Is Airbrush Painting Your Own Car Worth The Risk?
Your car is a very personal possession, and it can become even more personal and meaningful with some custom airbrush art. Click here to learn about airbrush painting for cars, and whether or not it’s best to utilize the skill of a professional airbrush artist.
A custom-painted hood liner or heat extractor can make your car stand out in a crowd. And, whether you have a your favorite vacation spot or actual blue flames emblazoned on the hood, your car is sure to be noticed.
Airbrush car painting is a fascinating process, and results in a stunning, customized look for your Camaro (or any other prized car). But before you get the itch to try your hand at becoming a famous vehicle painter, you need to know what you’re up against.
Amateur paint jobs can can result in disaster, especially if you’re not prepared. Learn about the pros and cons of DIY airbrush painting for cars, and gain a better understanding of why using a professional is often the route to go.
For Beginners: Airbrush Painting a Car
Automotive airbrush paints add depth and attention to your car. If you’re a brave soul, and plan to do the work yourself, you definitely need to take some time to familiarize yourself with the tools and medium. At minimum, there are three key elements:
There are two types of airbrush guns, a gravity feed or a bottom feed gun. The gravity feed is used for more delicate work, while the bottom feed airbrush gun is most often used for covering large areas where less detail is needed.
A compressor made especially for airbrushing is the key to success. Even though they work just as well as other compressors, they tend to run more quietly. And, trust us, your ears will thank you later.
Automotive Airbrush Paints
Airbrush paints are water-based, and using this type of specialized paint is essential, even if you just plan on practicing your painting skills to get a feel for the medium.
Automotive airbrush paints are made specifically to adhere well to the car, and need to be able to accept the clear coat that will be sprayed on top.
Airbrush Painting: Benefits of Using a Professional
If you’re a newbie to airbrushing, don’t let your Camaro be the place you start. The best approach is to experiment with the brush and paint safely (away from your car) and let the professionals take charge. (An excellent practice surface is a piece of scrap metal.)
Although shows like TLC’s ‘Rides’ make the extraordinary look easy, the reality is that it takes practice, patience and (most importantly) skill to master the fine art of airbrushing. Car airbrush artists use stencils and freehand design to create artwork, which can be customized for basically any type of surface.
Airbrushed art is recognizable by its realistic appearance, created by controlling the nozzle’s paint flow and combining layers and shading for dimension in the design. And, the benefits of using a professional for this type of detailed design on your car are widespread:
Airbrush painting on cars is designed to be permanent, and a professional can ensure that the correct type of paint is being used at all times.
Airbrush artists use paints that won’t corrode your car’s surface, and, at the same time, make sure that the type of paint used accepts the automotive clear coat that will be sprayed overtop.
The last thing you want to see on your prized Camaro is a terrible paint job (short of a dent or ding, that is). Custom airbrushed hood liners, fuel rail coil covers and accessories not only give your car a personality, they also show off the pride and attention to detail you have for your investment.
A poor paint job has the exact opposite effect: decreased value, declined attractiveness of your car’s exterior/interior and a negative portrayal of your attention to detail.
Since the 1950’s, the increase in demand for airbrush painting on cars has a direct correlation to the artform’s limitless options for customization. In today’s world, thanks to the evolution of tools and techniques, an airbrush artist’s only limitation is his or her own artistic ability.
To top it off, airbrushing your car’s surface is the only way to achieve a completely smooth design (no rollers, no brushes—no thank you!). You can create your own custom design, or choose from template options designed especially for your make and model.
Airbrush Painting on Cars
So, is using a professional worth the money?
Short answer: yes. Absolutely. Every single time.
In addition to the paint, airbrush and compressor that you need in order to EVEN BEGIN LEARNING, you would also need a buffer, a power sander, and 1200-2000 grit sandpaper (add on a dust extractor, too, just for giggles).
Then for prepping, factor in that you’ll need masking tape and plastic. For safety, you need a face mask and safety glasses. And, along with your paint, you’ll need paint thinners, an undercoat paint, a topcoat of acrylic or enamel paint, and a clear-coat lacquer. SHEESH!
Now tally up that total and don’t forget to add in the costs of your learning curve!
You can see that a NON-PROFESSIONAL airbrush painting job isn’t cheap. And the costs of fixing a DIY job gone bad can send you digging even deeper into your pockets.
Surprisingly, custom, professionally-done jobs are less than you might think. And, by going the airbrush artist route, you can guarantee that the following important steps aren’t missed (or done improperly) along the way.
Removing dust from the work area is essential. Professionals work out of a clean, designated space to ensure that the area isn’t contaminated with any debris that might accidentally make its way into your paint job. Additionally, they make sure the car itself is cleaned— grease and dirt-free.
Professionals know that the best way to achieve a perfect finish is by sanding to bare metal, which helps to attain a smooth surface.
This part of the process is often one of the most time-consuming, and the time investment depends heavily upon the stripping method used.
It can take up to two hours to physically sand each panel, and for the smoothest surface, professional artists will finish up with a fine grain, wet-and-dry sandpaper and then wipe down with thinner to remove any residual dust.
Tape, stencils and plastic sheeting are best friends to the professional airbrush artist. Professionals take their time with this step, because they know attention to detail is the key to success.
Primer is applied to the car, starting at the roof and working down. Multiple coats are used to cover the surface completely, and then sanded to an even finish and wiped down with thinner.
Paint is applied in multiple coats and at various levels of paint flow to achieve the look and dimension of each individual design.
Before the last coat, any powdery residue is removed by sanding the surface and then wiped down with a fresh rag. These same steps are repeated when applying the clear-coat lacquer, as well.
Once the clear coat is completely dry, the paint is buffed by making circular motions with a buffer to ensure the look, feel and shine of a professionally done paint job.
Advanced Airbrushing and Custom-Ordered Parts
If you want custom art for your car, don’t go it alone.
You’ve seen Camaros and other muscle cars with awesome, custom-painted hood liners and engine bays. Those are achieved by skilled hands who have mastered airbrush car painting and make designing your dream car their life’s work.
If you want a highly customized design, you can order items like airbrushed hood liners with the ease of a couple of clicks—everything is available, from the infamous checkered design to the Camaro logo.
DIY vs. Professional Automotive Airbrush Painting
With some practice and patience, airbrush painting cars is something you can do yourself, but it’s also something that requires extensive practice, good equipment and time (not to mention, money).
For the time and monetary investment it takes to learn the art of airbrushing, it’s often more effective to involve the professionals. Custom, professional airbrush design can rejuvenate the look of your prized vehicle and add value to your ride, without the worry of amateur mistakes that result in a costly learning curve.