How Craig Fraser Airbrushes a Motorcycle with Artool’s New Piracy Stencils

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Craig Fraser's Piracy

REMEMBER THAT JUST BECAUSE THIS IS AN AUTOMOTIVE COLUMN DOESN’T MEAN YOU HAVE TO stick to painting cars and bikes. These stencils can be used for everything from body art, to wall murals, to cake decorating, and they’re made with a solvent-proof polymer, so you don’t have to worry about what you paint them with because you aren’t going to hurt these babies.

Craig Fraser airbrush Piracy

For our 21st installment, I grabbed Piracy, the new 6-stencil series inspired by “The Pirate” from Artool. Because so many artists liked the stylized pirate skull in Wrath of Skullmaster, it made good sense to develop a stencil series dedicated to the fine art of piracy. With a stellar lineup of Pieces of Eight, Tortuga, The O’Cursed, Flyin’ Dutchman, Tell no Tales, and Jolly Rodger, how can you go wrong?

For this demo, I used elements of each stencil to create a full mural design. The number of designs you can create from this set wholly hinges on your imagination. By the way, much of this project was done in response to the feedback and suggestions

I’ve fielded from emails, forum comments, and Airbrush Getaway participants. Some of the favorite topics out there range from which airbrush is the best to which one gives the best detail to how many skulls can one paint in the size of a dime. Detail is fine, but if you can’t airbrush to begin with, all the Microns in the world won’t make you a better painter. To prove a point and because somebody challenged me to do a mural without my Micro I painted this entire demo using a Kustom Eclipse CS. Another challenge dared me to create a composite stencil design that didn’t look stenciled.

Let’s see how it goes!

Craig Fraser

1. After scuffing the powdercoated black metal blank with a red Scotchbrite pad, I back-masked the panel with Ultramask, a new masking productfrom Artool. Unlike AutoMask, Ultramask has the advantage of being transparent. It also comes witha backing paper for use in cutting your own stencils on a plotter. And unlike frisket, Ultramask is solvent-proof and will stick to basecoated and clearcoated surfaces.

Craig Fraser Piracy

2. To create the ripped edge of the pirate map, I airbrushed basecoat white over the furls of the Tortuga stencil. Keep the rip effects simple so you can match the stencil furls to the outline later on.

Craig Fraser Piracy 3

3. After cutting and unmasking the map area, I made a batch of off-white by adding some House of Kolor KK-08 Kandy Rootbeer and KK-12 Pagan Gold into BC-26 Basecoat White. I wanted this color to have a dingy, aged, parchment look. It sure has that. Don’t be too even with the coat. This is one of the few times that you want poor coverage to create an aged look.

Craig Fraser Piracy 4

4. With the map’s base done, I airbrushed the classic skull and crossed-sword design using the Tell No Tales stencil and basecoat white. I mean, really, how many pirate things have you seen without a skull and crossed swords?

Craig Fraser Piracy 5

5. Using Tortuga again, I airbrushed the furls for real this time. Because I only used about six of the different furls in the stencil, theywere easy to keep track of from the outline. Too few look weird, and too many look busy, so be sure to find a nice balance.

Craig Fraser Piracy - 7

6. Now for the rest of Tortuga. With a mixture of Rootbeer Kandy and BC-25 Black Basecoat, I airbrushed the treasure path and various pirate map goodies, including a few ships from the Flyin’ Dutchman stencil, and a couple of pirate flags from Jolly Rodger.

Craig Fraser airbrush Piracy 7

7. With the pirate map stenciled in, I freehandairbrushed some stencil lines and added fades to eliminate that pesky stencil look. Because the mural is much bigger than the stencil, I got creative with the placement of the treasure path and made the island in the map even bigger.

Craig Fraser airbrush Piracy 8

8. The Rootbeer and Black give the overall map a very cool aged sepia look. With the details finished, I continued to use the samecolor mix for the shading and around the furls. Be sure to keep your light source in mind.

Craig Fraser airbrush Piracy 9

9. To protect all my detail work, I unmasked and then re-masked the holes. Yes, I know I should have saved the negative part of the mask that I cut, but in reality it’s really difficult to reposition something this large and with this many odd cuts. For me, it was easier to re-cut the sucker.

Craig Fraser Piracy 10

10. Lost pirate souls fill ripped holes really well, and The O’Cursed stencil was perfect for this. Filled with a bunch of damned (literally) pirates,O’Cursed is killer for rendering background ghouls in murals, or as some cool underwater zombie fest in a background graphic.

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11. I wanted something in the foreground that didn’t have just pirate zombies everywhere. What do pirate zombies like? Oh, yeah, money. Time for Pieces of Eight to add a whole mess of loot. Because I work primarily with kandies in these areas, a white basecoat really make the kandies pop.

Craig Fraser airbrush Piracy 12

12. With the white basecoat applied, I airbrushed, separately, House of Kolor KK-04 Oriental Blue, KK-12 Pagan Gold, and KK-09 Organic Green. Make sure when mixing these kandies to use only 20% of a KK color to the SG-100 before reducing. More than that will cause bleeding.

Craig Fraser airbrush Piracy 13

13. After returning some of the details in the coins with Pieces of Eight and the Rootbeer/Black color, I added a little KK-07 Tangerine to give the coins a more golden look. Keep the tangerine away from the blue or green or it will darken and kill those colors fast.

Craig Fraser airbrush Piracy 14

14. Man, I’m really digging this Rootbeer/ Black. It’s very versatile, and good for detailing, dark line work, and soft blends. I brought back some life to the pirate zombies with this color. With a little shading and a little detailing, you can hardly tell that it was stenciled.

Craig Fraser airbrush Piracy 15

15. With more Rootbeer/Black, I finished details to my skull and crossed swords. I also separated it a bit from the background map by airbrushing a subtle drop-shadow.

Craig Fraser airbrush - Piracy 16

16. I airbrushed the bandana with KK-11 Red Kandy, and followed it with some over-reduced BC-26 white, and my skull was just about finished. Don’t go too crazy with the white. A few highlights really punch out the design, but too many will make it cartoony and lame.

Craig Fraser airbrush - Piracy 17

17. Of course, the zombies needed glowing eyes and small bubbles floating around them.Caution: his white may appear as overspray,and will kill your colors if you’re too heavy with it.

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18. After unmasking everything, the furls needed highlights to make them punch out. Using the edges of the coins from Pieces of Eight to spray through, I gave the furls a nice highlight, but didn’t allow the overspray to “jack up” my background.

FINAL. This turned out to be a killer mural, employing every stencil from the new Piracy series. The balance of stencil use, backmasking, and freehand work gave the painting a clean mixed media look without screaming “Stenciled!!” This further proves that you can use a medium workhorse airbrush, the Iwata Eclipse CS in this case, and still get some killer detail. Please submit your comments, suggestions, or requests for this column to, or you can cruise the new Q&A forum at Paint to live, live to paint; and sometimes with stencils. –Fraser

Craig Fraser Email

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