I started off by preparing the surface to be painted with a red 3M scuff pad. Make sure you remove all the original gloss finish. If you have a light hand you can use a DA Sander with 320 grit paper. Make sure you don't go through the finish and hit bare wood. This could cause problems during the painting process.
If you are going to paint a guitar, several precautionary measures must be taken. Remember, they are made of wood and can swell and crack due to moisture and heat. Back tape and/or fill any holes with Play-Dough. This will keep any moisture or material from being absorbed into the wood. It is also easy to remove once you finished the job. You will notice the orange colored Play-Dough in this photo. Use Duct Tape to protect any other exposed wood (i.e. routed areas for neck and openings for pick-ups.
Apply a primer/sealer like PPG's LF 48. 2 light coats will be sufficant. You want to obtain a good bite to the surface. I over reduce the LF 48 so it will flow out nice and dry faster. I also like this product because it is a wet-on-wet product. Which means you can spray a base coat on it within 15 minutes. Next I shot a white base coat and let air dry for 20 minutes. I want to keep the amount of paint to a bare minimul of thickness (Mills), so I use a Sata Mini-Jet for this application.
There are several ways you can do your preliminary sketch on the surface. You can either use chalk or a soft #2 pencil. Both of which remove easy by wiping it off with a wax/grease remover like PPG's DX330. In this case I chose to apply Transfer Tape first and do my sketch on it. You can make templates very easy from this point.
Cut open the area to paint with either a razor blade or x-acto knife. I prefer a razor blade. I opened up the main body of the face first. This way I can remove the tranfer tape and have a layout for the rest of the illustration. Start by building up the flesh tones from lightest to darkest. Over-reduce each of the flesh tones so you can gradually build the facial features. For this I like to use the Iwata HP-B. This airbrush is my overall workhorse.
To achieve definition in the flesh tone, I start by layering an over-reduced Transparent Red Oxcide. If you are just learning to airbrush This mixture will turn out to be one of your best friends. Your first pass with the TRO is barely visible. But with enough of it applied, you can almost turn the area black.. I then add a over-reduced mixture of weak black for the shadow areas.
Once the face was complete, I covered it with Transfer Tape to protect it from over-spray. I cut open the area for the hair. For hair, I switch to a Iwata Custom Micron-B. You can get the same thin line by removing the nozzle cap from most airbrushes. I like the Micron because I can set the trigger to give me consistant hair strands. Hair has many colors and shades in it. Start with you lightest colors and work up the darkest. Then add some white hightlights.
Guitars are a breed all there own. Unless you follow certain precautionary proceedures you will have problems during the process. If they are not sealed. the wood will absorb the paint. If moisture gets absorbed they will crack when exposed to heat. Too much material or material in the wrong places will change the sound of the guitar and possibly not go back together right (as in a bolt on neck) which will change the guitars action. That will lead to a very pissed off customer and may cost you more money than you got paid to paint the guitar. If you colorsand and buff your finish like we do, you might heat the wood up too much and cause the guitar to suck the paint job into it. You must use a good sealer/primer. If any repairs need to be made, Do Not use Bondo! Use a fiberglass filler or a polyester spot putty. With this particular guitar I only wanted to paint the front surface. I also wanted to keep the binding visible. Being a set-neck guitar the entire guitar was masked off, except the front surface. If you are painting a bolt on neck, remove the neck and mask up the area where it has contact with the body. If any paint hits this area it will change the action of the guitar and you will have a very upset customer.
To create a shirt with flower pattern, I shot the shirt area with dark pink. Always put the color you want the pattern to be down first. Take a piece of lace material and spray one side with a light coat of Craft Bond Temporary Spray Glue. Let air dry for 2 minutes and apply to the area you want to paint. I then srayed a lighter version of the pink over the lace. Don't apply the paint too heavy. Remove the lace. It should lift up easily and not remove any paint or leave any glue residue. At this point use your airbrush to remove the fine lace mesh pattern.This leaves only the flower pattern on the shirt.
Mask up the illustration with transfer tape. (Note: I use transfer tape instead of masking tape because of it's low tack properties. It will not pull up any of your work. Even if you mask over it several times.) I wanted to stay with a "Little Girl" Theme, so I sprayed the background with House Of Kolor Pink Pearl Shimrin.
