Wednesday, 10 January 2007 09:20

Airbrushing the graphics on the Meguiars rigs

Written by Rich Evans

 By Rich Evans

{mosimage}After all the plotting, back masking, priming and prepping, it is finally time to paint the flames on the Meguiar's rigs, with a focus on the airbrushing techniques of Huntington Beach Bodyworks' master artist Terry Stephens.

Step one is to mix up a batch of white sealer using PPG Non-Sanding Epoxy Primer.

Rich tip: Before mixing sealers or primers, I always turn on the mixing station and let it run for 5 to 10 minutes. The epoxy in the primer tends to sink to the bottom after sitting around, making it important to thoroughly stir it up before mixing with a catalyst and reducer.

When mixing sealer, I always use the same ratio: 1 part Non-Sanding Epoxy Primer, 1 part catalyst, and 1 part reducer. It's important to be strict when measuring each part of the mixture, because too much catalyst or reducer can cause problems with drying. Drying problems can also occur from laying it on too heavily with the spray gun. Be sure to allow plenty of drying time between coats.



To prepare for spraying graphics, a
white base is applied to those
specific areas as an initial step. 

Before spraying the flames, it was necessary to wipe and tack all the graphics. Using the scaffolding, I started from the rear and worked my way to the front - going from bottom to top on the first panel, then starting the next panel at the top and working down to the bottom. This is the same method used for the base coating and clear coating stages of the project. 

Go with the flow

For the graphics I tried to flow more with them when I sprayed the yellow and red fade. Once I had an even coverage of the black with white sealer, I sprayed three coats of yellow over all the graphics. Then I began at the tips of the flames with orange and worked an orange fade towards the curve of each lick in the flame. Afterwards, I grabbed my red and applied it in the same manner, fading it out sooner, so the orange didn't get covered completely.


When doing fades, I like to give a light coat of my base coat mix and use left to right strokes or right to left depending on the direction of the flames. I then add more reducer to the mix and work each stroke just a little further out than the previous one.

{mosimage} Rich tip: Try not to apply too much, too soon, or you might end up applying too much orange or red. If you end up with too much of either color, you can always fade in a little more yellow and then fade back with a little more orange or red, but this tends to give a dirtier look. So take it slow with the orange and red from the beginning.

Enter the airbrush artist

Artist Stephens then stepped up to the plate to airbrush the shadows and highlights in the Meguiar's logos and also render the reflections on the lettering to make it look like beveled gold. Fortunately we had plenty of Meguiar's packaging and labels to use for reference. For all of our airbrushing, we use House of Kolor paints because their pigments are ground finer than most other finishes which allows it to flow better through a small airbrush.

{mosimage}Following this procedure, the lettering was masked off and the ribbon underneath sprayed yellow. After that we applied the "since 1901" lettering, which was cut out of vinyl masking material, and sprayed the ribbon again with red.

Unwrapping the package

After the airbrushed shadows and highlights were applied, we then peeled the masking material used to blanket the trailers and trucks. Be sure to peel the paper masking first, leaving the vinyl masking until last.

Rich tip: To prevent lifting off the graphic, peel the masking off slowly and at a sharp angle away from the graphic. The best way is to use an X-acto knife, using two hands, being careful not to poke the paint.

We then wiped down and tacked the trucks and trailers and made sure to leave the edges of the graphics nice and clean. Make sure to remove any glue residue that might have been left behind by the vinyl.


More clear coat

The next step was to mix up some clear and apply a few coats to each side of the trucks and trailers. I pre-cleaned, tacked, and then gave everything a coat of intercoat clear using the same process as when spraying the basecoat - starting from bottom to top on one panel and then top to bottom on the next panel - going down the trailers a panel at a time. I overlapped a little with my strokes on the edges of each panel to help prevent dry areas and make sure the whole design blends together nice and evenly.

Due to the amount of clear on the trucks, I patiently applied the coats, making sure each was dry to prevent smearing and runs. If you do get a run in your clear, you will just have to color sand a little more before buffing.

Color sanding

Color sanding these big trucks was a huge job. Fortunately I had a lot of helpers. Since it is very easy to burn a fresh finish, especially when graphics were applied, I had to stay involved with the process and keep an eye on everyone as they sanded. Luckily we made it through the whole thing without any burns.

Once the clear was completely dry, color sanding and buffing came next. I first gave it a quick cut with 600 grit, coming back with 800, 1000, 1200, and 1500. With the buffer, I used a Meguiar's heavy compound with a #1 pad, then polished it off with Meguiar's polish and a gray waffle pad. The compound and the #1 pad will buff the finish to a nice shine, but leave behind a bunch of swirls - which the waffle pad and the polish remove. Needless to say, for the Meguiar's trucks, I used all Meguiar's compounds, polishes and pads.

{mosimage}The final step is to rub these monsters down with some Meguiar's wax and a micro fiber cloth. Just in time for SEMA, the project was completed!

Save this article

Believe it or not, I've done a few jobs even more involved than the Meguiar's project, but this was probably the largest job I've ever done as far as just a paint job goes. It was an extremely daunting task and I, as well as everyone in the shop, could not help but be overwhelmed at certain points of the project. There were a lot of late nights mostly because we had never done anything this big and there wasn't really anywhere to go to research how to go about completing a project of this magnitude. Hopefully reading this will be helpful if you happen to have a project this size, like an RV or something. These steps will help you out.

Rich Evans, owner of Huntington Beach Bodyworks in Southern California, is an award winning painter and fabricator. Currently he is offering workshops at his facility so he can share his special techniques to other industry professionals. For more information about Evans, visit www.huntingtonbeachbodyworks.com.




To prepare for spraying graphics, a
white base is applied to those
specific areas as an initial step.