One of the most important aspects of a sweet, long-lasting, custom paint job is body prep. If not carefully prepped, the paint will not stick to the Lexan properly, will flake off, and can cause the actual paint process to be much more difficult than it should be. This article will take you through the play-by-play before you spray. Ready? Let’s get started.
PREPARE THE BODY FOR MASKING
I wash the body in warm water, with a soft sponge and dish detergent, to remove the residue on the Lexan due to the vacuum forming process and just from being at the factory. This is essential, as it removes any debris that could get in the way of your perfect paint job.
Nearly all bodies come from the factory with an overspray mask applied to the outside. Using a felt-tip marker, draw out your design on the overspray mask. Keep in mind that overspray film on wings could possibly be on the wrong side because it’s not part of the main body. If so, you must remove it before painting the wing.
Next, apply the included window masks or use masking tape to cut out your own. I like to draw a thin outline for the window’s edge and then trim it off. For me, it is easier to see these on a clear body. I am able to get a nice, even line with my no. 11 hobby blade, as opposed to doing it last when the body is completely painted.
Some bodies do not come with window masks, and other times you may want different shaped windows. In this case, just mask over the entire inside of the body, draw the outlines for the windows you desire, and cut them with your no. 11 hobby blade.
Tips & advice
The very first thing I do to a new body is cut off any “scrap” Lexan flashing. All this extra Lexan can interfere with your hands, razor knife, and even your airbrush hose—so I just get rid of it. Some people like to “scuff” the inside of the body with a coarse pad, thinking the paint will adhere better. I have tested this method and feel that if you prep and paint the body properly, there is no difference. It does help a bit if you use rattle can paint, but Faskolor and Spaz Stix seem to be fine either way, as long as you back your paint at the end with an acrylic clear coat. When scruffing the body, do not scuff it if you are using mirror chrome because all the scratches will show through. Also, be very careful to avoid the window areas at all times.
APPLY THE MASK
There are various mediums you can use to mask a body, all of which work just fine. Liquid mask is the most popular among painters, but you can also use vinyl masks, masking tape, automotive fine line tapes, and a vinyl cutter for custom made masks and logos. I use them all, as they each have a benefit at some point during a paint job. The bottom line is that it doesn’t matter what medium you use, as long as the outcome is what you desire. The finished product is what really matters.
CUT YOUR DRAWING
If you’re using liquid mask, draw your design on the outside of the body with a black felt-tip marker. Once you are satisfied with your artwork, simply hold up the body to the light and cut along your drawing with a no. 11 hobby blade. Always make sure you are using a new blade so the tip cleanly goes through the mask, but go lightly to make sure not to score the actual Lexan. It takes some getting used to, but with some practice it becomes almost natural to “feel” how much pressure to put on the blade. It is also important when using liquid mask to apply three to four even coats, with each coat completely drying in between. If liquid mask application is too thin, it’s very hard to remove and will not peel off easily!
TIME TO DESIGN
Once all the tape is applied, and it covers all areas where your design is going to go, it is time to draw the actual design. I keep a picture of what I am doing next to me in my work area and draw the design out on the tape inside the body. Once I am pleased with the layout of my drawing, I use my no. 11 hobby blade and follow my lines. Next, I hold the body up to a very bright light, at an angle, which allows me to see the cut lines in the tape.
Now you are ready to start the fun part and lay down some paint! Depending on your paint scheme, the entire process should only take about two hours. It doesn’t matter what you use for your masking medium, whichever you feel most comfortable with will work just fine and your finished product is what matters. Have fun painting!
Overnight paint job
Cody King needed an overnight paint job on his truck for Nationals, so I chose to use the masking tape method to save time because applying four coats of liquid mask and letting them dry would take too long. The main goal here is to lay the tape flat, especially in all the curves and transitions of the shell. Any gaps in the tape will allow paint bleeds, which you do not want. – Larry Genova