I chose this project because it includes a variety of customizing tricks that I’ve been asked repeatedly to reveal by all sorts of different customers. They work out great when done correctly. If you have been doing this type of work for any length of time, chances are you’ve been asked to accomplish this for one of your own customers. If not, this will give your bag a few more tools when it comes to creating your own designs.
The Design Process
There was a time back in the day when we ould just discuss the design process and maybe sketch out a sample with a pencil and blank sheet of paper. Now we have graphic designers who use computer software like Adobe Photoshop to create a realistic full color digital rendering of the finished product.
When you begin customizing vehicles as a business and start building a customer base, one hurdle to overcome is selling the design and making sure that all the parties nvolved know exactly what the finished product will look like. When we were using a pencil and paper, this was not that easy. It’s difficult to get someone to picture exactly what you picture just by describing it and scribbling a few lines on a sheet of paper.
Most of the time everything works out well if you do a good job explaining it and ave some paint samples, but I’m sure that everyone has had those customers who just don’t know what they want and selling them on a design they can’t see is a real headache.
For the most part, I’ve had a positive experience using digital renderings to show the design. One benefit is that they most closely resemble the final product. However, there are some exceptions. For example, it’s hard to render metallic, flat, or other special effects paints. In that case, I’ll use the old school way and make some quick paint samples.
Usually we start with a photo of the actual car and apply our modifications and graphics on the computer in full color.Another benefit is that the computer file and graphics can be modified quickly without starting over with a new drawing every time. If the customer wishes, we can experiment and change colors with just a click or two of a mouse and with minimal time invested. Lastly, with a computer file, the customer does not have to come into the shop for every little question. Almost everything can be settled over the internet before the vehicle even arrives.
Painting the Tail-lights
I had to revise the design about a dozen times before the customer saw something he liked. Once we settled on a simple yet classy two-tone paint scheme and had an approval, the Charger was brought in. The aint scheme was going to involve the taillights as well. This is one trick that some customers ask for often.Mostly it’s smoking or tinting the headlights or taillights that people ask for. I like to bring the base olor of the car into the lights to make them appear different in shape. It’s a simple touch, but by painting the headlights or taillights you can effectively adjust the look of the front or rear end, without much effort or expense.
The prepping procedure went a little different with this car. We usually breakdown, mask off, and sand the car completely with 800 grit wet sandpaper. However, if done with care, you can sometimes simplify this step and save time, labor, and still achieve the same beautiful finish. Our logo was to be airbrushed onto he hood, so it had to be sanded completely along with the taillights.
After the design was printed out and handed to artist Johnny Sotelo, I reinstalled certain pieces of the car—like the grill and sanded taillights—so that Johnny ould layout the two-tone scheme and the graphics on the taillights with 3M 1/8" and 1/4" vinyl fine line tape.
Following this step, the taillights, hood and bumpers were removed and set on stands. We masked off the car and graphics. Then, we carefully sanded inside the graphics with 800-grit sandpaper. We had to be very careful to sand all the way to the edge of the vinyl tape without sanding and ruining the edge of the tape itself. If you don’t sand all the way to the edge, the graphic may peel at the ends when removing the masking. If you sand the tape itself, you may compromise the smooth lines of the graphics.
Once everything was set up in the booth, I wiped and tacked everything down and began to mix a dark metallic grey. I then began spraying inside the graphics. Since the rest of the car was not sanded, I had to be extra careful to keep the edge as low as possible. I then sprayed the clear coat over the graphics, again keeping the edge as low as possible towards the edge of the graphics.
After the paint dried, the masking was carefully peeled off the car. It was important to be extra careful, because there was a higher chance of the graphics peeling. Due to our special care, the graphics came out beautifully, looked exactly like the rendering, and had a very low edge.
Pinstriping the Graphics
When graphics are painted on this way, they are usually outlined with a pinstripe. Stripping and lettering paint, such as “1 Shot,” can be thinned and mixed with a catalyst to withstand all the normal weather conditions. 1 Shot is usually applied over the clear. A polyurethane clear will actually wrinkle the stripping paint if applied afterwards.
My usual pinstriper Bob Iverson applied a black stripe to all the graphics on the car. Then Johnny Sotelo returned to airbrush my logo on the hood of the car. The logo has the appearance of a beveled blade so Johnny first laid out the outside of the graphic, I came in and sprayed the same silver as the car’s basecoat and then Johnny airbrushed some shadows.
It’s a little confusing at first, but it all akes sense in the end. To make the final shadows and highlights stand out, he first had to tint the upper areas of the silver with shadows where the highlights were to be. Otherwise, the highlights would not be visible. He then masked the inside of the blades to reveal only a 1/8" line all around hat would represent the beveled area of the blade. He then used small pieces of tape for the hard edges in the blade, airbrushed the shadows, peeled the tape, airbrushed the highlights, airbrushed the lack lettering, and peeled all the masking.
The hood and taillights were really the only pieces to clear coat on this car, so after that, we were pretty much done. Once everything dried, the car was put back together and the customer was called in to check the car out. He loved the whole car. We matched the rendering perfectly and everybody was happy.
Most of our projects are much more complex, so it was nice to have one that was relatively simple—a two-tone paint scheme with some extra accents. We were careful not to cut any corners and were patient in the little prepping that we did do. So give some of these tricks a try and I’ll be back with a new project next month.