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