Ship Practice Painting For Airbrush Beginners

This airbrush step by step goes with the video covering the same airbrush practice painting, you now have a written version to go along with the video version. It’s great to be able to watch a video of someone airbrushing but I think it will really help to have still pictures and written text to refer to also. If you have mastered the basic lessons presented on this web site this little practice painting should be fairly easy for you.

What you’ll need for this practice painting: Double action airbrush, easel, news print, black, yellow, blue and red.

Step 1 — To start off we will use black and make a dragger stroke coming from left side to the middle than from the right side to the middle, both sloping downward just a little. These two lines will act as our sand dun’s or beach. Using small dagger strokes we will not add some weeds, grass to our beach, keep the dagger strokes as small as possible. To our weeds we’ll add some sea oats, squiggly top, stem and leaf coming off the stem.

Step 2 —- Now we will switch to blue and add our horizon line and some lines to represent waves in the water. Add an ache in our sky line and retire the blue for now.

Step 3 —  Now with black we’ll park our ship out in the bay, three small dagger strokes on the ship to act as masts.

Step 4 — Now to the masts we will add some small lines to act as the ship sails rolled up. With more small lines add some rigging lines to the masts, ship.

Step 5 —- Now we switch to yellow and using our cap from a spray can (just as we have done it other practice painting) we’ll make a sun in the sky and fill in the rest of the sky with the yellow letting it bleed into our blue ache.

Step 6 —  Now we’ll switch to red and add some streaks in our sky and it’s looking pretty good…

Using dragger strokes again add some small birds to the sky around the ship and it’s done. I fully expect you can do a better job with this than I did. Have fun with it, put your own spin on it, changes colors around, add more weeds the possibilities are endless. Below is the video version of this practice painting I hope you find it helpful.


Sheet Metal RC Design

by Chris Duzenberry

Chris is an art major who up until 2 years ago was allowing his talent to play second fiddle to his career as a Communications Engineer . Taking TeamDuze online changed the focus to the customizing and detailing of R/C vehicles, helmets , and shippable items. His forte lies in taking the customer vision for a project , and allowing his talent to dictate a spectacular outcome. His mantra ” The Details Matter!”

We will start off with a list of items that I used through out the job.

( 1 ) Iwata HPCS and Revolution airbrushs.
( 2. ) New #11 X- acto Blade
( 3 ) Grafix Frisket Film Matte in Color
( 4 ) Tamiya Lexan Acrylic Paints and thinner. ” Flat Aluminum ” Gun Metal ” Metallic Grey ” Black ” White
( 5 ) Parma Lexan Water Based Paints. Createx can also be used. ” Black ” Pearl Silver
( 6 ) 1 Paper Clip
( 7 ) 1 Business Card standard size.
( 8 ) 1 Atomik F150 Pre-Cut Lexan body for R/C ( 9 ) Printed out Graphics from the computer. You will need a program like PhotoShop or Paint Shop for Mirroring the images .

#1 Wash and Scuff the body using mild soap, Scotch Brite pad, and lukewarm water. Dry completely using a lint free cloth, and allow to air dry, wipe again just before applying masking material. Scuffing the body will promote adherence of the paint.

I pulled up on the computer the graphic files sent to me from Vertigo Performance in Photo Shop. I manipulated the image down to the size I needed for this paint job and then created a mirrored image. If it were not mirrored then the lettering would be backward on the detail and would be reversed once painted. I then printed the graphic on normal paper, cut it out and taped it into place where I wanted it.


Next, I took the Grafix Frisket film and cut a piece to the size of the area that I wanted to mask off, and applied the frisket to the area. Frisket film can be tricky to use on these bodies as it sometimes does not want to adhere. Press the edges down really well so that you do not get spray under the mask.
With my X – acto blade, I free hand cut the image into the frisket. Use caution to not apply to much pressure as you do not want to see the cut marks on the lexan. The graphic is used only as a reference. I did not cut out all the details as I wanted to achieve a certain effect with the logo. Therefore, I only cut the perimeter lines that would be aluminum, the inner VP lettering, the inner lettering for the VP, and the flame embossment. I did the same with the small VP logo that would be on the rear of the truck. For the lettering on the sides, I cut the perimeter and the inner lettering.

Reference pictures below .




Once all the graphics were cut, I then unmasked the first area that I would be painting. Normally in painting designs for Lexan, you would paint dark to light. In this case, I did not. As long as the graphic is backed with either white or Silver, you can paint the detail pieces and then go back to the main body work.

Now that we are ready to begin painting the details, I unmasked the first area that I would paint. I removed the perimeter around the lettering. Using Parma Faskolor White I shook the bottle and removed the cap. With the little bit that was in the cap I dipped the end of a straightened paper clip into the paint in the cap and just dotted the areas of where I wanted the rivets for the sheet metal to be in the logo. Continuing to the other smaller logo’s in the rear doing the same.



Let that dry for 10 – 15 minutes and next with the FasBlack I dipped the straightened paper clip end into the cap of the black paint and dotted over the white. Being careful to not scratch the white away but to ensure that the coverage of the black goes over the white completely. Let that dry for 10 – 15 minutes. . At this time I am not worried about the rivets on the rest of the body. These will be taken care of later. Reference pictures below.



