View Full Version : Question about painting and masking.

12-12-2003, 12:24 PM
I am new to this place. For starters I want to say hello, just reading the many posts have been an immense help.

A brief description of my problem.

For starters I do not have an airbrush. (big problem i know!!)
The project was for a firefighters team, they had asked me paint an image on their helmet. They had it painted a basecoat. Yep you guessed it. Fire engine red. All seemed to be going acording to plan. Or so i thought.

1. to transfer the image to my surface, i decided to mask off the helmet with masking tape, and then do a grid on the tape, to draw the image on.

well that didnt go good at all. initially i used regular masking tape, but i didnt feel right about it. so i took it off. it left a residue, and on top of that, the paint on the helmet, the areas where it curves, the paint "bunched up" Seems like it was lifted from the surface. I have a feeling that the paint on the helmet was not on long enough to "Cure". But i thought maybe it was just the masking tape. so i decided to redo it with painters masking tape. low tac, and i thought that might solve my problem. I wetsanded the helmet to rid it of the blemishes.

i masked off the helmet for a second time.
well i couldnt get a proper grid drawn on the rounded surface. needless to say i was getting a little frustrated.
i decided to scrap that idea. as i was going to draw onto the tape and then cut out the image to get the outlined mask and paint inside with canned model spray paint. the details with just a brush
I took off the masking tape last night, and found that the tape did the same thing as before.

I am needless to say a little discouraged. I obviously bit off more than i can chew. and i dont think i can do this project.

but i will try once more, maybe. depending on what kind of info i might get from you guys. if not i will just give him the artwork, and have him go somewhere to get it professionaly airbrushed.

where I am not sure.

But if you guys/gals have any suggestions. At this point i am ALL EARS.

Sorry for the lengthy post.


12-12-2003, 03:49 PM
If you haven't already, go to the thread "masks deserve a thread of their own" in this forum ( a few down below this thread) There were several types of masking suggested along with application.

There is specially made flexible plastic masking material cycle/auto people use to manuever those curves. Maybe Penny or another of our really knowledgeable auto folks will pony up some good ideas for you.

12-12-2003, 03:57 PM
thanks. Yeah i did check it out. My biggest dilema is actually transfering the image to the helmet....I am completely stumped as to how i can do that.

Alan Cross
12-14-2003, 02:23 AM
MY guess is you are going to have to go with a free hand drawing to get it on those curves unless its a very small transfer....
Alan :)

12-14-2003, 12:31 PM
Here's a possible solution. Transfer your design to a masking material, cut out the main components and apply to the helmet, trace the outlines, remove and finish your undersketch freehand to bring together the design.

There are as you've read, many masking materials. There's one Bear Air sells called Stencileaze (sp?) which is actually pellon, a very popular non-woven dressmaker's product. Now this particular product is quite stiff and of a thickness that may not be good for your project. But, just pop down to your local fabric store (Jo-Ann's, Hancock, etc) and go to the interfacing section(don't be afraid to ask directions...they're used to it!) and peruse the multitude of weights, types and brands of pellon and other great non-wovens one could use as masks and stencil material. An added advantage is you can usually buy it cheaper and get it in bigger sizes as it's sold on the bolt. You might find a lighter weight which will be easier to bend to the helmet to trace. You can attach the components with repositionable adhesive (test on painted surface if necessary first) or poster tack (that gummy stuff you used to put posters up) then trace them. If the pellon is thick enough to block paint but flexible enough to conform to the helmet shape you could use it as the masking itself after spraying with the repositionable adhesive. I guess you could buy some of the liquid latex (used to back rugs) and roller brush a coat (use one of those small disposable foam rollers you find in the faux section of your local paint store) on the thinner pellon which would make it paint proof, then cut out the components. Or even blow a couple of layers of acrylic paint on some pellon to seal it a bit before tracing and cutting out.

But I agree with Alan...sometimes you're just better off free handing on these 3-D items. Susan

12-15-2003, 11:24 AM
Thank you all for your very helpful info. I have decided not to do the main graphic, as it was too difficult for a newb like me to do. :)
I have decided on something a little easier. i will post some of my progress :)

Alan Cross
12-15-2003, 11:57 AM
Good idea best to stick with what you know best....don't worry the rest will come in time....looking forward to seeing it...
Alan :)

12-15-2003, 08:29 PM
Don't do what you know best rather do what you know you can get the best information. Otherwise you never venture out. I always dive in over my head. I usually figure it out and learn lots in the process. OK, personal philosophy lesson aside I will get to your problem.

the helmet is plastic, the base coat is automotive, there in lies the problem. There is a chemical reaction that occurs. Also, the helmet may not have been primed appropriately. Your tape didn't cause the problem. The fault is not yours. Breath now, deep sigh OK, chin up. :cat:

Remove the base coat (gently) prep, prime, and base coat. Talk to an automotive shop. They are accustom to doing the plastic bit with all of the bumpers now days. OK, as far as masking. This is a tough one. You can use the blue (long last) masking tape 3M ONLY (It really is the tape). It's used all the time for automotive. For larger areas use transfer tape sold in vinyl shops, (just ask for transfer tape and tell them the width you want they will know what you are asking for) For transferring your design. Use carbon transfer paper, or a stabilo pen. Depending on what you are doing, I would use one shot to brush work, for airbrush work I would use auto air or because I have it and I am use to using it I would use base coat/clear coat. Yes, you can use base coat clear coat and the helmet will still have to be cleared when you are done but if the helmet isn't preped right it won't ever work. You can NOT lift base coat off of any surface if it's been applied correctly.

