

I constantly step back and away from the vehicle so that I can get a good look at the whole design and make sure everything is lining up and looking straight.

6.) I measure to get my centerline on the roof and then measure an equal distance away from the centerline on each side to create the space between the racing stripes/graphics going acroos the top of the roof here. I use some of the pre-cut stencils I created earlier to mark the front and back of the roof graphic.

7.) Then all I have to do is run masking tape from the front to the back on both sides. Nice and easy.

8.) Finished laying out the graphics on the roof, hood and trunk.  Positioned the scroll work stencils in the middle of the graphics then used 16 in. clear matte transfer tape to mask the rest of the graphics off. You can see the reflection of light off the clear matte transfer tape in the photos. I didn’t use clear matte for any specific reason, it’s just what I happened to have on hand and I like how it’s a little less adhesive then the opaque transfer tape I usually use.

9.) Masked off for the most part and ready to break out the airbrush. I always prefer to have too much masking then not enough, especially when spraying  metallics, they get everywhere.

10.) I use a roll of 2 in. lace as a loose stencil for adding detail to the center graphic. I tape down both ends of the lace and spray at around 10 psi to prevent it from flipping around too much. The key to making it look good is to keep your airbrush at a perfect 90 degree angle to the lace, use as few strokes/passes as possible for your paint coverage and only work with about a 12 in. section at a time. You can see how the lace is pulled pretty tight but there will be places (left side of left picture) where I’ll need to hold it down with my left hand to keep it centered between my graphic while I’m spraying with my right hand.

11.) Unmasked and ready for clear.

12.) Hood.

13.) Always tough not to get a glare on black. (Better pictures coming soon.)

14.) Finished.

To find out what I’d charge to do a job like this and how long it took to do it, click here-> custom Cutlass 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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