After the black is dry I then loaded just a small amount of Tamiya Acrylic Flat Aluminum into my HP-CS and shot the unmasked border. Reference pictures below.





I then removed the masking for the embossed flame area inside of the letters VP see as well as removed the internal portion of the Vertigo Lettering on the sides.



I did not apply a drop or light shadow on the flame as I want them to look recessed into the logo. I took Tamiya Acrylic Gun Metal and shot the flame area in all of the VP’s and I faded half of the lettering. I achieved the fade by painting heavy on the bottom of the letter and pulling the brush away as I moved toward the top of the letter. This will be a very subtle fade as the other color will be very close to the Gun Metal color. Reference pictures below.




With that completed, I then removed the outside Graphic and the rest of the mask for the design. When removing the frisket it can sometimes leave behind a sticky residue. Using the frisket you just pulled up use the tacky portion and stick it to the residue and lift. Generally this will work. If it does not be sure that the paint has dried really well first, then take some painters green tape and carefully blot to remove, or if you do not want to risk removal of the painted area, you can use a Q tip with non blurring thinner, rubbing alcohol, Windex, or BoLink Body Wash to name a few. All of the cleaners, do not leave any film or cloudiness behind. DO NOT USE ACETONE as it will cloud the lexan.

Now for the Shadows! I used Tamiya Black and painted drop shadows on one side, and using Tamiya white I painted light shadow’s on the opposite. This helps to provide depth to the lettering.



This allowed me to then use for the main color again the Tamiya Flat Aluminum. The shadows do the work to separate the colors for me. I applied the main color with several light coats and then backed with white.



On the lettering, I used Tamiya Metallic Grey from the top of the letter down toward the middle making sure to fill in the lettering. I then backed this with white as well. In some light the lettering looks solid on color and then others you can see the difference.



Now we will move onto the graphics for the main portion of the body. This is where the fun begins. Taking a regular sized business card and figuring out the way that you want the panels to lay on the truck I began by just holding the card in place and using Parma FasBlack painting half on and half off the card all the way around the card. Try to keep the angle the same, still painting half on and off all the way around the card. This will help to keep the look of the panels going all in the same direction. . As you can see in this picture, I then went and using the same method with the straightened paper clip I dipped and white and did the corners and then in black. Don’t forget that the entire truck is to look like riveted sheet metal. So I put rivets where the sheets would be fastened to some kind of under member to keep them from flapping around. . I also painted a drop shadow behind the lettering and the logo to provide more depth.Reference pictures below.




On this body, I opted for a Black cover on the bed. So I took green masking tape and taped off the perimeter of the cap and used the black at the same time as doing the above detail work.
Once the black is dry, it was time for the main event. Usually for main body colors I like to use my HVLP ( High Volume Low Pressure ) gun. For those that do not have the larger gun you can achieve the same with the airbrush.
I created a custom silver color as I wanted it a bit deeper than just Parma FasPearl Silver. So I mixed FasPearl Silver with a few drops of Black to get that deeper gun metal look, but as NOT as deep as the Tamiya Gun Metal. Using VERY light coats I covered the entire body three times. Light coats with even coverage will work better every time than 1 heavy coat.
A little tip: most people choose to back main body colors with either silver, black or white. White will brighten and enhance most colors, black will deepen and richen, and silver will hold the color right where it is. In this case, I wanted a deeper richer color so I backed it with Parma FasBlack.
Time to tear down and clean the brushes and let the body dry for 24 hours (drying time may be different depending on humidity in your location.) Some people will heat set the paint, and others will cure them in a dry room. I have a special setup where they get some heat setting and some normal curing. The thing with Parma and Createx paints being water based is that in order for them to set they must evaporate all of the water from the paint. So either way works.
Once the paint has set for 24 hours, I then backed the entire job with Pactra Spray Can Outlaw Black. I did this as the Pactra Lacquer based spray cans have excellent nitro fuel resistance to the paint. Nitro Fuel will remove the Parma and Createx paints from the Lexan.
Normally the next step would be to remove the excess Lexan and fit the body. In the case of the Atomik Pre-cut body, all I have to do is insert the window insert using double sided tape and fit the body to the truck.

Seal Team Half Helmet Step by Step

Seal Team Half Helmet Step by Step is a helmet design for a Seal Team whose commander was retiring and this was to be his retirement gift. Nothing to fancy here all accomplished with two inch 3M masking tape and a bit of transfer paper. I used House of Kolor base colors reduced about 60% with slow reducer. For airbrushes I used Iwata Micron C and HP-CS, Richpen 213 C.