Hope this helps.


12-16-2003, 11:51 AM
Thanks Penny, very useful information. Sadly I will not be able to do all that you suggested as this is needing to be completed by Wednesday evening. (They didnt give me much time. Might not have been a problem if i new what i was doing ;) )
Here is the status to my project. I spent the majority of last night, figuring a way to mask off the image of the maltese Cross to put on the helmet.

I have wetsanded the helmet one last time, to smooth any imperfections the previous masking job did to the helmet. With regards to masking the cross. A thought occured to me after struggling to try and tape on a paper stencil of the image. (I have come to the realization, that flat paper does not work well on a rounded surface ;) )
I finally decided on a particular way of doing it. I had the cross cut out, and i positioned it on the helmet, where i would want to have it. At that time I used a rather thin 3m masking tape, approx 6mm, and taped the edges of the cross down to the helmet. Because this was a harder paper, it had a nice thick edge, and with that i used an xacto knife and slowly and carefully cut around the edges, to complete my mask....it came out much better than i had it would. some of the layers of tape were not cut through all the way, and i had to go over areas again.
That part (outline was done)

Now for the inside, as you can see from the image, i had a few sections i needed to mask off, in order to get the line work surrounding everything. I had to comprimise a bit, i used previously cut out sections for each, Circle in the middle and the white areas surrounding it. I just taped them on.
Masking of the entire helmet with newspaper, was ok, i missed a few areas that should have been masked better, and it resulted in a bit of overspray. I used a hair dryer to dry the paint as best as it could so i could take off the mask.
(remember this is all done with spray paint) I am very limited :)
It didnt give me the cleanest edge. But it works as i am going over the outlines by hand with silver.

I wish i had a digital camera to show you progess....:(

Basically all that needs to be done now is the name of the team on the brim of the helmet(also in silver) and all the names of the team written on the helmett in Gold, and thats it. a jump down for the origional idea, but thats ok.

I will post as soon as i can. I have learned allot from you guys and all the bloody mistakes i did with this project.
I really anticipate getting an airbrush.

12-16-2003, 11:53 AM
maltese cross. Made some changes to it. Each corner has been extended to reach a point. Gives a more celtic look.

12-16-2003, 12:02 PM
I look forward to seeing the finished product. A hairdrier to promote drying is a good idea, be sure to not allow the paint to dry completely prior to removing the masking. The paint should be dry but still in the tacky stage. The reason for this is that the paint will become one with itself (meaning the surface and the surface of the tape) and when you peel off the masking you can peel off the paint along with it. You don't want the paint to be too wet either because then you can damage the surface. Remember when dealing with acrylic enamels (spray paints) or any automotive paint to follow the cure times. You have a window to continue painting in but once you stop you have to stop for the duration of the cure time. This doesn't tend to effect airbrush work but it will effect clear coat. There are chemical reactions that occur in the curring process, this is the nastiest thing you can ever see in painting and since it's done in the final stage it's also the worst, it will ruin everything.


12-16-2003, 01:08 PM
Thats good to know. One thing, Im not sure if i mentioned or not. These arent really automobile paints, Rather model paints, testors etc....Do you know if that will affect anything?

Also, In certain areas (where the mask was removed) there are rises in the paint, around the edges, very, very small, but there nonetheless, is it safe to wet sand those down? Or will the paints once wet, mix in with each other, and smudge things?

when refering to repainting, do you mean 2nd and third coats? I plan to repaint, just not ontop of the recently painted sections.

12-16-2003, 02:07 PM
model paints are about the same as automotive paints. Yes, layer to layer of paint you must be aware that chemical reactions can occur which is the reason to follow the manufacturers instructions. All paint companies have hotlines that you can call or email that will explain any questions that you may have, some are more helpful than others. I would not deal with any company that isn't right there at your side to help you. This goes for ALL paints. The chemical reactions I am speaking of most often occur during clear coating, has never happened to me during airbrushing but will happen over thick layers of paint.

12-16-2003, 04:43 PM
Well I dont imagine i'll have a problem then as I have not done layer after layer. To be honest its only really one coat, waited for it to dry, maybe 5-10 min, and then another.....and from a distance back, probly 3-4 feet.

Thanks for all your help penny....:)

12-17-2003, 04:10 PM
Oh I can't wait to see the finished product!

12-18-2003, 12:31 PM
Well last night it was completed....Doesnt look to bad for the ammount of difficulty i had with this project. They are going to get it clear coated, and Will take some pictures of it.
I will post them here once i have them.

Thanks again for everyones help. :):clap: