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Show Quality comes from Common Sense, learn Compatibility

Not all paints are alike, use products that are compatible with each other. Sign enamels are the most common paint in which to pinstripe with but for a vehicle that is to be clearcoated they are not very stable. Sign enamels are oil based. All automotive type paint today are Acrylic based in both paint and clearcoats. Whether it be Enamel, base coat-clear coat or Urethane enamel, problems with sign enamels are bound to rise and so will the stripe. Yet there are many diehards that will disagree saying you can clear sign enamel if you fog the first 2 or 3 coats, well to tell you the truth, who wants to wait for the dry time of sign enamel which can be days to begin with, and the total cure time as stated by the manufacturers of sign enamels is 30 days,,,,, Try this simple test, run the palm of your hand over the clear coated surface of a pinstriped panel that has been striped using sign enamel and then clear coated. You will be able to feel the striping even thought its encased in clear, thats because sign enamel is oil based and sticks to the surface but does not dig in like urethanes or brushing lacquer but sort of floats above the surface under the clear, and for a Show Finish thats a no-no.

House of Kolor Lettering and Striping Urethane - using the product correctly

Although in the past, I've pinstriped exclusively in House of Kolor Striping and Lettering urethane enamels, whether to be clearcoated or not, I do use sign enamels from time to time and sometime use both on the same project. I truly believe that I have helped many of the finest custom painters and artists on using HoK striping paints and most all show quality painters use HoK for their award winning custom vehicles. The reasons being that HoK striping paint is compatible with any Clearcoat and the total dry time is less then 10 minutes when striping on a vehicle. When pinstriping a factory finish as in new car dealerships I always prep the vehicle with Rapid-Prep by Rapid Tac as it is a non petroleum water base preparation solution that leaves the surface free of any grease and wax without the oily finish. With HoK, I am able to special mix any color and by adding a few droplets of KU 200 catalyst the paint will dry to a Glossy finish. Some of my work comes out of Body shops where I must return the vehicle to pre-accident condition and repair the stripe with a perfect mix to match colour, unlike sign enamels which sometimes dry darker or lighter when repairing stripes, HoK is a WYSIWYG program. The managers are awed by the fact the stripe is dry before I leave for the next job.

I did'nt always use this paint but it sure made pinstriping less trouble-some when working on the Showroom floor at dealerships. Another good point is after I finish a new car on the floor, I am able to use a dry wash to protect the stripes and quite the opposite to what you may be thinking at this point the dry wash will not interfere with the curing or the finish. ( dry wash is a spray, somewhat like a wax finish but does not contain wax or silicones ) WILL IT LAST? How long will it last? are the questions I get from most of my clients after seeing I'm not using what they expect to see, sign enamel.

I have pinstriped many cars, trucks and motorcycles using House of Kolor urethanes and have never had anyone say that it is flaking, chipping or fading. The colours are bright and remain that way for years to come under normal care. Semi trucks which which are pinstriped and lettered with HoK and are cleaned by high pressure wash weekly have a better chance of surviving the harsh cleaning when using HoK because this paint digs into the finish and does not lay upon it like sign enamels.

I mix my paint as follows: Using a 1 ounce medical cup, not a dixie cup as the paint will eat through the paper sometimes even if its waxed, I add appx. 8 droplets of KU200 Catalyst to the paint at about 1/2 ounce, which is more then enough to stripe double lines on both sides, hood and trunk with designs if needed. I also use HoK UC-3 which is a UV Klear and add it when a Hi-Gloss is necessary especially in Metallic Golds, using only enough not to make the paint transparent. I also have on hand, 2 larger metal cups with small amounts of PPG #1170 Reactive Reducer which I have found to be the best for brush flow and use this to palette my brushes and a palette book to palette on, I also a squeeze bottle of automotive grease and wax remover for removing mistakes, which will make mistakes disappear without leaving an image behind within 5 minutes of laying down the lines.