seal team design

If you’ve read my other helmet articles you already know how I go about prepping the helmet for the painting process so we’ll skip that here. This of course is just a half helmet which I masked the bottom trim off with masking tape. There is many ways you could approach painting this design I’ve chosen to base just the area in the front of the helmet where the team shield will go and than clear over the enter helmet. My reasoning is it’s a black helmet to get the colors to be vibrant they will have to be applied over a white base. If I had left the design area black masked the helmet off, laid the design out, cut it out one piece at time for reference I would have had to apply white than the color resulting in some very big paint edges along the masking having to adding two colors. To reduce these paint lines or build up of paint I prefer to base the enter design area white, clear it, mask it and lay my design out and than only apply the one finish design color. The goal is always to keep the amount of paint you apply to a minimum thus reducing the amount of clear needed to bury the design so it can not be felt when the job is complete, the helmet will end up with a smooth surface just as it started out as. Pictured here is the helmet masked of with a print out of the team badge to size and scale positioned on the front of the helmet. Using Photoshop or any graphics program you can easily bring your design to the correct size to fit the helmet.


design drawn on helmet
painting seal team emblem design

I trace around the outside of the design making sure it was centered on the helmet first. After removing the print off I chose to use fine line tape to outline my design as it very easy to lay down nice lines like the outside of this design require. From there it’s just a matter of drawing the design on the masking which I generally do with pencil getting everything in proportion and my final draft in pen. There you have about the most time consuming part of the whole job; getting it laid out correctly. Could I have cut it on a plotter? Sure but if you’ve ever tried getting vinyl to lay flay on the curved surface you know it’s pretty much a futile effort.


start airbrushing

Now it’s just a matter of carefully cutting out the entire design one section at a time. As you can see that white base starts to pay off right now as we begin the painting process. After removing one tiny section of the masking I use over reduced black base coat to outline my design just enough to act as a reference so once all the masking has been removed it just a matter of some free hand airbrushing to tighten the design up.


airbrushing white

Pictured above the enter eagle, etc. has been roughed in with just the base black and we are ready to begin refining the design. In the end I have to go back in and straighten the forks of the fork which goes to prove it’s best to do it correctly the first time.


yellow and black

Here it’s just a matter of working the yellow than black, yellow, black until you’re happy with the design.


the red 7

Now we’ll tackle the red 7 which with the micron is very easy and requires no masking of the yellow eagle I just painted. Cut the 7 out and apply the red all this is made so much easier because we already have a white base to work on.


braid around the outside
braid around the outside

To render the braid around the outside of the design you can see I have measured the sections off on the masking and will use over reduced black base to outline the braids cutting one tiny section out at a time. Looks time consuming but if you go thru and cut them all out at once it actually goes pretty quickly.


braids in with some yellow

Fill the braids in with some yellow; again that micron comes in very handy for tight stuff like this. Pull the rest of the masking off the letters and stars and it’s not looking to badly so far. And as you can see there are our stars and lettering already in white just as they are required too be from the reference we had to work off from.


remove masking

Remove the rest of the masking on the helmet; let it see the light of day so we can see how it looks and we are ready to add our background.


seal logo done
adding trxture

I want to close the design in with black but not all the way right up to the Team Badge so we’ll use the old and quick dry wall repair tape for a nice effect around the design. I think running the black right up to the helmet would take away from the design so we’ll add this very easy background to blend it into.


completed front design

And there you have our pretty much completed front design except for fixing that ugly fork; doing it right the first time saves you time in the end. As you can see though the little added work around the outside made the enter design even more interesting, simple sheet rock tape, pool screen, window screen all work nicely.



Above you see he reference that was sent me for the side designs, frog skeleton which will be a first for me; never painted one of these, lots of skeleton’s but never a frog skeleton.


transfer design
frog design
frog painted
frog painted

Transfer our frog onto a piece of transfer paper, position correctly on the helmet on both sides and we’re ready to start on the side designs. As I did with the front design I go thru the entire frog and cut everything out very carefully. Once again all I’m shooting for here are reference lines with this part of the painting process and for this I use over reduced base white.

Once I have gone thru both sides and placed my reference lines with the base white. I will pull all the masking off and free hand both designs alternating between base black and white to refine the frog skeletons. With this completed we are ready for a couple coats of two part clear and it’s done. Because we do not have a big build up of paint where we painted the designs clear coating this helmet will be a breeze.


helmet finished
helmet finished
helmet finished

Scuff And Prep Before Painting

Scuff and prep before painting tutorial we’ll cover prep required on painted, clear coated metal, fiberglass surfaces before you can add your art work. Written by Don Johnson, brought to you by Airbrush Technique Magazine

This is in general geared toward those rending art on motorcycles, helmets, cars, trucks and the like when the surface has already been base coated and cleared.

This takes into account any wax or other substances have already been cleaned from the surface and you are ready to scuff the surface for paint adhesion purposes. The key word here is SCUFF not scratch so a certain degree of care should be taken when prepping a surface for adding your artwork, airbrushing.

The first rule when looking to prepare a surface for custom painting is READ THE TECH SHEET, the second rule is READ THE TECH SHEET for the paint product you will be using. You can save yourself a lot of heart ache by following those simple rules before you jump into any project. In very general terms the procedure as out lined below will work but please check, read the tech sheets that go along with the paint products you will be using.

It this tutorial we’ll be going over using Scotch Brite pads for the purpose of scuffing the surface. As I stated above what we want to accomplish here is to scuff the surface (clear coat) we DO NOT want to scratch the surface there is a huge difference. . To just take after the surface with a Scotch Brite pad you might get away a couple times but sooner or later it will bit you and you’ll end up with a surface covered with scratches, not good. To help avoid that end result you will find the following very helpful.


