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I want to get a paint design on my car

  1. Apr 12, 2013 #1
    My car is just a plain green Mazda 2, and I'm starting to see a lot of those around. I wanted mine to be different somehow, plus the plain green is getting kinda stale. I was wondering if anyone here has had any experience with getting a design painted on their car. I have some questions about it, but I first of all don't even know who to contact about getting that done.
    I'd like to know how permanent it is and how expensive it is most of all.
    Anyone know? Thanks.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 12, 2013 #2


    Staff: Mentor

  4. Apr 12, 2013 #3
    I know an artist who specializes in designing custom paint for cars. He gets $500.00 a pop, just for the design. Someone else executes it.
  5. Apr 12, 2013 #4


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    I have an alternative solution. It's still fairly expensive, but easily reversible if you decide that you don't like it. Most art done on commercial vehicles, such as delivery trucks, is computer-cut vinyl adhesively attached to the body. It's impossible to tell from paint at any reasonable distance, and very difficult to even point-blank. It has a guaranteed minimum 5-year outdoor lifespan (including carwashes), but can be easily removed with a blow drier, Goo Gone, and a wide X-Acto blade.
    Actually, since I left the business a lot of places have taken to digitally printing the whole graphic on one large sheet of vinyl.
  6. Apr 12, 2013 #5


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    Bear in mind that if it is permanent, it will permanently change the value of your car when you want to resell it, unless you get lucky and find somebody with the same taste in artwork.

    Plus, it's a bit like putting a big sign on your car saying "scratch me".
  7. Apr 12, 2013 #6
    Some jurisdictions may not even allow it except by permit for advertising purposes and restrict automobile's to a solid or two tone colours.
  8. Apr 12, 2013 #7
  9. Apr 13, 2013 #8


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    Excellent link, Edward.
    While we were just inching into the printed sheet stuff when I worked at the sign shop, our most common approach was to use the cut vinyl. The design was created in Adobe Illustrator, then fed into Quark Express for translation to plotter language. Rather than a printer, we had a plotter which had a blade instead of a print head. It would cut out the design on the vinyl sheet, then I'd remove the unwanted bits with an X-Acto knife. A paper "pre-mask", which was adhesive but much less so than the vinyl, was then pressed over the remainder and used to lift it from its silicone coated backing paper. The pre-mask was used to transfer the graphic to the vehicle or shop window or whatever and squeegied down. When it was peeled away, the vinyl remained stuck to the desired area. At the time, that was much cheaper than using a large-bed multi-coloured printer. Different colours of vinyl were layered if the theme wasn't monochromatic.
    The main point is that you can create your own design and have it applied by a pro. It's the same as getting a tatoo; you can pick one from a catalogue or have it custom-made. (Designing is around half of the expense, so it's much cheaper to provide your own art.)
  10. Apr 13, 2013 #9
    Thanks a lot guys for the responses. I think in light of Aleph's response about reselling, I'll definitely go with a vinyl graphic if anything.
    I think I just want a big yellow star on the door.

    What do they look like when they start to get old? Do they start peeling?
  11. Apr 13, 2013 #10


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    So long as you don't get bagged for impersonating a police officer. :tongue:
    With something as simple as a star, I'd recommend just hiking down to your nearest sign shop, or maybe even an art store, and buying a sheet of yellow vinyl. It shouldn't cost more than around 50 cents. I can't remember the exact size that they come in; it's something like 26" x 44". You might also encounter a friendly chap who will give you an off-cut (leftover) for free. Lay out your star with a ruler and pen, then cut it out with an X-Acto or razor blade. (Scissors might conceivably cause the edges to curl.)

    I believe that's what happens to the sheet type, but I'm not sure; I've never seen one at the end of it's life. With small pieces, such as individual characters of a business name or phone number, the first thing is fading, but it happens so gradually that you might not notice. Next comes cracking, like you see in dry mud, and then a bit of curling up at the edges. At that point the vinyl is very brittle, and will snap off if you grab a protruding bit and try to pull it. You can still remove it, but it's far from fun.
    One thing to keep in mind is that if you leave it on for more than a couple of years, the paint underneath it will be less faded than the rest of the vehicle when the art is removed. That can be remedied with a lot of elbow grease. Again, though... not fun.
    Also, I over simplified the method of application. In actuality, the silicone backing is removed after the art is taped into place on the target. If you choose the do-it-yourself route, I'll provide better instructions. Still very simple, and it eliminates the chance of it getting stuck in the wrong place while you're lining it up.
  12. Apr 13, 2013 #11
    Thanks for all the info, but now I'm feeling kinda disillusioned about the whole thing. Maybe I'll just leave it alone. I plan to trade the car in before 5 years and get something better. This car was the first new car I bought. It's only about 2 years old and has about 25k miles on it. I just want to keep it in good shape for when I trade it in. I think maybe I won't do any designs on it.
  13. Apr 13, 2013 #12


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    One other approach, which I do not recommend, is magnetic signage. It's the same material as fridge magnets. The main disadvantage is that you can't get a perfect seal around the perimeter. Foreign matter gets underneath and sands down your paint job as the magnet vibrates around.
    I'll keep thinking about it and see if I can come up with something else.
  14. Apr 13, 2013 #13
    Custom wheels are a bit more expensive than some stick on stuff. They can really change a cars appearance. Cost is the down side. The up side is that they do add value to your vehicle at trade in time.

  15. Apr 13, 2013 #14
    if you paint your plain green car make sure it's something you really want

  16. Apr 14, 2013 #15


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    My third vehicle cost about $250, and was all manner of junkyard fender colors. I bought 5 rattle cans of Krylon flat black. I called it "The stealth bomb".

    Later, I got bored, and bought some gloss white, and made it look like a zebra. The cops followed me everywhere. I bought a few more rattle cans of flat black and ixnayed the zebra look.

    I later became old, and decided cosmetic changes were silly.

    If I were you, I'd spend my money on regular oil changes.

    And maybe an oversized bumper sticker, if you're feeling wild.

    Try this one:

  17. Apr 14, 2013 #16
    It happens.

    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2014
  18. Apr 14, 2013 #17


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    One of the few Canadians that the rest of us are truly ashamed is one of us.
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