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The Art of Pinstriping - Part 1

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Tags: Tech

Pinstriping is an art – an art that takes a steady hand, a lot of concentration, and one helluva talent. Artists that are accomplished in pinstriping are patient. They’re creative. They’re one of a kind. Lucky for me, I’m the daughter of one of those very skilled individuals. My dad taught himself how to pinstripe over 45 years ago in his parent’s garage. He’s been doing it ever since. His talent has allowed him to set himself apart from other artists and car guys. And, he’s extremely unique – someone that any car guy in our area knows to go to simply because he’s the best there is.

Pinstriping is something that adds flair. It dresses up a normal paint job and makes a car – or really anything – stand out. You could have a handful of black ’32 Roadsters sitting in a line and they’d all look the same. But it’s the detailing – like pinstriping – that sets each one apart and makes it distinguishable from the others.

Pinstriping isn’t just for cars though. This certain kind of ‘flair’ can be added to any piece that needs a facelift. Boats, planes, coolers, refrigerators, and guitars, just to name a few. My dad likes to say that he’ll pinstripe ‘anything that rolls, floats, or flies.’ Heck, he’s even been known to pinstripe a few toilet seats in his day. (Let me tell you, pinstriped toilet seats make for the perfect man cave bathroom!) There are a variety of different designs that fall under the ‘pinstriping’ category. There are straight lines, more intricate designs, lettering, and pictures – and sometimes even flames!

Pinstriping isn’t for everyone though. Like I said before, it takes a special talent. It takes special tools and resources, and it’s a complicated process. (I’ve seen the man in action, so believe me when I say a COMPLICATED process.) But maybe you’re interested in learning more about that so-called ‘process,’ so let’s talk a little about that.

  1. Even on new paint, the surface needs to be prepped. New paint can house skin oils, fingerprints, and other contaminants, so you will need to use a wax and grease remover. You should use one rag to put it on, and one rag to take it off.
  1. After using the wax and grease remover, you’ll need to wipe down the surface again, but this time with a glass cleaner of some sort. Sometimes the wax and grease remover doesn’t come off completely with the ‘take off’ rag, so using a glass cleaner afterwards will ensure that all of it is off.
  1. Your surface is prepped and you’re all ready to start!

I’m sure some artists would prefer to have a design mapped out before they start – and then some artists prefer to ‘wing it.’ My dad is the spur of the moment type. With 40+ years of experience he’s seen his fair share of ideas, so he doesn’t know of an exact design when he sits down to start. He does make sure he’s fully prepared though, and starts by measuring out the midpoints of a headlight, hood, trunk, etc., because it’s important that the design is centered. (You can use a water soluble pencil to mark your measurements – it just rubs off after the striping is done!) But when it comes to the stripe, he really puts his pen to the paper – or his brush to the surface in this case – and just follows where his hand takes him. No matter what method is used though, it’s important to try to keep the look consistent throughout.

Aside from prepping the surface, pinstriping takes some additional behind the scenes work and preparation as well. The brushes come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but they’re something that need a little work and in my dad’s words are ‘heavily modified.’ Depending on the brush you purchase, it may need to be ‘groomed.’ My dad trims his brushes to make them narrower – and finishes them off with squaring up the tip. Sometimes the brushes come with bristles that are kinky – just like hair on a human head – which causes a problem. Obviously kinky bristles aren’t straight in nature, so they cause issues when you’re trying to create a very fine, straight line. You should always test the brush on a practice piece to get to know the feel of the brush. AND, unfortunately some brushes just don’t work.

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