Comet and scuff pad

Pictured above (house Comet cleaner) is what I have been using for over ten years now with my Scotch Brite pads and good old H2O, I’ve had zero ill effects. The Comet acts much the same as the Scuff It product pictured below.


3M Scuff IT

For those of you with deeper pockets than mine there is a 3M product made just for use with Scotch Brite pads, “Scuff It”. “3M™ Scuff-It™ is an outstanding new prep gel that is designed to clean, degrease and abrade automotive surfaces prior to painting.Used in conjunction with Scotch-Brite™ pads, the Scuff-It™ gel lubricates the pad to ensure a consistent scratch pattern that will greatly improve the adhesion of the paint. Rinses cleanly with water. Convenient “wedge” tube fits into technician’s pocket for easy use.”


Scuff surface

Following along with the Comet method you need to keep your surface wet all the time apply a bit a Comet to the area you intend to scuff and gently have at it with the Scotch Brite pad.


scuff metal surface

The key with this method is to keep the surface wet all the time and rinse the Scotch Brite pad out often. You want to avoid the pad getting a build up of gunk as that will produce scratches.


completely scuffed, prep surface

Pictured above is our scuffed motorcycle tank all ready for us to add our artwork to. No big scratches a nicely scuffed surface to which the paint should have no problem adhering to. You can see on the masking covering the gas filler hole how shiny that area still looks against our nicely scuffed surface.

Pretty simple basic stuff but if done in correctly the greatest art work, graphic’s will not cover the mess underneath them. Your paint is only as good as what you apply it over get off to a great start and scuff the surface correctly.

Review – Clear Masking Material

Review clear masking material – I’ve been using Artools Hobby Masking a lot over the last year sense finding it in Hobby Lobby so I decided to give Stretch mask a try once again. I just happened to be working on a half helmet at the time which was ideal to give Stretch mask a try on. So here’s my little review of Stretch Mask:

Here’s the sales lecture on Stretchmask:

Stretchmask is a multi-medium, stretchable and flexible re positionable
masking film. It is especially suited to conform to curved and irregular
surfaces such as motorcycle tanks, helmets and automotive shapes for
painting. It is clear, thin film that cuts very easily with any brand of
art knife or single-edged razor and can be effortlessly manipulated and
repositioned with your artwork always in view.
• Medium-tack adhesion to non-porous surfaces
• Won’t wrinkle, bleed or flutter under airbrush spray• Won’t lift up paint when removed and/or repositioned• Solvent proof – Can be used with water-based and solvent-based paints.
Excellent for fine artists, auto graphics painters, sign painters, hobbyists, modelers, sculptors and general airbrushers.

Comes in the following sizes:
F-101 18” x 10 yds.
F-102 18” x 25 yds.
F-103 6” x 10 yds.


On this helmet I used House of Kolor Shimrin2 and saw no problems with using Stretch mask with solvent based paints. On a curved surface like this half helmet it took three pieces to cover the area you see masked above. Using three pieces allowed me to get the material to lay flat as possible on the surface without a bunch of wrinkles. By lifting a small section of the masking material and stretching it slightly, you can work many of the wrinkles out. This masking material is perfect in areas of a project you are back masking like I was on this helmet as it allows you to see your design thru the masking material.

You can not use a pencil to draw on this masking material but a pen or marker will work. I found it to cut easy and leave very nice clean edges. During the painting process I had no problems with the edge of the masking lifting allowing paint where I didn’t want it.

Reducing Airbrush Paint

Reducing airbrush paint in many case’s takes a bit of experimenting to find exactly at what consistency the paint atomized best in the airbrush you are using.

Reducing or thinning paint for use in your airbrush

The general rule of thumb with most Acrylic Colors is reducing it with distilled water until it flows like milk. Please understand here that it depends on how much air pressure you are running and the type of airbrush you are using. A lot of things come into play when finding just the right consistency  of the airbrush paint you are using to atomize correctly. The type of airbrush you are using, needle and fluid nozzle size and the air pressure you are using all come into play.

Over reducing some paints might have an adverse effect and the paints might not adhere as well. Always check the product tech sheets if available. Key to this is experimenting to find what reduction works best for you and you situation.

Beware that  there is a difference with paints made to use in an airbrush and craft type paints, the pigments are ground finer in paint made to use in an airbrush they generally will flow much better being less hassle to spray thru your airbrush. The amount or reduction also depends on the size of the nozzle in your airbrush a 0.5 mm nozzle will spray much thicker paint than a 0.2 given the correct air pressure is being used. Extenders that the paint companies make more often than not do not make the color thinner but do make it more transparent.

Below is some information I have put together for several different products I hope you find it helpful.


Auto Air: Reducing or thinning.

