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Vehicles + Vinyl

20 Quick and Easy Tips

Proven techniques that will add flash, speed and profit to your vehicle-graphics business



Create paint-scheme designs for customers so they know what colors and layout to expect on a job. Also, sell paint-scheme design to clients who are having their vehicles painted at an autobody shop. These designs are especially helpful for racing teams trying to recruit sponsors.

If you’re using black paint to render shadows — stop.

Instead, use a darker shade of the vehicle’s base color. For example, if the vehicle is red, use a burgundy color to create shadow. Similarly, on a kelly-green car, use forest-green shadows.

To scrape away old paint, use a dulled razor blade.

When removing painted vehicle graphics, first soften the old paint with oven cleaner. Then, use a dull razor blade to scrape away the graphics. A sharp razor may scrape more than just lettering enamel; you may also scrape the vehicle’s basecoat. Standard sandpaper is adequate for dulling your razor blade.


Give ho-hum racing checks some get-up-and-go.

Over the top of standard black-and-white checks, apply a light coat of lilac pearl. The pearl overcoat, although subtle, gives the graphics life.

Paint wet-on-wet, with high-temp reducer.

When painting intricate, blended vehicle graphics — and especially when painting cartoons on vehicles — work wet-on-wet with a high-temp reducer. A low-temp reducer speeds up the drying time of lettering enamel and may cause it to set unevenly.

Fix mistakes with a little ingenuity. If that doesn’t work, try mineral spirits.

When rendering a complex mural, chances are, at some point, you’ll make a mistake. One solution is to airbrush an object — such as a tree or flower — over your error. However, when a mistake can’t be easily camouflaged, sand the area smooth and wipe it off with either mineral spirits or water. Use the former if you’re working with oil-based paint; the latter, if you’re using a water-based product.


For complex graphics, use pounce paper on top of transfer tape.

When creating a graphic that has multiple sections — especially a graphics with pieces that will need to be re-masked — first apply a layer of transfer tape on the vehicle. Over the top of the transfer tape, apply pounce paper that you’ve already punched. As you press your pounce pad onto the paper, the chalk design will go through the punched holes onto the transfer tape. Then, remove the pounce paper and, using the chalk design as a guide, cut the transfer tape with a scalpel. Save the shapes you cut out, because you can use them for re-masking.

Gather household items and use them in new and clever ways.

Why go to all the trouble to design, plot, cut and weed and vinyl mask? Adhesive paper peeled from children’s stickers was used as masking for these Indian beads.

Use quick size to speed up the gilding process.

When you’re on deadline, you may not have time to wait eight hours for size to set up. As such, try using a quick size. 1-Shot quick size was used for this job, because the product sets up quickly, yet allows a wide window of time in which to apply goldleaf.


Certainly, numerous pinstripers are available to a vehicle graphics artist — from traditional brushes to vinyl striping tape. Another good option is the Beugler Striping Wheel, shown here.

Instead of using pencil or chalk marks, lay out your flame design with outline tape.

First lay out a flame job onto a car with 1/8-inch outline tape. The tape is easy to see and accurately reflects what the completed job will look like.

Make a vehicle’s windows look sleek and sassy.

Don’t know what to do with the strip of metal between a vehicle’s windows? Paint the metal black. This will keep the windows from looking "choppy," and will afford a sleek, stylish appearance.

Incorporate bullet holes into your designs.

To make bullet holes, use acetate, into which you’ve cut circles with an X-acto



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