Decorate your lid! Custom Painted Motorcycle Helmet

Posted: May 28, 2015 By: MattM

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In the 1950’s the “Kustom Kulture” style started and it really blew up as it went into the 60’s. With guys like Dean Jeffries, Gene Winfield, The Alexander Brothers, Barris Kustom, Von Dutch, Ed Big Daddy Roth, and many others pushing the limits of paint and car designs, they set the pace the standards for custom paint and pinstriping designs that have now been used on anything that can be painted. As the years have gone on the quality and technology of paints and coatings have gotten better, but many of the techniques are the same or very similar. One of the biggest trends over the years in custom motorcycles has been to custom paint your helmet to stand out when riding. The height of this trend was probably during the 60’s and early 70’s with Easy Rider and chopper motorcycles in general being at an all time high. Recently the trend for fully customized motorcycle helmets has picked up again and we’ve even begun to see custom helmet “shows” where artists, owners, and painters can show off their helmet. We decided to brew up our own custom helmet using a vintage helmet and show the process along the way. Mike L. is our resident paint tech guy and he did the work to transform this helmet.

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The helmet we started with was a late 60’s-early 70’s swap meet find that had seen better days. The first step was to remove the rivets and buttons for the visor and the chin strip.

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Mike started by goig over the helmet with 80 grit sandpaper on the DA to remove the old lacquer paint and any major imperfections. He then filled any low spots or imperfections and the visor rivet holes with Eastwood Contour Fiberglass filler to give a smooth surface to work on. After knocking all of the filler down with 80 grit he went over the entire helmet with 180 grit paper to get a uniform surface.

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He then applied three coats of Eastwood 2K Aerospray Urethane Primer over the entire helmet. This gave him a medium build and he got everything perfect by wet sanding the entire helmet with 400 grit sandpaper. Any areas he couldn’t get with sandpaper or edges that paint would need to wrap around on were abraded with a red scuff pad to give some texture for paint to bite into. Finally the entire helmet was wiped clean with PRE paint prep.

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Mike started by mixing up a batch of Eastwood Candeez Silver base paint to lay down over the entire helmet. He chose the Eastwood Concours Full Size Paint Gun with a 1.3 tip to maximize the work flow. Mike mentioned that the concours detail gun could be used but the Candeez requires additional coats if thinned enough to spray out of a smaller gun/tip.

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After the Candeez had flashed off Mike mixed up the Eastwood Euro Clear with Bubbletop Silver Flake. While we do give a ratio to mix the flake, Mike likes to add flake “by eye” to get the desired effect. He then laid three coats of the flake/clear mixture to the helmet over the silver base.

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After an hour flash/dry time he then applied three coats of straight Euro Clear to bury the metal flakes. He then let the entire helmet dry for 24 hours before wet sanding it with 800 grit paper to flatten the entire helmet out. The above process is just the “base” steps to get it ready for graphics and the customizing.

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Mike and I worked together to come up with a basic layout of line work that we thought would flow with the helmet design. Mike used a few different thicknesses of crepe painters tape until we came up with a final design that we liked. This again is all done by hand and requires an “artistic eye” to get the look you want.

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This helmet is going to be an Eastwood themed helmet so Mike started by laying out the Eastwood logo on the back that we would work around. The Eastwood logo is pretty intricate when it comes down to it, so blue or yellow painters tape won’t cut it here. The secret ingredient is Sticky Mickey’s masking tape. This stuff is pretty amazing. It can be stuck and restuck over and over and it has an adhesive that won’t pull off paint or material it’s stuck to. Mike printed out the Eastwood logo onto a piece of paper and laid a square of Sticky Mickey’s tape over the paper and carefully traced the logo with a pencil. He then removed the tape from the paper and restuck it to the back center of the helmet in the opening we had taped around. With the masking tape on the helmet, he carefully used a FRESH (do not use dull or used) razor blade to weed out (cut out and remove) the areas surrounding the Eastwood logo. Mike then followed the same process and cut out a large “’78” out of the Sticky Mickey’s (the year Eastwood was started) and laid it out on the side of the helmet.

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With the major graphics and line work laid out Mike cleaned the helmet with PRE again and used a tack cloth to remove any dirt or dust sitting on the surface. He then mixed up a batch of Candeez Blue paint and applied two light coats on the entire helmet to give a blue hue overall.

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We wanted the Blue oval in the Eastwood logo to be vibrant so the helmet was masked off around the logo and oval and three medium-wet coats of the same Candeez Blue was applied only on the logo to brighten it up.

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Once the Candeez had flashed off additional lines were taped off to create some shadows and depth in the top of the helmet. Then one more additional coat of candy blue was sprayed over the entire helmet.

