Airbrush first steps, first lines

I decided that I will repaint my motorbike, Kawasaki VN800 Classic. Originally in the shade called pearl white. I’ll change it up, because I never really liked that colour in the first place 🙂 To do that, I had to learn more about airbrushing. I had a vague idea of custom painting and the preparing tied to the process. But I had none about painting with an airbrush. That’s important, because the initial plan was very ambitious – an Alien painted on the motorbike 🙂

Well, if one wants something so badly and is determined and focused, they are capable of achieving great things and learning loads. At the end of September 2015 I bought a set: an air compressor made in China along with an equally questionable airbrush and I began learning.

The set was very cheap, but it was enough at the start: it didn’t break the bank in case I changed my mind about this whole airbrush thing. I have it to this day and it still works! Here you can find a link to everything that this set consists of.

In the beginning I thought that I might be able to use Humbrol acrylic paints – after watering them down, of course. I used them earlier during putting together and painting motorbike models. Unfortunately the paints began separating while trying to water them down with alcohol and nothing really came out of it. Well, I looked around the web and bought Vellejo paints from the Model Air series. That was something else entirely 🙂 Finally, I could start learning how to make lines, dots, circles and fill-ins, just like a child would learn how to use a pen. It wasn’t easy 🙂 I found myself swearing throughout rather badly, especially when instead of a beautiful smooth line I was left with a zigzag, or a shapeless blot instead of a pretty one-millimetre-wide dot. After a week, I levelled up and that’s when the skull drawings started. Yes, my favourite topic when it comes to motorcycle airbrushing: skulls.

Airbrush and skulls

Skulls were everywhere, I practised dimensions and tried to revise free-hand drawing. At first it was skulls from templates so that I could learn light works and shading. Then came skulls-anatomical models, hand drawn skulls and skull photos. It’s quite good that they didn’t haunt me in my dreams… After maybe the thirtieth skull drawing I finally began to paint them with an airbrush. Oh God, I thought it would never come…

By the way of the skull trials I learned how to trace a reference picture onto the painting surface – a reference being a sketch lifted to eventually become the finished project. I was learning which materials are suitable for template-making and how to make the project look like it wasn’t a template at first.

Slowly, that is how the Pirates of the Caribbean skull drawing came to life, and then a tiger. All of that also made me realise that a winter is not long enough for me to learn how to paint an Alien in the way that HR Giger has created it.

Plans vs reality

I had to revise my idea for the leading theme of the motorbike paint job. Since skulls were coming out rather well, I decided that it would be a skull “of some sort.” Of some sort, because I didn’t know myself exactly what kind of skull it would be. However, the plan started developing slowly and along with it there also were the colours I wanted to include in my first motorbike project using the airbrush technique. Hours spent on looking through photos on the internet, even more hours watching videos on YouTube channels.
What kind of paint will work best on surfaces like the metal tank of the bike or a plastic fender? What sort of primers and paints should I use? How to tape it to protect the paint underneath? How to separate the different colours? So much information to take in and the winter is so short. Where’s the time for actual painting? Time was running out fast – Christmas 2015 was coming up – and I didn’t even prepare the elements for the job.

But, at least I had a plan: how I would find my way around it, what I wanted to achieve and how I would actually do it. About the how of painting and how I guaranteed my family a colourful Easter – more specifically in the shade Caribbean blue – I shall write in the next post. 🙂