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Pinstriping with Wizard-Basic Design Construction


By now, I can imagine that you may feel some kind of pride and energy in your stripes, provided of course that you’ve kept up with the lesson plan. (If not, get out those back issues and catch up from lesson 1, cause we’re cruizin’ pretty fast now.)

We left off with arcs last time, and by now I hope you’ve gained a handle on them. I also assume that you’ve conquered the ten-stroke regimen and are almost ready to construct some basic design plans in your head.

We’re doing a basic design on a deck-lid for starters. Design construction must start and end somewhere, so I offer some very elementary, albeit biased viewpoints about what I think makes a good design. You can disagree, to some degree, but there are some guidelines you should respect, and I’ll try to define these for you.


Let’s examine a couple of beginning points. The first and most common approach is to center your design and work out from there. (Photo 1) This constitutes the foundation for symmetrical striping. Most of the time you can measure to the center of your panel, hood, cowling, faring, fender or deck-lid with a measuring device. A cloth measuring device, commonly used by a seamstress, is ideal. Nothing looks less professional than dragging a steel tape measure across a radius of a deck lid and having it slip all over the place. Besides, trying to eyeball the center and then having the customer tell you “that’s off-center, isn’t it?” is also embarrassing! Whether you’re doing a car, motorcycle, mailbox, or a panel for exchange at a Pinhead event, finding center is critically important. After prepping the surface with degreaser and making a mark with a Stabillo pencil, place your 1/4- or 1 /8 inch tape from the top to the bottom and leave it there. Step back, look at it, and make sure you’re not off center. Once the foundation is centered, move on and tape other areas where designs will be placed. For this session, I striped a beige Toyota Corolla.

photo 2

After laying out the rough tape lines, we are nearly ready to begin our first of three colors. Your first color should closely match the vehicle’s interior. Then, choose a complementary color, (which may involve the customers taste), and for the third, a “shocking” color that wakes up the design. I mixed ivory and brown to match the interior. I constructed the base foundation with two opposing “C” curves. [Photo 2) Then I added a couple of “C” curves on both sides to start heading out from the center. In the beginning, you can construct a gr id using a Stabillo pencil, but as I warned in an earlier column, don’t let the pencil become a crutch and impede your path to mastering symmetry.

photo 3

Study your surface to determine how far you want to “travel” from the center, how thick your lines will be, and most important, how much you are getting paid for this iob. Does it merit two or three colors? Do you charge for the extra color? I suppose it’s a pet peeve of to carry the visual weight of the wings and legs of this design. Do not rush ahead. Think about each line as you begin your design. Realize that balance and symmetry come as a result of intense effort invested in those practice strokes. Also, anticipate where to leave room. This is the most difficult thing for me. If I crowd the design with the first color, I’m reluctant with the second and it lacks impact. This planning is more difficult than the practice strokes.

photo 4

You will most likely be disappointed with many of your designs at first and not know why. Primarily, this is because you may tend to overdo the first color and not allow for balanced second and third colors. We go out from the center with long graceful strokes. (Photo 4) Important: as soon as you pull the left side (right-handers), immediately pull the opposing side.

For a second, you’ll need to stand top dead center over your design and feel where the second line is going. For most newbies, this step probably requires tons of practice to perfect. Also, the farther you drag that first one, the opposing one will be equally challenging. The sweeping motion is totally opposite of what you just did and its TOUGH!

photo 5

Develop the center now by pulling the tape ( if you haven’t already done so) and lining up a teardrop shape using two opposing “C” lines. (Photo 5) mine, but pricing is what makes or breaks a striper’s attitude. If you think that you’re being taken advantage of, you’ll naturally not like your work, your customers, and even yourself. I’ll offer much more on pricing as soon as you’re ready for customers.

Hint: with speed comes an income of over $200 per hour. Back to the deck-lid. (Photo 3) Notice that the second and third lines form a foundation that is strong enough visually to support the wings that’ll go off to the sides. My theory is that the center should be substantial enough.

photo 6

Photo 6 shows the arc that finishes the basic center design. Last month’s issue demonstrated these lines. It’s a most difficult stroke because it crosses over your entire design. If you mess up on this one, you’ve blown the entire design. If you really feel like quitting at this point, go ahead and make a pattern and lean on this method until you gain greater confidence.

Design construction cannot be effectively accomplished unless you absolutely own the practice strokes. Next time, we’ll complete the design so keep practicing and please don’t rush ahead! If you want something to work on in addition to this basic centerline design, try some variations on the first preliminary foundation lines. Also, seek photos of pinstriping and study their rudimentary design elements.

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