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Mike then pulled out the Eastwood Concours Detail gun and mixed up some more Candeez blue to add some additional coats around the edges of the helmet and around some of the stripes which will create shadowing. Once the blue had flashed that batch of work was sealed up with three more coats of the Euro Clear.

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The helmet was then left to sit for 24+ hours before removing the taped areas and wet sanding the entire surface with 1000 grit sandpaper. Mike then reapplied tape to the areas that he wanted to leave silver or the hue blue they were currently. This included some thin and large stripes, the ’78, Eastwood logo.

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A batch of Auto Air Transparent Smoke Black was then put in the Concours Detail Gun and Mike carefully dusted in the borders of each section he had just taped off.

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Sticky Mickey’s was grabbed again and a paisley design was drawn out, installed and cut out on the number section of the helmet. Mike also use a compass with a pencil to make semi-circles out of a file folder on the edge that would be used for the fish scale look. Finally he cut circles out of the same material in varying sizes.

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He started by filling the concours detail gun again with the Auto Air Transparent Smoke Black to apply the graphics in the panels on the left side of the helmet. Mike first used the straight edge of folder to make faint lines that began in the bottom corner of the panel and “fanned” out to fill the panel to give the rising sun/fan “look”. He then moved to the bottom panel and used his half circle pattern. Mike started in the most narrow portion of the panel spraying just one half circle he then moved half the radius up and did two half circles, then half the radius and three half circles, and repeated the process until the panel was filled with overlapping half circles giving the appearance of fish scales. For the last center panel two of the circles in the last pattern were taped up and Mike sprayed a handful of the first circle in that panel. He then untaped the next size circle up and taped up the other he just used and applied those size circles, not being afraid to let them overlap each other. Finally he untaped the last circle and taped up the rest and applied sprayed the last batch of circles. The final effect is the look of bubbles in water.

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Mike then let those areas dry and began using the fine line tape to outline the 78 on the helmet. This will give the numbers a 3D look when sprayed with another color. The majority of the helmet was taped up except for the centers of some of the stripes and the outline of the numbers he just made. Auto Air Pearlized Black was then applied to those areas using the detail gun again.

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Once those last areas dried, Mike masked them off and applied three more coats of Candeez Blue over the entire helmet. This gave a blue hue to all of the patterns sprayed and made some of them partially disappear into the edges of panels so they fade in and out of the panel. Finally, all of the stripes that had been taped off and the logos were removed to expose the entire helmet and three coats of Euro Clear were sprayed over the entire helmet to fill/level everything out and seal it all up.

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Once the clear fully cured (we gave a week) the helmet was wet sanded with 1000 grit sandpaper to flatten out any minor ridges from taping up the different areas. He then applied three coats of our Premium Show Clear to give the helmet an ultra-deep look.

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Finally the helmet was wet sanded with 1500, 2000, and 2500 sandpaper and then buffed with the 3M compound system for an ultra shiny finish. The result is a helmet thats almost too nice to wear! The majority of this project was done an hour or two a day over a week long period, and the hardest part of the project was taping everything up and keeping the steps in order so something didn’t get sprayed the wrong color!

We hope this gives you some ideas for your next custom paint project or inspires you to go out and start customizing your car, toolbox, cooler, helmet or whatever it is you want to make your own!

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31 thoughts on Decorate your lid! Custom Painted Motorcycle Helmet

  • Most current production helmets have polycarbonate shells that cannot be painted. They are factory painted with alcohol-based paints, as anything else will compromise the material.

  • Nice job! I wanted to know all the steps to do this.
    For all those freaking out about an old helmet I just have to remind you how many states don’t require any helmet. I went to a large motorcycle event in Elizabeth, KY last week with custom bikes and hardly any helmets.
    While not up to new or racing standards, this is certainly better than bare!

  • OMG shut up and enjoy the paint show. Frickin liberal safety police on the old interweb. Everybody has to open their mouth. Me included if only to say enjoy the article. Be careful typing comments back , you might get carpletunnel or a tumor. Oh by the way, frickin killer paint job!

  • The helmet is beautiful. The article was to demonstrate how to prep and paint a helmet regardless of its age. And no, it is the users choice depending upon where s/he lives whether to wear one or not. Can we ever get past this modern day paranoia and just enjoy the wind in your face and let the rider make their own choices. Nice article on how to make a helmet look really nice!

  • I had a motorcycle accident 54 years ago and wasn’t wearing a helmet. I had a 3/4 skull fracture in a coma, etc. I’ve worn a helmet now for over 50 years. Who is it that decides if a helmet that should be good for many years is unsafe after 3 to 5 years? Does a Corvett, Avanti, or a fiberglass boat dissolve after 5 years? If they become unsafe because they are made from a cheep plastic then shame on the makers. Great article on how to personalize a helmet.

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