I must stress the fact that when using HoK Metallics, be careful not to add the Catalyst until you are ready to stripe with it because it hardens way too fast and as with most metallics I suggest using a stencil such as 'Finesse' which gives you the opportunity to go over the line more then once as the golds and silver do turn transluscent when pulling a long line as the metallic counterparts are always suspended in clear. I also add tiny amount of UC-3 UV Klear to the metallics for a Higher Gloss.

To remove mistakes I suggest using an automotive petroleum based quality grease and wax remover( such as RM Pre-Kleeno which is almost impossible to purchase these days in most of the free world ) using it from a squeeze bottle onto a cotton lint free rag caught within the time you are striping that particular section will remove the HoK without leaving an image behind, all this because using a reducer won't be so forgiving to the paint job itself as most times the reducer will smear. This HoK paint digs in to the existing paint and doesn't lay on the surface like sign enamels do.

NOTE: If you wait to remove any mistakes in the pinstriping later on down the road after a couple of days or so you'll need a heavy hand, lacquer thinner and or wet sand it with 1500 then use a fine compound or polish with Meguires # 2 then going to # 7. All that just so it won't leave an image behind. You may of course listen to others who use this product part time or may disagree with me in my proven style that works, but in the years I've used this product and the phone calls I've made and representitves I've spoken with, I've found that Reps don't stripe or do artwork of any kind and their job is only to sell a product their company makes.

Sign Enamels Tips and Tricks and things you don't want to hear

Ahh! Sign Enamel, an outdated neanderthal way of putting pinstripes on whatever the subject, a slow drying oil based paint which no longer contains LEAD. Nevertheless it is the choice of Pinstripers and Sign artists through-out the world, as it is inexpensive to use and fairly simple to work with, as long as you use it as it was meant to be used.

In the early days, sign enamels had lead in it and were made up of pigments, binders etc. Because of the EPA and other assorted agencies which are solely put in place to save lives, sign enamels are now LEAD FREE and pigments have been replaced with dyes and resins have been added. Although these paints have changed they are still the choice of professional sign people the world over and of course pinstripers as well.

Mistakes can be removed easily by just wrapping your finger with a lint free rag and rubbing your forehead or nose to remove some body oil and wiping away the mistake or smudge as you are working, it worked for a thousand sign men and pinstripers before me and is considered an old sign painters trick.

Sign painters and Pinstripers have been using this paint for many years prior to new and improved paints. Before I go any further I will state that both House of Kolor Striping and Lettering enamel urethanes and sign enamels have removed the Lead contents but the HoK catalyst as well as the sign enamel Hardener contains Isocyinates which can be very hazardous to your health. Always use common sense, latex gloves and anything else that will not interfere with your work or your health while working with either of these products. As someone once said, Eat right, Exercise, die anyway!

Now back to Sign Enamel, as I said before, this paint has been around for many years and is the choice of professionals around the globe. Have you ever been to automobile museums where they may have an original vehicle that was painted then pinstriped 50 to maybe 70 years ago and it still looks new. Do you think the striper who did that vehicle thinned his paint with mineral spirits? Most likely he added a few droplets of kerosene or maybe an oil based flow enhancer that was compatible to the oil based paint we all still use today. To thin your paint is a sin against your workmanship. Thinning or reducing your paint causes your work to last a shorter time as the reducers and thinners dry by evaporating into the atmosphere and still leave behind less of the amount of paint you have brushed on. Sure the paint formulars have changed and sure the additives that are out there today can enhance your work, but only if you use them and when you learned this trade from whoever taught you, they only taught you what they knew. So how come we still see pinstriping that is only a couple of years old look like a weathered old house. This is because the paint is'nt meant to be thinned, and you can get the feel of the brush for flow by using an additive that is more compatible with the paint rather then destroying its properties. Kerosene, Penetrol and Chromatics Chromaflo, 1-Shots #6000 Reducer or Edge are just a few of those products which are or were used for flow. 1-Shot and Chromatic are now owned by the same company and Chromaflo has been discontinued even though you can press 1-Shot into making you a batch if you buy 6 quarts. Storing 1-Shots #6000 or Chromaflo in a cool dry place will insure a no gelling effect because storing it in heat will gell the product and make it un-usable.

