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.
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