Introduction: Paint a Logo on a Utility Trailer

Picture of Paint a Logo on a Utility Trailer

As a part of my ongoing attempt to renovate and overall improve the Invention Studio's Paint Booth, I decided to make the exterior of the booth echo our organization's branding, which will make it easier for users to find the space. In addition to creating a set of rules, I chose to leave our mark on the Paint Booth with a few weather resistant placements of our cool logo!

I was able to get a clean, crisp logo on our utility trailer - despite it's automotive grade exterior. Now, we've got signage that is large enough to be read from a distance and resilient enough to last through the temperamental Georgia weather.

Note: The logo was also designed by one of our former Prototyping Instructors, Charlie Padgham, and, if you're curious about his design process, you should check out his project on Behance!

Step 1: Bill of Materials

Safety:

Respirator

Gloves

Drop Cloth

Materials:

Poster Board (4-10 22x28" boards, depending on the size of your logo)

Masking Tape

Spray Paint - The 2 I used were Montana Gold Stealth and Montana Gold Yellow Submarine.

Automotive Primer

Clear Coat - Rustoleum Crystal Clear Enamel (which plays nice with Montana Paints)

Cleaning Supplies (windex and paper towels)

Tools:

Laser Cutter

X-Acto Knife

Measuring Tape

Level

Ladder of some sort

Software:

Illustrator/Inkscape

Step 2: Measure the Space for the Logo.

You're going to want the rough measurements for the space you're going to put the logo, obviously.

Fortunately, I had the measurements for the door from the beginning of summer! If you don't already have measurements, grab your measuring tape and get out there!

Step 3: Design the Layout for the Logo.

Picture of Design the Layout for the Logo.

Using your handy dandy measurements, make an artboard that is the size of your location, and scale your logo appropriately. Ideally, you already have a vector image of your logo.

Step 4: Split the Logo Design to Be Spread Across Multiple Poster Boards.

Picture of Split the Logo Design to Be Spread Across Multiple Poster Boards.

This can get tricky. I moved from Illustrator to Inkscape to chop up my vector drawing of the logo into pieces that could fit on my (6) poster boards.

  1. Combine all shapes and paths of specific objects together, so you can operate on them.
  2. Modify the paths as needed to make the logo more stencil friendly.
  3. Using equally sized bounding boxes, divide the existing logo into different areas.
  4. Properly label and save out the different zones of the logo, so you can reference them later.

Step 5: Laser Cut the Stencil Pieces.

Picture of Laser Cut the Stencil Pieces.

Now that you've prepped your files, it's time to assembly line cut them out on poster board. (If you don't have a laser cutter, you can still do this, but you'll need to print out the images, sort of like my previous Instructable.)

Make sure that you keep all of your little pieces of your stencils, cause you will probably need them later for alignment and white spaces.

Step 6: Test Assemble the Stencil.

Picture of Test Assemble the Stencil.

It's always a good idea to make sure that everything is working as anticipated before spending hours in the heat.

Step 7: Prep Your Paint Area.

Picture of Prep Your Paint Area.

The chances are good that your paint trailer has accumulated a fine layer of dirt and dust. To get your paint to stick, that's gotta get off the surface. Use your windex and paper towels to clean up the area.

Also, you'll probably want to protect the ground outside of the booth. You should lay down your drop cloth all around the area you'll be painting in to keep stray drops of paint off the ground.

Step 8: Apply Stencil.

Picture of Apply Stencil.

Using the level and whatever you brought to stand on, you need to carefully arrange your stencil on your surface. Masking tape will help you keep it in place. If you have white space, like I did for the letters, you may have to use pieces of your cutout to create a guide for those white space masks.

I secured the letters, and the centers of the letters on with little tape rolls.

Pro-Tip: Try to do this all on a day that it isn't going to rain, cause this will take a while.

Step 9: Prime the Surface.

Picture of Prime the Surface.

Whenever you aren't sure if something is going to stick to a surface very well, you should prime it. It's just a good habit to be in. Luckily, the primer filler that I buy for finishing models is automotive grade, so it has no problem sticking to aluminum siding.

A good layer of primer also helps to neutralize weird under colors, as spray paints are very susceptible to color variation due to layering. Because I had a white surface to start with, that didn't really matter, but if your trailer is red or something, definitely, definitely use primer.

Definitely wear gloves while you're doing this, because in order to get tight, clean lines, you have to hold the stencil down where you are spraying. This means that you are definitely, definitely going to get paint all over your hands/gloves.

Step 10: Lay Down First Color.

Picture of Lay Down First Color.

The center of our logo has 3 bright yellow hexagons. Since it's better to paint dark over light than vice versa, I laid this color down first. Again, I used the same holding down the edges of the stencil trick.

I also used my hand and my arm to shield paint from getting on other parts of the model - because I had to keep the colors from muddying.

Step 11: Re-Mask and Lay Down Second Color.

Picture of Re-Mask and Lay Down Second Color.

Once your first coat has dried, mask up your second layer stencils. In my case, this was the symbols inside of the hexagons, and all of the other stencil I had already set up.

For this layer, you only have to focus on getting crisp lines - you don't have to worry about avoiding/shielding the other colors.

Move slowly across the layer, by picking an area, holding the stencil in that part down with your left hand, and spraying with your right. The trick is to make many light, quick passes with your can, rather than globbing a bunch of paint down at once. I found this part easier to work on than the hexagons, because I have small hands, and couldn't adequately hold down enough of the hexagon mask.

Also, as a heads up, regardless of how hard you try, letter cutouts (ie Invention Studio) will always be crisper than floating letters (ie Design-Build-Play).

Step 12: Peel Off Stencil.

Picture of Peel Off Stencil.

Wait for your paint to dry, then start to peel off the pieces of your stencil.

Since I wanted to reuse the stencil for the side of the paint booth, I was careful to keep all of my pieces intact, but you definitely don't have to.

Step 13: Clear Coat.

Picture of Clear Coat.

After you've removed your stencil, you need to protect your awesome artwork with a clear coat. After all, it's going to accumulate a lot of the dirt you'd wiped off in the first place. You don't need your logo scraping off when/if you clean the trailer again.

Dust 2-3 light layers of clear coat over the top, and you're done!

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Bio: I'm an engineer, designer, and maker studying at the Georgia Institute of Technology.
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