Blazing Six String by Jan Larkman (Airbrushing flames on a guitar)

Think hot-rodding is only for cars? Think again. Artist Jan Larkman flames out a  guitar.

Hot-rodding a guitar is a project I’ve wanted to undertake for quite some time. After doing some paintings on motorcycle gas tanks with Createx Auto Air — jamming, if you will — I finally bought my canvas, a used guitar. Although the instrument was in bad shape for playing, the body was suitable for painting. Before anything else, all the old or non-working parts had to go. I replaced them with new, suped up hotrod parts, many of which I had to special order. While I was waiting for the new parts to arrive, the concept for the paint job came to me: 1970s-inspired flames on a black and white checkerboard. I was ready to get to work! Here’s how it happened.

Step 1. After removing the old parts, I will the screw holes with Standox filler. Then I wet-sand the area to be painted with 240 grit sandpaper. I mask off the red inlay and sides of the body with frisk film.

Step 2. I apply a Standox primer and wet-sand the surface with 400 grit sandpaper. I then spray Createx Auto Air basecoat and dry-sand it lightly with 600 grit sandpaper.

guitar-airbrush-flames-step3Step 3. After drawing my design on tracing paper, I turn the drawing over. On the back I retrace the whole design in pencil. I place the paper right side up, and transfer the design by rubbing a pencil over it. Here I am careful to leave a very fine graphite line over the body.





Step 4. Where there’s smoke, there must be fire! After the design is transferred, I start masking the flames, using 3M blue fine-line tape, amnd masking tape.




Step 5. Now for the fun part. I start airbrushing the top of the flames yellow and the edges orange. (All of the colors used on this project are from the Createx Auto Air line, by the way.)




Step 6. After I layer in the yellow and orange, I airbrush the ends of the flames with fire red. I then trace the edges of the flames with red to enhance the demonic glow.




Step 7. I carefully remove the tape from the body of the guitar. Once the tape comes off, the intensity of the flames is completely visible. At this point, I can clearly see what the colors of the flames look like. If I have to go back and correct any mistake, now is the time.

After doing some paintings on motorcycle gas tanks with Createx Auto Air — jamming, if you will — I finally bought my canvas , a used guitar.”


guitar-airbrush-flames-step8-9Step 8: I want the outline to be made up of two sharp colors side by side — no pin striping. That’s why I’ve masked the outline with blue fine-line tape and the rest of the body area with masking tape.






Step 9: I airbrush the outline blue and the tips of the flames violet.





Step 10: Before airbrushing the white checkerboard area, I mask off the blue and violet outline with blue fine-line tape. Then I cut the tips of the flames with a Swann-Morton surgical knife. When this is done, I mask over the black area.

Step 11: After I spray the white part, I remove the masking from the black area. I cut a slightly bigger square on thick paper. I mask the black area with tape, which I can easily adjust to change the size of the area if I have to. Next I start applying the final black color.

Step 12: At this point, I remove all the tape and prepare a new masking for the clear coat. I apply blue fine-line tape around the body, following the edge of the red inlay. The rest of the guitar is protected with masking tape. The body is now ready for the final step - clear coat.


Step 13: After the first round of clear-coating, it seems the guitar needs some more coats. I wet-sand the body with 800 grit sandpaper to prepare it for several more clear coats.

Step 14: Here’s where all the work pays off. I fit the neck and the hardware to the body. Wow! What a difference the new parts make!

Here are the old parts I scrapped from the guitar.
Here are the old parts I scrapped from the guitar.

 About the Artist

JanLarkman-airbrush-artist-finlandHelsinki, Finland native Jan Larkman is a self-taught airbrusher. Jan has been hooked on hot rods and dragsters since reading his first issue of Hot Rod magazine in 1964. He bought high first airbrush, a Badger 100XF, in 1976. Jan does body painting, comic strips, aviation art, and pinup work.

Tech File

Airbrush: Olympos HP-100 B 0.2 Air Source: Jun-Air compressor with two moisture separators

Paint Media: Createx Auto Air Masking: 3M Blue Fine-Line Tape, masking tape

OTHER: Swann-Morton surgical knife

airbrush-airbrushing-airbrush-getaway-logo-2Learn How To Airbrush


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