Wednesday, 31 May 2006 17:00

How to do a flake job without flaking out

Written by Rich Evans
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Every kind of vehicle, instrument, and object have come through my shop over the years. And we've had every type of customer from the conservative, vague and indecisive - to the colorful and unrestrained. To stay ahead in such a diverse and competitive market, we need to be constantly innovative in our designs and artwork. 

The possibility that what we imagine may not be achievable is always a concern. Auto body artists need the ability to take projects from concept to final creation without continually compromising our ideas. With virtually an endless catalog of tools, equipment and supplies, Kustom Shop has really given us the versatility to do just that (

Lately, I've been having a lot of flake jobs - helmets and tanks - come through the shop. Flake and pearl jobs are nothing new, but seem to be enjoying a new found popularity these days - especially in the custom bike industry. There are a lot of bikes being built by a lot of famous world-class builders and, with more media attention than ever before, artists, builders and customers are finding it increasingly challenging to be original.

A good flake job begins with good prep and a flake gun. Painters who don't have a flake gun often mix an intercoat clear or a finish clear with the flake. In my experience, this tends to make the flakes sit on their edge instead of laying flat, which is why I recommend using a flake gun.

Make sure your flake gun is loaded and ready before starting, because you'll have to switch back and forth from flake gun to spray gun. Assuming the piece is wiped down and tack clothed, base coat the piece with the color of your choice. When the base coat is dry and your clear is ready, spray a wet coat and then immediately grab your flake gun and spray a coat as evenly as possible. After a couple of minutes I look for any flakes still standing on their edges. Since I am wearing latex gloves, I gently press down any flakes that aren't lying flat and follow with another coat of clear. Repeat these steps, until you get the desired flake coverage.

Suppose this wild flake finish is not wild enough for you. Huntington Beach Bodyworks offers a large selection of two- stage custom stencils for a walk on the wilder side.

After deciding on a design, tape down the outline stage and spray a base color. Let's say we're painting a skull. This is where a medium bone color is sprayed. These stencils are flexible and have registration marks in the corners to match up with the other stages.

Now line up the detail stage with the outline stage. Many artists new to airbrushing make the mistake of spraying the detail stage with too much paint - leaving a lot of hard lines. The detail stage of the stencil is designed to be used as a tool. Spray a very light, very thin coat to create a ghosted image to trace over your detail, adding new detail, shadows and highlights. This provides the look that most customers are seeking these days.

Buying large containers of flakes and pearls can be expensive and a waste. What are the chances that I'll ever use this pink flake again? It would be a smart idea to buy smaller quantities, so you can have a larger selection of colors. Kustom Shop has an extensive collection of flakes, pearls, color shifting pearls, and have produced over 200 original Huntington Beach Bodyworks stencil designs. Not only do they carry standard flakes, but they have four different sizes of flake from bass boat (.025) to airbrush size - almost pearl like (.004).

As far as pearl goes, nobody carries more variety. The pearls and flakes are produced in a large selection of colors and bottled from 1/2 oz. to 6 oz. sizes. With this kind of variety, shops can now give customers exactly what they want in any kind of finish - flat or glossy, and with a large assortment of colors. Keeping true to our "no job is too small or too big" attitude, it's a freedom that we enjoy and have appreciated very much.

Rich Evans, owner of Huntington Beach Bodyworks in Southern California, is an award winning painter and fabricator. Currently he is offering workshops at his facility so he can share his special techniques to other industry professionals. For more information about Evans, visit


Read 8490 times Last modified on Tuesday, 24 January 2017 00:01