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, within the next couple of months you are going change something to this perfectly fine brand new motorcycle. For a non-rider, sinking more money into a spanking brand new motorcycle makes no sense, but to your fellow bikers it makes all the sense in the world.
More so than a car, a motorcycle you ride is an extension of your being. An 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. 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 look at me! The bike you ride will also play into the paint scheme and what would look killer on your motorcycle. If you ride a Sportbike, the graphics and imagery that might look best on your bike may not look good on a V-Twin Motorcycle 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, 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, motorcycle graphics, you get the idea.
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 him or her your bike 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. 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 a capable pinstriper. 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. A medium job, a $150 to $250 and something fancy can range from $250 and up depending on how elaborate you want to go. The most popular paint used for pinstriping is a brand called One Shot. Pinstriping will last ten 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.
A motorcycle vinyl wrap is another option to customize your ride. A wrap is basically a big decal that the installer will wrap your motorcycle fairings and gas tank. This customization looks best on a sports bike. The original paint and graphics on your bike are covered over with new ones. 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.
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 do 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. 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. Can be images you see on the web, photos you have taken at rallies, motorcycle shows and / or 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.
Keep in mind the best artist for your custom paint job may not be based in your vicinity, he or she could be in another state, 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 your bike you want painted. Don’t let geography stop you from getting your ideal paint job, you can always send your tins to the artist for him / her to paint no matter where they are located and communication by phone or e-mail does work. 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 wok. 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.
Artist are like musicians, a Bluegrass band, for the most part won’t be able to perform a Heavy Metal 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 ten 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. Avoid this problem and know what you want, ask for their suggestions and ideas, but ultimately you are calling the shots. Make sure the artist knows exactly what you want and have him or her send photos of the work in progress so you are both on the same page.
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 not rushed, 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 paint job over the winter, when you won’t be needing your motorcycle and the artist has extra time to give you his/her best work.
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.
Below are examples of artwork 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 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, 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, 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
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 this info, just gives you a headache. Just slap one of our Lethal Threat decals on 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 to your ride or going all out and getting a custom wrap or paint job done.