A Custom Paint Job for your Motorcycle!

So, you just rolled out of the dealership with the bike of your dreams. You ride over to your friends to show them your new ride. After all the well wishes and high fives, one of them is going to ask you what your plans are to customize the bike. This was the bike of your dreams and cost more than what you really wanted to spend, and now your so- called "friend" planted the seed in your head to spend more money on your new ride.

Once that seed is planted, the roots have already taken hold and within the next couple of months, you are going change something to this brand- new motorcycle. For a non-rider, sinking more money into a spanking new motorcycle makes no sense, but to your fellow motorcycle riders , it makes all the sense in the world.

More so than a car, a motorcycle you ride is an extension of your being - a n extension of your personality. Once that bike rolled out of the factory, it was one of thousands of identical motorcycles. The new owner will give this new motorcycle their touch of individuality and customization to make their bike something different from all others.

Custom Motorcycle Paint Jobs: The Basics

The options to customize a new or old motorcycle are endless. You can change the handlebars, change the wheels or the exhaust system, but the ultimate customization is a custom paint job. New paint and graphics will totally transform the look of your ride and stand out from the crowd. Let's dive into the different ways to give your motorcycle the ultimate facelift.

So, you decided you want to blow through your kid's college fund and really trick out your ride. Step one is to figure out do you want something subtle, or you want "a stop them in their tracks paint job" that screams attitude.

The bike you ride will also play into the paint scheme and what would look killer on your motorcycle. If you ride a s portbike, the graphics and imagery that might look best on your bike may not look good on a V-t win m otorcycle and vice versa. Do you have ideas for colors that you would like as the dominant motorcycle colors? Do you want graphics or a full- out airbrushed- style mural? Do you want metal flake paint, matte paint, gloss paint or iridescent paint? Maybe you don't want a paint job at all, and a custom vinyl bike wrap would work best for your ride.

If you want a great outcome, you have to do some homework. Get online and start searching for custom airbrush motorcycles, motorcycle wraps, airbrush artists and motorcycle graphics - you get the idea.

Custom Motorcycle Paint Job Ideas

Let's Start With Something Subtle.

If you are looking for just a touch of customization, then pinstriping should do the trick. Pinstripe looks best on V-twin and vintage motorcycles.

At most motorcycle events and rallies, there will be a pinstriper with a booth set up. They well have a binder of photos of previous designs they have done on motorcycles. Go through their work, and only if you like what you see, start up a conservation with the striper. If nothing catches your eye, move on and keep looking. If you do see something you like, there is a good chance that the striper will ask you to leave your bike with them for a couple of hours. While you enjoy the rally, some stripes will be pulled on your ride and you can pick up your bike with a new paint in a couple of hours.

The most popular paint used for pinstriping is a brand called One Shot. Pinstriping will last 10 or more years, if you do not buff or power wash your pinstriping. Many sign painters also pinstripe, so you don't have to wait for a rally.

Pinstriping is an art form that takes years of practice to be a master, so make sure you are 100 % confident with the person who will pinstripe your bike and that their portfolio shows they are capable .

The cost of a pinstripe job on a motorcycle varies depending on what you want. For something simple, $75 to $150 is the usual ask. For a medium job, expect it to cost $150 to $250. Something fancy can range from $250 and up, depending on how elaborate you want to go.

Motorcycle Wraps

A motorcycle vinyl wrap is another option to customize your ride. A wrap is basically a big decal that the installer will wrap around your motorcycle fairings and gas tank. The original paint and graphics on your bike are covered over with new ones. This customization looks best on a sports bike. Down the road, you can peel away the new wrap and go back to the original look of the bike or do another completely new wrap over the previous one.