Spray 2 coats of HOK Marblizer. Let dry for 4-6 minutes. If you let it dry completely, it will not work. Crumple up some Saran Wrap, open it back up and apply it to the semi-wet marblizer. you can move the Saran Wrap around until you get your desired effect. Pull the Saran Wrap off.
I mixed up a pink candy and sprayed it over the Marblized area. This gives the background vibrance and depth. Now remove the transfer tape from the illustration. So you don't have any hard edges where the illustration and background meet, blend hair strands into and around the illustration. Make sure you have wild strands of hair on the outside edges. For this I used the Iwata HP-B with the nozzle tip removed.
Some people might consider this cheating, So What! I cut out my type masks with a PC Plotter/Cutter. It takes all the guess work out, saves time and gives you perfect type. I applyed the precut spray masks to the pick guard and guitar. Most sign supply warehouse carry a vinyl spray mask material. This material is low tack and won't leave any glue residue or pull up paint.
For the "Daddy's Girl" lettering, I shot a white base to cover the pink. Then I sprayed a light coat of Baby Blue wth a Iwata HP-C. I then took some 9lb paper and cut a flower stencil. I added afew drops of Permenent Blue to the Baby Blue to darken it up, then airbrushed the flower pattern. Remove the nozzle cap from your airbrush and spray some white hightlights into the type. Next, take off the spray mask. I switched back to the HP-B,mixed up some Weak Black and added drop shadows to the type. Remember to keep your light source consistant on every part of your design. You will notice that I used a freehand shield to keep the Weak Black from going into the type.
Pre clean the surface with a Wax/Grease remover. Last thing you want is some oil from your finger tips creating those nasty fisheyes. For this project I used PPG's DCB 100 Clear. Its a medium solids clear that is slow drying and flows out like glass. One of the main reasons I used the DCB 100 is for its slow drying properties. When a clear cures, it tends to tighten up and shrink back. This can cause fine detailed airbrushing to slightly pull away from its edges. The last thing you want is a small white line to suddenly appear in the eyes between the pupil and the lashes. Another way to avoid this is, is to apply two tack (mist) coats of clear. You should do this anyway to lock down any impurities on the surface. Give the tack coats ample flash time. Don't worry about the dry-shot look. This will go away with the first heavy coat of clear. Finish this step off with four medium-wet coats of clear. Try not to pound the clear on to avoid any solvent-pop.
Next comes the fun task of color sanding. Before color sanding with water, make sure all the areas that were sealed with Play-Dough are still completely filled. Add more Play-Dough if needed. If water gets in the holes, the guitar will most likely crack. In this photo you see me start sanding with a Mirka Bulldog Fininshing Sander. Use 1500 grit to knock down any orange peel. Follow this by sanding with 2000 grit wet/dry with a sanding block. Next, I go back to the Mirka Bulldog and sand with Abralon 2000 then 4000 pads. This seems like a lot of sanding but the buffing stage won't be as hard. You don't want to have to heat the guitar up too much trying to remove sand scratches.
Using 3M's Perfect-It II, I start buffing with a 3M White Foam Pad. A wool pad will heat the wood up too much and cause the clear to shrink into it. Once you obtain a gloss finish and have removed all sanding marks, switch to a 3M Black Foam Polishing Pad. Two passes with 3M's Perfect-It II Foam Polish should be enough to achieve a high gloss/wet looking finish.
The Finished Product
Cut out all the Play-Dough with an x-acto knife. Now your ready for re-assembly. By the way, That's my daughter Kristen.
Isn't she adorable.
Click on this picture for a full size view.
Thanks for reading and I hope you were able to learn something from this.
This project took approx. 10 hours to do. Not counting drying time for the clear coat.
I was extremely excited when I heard that Airbrush Action was expanding thier format to include Automotive Art. I'm sure some of the readers were upset over the change. They shouldn't be. Using automotive paints opens up an unlimited amount of canvases besides cars and trucks. Once you learn the paint system of your choice you will be able to paint on almost any surface (i.e. metal, wood, fiberglass, plastic). The following is an example of just that. I used PPG and House of Kolor products over a wood surface.
How To: Custom Paint Guitars
Steven Craig - SKC Customz