On a lark I picked up an Iwata airbrush kit on ebay, as well as a helmet painting DVD. Suitably inspired and instructed, I decided to try my hand at another helmet. I had painted a Nitro helmet in a Red Bull motif last year, but using an airbrush really helps, especially with autoair. All of the paint needs to be significantly thinned with the appropriate reducer, but the amount of paint waste is decreased dramatically, and with the airbrush, I was able to do the prep and paint at home in the office, and leave the clearcoating to the shop.
I decided to buy a Bell open face helmet, mainly for around-town and short jaunts. Any long distance stuff or real aggressive riding would see me use the new Vemar. I decided on a more modern, European-looking Mag 8. I was able to get one with a 2006 manufacture date off of an ebay wholesaler for $20.50. Shipping to Canada ended up being more expensive than the helmet.
The process was as follows (using the DVD as a guide)
- careful masking of the rubber piping around the shell, and removing as much of the interior padding as possible, and the visor
- keying the helmet with a brillo pad, not sandpaper -- left a nice, scuffed finish
- masking -- I saw a design I liked from a British bike mag (a custom design at that), and turned it into a Ducati-esque color scheme, using white, red, and green, with silver trim, on the black original shell
- I really had to think the steps through in order to get the design I wanted. More pre-thought led to much quicker masking. Using proper automotive blue fine-line tape and green masking tape makes all the difference. Do not waste your time with normal beige masking tape -- it will lead to nothing but headache! Pay the extra few bucks for the right stuff.
- I thinned the colors and base coat right in the airbrush cup, stirring it in. Again, there is no minimum or maximum reducing ratio with autoair. The thinner mixes required more coats, but also resulted in a much smoother finish... important for a helmet.
- So I painted away... flames are tough to do, and I did a few layouts where I was comfortable with what I had
- The silver trim was a headache, as past practice showed me that I wanted to avoid any "smiles" between where the green or red ended and the silver hilights began. Real painters free hand and pinstripe this stuff, but I didn't have the proper paint, brush or skill myself, so this area was also airbrushed. Next time, a slight change in the "order of operations" would alleviate this -- mask out the design/flame/whatever oversize, then apply the base coat and trim color, focusing on the outside. Then, mask the TRIM, and spray the main color "inside" the trim color. So, rather than do trimmed flames from the inside out, go outside in. Impossible to describe, but I guess I have the idea.
- I put 2 coats of clear, with a wet sand in-between. The decals have one healthy coat of clear overtop. A smoother finish than previous experiences -- the airbrush at work.