Everything is designed on a computer and is mocked up on your model motorcycle, so you can see what the graphics would look like on your bike before the installer even touches your motorcycle. You can also see different color options for the design you pick. Anything is possible with a wrap, and there are a wide variety of vinyls with different patterns and looks from metallic to chrome. Again, do your homework and zoom into a concept you want. I would narrow it down to two or three ideas to show your wrap designer. Signs shops that specialize in vehicle wraps are the ones you should check out. Also, make sure they have experience wrapping motorcycles like yours.

A wrap will last about four to five years before fading and peeling occurs. A motorcycle wrap starts around $600 and goes up depending on the vinyl used, the coverage on the motorcycle and the time spent to design the wrap.

There are also companies selling pre-cut vinyl kits for different model motorcycles that you can attempt to install yourself. These pre-cut kits run from $150 to $400.


Planning Your Customization

Determine How You Want it Done

If a custom paint job is what you want and nothing less, be prepared to open up your wallet. First thing to decide is if you want to repaint your motorcycle and then add art and graphics to the new paint job or if you want to add art and graphics over your original paint job. The first option will cost more money, but you will have a better end result.

Gather Images and Ideas

Second is to decide what you want for your motorcycle. A custom paint job is like getting a tattoo: some people don't really care too much of the end result, while others want perfection. Let's assume you want perfection. Create a folder of images, graphics, paint finishes, patterns and motorcycle paint jobs that you like. These can be images you see on the web, photos you have taken at rallies, motorcycle shows and motorcycles featured in magazines. Have no limit on the number of images you pick: even if you see just one element of the design you like, save it. Don't rush the process - you can build up these images over a couple of weeks, even months.

Once you have all the images saved, go through again and narrow down to a couple that you really like. Also envision if what you like, from your reference photos, would look good on your model motorcycle.

Let's jump ahead to assume you have a good idea of what you want for your custom motorcycle paint job. The next most important step is to find the best artist for the job. This can be tricky, and it is important for you to remember the old motto, "Good work is not cheap, and cheap work is not good".

Here are some examples of some bad motorcycle paint jobs. Make sure the guy or gal who paints your bike is not making a living airbrushing T -shirts at the carnival.

Do Some Research

Keep in mind the best artist for your custom paint job may not be based in your vicinity - they could be in another state or even another country. If you find an artist in your area that you think can do what you want, set up appointment to meet and bring the bike you want painted.

Don't let geography stop you from getting your ideal paint job - you can always send your ideas to the artist for them to paint no matter where they are located and communicate by phone or e-mail . To find the right artist for the job, they should have a website, Instagram or Facebook page showing their work. Take the time to look at all their work. Also, pick an artist that specializes in the type of graphics and art you want. If you want a wildlife mural, don't pick an artist that has no samples of wildlife designs in their portfolio.

Artists are like musicians: a bluegrass band, for the most part, won't be able to perform a h eavy m etal song that sounds good. Artists enjoy doing certain types of designs that they excel at. Don't ask an artist that specializes in skulls to do a pin- up girl design - the results may be less than the perfection you want.

Again, like tattoos, styles of art go in and out of style. Tribal tattoos and paint jobs were the rage years ago, but now a days, this art looks pretty dated. Pick a paint scheme or artwork that will look good 10 years from now.

I would also advise you not to tell the artist you pick to do whatever they think or want to do for your motorcycle paint job. You are setting yourself and the artist up for a problem. They are not mind readers, and what they think will look best on your bike might have nothing to do with your vision for the final paint job. To avoid this problem, know what you want and ask for their suggestions and ideas, but ultimately, you are calling the shots. Make sure the artist knows exactly what you want and have them send photos of the work in progress so you are both on the same page.

Set a Timeframe

Another thing to remember is perfection can't be rushed. Don't approach an artist for a full custom paint job with an unrealistic time frame. When the artist does his work without rushing, you will get a better result. An artist is creative: some days, the creative juices are flowing and the results are amazing, and other days, they are not. Sometimes, it is better to commission a custom motorcycle paint job over the winter, when you won't be needing your motorcycle and the artist has extra time to give you their best work.

