I have painted a couple bikes for my friends so I thought I would share some tricks I learned in the process.
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Step 1: Frame Prep.
- To strip bike frames completely I use brush–on (not aerosol) Aircraft Stripper. With the brush on variety you can load it on, let it dry and get almost all the paint off in an hour or so. Be careful though, this stuff is EXTREMELY TOXIC!
- If you only want to sand down the current paint, my favorite method is to use 180grit wet/dry sandpaper. I keep a bucket next to me and rinse off the paper when its starts to clog with old paint. The wet sanding cuts through the paint pretty quick but it still takes awhile.
- I tape off all the holes and trim the excess with an exacto. I stuff a roll of newspaper in the seat tube because I’ve seen motorcycle builders do this so I feel cool. Get decent masking tape that sticks well but doesn’t pull off paint. I have found that the blue house painters tape doesn’t stick well enough for detail work but is fine for masking big areas.
- If you can, wait for a warm, dry day. It will help the paint bond well.
Step 2: Painting.
- Rustoleum Painter’s Touch primer and clear coat are my favorite. The primer dries super quick and bonds really well. The clear doesn’t yellow and doesn’t sag as much if you load it on too thick. I also really like Rusoleums American Accents paint. It comes in a ton of colors and they are almost all satin finish so each coat/layer bonds well. (No I don’t work for Rustoleum, it’s just what my hardware store had and I like it.)
- I lay down two coats of primer and generally two coats of paint for each color. On the Cannondale I used three for the base tan color.
- I do a light sanding between coats of color with 600grit wet/dry paper. The paper cuts through low spots pretty quick so don’t stay in one area too long. I don’t sand when doing the detail bits.
- I like to use allot of clear for extra protection. Don’t load it up in one big coat, use a couple light coats and let them dry in between.
Step 3: Creative Tips.
- The plaid on the Cannondale was done by smoothly wrapping masking tape around the tube. I started the tape at what looked like a 45 degree angle to the tube and rolled it around kind of like bar tape. I did the two brown stripes that face one direction. After it dried I removed the tape and laid new tape perpendicular to the first. I did the same for the thin white stripes but with a smaller gap between tape strips. If your tape stats getting closer together or spreading apart while you wrap you can carefully smooth the opposite edge to guide it back one track
- The checkerboard spiral was done using little square stickers I found at the hardware store. They were sheets of numbers in this case. The size of the sticker dictated the pattern size which is why I had a gap left over where I put the Twain quote (when you mess up get creative!). I already had the tan base color so I placed a spiral of stickers where I wanted that color to show through. Then I laid the next color and placed sticker next to the first row. I did this for all the colors until only one row was not covered with stickers and I sprayed the last color. Then I pulled all the stickers off very carefully with the tip of an exacto.
- When doing a pattern you should plan out all your layers and decide what order they need to go in. I could have sprayed all the brown stripes in the plaid at once but that would have made my masking job much harder. I separated them by color and direction and decided that I wanted the white on top.
- One trick that really saved me time was using freezer paper to cover the panels I wasn’t working on at the time. This allowed to panels to dry while I worked on the third. I rotated the paper wraps after I each layer on each tube. I wrapped the freezer paper waxy side in so it wouldn’t stick but I still waited 30 minutes after spraying to wrap a tube.
- For the Mark Twain quote I wrote it on a piece of masking tape to check the sizing. Then I copied it on a piece of carbon paper and lightly traced it on the tube. The ink you see is actually just blue sharpie which turned out kind of metallic on the bike.
- Another thing I like to do for text is use a reverse stencil. After the primer I spray the area where the lettering will go with the color I want it to be. Then I put down some vinyl sticker letters and spray the rest of the bike its final color. When I pull off the stickers I have nice clean lettering showing through in the color I wanted. You can get fancy by having a sticker shop make you a custom window sticker with whatever font or logo you want. Make sure you get the stickers that are letters cut out of vinyl and not a big rectangle with letter printed on it.
- No design is impossible. I thought the plaid would be impossible when I thought of it. Just picture you dream paintjob in you head then try to plan out how you could make it happen. It’s like a puzzle!
Step 4: Take Off the Tape and Ride!
Hope these tips and ideas helped. Can't wait to see some designs people come up with.
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