Auto Air: 0.3mm needle, nozzle size: Transparent Colors thinned with Auto Air Reducer approx 300% or more (3 Reducer : 1 color)

0.2mm needle, nozzle size:Transparent Colors thinned with Auto Air Reducer approx. 500% or more (5 Reducer : 1 color)

***To improving atomization when using an airbrush, Auto Air Reducer may be used to thin paints. Often, colors are reduced up to 400% (Auto Air Reducer 4:1 Auto Air Color) when using an airbrush. Mix ratios may vary per color and Color Series. Exact ratios are not required.

Createx Colors thinning or reducing: Airbrush Extender a transparent medium which will dilute the color to a lighter value. Will increase transparency in opaque and pearlized airbrush colors. Add until desired transparency or color shade is achieved.You can us distilled water to further reduce as needed.

Createx Acrylic Colors: Multi Surface Acrylics may be thinned with water or extended with Createx Mediums

GOLDEN Airbrush Colors are formulated from a safe and archival1 100% water-based acrylic emulsion, incorporating only the most light fast pigments available.Viscosity ready to use, no dilution required as they are finely ground, they easily spray through the smallest orifices available for airbrushes.

GOLDEN Airbrush Transparent Extender can be added to the Airbrush colors to yield more transparent colors without jeopardizing the film integrity and permanency. In fact, lowering the pigment load by adding the Extender will actually increase the film’s durability and frisket performance.

Doc PH Martins– Ready-Tex Ultra Ready to use Fabric Paint no dilution or filtering necessary.


Solvent Based Paint

Solvent based paints are a hard one to discuss as there are so many different systems out there on the market.

By solvent based I’m referring to the automotive paints we use for airbrushing murals, flames, graphics on bikes, cars, trucks, etc. With these the best thing to do is to get to know your local paint jobber REAL well.

Most if not all the tech sheets put on these products relate to painting cars and not to applying these products thru an airbrush, please keep that in mind when reviewing tech sheets.

Most often when used in an airbrush you must over reduce the products beyond what the tech sheets say to get them to flow correctly thru an airbrush. Some products like Dupont Chroma Base use what’s called a Base Maker instead of a Reducer like House of Kolor. Base makers will in most cases not make the color thinner allowing it to easily flow thru your airbrush in fact some make the paint thicker. With products that do use a reducer thinning or reducing the paint for use in an airbrush is best accomplished with medium or slow temp reducers.

Thinning solvent based paints is a very personal choice as to how much you thin or reduce it, this will take some experimenting on your part I’m afraid.

With the House of Kolor paints I use I generally reduce it with slow reducer at about 50% paint 50% reducer depending on the color maybe a bit more reducer. The tech sheet calls for two parts paint one part reducer for spray gun applications on most House of Kolor products so you can see I do over reduce it according to what the tech sheet says. Again a good starting point might be to get it to flow like milk.

Beware of using a solvent based product in your airbrush that requires adding a catalyst. I will add more to this page as time allows please book mark this page and come back often.

I hope you found this helpful in sorting out how to find just the right consistency the airbrush paint you are using flows best. I will keep adding to it as often as I can.Written by Don Johnson with help from Doug Probst.

Pin Striping Continued

Well I’m still on track with the pinstriping I’ve been practicing at least a half hour everyday. I shot a liitle video to show you Kafka’s DVD and system which is how I’m teaching myself thru his knowledge. Pretty uneventful week couple helmets and working on issue 44 of ABT magazine. Hope you enjoy my little video. Have a great weekend.


Painting Pin Up Tank

Pin up on motorcycle tank tutorial hopefully explains the method I used to paint a Yamaha fuel tank with a bomber theme. We decided to call it “Triple Trouble” because the bike has 3 cylinders and 3 bullet holes in the design. By Ashley Brayson

Materials used in this tutorial: Paints used: Auto Air, Airbrushes used: Iwata Eclipse, Olympos hp-b, Iwata RG3, Masking: Application tape and 3M masking tape, Brush: Daler Rowney Rigger.


primed motorcycle tank

Step 1: The tank was primed and ready to paint when it arrived at the shop.




scuff primed surface

Step 2: I scuffed the surface with a red Scotch brite pad to provide some tooth for the paint to adhere to. This was then wiped down with panel wipe to give a nice clean surface.




auto air dark base sealer

Step 3: Using my Iwata RG-3 spray gun (0.6 nozzle) I sprayed an initial coat of Auto Air base coat sealer dark. This provides a good base for the subsequent Auto Air colours to adhere to. Notice that I have the tank on a bean bag covered with a sheet. As I go along I dry the paint with my heat gun and turn the tank over for the next area to be painted. I find I can paint the whole tank without hanging it up.


auto base coat applied

Step 4: Here you can see the whole tank is painted using the base coat dark sealer. I like to use water based paints because my studio is small and it suits my working environment very well.


