Rick Harris is one of the best pinstripers working today. He can production stripe factory cars, He’s striped custom electric guitars for Gibson, he’s hand lettered and striped NASCAR race cars, and more. Over 2 years in the Gibson factory he striped over 1000 custom Les Paul guitars. Back in the 90s when the American car companies had a big problem with delaminating paint, he was one of the guys who redoing the warranty work. These pictures are mostly taken from a live stream event he did with Kevin Tetz for the Eastwood YouTube channel.
There are several different paints you can use for custom pinstriping. Many of them came from the sign painting industry, where brilliant, long lasting, easy flowing paints are needed in order to hand letter signage. 1 Shot Paint is perhaps the most popular brand, and Eastwood sells many colors of their popular enamel. There are also urethane striping paints by House of Kolor, Custom Shop and others, which are base coats meant to be cleared over.
1 Shot enamel was originally created for sign painting more than 60 years ago, and it is still the most popular paint for custom lettering and hand painted pin stripes on cars. Eastwood sells many colors of this paint, as well as the other compatible chemicals that go with it. For a more durable paint, you can add 10% of 1 Shot hardener to catalyze it and make it harder. If your 1 Shot stripe is going to be under a coat of clear, you should wait 24 hours for drying to prevent lift. You can also catalyze it with the hardener/activator you use for the clear coat paint. If you are mixing an activator into the paint, you want to mix just as much as you need, because otherwise the paint will kick in the can while sitting on the shelf.
The more recently introduced urethane paints for striping are increasingly popular with custom painters. The beauty of them is that you don’t need to add a hardener, so no risk of the whole can going bad or wasting paint, plus they are dried enough to clear coat over top of in just 60 minutes. Of course, if you want the catalyzed, Custom Shop has hardeners in 3 different temperature ranges, to get them to “dry” exactly how you want. They also have reducers to get the paint flowing just right out of the brush as well. These paints are available, right out of the can, in a wide selection of colors including pearls and metallic. Custom Shop themselves make 50 different colors, and House of Kolor sells another 25 options.
Other than using the right paints, specially formulate to flow nicely out of a brush and cover in one shot, there isn’t much special about the paint used for pin striping. As far as colors go, you need to take into account the vehicle it is going on. A new luxury car should have a simple stipe down the fender in a contrasting color, and nothing more. A Harley-Davidson chopper, or a ’49 Ford custom car can get a radical paint job with 2 or 3 different colors and intricate designs and still look correct.