Painting Ghost Flames [by: Halloweenking]
Hotrodders Bulletin Board: Knowledge Base: Body-Exterior: Articles

The first step is to prep the surface for painting. Make sure all the bodywork is complete. Prep the surface to be sprayed and make sure it's up to your expectations, especially if you're going to be creating a deep dark color. Darker colors magnify imperfections.

After the surface is prepped and cleaned of all oils and solvents that might have been in the air, you may begin. (Dawn dish detergent works well for removing oil and contaminants, or Prep-Sol chemical prep).

After the surface is ready to be sprayed, mix your base coat as to the instructions on the can. Spray the surface and let dry for at least 30 minutes depending on weather and spraying conditions or booth. Clear it as desired. Now your base/clear coat is on and dry and you're ready to start the flames.

To start, you will need to have a layout of your flames and how you want them to look, or some like the freehand approach. Layout your flames with fine line tape such as 1/16" or 1/4", depending on your desired look and size of flames.

After the basic flame design is laid out you will need to tape off anything you don't want over spray on with masking tape and paper. NEVER use newspaper on any surface that will be painted, glass is OK. When using pearl for the phantom flames, the pearl is applied above the clear coat usually, but can be applied below the first coat of clear if desired. When using pearl you must be in a well-lit room.

Mix the desired amount of pearl in the desired amount of clear for the phantom flames. Pearl is difficult to spray with due to its transparent nature, it's difficult to see. When working with pearl try to mix the entire amount of pearl you desire in the entire amount of clear you will be using for your desired flame look whether it be full flames, and outline or a full pearl/phantom "fade" effect. By doing this you reduce the chance of two different shades or colors of phantom flames or graphics.

Make sure to keep your clear containing the pearl stirred or shaken to prevent settling. Now apply your flame color and let dry. This could be solid color, or blending of multiple colors into "fades" by either using different shades, or totally different colors.

When edging your flames the process is as follows. Use an airbrush or a detail gun to apply the accent color if that is in your desired paint scheme. (Non-solid color flame) The tracing effect can be used alone or with a full color flame as an accent. Trace around the tape's edge with the pearl essence, this will leave the outline. Let the paint dry for 15-30 minutes and remove tape, slowly peeling away from the flame's edge. For fading effect you apply the colors in descending order, front to rear or tip of flames. Let dry and color sand to aid in the blending or "fade" effect. If the tape left a large edge you may CAREFULLY wet sand it smooth with some 2000-2200 sand paper.

Now it's time to apply the clear, you may add as many coats of clear that is needed to create the smooth look you desire, make sure to let tack or even dry especially when wet sanding for an even surface. Let dry for 1 hour to 3 hours depending on conditions and wet sand with 2000-2200 grit paper and buff using a foam pad and 3M rubbing compound. Set your variable speed buffer to around 1800 RPM or high if it's not variable. Do not press down, just let the buffer's weight do the work. After all of the 2000-2200 grit marks are gone switch to a black waffle type buffing pad and use 3M's finishing or polishing glaze to make it really shine.

Remember, a paint job is only as good as its prep work. Your goal should be a distortion free mirror image in the finished paint. Also, smoothing or flattening the paint's graphics and flame's edges through wet sanding will have a great impact on the depth of the paint as you look at it.