Auto Air metallic silver

Step 5: Now I come in with the Auto Air metallic silver. As I go along I heat set the paint with my Bosch hot air gun. This ensures the paint is cured properly. Don’t get too close and keep the gun moving so you don’t blister the surface! I generally wave the gun about so I’m not in one position too long.


silver tank

Step 6: Now we have a silver tank. If you’re worried about getting fluff etc on the tank from the sheet then put a plastic bag over the bean bag instead.


masking the tank

Step 7: Application tape is now placed on both sides of the tank. This is a low tack tape used in the vinyl sign making trade to apply stickers. It doesn’t stick very well to metallic surfaces so you need to use a low pressure when airbrushing or it may lift.


drawing deign on masking

Step 8: I now draw the girl I have chosen for the design onto the tape; just the basic outline is fine. I’m using the same girl on both sides but her dress will be a different colour. I use tracing paper so that I can replicate the design exactly.


carefully cutting the design out

Step 9: Now it’s time to cut along all of the lines you have drawn with a scalpel. Be gentle as you don’t want to cut too deep. I find using two hands helps me to cut steadily and makes it easier to negotiate the sometimes tight curves.


start painting with white base

Step 10: I remove a section at a time and spray a reduced white (Auto Air semi opaque white reduced with Fantastik/water).


progress painting leg

Step 11: I try not to simply cover the area but go for a 3 dimensional look. Study your picture and add highlights as you go; you want depth to the image.


painting pin up progress pic

Step 12: Here you can see I have finished this stage of the girl. The opposite side of the tank is done in the same manner. You are striving for a good base on which to apply your colours. The colours would not show correctly if you simply applied them on top of the silver base.


apply flesh tomes

Step 13: Using detail ochre I begin to apply the flesh tones; I work lightly almost dusting the colour over the white. Again you need to keep studying your reference picture and apply the colours to specific areas. Don’t just covers the whole image in one go; it won’t look anything like flesh until you start to apply other colours on top. Remember that this is a layering process so work slowly and hopefully thoughtfully!


painting shadow areas

Step 14: With detail golden and then detail red we begin to see the skin colour beginning to evolve. Concentrate the darkest colours where the shadows are.


working on eyes and lips

Step 15: With a brush I add the whites of the eyes and red lips; I rarely use a brush in my work but I wanted a crisp look to this. I wouldn’t go near a brush if the girl had been freehanded with my airbrush.


painting eyes

Step 16: With black and blue for the eyes I add more detail. Don’t forget to add a glint in the eyes to bring them alive.


painting dress

Step 17: With the girl complete I mask over her and remove the dress area. Again with my reduced white I detail in the creases with my airbrush. All of this detail gives you something to aim at when you go in with the colours.


painting pin up dress

Step 18: I liberally spray detail violet over the dress to provide a background tone.


adding shadow area to dress

Step 19: Using detail magenta I follow the folds and creases to slowly add depth.


adding detail to shoes

Step 20: With the dress unmasked I now remove the tape covering the shoes. With a base of detail yellow airbrushed first, I then detail the shoes with my brush.


adding detail to pin up

Step 21: A little shadowing and some highlights with my airbrush gives a more 3D look. At this stage all that is left to do is the hair.


painting hair on pin up

Step 22: With a mixture of opaque brown and opaque purple to darken it I begin work on the hair.


pin up complete

Step 23: This is a shot of the girl completed.


adding rivet to tank

Step 24: Now at this stage I wanted to add a riveted panel to the top of the tank. To provide an outline to the panel I applied masking tape with a 3mm gap which I then airbrushed black.


painting rivets

Step 25: For the rivets the easiest method seemed to punch holes in a sheet of clear plastic so that my spacing would be constant. I held the sheet in place with tape and airbrushed a reduced black on the top edge of each hole to give the illusion of a curved shadow. A dot of white to the opposite side of each one gives a raised domed look.


adding shadows to the rivets

Step 26: You can see here that I have added a shadow and highlight to the outside edge of each rivet also so that they look pushed into the surface of the steel.



Step 27: This is a clearer view of the rivets. Just remember where you think your light source will be coming from and add the shadows and highlights accordingly.


adding lettering

Step 28: Now it’s time for the lettering. With some application tape in place I trace the letters onto it from a print out I produced on my computer, make sure the spelling is right.


painting lettering

Step 29: At this stage the tape has been cut and removed, try and get smooth curves as you cut. There’s nothing worse than wavy edges on a rounded letter. After white I airbrush yellow and orange to give a “bomber look” to the words.


outlining lettering

Step 30: Using base coat sealer dark I outline each letter with my rigger brush. I used the base coat sealer because it is very opaque. Outlining finished. I can breathe again!


bullet holes

Step 31: This is a close up of the bullet holes. I rendered these in a similar way to the rivets but the center hole is simply black. White and black to the outer edge add depth and make the holes look punched in.


adding rusty look
pin up tank completed
pin up tank completed

Step 32: With transparent root beer I add rust/gasoline runs for effect. Its silly little things like this that adds interest to a project. Last of all I cut out some bombs in cardboard and stenciled these at the girls feet

As far as the painting goes that’s it! Now for the clear coat and a polish.This is the tank finished. I hope you found this How-To informative whether you are a beginner or advanced airbrusher just comparing techniques.

Painting My First Bike

By Gary Fredericks

As the title says this is the first motorcycle I have painted. This is just the beginning as I will add some airbrush work later this year as well as fades and highlights into the existing flames, and an outline pinstripe. After a few months of consulting various internet sources, magazine articles, videos and attending a couple classes this is the method I used to complete my first bike.