Pricing and Budgeting

If you pick the right artist and paint scheme for your motorcycle, the results will be amazing. A good paint job will also increase the value of your motorcycle. A custom paint job can run from $1,500 on the low end upwards to $50,000 depending on the artist and the work desired.

Other Factors for Getting a Custom Motorcycle Paint Job

Getting a custom paint job isn't as simple as painting a few flames on your bike. You have to look at this job's value and quality from a long-term perspective:

  1. Although customization tends to focus on the gas tank, nearly any area can be painted, including the fenders, seats and spoilers. Processes and paints, based on the material, will vary.
  2. It's not the same as a DIY car paint job. Car enthusiasts will espouse how easy it is to add a new coat of paint and various customizations, but motorcycles, due to the design, materials and exposure, are a whole different ballgame. We'll tell you this right now: Work with a professional, rather than attempt to do the work at home or have your buddy do it and be disappointed. As the biggest factor to consider, custom motorcycle paint jobs often involve disassembling your bike, and if you can't do this all the way, you can't do a DIY project in your garage. It's as simple as that.
  3. Speaking about paint and finishes, urethane and epoxy have been the gold standard for years over lacquer. Although lacquer looks nice, it thins out over time, especially when it's on your gas tank. What looks sharp now might seem off and odd in a few years, like a stretched out or faded tattoo.
  4. Don't make it about the price. Cheap prices often equal cheap work, and realize you'll be riding around with the result - or badly wanting to get it off your bike, with repainting jacking up the total costs. For the short answer , do you research, as we've stressed here, and never be swayed by bargain-basement prices. As they say, you get what you pay for.
  5. Think about the warranty. This is the fine print we all gloss over, but it's important. You want the work the painter does backed up by a warranty, and a shop offering this tends to be more reputable than one that doesn't support their paint jobs.


Below are examples of custom paint jobs by some of the artists we have dealt with over the years. All of them are great guys and masters of the airbrush and pinstripe brush.

Brad Hudspeth

Brad Hudspeth from Tennessee is the artist who painted our Lethal Threat bike. He repainted our motorcycle and added all the art and graphics based on our existing t-shirt designs. Brad surpassed what we were looking for. He is exceptional at metal flake paint jobs, pinstripe and graphics. You can message him on Instagram at brad.hudspeth.72.

Terry Stephens

Terry Stephens, aka Kiwi Terry, is a master of the airbrush. We had Kiwi Terry paint some skulls down the lower rocker panels of our Lethal Threat Dodge Viper truck. His work never stopped to impress all who saw the truck. When he is not instructing air brush classes around the world, you can find him doing incredible work at his Huntington Beach, California shop. Pin- up girls to skulls, Terry can do it all. You can contact him on Instagram at kiwiterry_airbrush.

Marcel Sinwell

Marcel Sinwell, of Sinwell Designs, is one of the top motorcycle artists in Europe. Based in Germany, a paint job by Marcel is sure to win you best paint prize at any motorcycle event worldwide. You can see his work and contact him thru his website, sinnwell-design.com.

Rod Fuchs

Another great airbrush artist, based out of Canada, is Rod Fuchs. He is known for his reapers, dragons and skulls. Rod, when not teaching airbrush classes around the world, is painting any number of items from furniture to motorcycles, with his distinctive art. He is capable of any type of design. Rod, over the years, has done a number of designs for our Lethal Threat decals. You can find Rod on Facebook at Rodrick Fuchs Art and Design.


There are great motorcycle artists in every country - you just have to spend the time to find the one that will work best for you. If all of this info just gives you a headache , j ust slap one of our Lethal Threat decals onto your ride and off you go. A creative biker bought our car windshield visor decal and trimmed it to fit his motorcycle windshield - looks damn good! Good luck on your quest to customize your ride, be it by adding some of our decals or going all out and getting a custom wrap or paint job done.

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