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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