Custom Painted Car Graphics




About: Ottawa based ne're do well. I make things. Problems, messes, you name it.

These steps are not for your mom's minivan, maybe not even for the Geo you drive to and from your cubicle everyday.

If, however, you need to attract some attention or are participating in a motorsport that would benefit from you making a scene, there's only 8 steps, that's not many steps.

These steps are for a removable body panel but they work the same for anywhere on the car (it's just a little more comfortable to be painting indoors).

Follow along.

Supplies Used:

2" Masking or painter's tape
X-Acto Knife (new blades, watch your little piggies)
Spray paint (I used Montana, quality paint, quality tips...less swearing)
Oil Based Sharpie Paint Markers

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Step 1: Masking the Area

There may be easier and more efficient ways to do this but it's my Instructable and I said FOLLOW ALONG.

Cover the area you intend to work on with a large amount of masking tape. It gives you a surface to draw on (especially if the actual surface is a dark colour), it also acts as a stencil once you start to paint.

The iced coffee is optional but recommended.

Step 2: Drawing the Image

You can draw the image directly on the tape. Watch the pressure as you don't want to damage the car's paint.

I generally do things freehand but you have the option of using an overhead projector to blow up a smaller image or to give you an image to trace.

Once you're happy(ish) with the image, it's knife time.

(The image is faint, but everything will be clear in the next couple of steps)

Step 3: Cutting the Stencil

This is the fun part simply due to the fact that you can ruin the paint and lose all your fingertips in one bloody go.

Using a sharp knife, begin cutting out portions of your image. Anything that is going to be the same colour should be cut out at the same time.

Step 4: Painting!

My favorite part. Make sure this is done in a well ventilated area or with proper protection (a decent respirator is recommended).

Spray well taking care to not overload the surface with paint (avoid the runs, no one likes the runs).

Make sure the paint is no longer tacky to the touch before you mask off the painted portions to start on a new colour.

Step 5: More Different Painting!

Systematically cover the dry, painted areas and expose the next area to be painted. If the stencil gets too covered you may have to re-mask.

Paint all the sections!

Step 6: Outline and Detail

Remove all the masking tape. You are officially at the ugly stage.

All your blocks of colour  have uneven gaps between them. They'll be floating waiting for everything to be tied together. Luckily, you have your black Sharpie ready to go.

Start outlining. The paint marker can be messy, keep your hands up and off the marker. Smudges are a pain.

Step 7: You Did It! Geez, What Did You Do?

Stand back and admire what you've done. If this was unsolicited paint work, start running.

Sign your masterpiece!

(It should be noted that there are spots of bondo and primer on this hood from unrelated work, because drift car)

Step 8: Outro

Thanks so much for following through. This is a lot of fun. Just take your time, take some care and make something a robotic old time-y hobo.

Just release something rad into the world, you never know where it will end up.

Thanks for the best photos, always.

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24 Discussions


2 years ago

omg the 240 is so lit :D


3 years ago

I extremely enjoyed this post! I'm considering amping up my husband's beater Passat.

Thank you for the post!


4 years ago on Introduction

Looks like my 65' VW Bug is gonna get some artwork! Too cool man!


6 years ago on Introduction

I've been looking around at other sources and they all seem to insist on sanding first.....whats your opinion on that? (I'm doing this on my everyday vehicle and I'd like it to last)

1 reply

Very delayed response. I make sure the surface is thoroughly degreased and use a high quality/durable paint. I've never sanded nor have I had an issue with longevity.

That being said, the oldest gig is only about 3 years old at this point. We'll see how they last over the long haul.


6 years ago

As soon as I get my car I think I might do something like this but small


Pretty much Montana at all times.

The images pictured have been going a little over a year now with no clear coat and are almost perfect. There are a lot of variables but the paint is really tough.

Thanks for the comment.


7 years ago on Introduction

"not for your mom's minivan"??? I would love it if my kids painted my minivan like this! I'm sending them the link...


Simple and straight forward... and easily one of the better instructions for stenciling I've seen. Thanks. I assume you just eyeball each new layer of mask.

@curious youth, auto grade clear coat can be expensive. When I painted my motorcycle, I had a choice between two varieties, one would protect against gas spills, the other did not. The protective one was as expensive as the paint (not cheap). Sadly I could only afford the regular stuff.

2 replies

Thanks for the comment. It's my first shot at one of these and I hoped it made sense :)

I've had good luck with the Montana brand clear as well as long as everything has been given ample time to dry and you mist it on. A direct spray can sometime be disastrous.


I've used spray bombs of clear acrylic with great results on many projects including boats. While I wouldn't recommend it for a high dollar custom paint job, that's not exactly what we're talking about anyway


7 years ago on Introduction

sharpies fade quickly, way back when, when I was lettering and numbering race cars I kept a variety of paint pens in my kit, way easier than a stripping brush on smaller areas with complicated intersections. I really like the zombie in the 1st pic.. thank you for sharing

3 replies

I haven't had a problem with the Sharpie oil-based paint pens but have had regular sharpie just disappear in the past. We'll see how it endures.



I have a local art store that carries them in an impressive assortment of colours.

There are water based as well but I can't attest to how they work. Anywhere that carries Sharpie should be able to find them.