If you have ever wondered how to do a paint job on a curvy object requiring a completely masked surface, you are in luck. In this article, I’ll show you how to custom paint a bowling pin, but you can use these techniques for any other object you find difficult to tape up completely. These pins are cool because they have tons of angles for reflecting your trick paints when mounted and they are a unique addition to your funk culture collection. They are also great starting points for large-scale work-at our shop, these designs often evolve into full blown custom paint jobs.
Before we get started you have to prep your pin for paint. I sand the entire surface with 180-grot paper, fill any low spots with body fill, and block them out. Then I spray two or three coats of primer. I like to use PPG’s DTM primers because of their built-in adhesion qualities, but I also apply a plastics adhesion promoter before priming. I let the primer dry over night, and then I give the surface a final sanding with 600-grit wet sandpaper. I find the water really stops the paper from loading and speeds up this process incredibly. Clean up and dry off your pin, then wipe it down with a wax and grease remover (I use PPG’s DX 320).Next, just wipe the surface with a tack rag and you are ready to spray your base.
To begin, I spray the pin with yellow pearl basecoat and allow it to dry for an hour at 70-75 degrees. I apply four medium-heavy coats of spray mask and let it dry for about 4-6 hours, depending on shop temperature. Spray mask, by the way, is a spray able masking fluid that when dried, gives you a completely covered, ready to cut surface. My brand of choice is Spraylat.
For this design, I draw my design directly on the spray mask with a Sharpie pen. Don’t worry- it wont leak through and stain your basecoat. I like to keep the curves and tips of this pattern loose. At this point, I really only focus on the flow of design.
I complete the drawing stages with lines defining the outer edge of lava flames. Usually, you would paint the predominant color of your project first, and then paint the background color later. Here I am doing the reserve of that because I am always seeking minimal film build, which is the small edge that develops next to the masked edge. This way, there’s less to clean up later. In order to get a nice bright yellow, you need to lay down a good white ground coat first. When you do this, you end up with a substantial edge. By spraying the purple over the existing yellow, you get excellent coverage and a much smaller edge.
To make things simple before I cut out my design. I stroke out the areas that are to remain. This helps clearly define which areas will stay and which will be cut.
With a really sharp # 11 X-Acto knife. I loosely grip the handle, almost as if pin striping, and cut out my design. In this case, the lines of marker are only suggestions and I often improvise slightly to improve the smoothness of my edges. Be aware of the blade’s pressure. Don’t be a hulk and dig into the basecoat.
Gently peel away your mask. Always try to peel towards the tip of your flames.
Here I use a medium nozzle on my airbrush for the pearl base. I like to keep the mixture of House of Kolor Passion Pearl Purple at about 50% reduction with a fast reducer and 40-50 psi. Instead of a uniform purple covering, I opt for an abstract strokey type of coverage, which is more interesting and also leaves less of an edge.
Lay down a drop-shadow on your bottom right with a dark purple mixture and remove the remaining mask to reveal your design. If you were careful and didn’t fire-hose your purple, you should have little or no bleed through!
Using my airbrush, I scoop some rose base toner from my PPG mixing bank. This color turns a funky kind of redorange over the existing yellow depending on the number of layers sprayed. Keeping my light source in mind, 1 mold my lava flames until they look stretchy and 3-0.
Finishing my texturing, I add a green counter-light on the shadow side using transparent green over the existing yellow edge.
Time to plunk in some eyeballs. In this Case, I am using my Roland vinyl cutter technically know as a “plotter”) to make two round templates-one for the eyeball and one for the iris. If you don’t have a vinyl cutter, use a circle template and cut out some paper masks. Stick them down with 3M repositionable adhesive spray.
Spray a couple or nice, even coats of white with a similar consistency. Take care not to soak the template her.
Using a transparent blue color, I shape the eyeball to give the illusion of sphere. Be sure to stay away from the center where the iris will be.
After your base is dry enough (maybe 15 minutes), slap on the smaller circle template and model the iris. This step leaves a lot of room for interpretation, but whatever you do, try to keep your light source in mind here.
Apply the smaHer template a n d spray the iris green tones, including the Carefully remove your tape a n d masking templates, and voila1 You have an eyeball that unnervingly resembles a pickled egg! (Don’t worry-that image “” disappear with a Eittle detailing.
Reduce your white rnixture about another 25% , and slow it down with a medium or slow reducer. Lay in your highlights and the slimy nerve cord. A great way to add dimension is to intertwine the cord with your flame design, just keep your light source in mind as you do this.
Use the same rose color for the nerve cord and the veins in the eye. Using dagger strokes, leave some white vertical patterns to give the appearance of moisture.
Darken up your transparent blue with a complement of blue and small amount of black. Create a drop-shadow for the cord and the eye, then enhance the blue shadows on the eye.
Use the same techniques to make more eyeballs. Finally, take your white mixture and add more wetness and motion to your design. Now you’re ready for clearcoat. Unless you are a pro, get a buddy or hire someone for this stage. It’s not as easy as it looks, and unless you have all the right safety gear, - it’s not good for your health.
I hope this How-To sheds some light into the dark shadows of custom painting. There’s really no secret - successful painting is about common sense and patience. Once you figure out what makes your paint products work, you can relax and just create. Remember, that many of today’s top techniques started out as mistakes that our predecessors learned from and perfected into new ways of doing things!