Please drop Gary an e-mail and thank him for this contributing this article to the mag. I know he would love to hear from you.

Materials Used: Tack rags, lint free towelettes, ½” 3M tan masking tape, Auto Mask, 3M blue 1/8 fine line tape, DuPont Prep-Sol wax and grease remover, House of Kolor: Epoxy primer, Orion Silver base coat, Snowhite Pearl basecoat, Kobalt Blue Kandy Koncentrate, SG-100 Inter coat clear, and UC-35 clearcoat with catalyst.

I washed everything with dawn dish soap and water and thoroughly rinse everything taking care to tape off all openings into the tank. Using the Prep-Sol on a lint free cloth I wiped down the entire surface of the tank and fenders. Then using a red scotch brite pad and water with your average Comet type household cleanser I scrubbed again trying to insure against any left over wax or grime that was to stubborn to come off.


Step 1: I then used my electric orbital sander with 80 grit sand paper to remove the factory decal as its texture on the factory clear coat would shown through. I took it all the way to bare metal and wet sanded with 400 grit wet/dry sandpaper. There should be no shine left to the existing clear coat when you are done. Also be certain to feather the edges around the bare metal to a gradual transition from metal to paint. This will help save a little sanding after the premier is applied.


 Painting My First Bike


Step 2: I again used the Prep Sol to remove any oils from my hands that may have gotten on the surface during the wet sanding process than use a tack rag to clean any dust off of the surface. Be sure to wash your hands between each step to help prevent this from happening. I then blew it dry with my air hose and mixed up my Epoxy Primer according to the label. Using a 1.8mm HVLP gun by Astropneumatic I apply three primer coats over the bare metal spots on the tank, allowing it to flash dull in between coats. I repeated the same steps with the bottom of the fenders and the underside of the gas tank as well. Three medium coats follow this over the entire tank and fenders allowing flash time between coats. I let them cure for two days even though you can sand on them after 12 hours.

Using wet 600 grit wet / dry sandpaper I began creating my tooth for the paint and leveling off the surface making it as smooth as I can. During wet sanding I noticed low spots where the decals were. I mixed more primer and re do the same steps as above to fill these areas. The next day I wet sanded again and this time it came out fine and I was ready to apply my Orion Silver base coat. Some people use the sealers for this product line but I decided not to as I was on a tight budget and this is my personal ride. I apply 3 light / medium coats and this covers well and even. Two medium coats of inter coat clear follow the silver. You can use a catalyzed topcoat clear as well.


 Painting My First Bike


Step 3: Onto the flames. I use 800 grit wet / dry sandpaper to create tooth for my flames, followed by wiping it down with the Prep-Sol, blowing dry and then tacking off the dust with a tack rag. Using the 1 / 8″ blue tape I “draw” out my flames. The first couple designs didn’t suit my taste so I re-did it several few times until I was satisfied with them. The good thing about this tape is it can be peeled and re applied a couple times before it is no longer any good which is especially helpful around the curves. I suggest buying a roll of it just for practice and layout flames on your coffee table during your favorite show as it will give you practice and leave no messy residues. This stuff will take a little getting used to. Keep the roll in the hand that is doing the “drawing” and keep the tape low to the surface. Make your turns in smooth turns by keeping the motion steady and constant. If you do it in slow, unsteady movements, your turns will come out irregular and not smooth. After I am satisfied with the flames I cover the entire surface with the AutoMask, overlapping each piece by 1/2 inch. I then used my #11 X acto knife and CAREFULLY cut along the center of the blue tape using a new blade and changing to a new blade as soon as I felt resistance to the cutting action. I removed the cut outs and checked for areas that I had ANY doubts would allow paint to spray under and onto where I did not want to paint. I used my ½” tan 3 M tape to seal these areas off along with taping the seams of each overlap of automask. Wash your hands thoroughly with dish soap and run your finger along the blue tape to insure it is completely on the surface and sealed properly.

 Painting My First Bike

 Painting My First Bike


Step 4: Mixing the Snow White Pearl base coat according to the label I then add approx. 10% Kobalt Blue Kandy Concentrate to the mix to create my blue pearl flame color. I used my stir stick to judge the intensity of my color continuing until I was satisfied with it. Using my Iwata W-88 I apply 2 coats evenly with a 50% overlap. I let it flash for about 60 minutes and removed the auto mask first and then pulled the blue fine line tape sharply against itself to perform more of a shearing action with the tape rather than pulling it straight up which can cause the blue paint to flake off and ruin the flames edge.


 Painting My First Bike


 Painting My First Bike


Step 5: I mix my UC – 35 clear coat with a 2 : 1 : 1 mix ( 2 parts clear : 1 part reducer : 1 part catalyst ). I clear coat the entire sheet metal surface including the bottom of the fenders and the tank tunnel underneath using 3 wet coats than letting it flash until sticky, but NOT stringy when touched with a finger between each coat. I let it cure 24 hours and wet sanded with 1000 grit wet, we t/ dry sandpaper smoothing the borders of the flames and creating one uniformly smooth surface. Using the tack rag I clean the surface of dust and debris and blow off with air. I now mix another batch of clear and over reduce a little bit to get more flow out and more shine in the finished product. I apply one wet coat and let it cure over night. The result is a very nice shine and smooth surface. The bike was re-assembled and immediately taken for a ride around town!