Remember sign enamel such as 1-Shot doesn't bite into the surface like House of Kolor ( HoK )urethane enamel but lays on top and sticks to the surface and this is why it can be removed down the road without leaving an image behind if you use common sense.

Whats in the Box !

All the tools that I carry are kept in 1 of 2 D-flite polished aluminum sign kits with 4 pull out trays in each one (something like a fishing box) only beautiful. I also use my original INFLITE' killerkart* as it takes only 30 seconds to put up in work form from a carrying position, it will roll anywhere and carries both my kits if necessary, plus I work from it as the top tray lowers to 24" and raises to 37" high.

In one kit I have a supply of House of Kolor urethane enamel striping paint kept in the original 4 oz cans with wide mouth caps and thumb screws in the caps for pouring. The metallics haven't any thumb screw in its cap so when I remove the cap I open and stir with a wooden craft stick and when all the lumps are stirred than the Gold is ready to use I remove the Gold with the craft stick and put it in the 1 ounce medical cup as the Gold is very thick.

I carry the original pint of HoK KU-200 catalyst with a Thumb screw in the top of the can and not the cap as I bend the edge of the can top with plyers so it can be used in droplets as I lean the can over the 1 ounce medical cup. I also have HoK UC3 UV Klear in a 4 ounce can with a thumb screw in the cap and keep PPG 1170 reactive reducer in a plastic squeeze bottle for cleaning and paletting my brushes and use 1 ounce medical cups to hold the reducer when working.

To remove any mishaps during the job use Pre Kleeno or an automotive grease and wax remover as it will remove stripes without leaving an image, but only if you pay attention to your work as you are doing it.

I use Rapid-Tac Rapid-Prep for cleaning the surface pryor to painting as it will remove all grease and wax without leaving an oily residue like so many automotive cleaners do.

I have 5" x 8" books made to palette my brushes on, with 100 sheets in each book, they are made from 70lb. gloss paper stock, printed with my business name, logo and a short discription of what I offer and sometimes use them as bills for clients.

I also carry 1 ounce medical cups in a sleeve and popsicle type craft sticks for mixing. I use 3M #233 - #6343 1/8" tan crepe masking tape and #26343 green crepe masking tape to lay out my lines and lean my middle finger against or over it while striping. the reason I use this tape is because your finger can wrap around the tape and feel it so the lines will be straighter if you don't shake, it costs about 2 bucks a roll.

I buy rolls of those blue paper shop towels which seem to be lint free and now use a product called WYPALL as a hand cleaner which removes just about any paint from your hands as well as any grease. WYPALL can be bought at most any Costco, Home Depot etc. WYPALL comes in a bucket but is a wet towel on a roll, its very easy to use and convienient as well.

My striping brushes, quills and outliners, are put on one of the upper trays of the box which is approximently 1" high, 18" long and 4" wide. I have added a piece of green medium foam to both the top and bottom of the tray to sandwich the brushes and sometimes add brush oil to the foam (neat trick that works great). Personally I no longer use brush oil of any kind and for years didn't use any. I started using brush oil when my first ultrasonic cleaner broke and was left no alternative.

My brushes consist of Steve Kafka brushes and an assortment of others. The Quills and Outliners are low numbers for monograms and very tight design work, dots etc. The Brushes I use for urethanes are kept in Vasoline petroleum jelly. Outside of the main tools I have Steadler Omni-Chrome pencils, X-Acto's, folding sizzors, circle templates etc.

In the other sign kit I carry sign enamel in both 4 ounce cans and 2,3,and 4 ounce plastic containers with the thumb screws on the bottom, Chrom-a-flo for use as a flow enhancer, 1 ounce medical cups and craft sticks for mixing, Rapid Prep in a spray container, and a roll of those blue paper shop towels.

BTW, I also have some off-set powder which I get from a printers supply to use on my hands to keep them from sticking to the vehicles when pinstriping, does that make sense? it works great.

I'll include a page shortly showing my tools, materials and assorted stuff when the time is right.

Next Page

Learn to Design 4: Cleaning and Flow enhancers