 Painting My First Bike


 Painting My First Bike


Comments: I must add that I used my barn / garage for the whole process. This is a back yard job from start to finish. It is important to have adequate ventilation and to wet your floor to keep the dust down prior to spraying. Be sure to follow ALL safety guide lines for the products you are using as well as a dual cartridge active charcoal respirator rated for Volatile Organic Compounds ( VOC ‘s). I had a lot of fun doing this and hope at least some one can get a better idea on how to approach similar projects such as this from this How To. Hope you enjoyed it!

Painting Motorcycle Tribal, Tiger Design

by Ashley Brayson

I picked up my first airbrush in 1998 after a lot of research. Initially I just wanted to paint mirror frames using simple stencil techniques and fades. It wasn’t long before I realised the potential of this tool and I started to read articles in magazines. I learnt about thinning the paint correctly and general airbrush control. It changed everything for me. The hard-edged look was gone and I became more and more proficient.

I really like painting animals so for this design I decided to go with a head-on tiger portrait incorporating tribal design flames. It’s very easy to overdo a tank so the most complex part will be the tiger itself. It’s nice to really go to town on the main subject and leave the rest of the design fairly simple.Materials used: Createx Auto Air, masking tape, small magnets, Iwata HP-C airbrush.

Airbrush Supplies Required:

Createx Auto Air, masking tape, small magnets, Iwata HP-C airbrush.

holding stencils with magnets

Step1: To begin with I painted the whole tank in Auto Air basecoat black. This will be my background colour for the flame design. You can see here I have covered the tank in 2-inch masking tape. To ensure symmetry I have cut out 2 flames from a sheet of paper and positioned them on the tank using magnets.


out lining design

Step2: using a reduced black I lightly spray around the stencils. Repeating this using various other flame stencils I can get the look I’m after knowing that it will be even on both sides of the tank.


remove masking

Step3: With the flame design cut out using a scalpel blade I remove the background tape leaving the tribal flames covered.


tiger stencil

Step4: I have printed a black and white tiger image onto A4 paper and this will serve as my basic stencil to position various areas of the tiger ready for my freehand work. I have cut out the brightest areas of the head as you can see here and again attached it to the surface using my magnets (very useful!)


airbrushed through the stencil

Step5: Here you can see how lightly I have airbrushed through the stencil apertures with my very reduced white. Remember this is purely to give me reference positions for the freehand work to come.


started to stroke in the fur detail

Step6: I have now started to stroke in the fur detail with my airbrush and reduced white. These are simply fine lines to create the illusion of fur.


establish a good background

Step7: All of the areas that that the stencil gave me are detailed with fur. In doing something like this it helps to begin with the lightest areas and establish a good background for the transparent colours to follow later on.


brightest areas established

Step8: With the brightest areas established I have now roughly given some dimension to the muzzle and the rest of the head.


use my stencil again

Step9: At this point I need to know where the black areas are so that I can avoid them when painting the rest of the white fur. To do this I use my stencil again but this time I have cut out the stripes.


areas to avoid

Step10: Here you can see that using a reduced black I can now see the areas to avoid when continuing with my white.



Step11: This is a photo I took showing the contrast between the untouched area on the left and the detailed right side.


white so far

Step12: A close up shot of how it looks with just white so far.


added detail

Step13: Now I have added detail to the black areas with my reduced black. We now have a fairly good tiger just using black and white paint. This is necessary to create good under painting for my colours next. The fur detail will show through the transparent paints. If you used opaque you would end up covering the work you have just done.


Auto Air transparent yellow

Step14: Starting with the lightest colour I use Auto Air transparent yellow. Study your reference picture and try and see all of the different colours involved. Tigers are not just orange. There are yellows, oranges and reds in some areas. Transparent allow you to layer your colours for subtle tones.


transparent orange

Step15: With transparent orange I apply light coats over the fur avoiding the fur areas I want to remain white. There’s a lot of white on a tiger. Losing this would destroy that beautiful contrast. When applying the colours always airbrush in the direction of the fur, don’t just blast the colour on from a distance. You want to create a tight painting and maintain detail.


head is now complete

Step16: The head is now complete apart from whiskers. I have used red to darken some areas and some red violet mixed in for the muzzle. Green was also used for the eyes. Always add white highlights to the eyes when done. Tiny areas of moisture and reflections really bring them to life.


simple fire design

Step17: I decided to go with a simple fire design for the rest of the background so using firstly reduced white I used transparent yellow and then orange to create a simple design that should separate the tribal flames when the tape is removed. At this point I also add a faint drop shadow on the lower edges of the tape before removing it.


airbrush some highlights

Step18: Here I have removed all of the tape. The tribal design looks very flat at this point. So in order to give some dimension I airbrush some highlights to give the impression that they are standing out from the tank surface. Please refer to the finished photograph to see the effect of the highlights.


clear coated
finished tank

The clear coat when applied professionally really does make a big difference. Thanks to Sam of Airbrush Perfections for doing a great job.