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  • airbrushed signs advice needed please?

    Posted by mick shaw on November 16, 2002 at 3:37 pm

    I haven’t been in this business for long so i need some help please.

    I am trying to get into airbrushing signs but not sure what type of boards i can use.
    Magazines i get from America always mention overlaid ply…what is this?
    Can i get it in the UK? Nobody seems to have heard of this in my area.

    I was thinking of using 1 Shot enamels, is this a good choice?

    Thanks for any help,

    mick shaw

    mick shaw replied 21 years, 3 months ago 9 Members · 35 Replies
  • 35 Replies
  • Robert Lambie Robert Lambie

    November 16, 2002 at 6:26 pm

    hi mick
    i think a few can help that visit this site. unfortunately i cant 😕 …sorry…

    with regards to one-shot i reckon its as good as any. i have used it once.. and on a small signat that. it worked well, but thats nothing to go on….
    with regards to many replies i have heard on here and on the US Boards
    one-shot is a good choice. 😀

  • Sparky

    November 16, 2002 at 7:33 pm


    I don’t know if you mean airbrush pics, or just effects for lettering ??

    I had a go about a year ago & not really done much with it again until this week, if you just want effect ideas for lettering, let me know & I will see what I can do to help (no expert but have found some of the problems & pitfalls).

    I only airbrush directly onto matt or scuffed gloss vinyl, dunno how well it would take to other substrates.

    i use Createx Auto Air paints from Sticky ends, Gt. Yarmouth. About £5 a bottle & lasts forever.

    My airbrush is just a cheap copy of the iwata Eclipse & seems to do the job well.

    More if you need it …


  • Robert Lambie Robert Lambie

    November 16, 2002 at 8:19 pm

    sparky have you never tried airbrushing vinyl with ink… works a treat and no need to scuff…

  • Sparky

    November 16, 2002 at 8:27 pm

    No Rob, I did read somewhere that t was reccommended by Brian the Brush (I think), but never had any sources for the inks !

    Are they only available in 25 litre cans or something silly 🙂 Take me about 20 years to get a gallon through the airbrush 😀 😀 😀

    Are they thin enough or can they be thinned ??

    Will it trash my airbrush ???

    the only downside I can think of is colours, I use a couple of pearlescent & iridescent colours to enhance the effect (makes up for my lack of skill) – I suppose screen inks are flat colours …… still goood for fades though !

    Talk to me Rob, this sounds like a good idea !

  • Robert Lambie Robert Lambie

    November 16, 2002 at 8:48 pm

    there is a million colours sparky…
    but you may be right come in litre cans or somthing…
    but thats just the ink… you see.. you get a large tin of thinners
    and you buy the four primary colours and black and white and your sorted for years… what we do is get the inks and mix the colour we want. just a tiny drop. then add thinners… so your colours are endless…
    it does no harm that i know to the gun.. hasnt with my own anyway…
    not sure if yours has lots of plastic bits on it though…
    as for the colour being flat… yes it can be.. we cover in clear vinyl all prints and sprays anyway so they all have high gloss even finish anyway…

    all this aside if you dont use it airbrushing then it is perfect for curtain sided trucks 🙄

  • Sparky

    November 16, 2002 at 8:51 pm


    What’s the cost of a litre of colour / litre of thiners

    Might be an option !

    I have never seen screen inks, are they like a cellulose paint, sticky smelly stuff ?

  • Robert Lambie Robert Lambie

    November 16, 2002 at 8:56 pm

    its been ages since i bought some mate…
    i can find out though….
    we buy from serical inks… they should be on the net also… if in doubt call directory inquiries . they have a depot in glasgow.

  • Bill Preston

    November 16, 2002 at 9:00 pm

    Hi, from the Colonies,
    Regarding overlaid, or MDO—this is a type of exterior plywood that has the top layer(s) made of some sort of resin loaded plastic for a surface. It looks a lot like the brown paper that grocery bags are made of. It works well as a sign substrate, but the edges have to be thoroughly sealed. Otherwise water will get in, freeze and force the lami nates apart. Many methods to seal——–the one gaining favor over here is the use of Titebond 2 glue, 2 coats, all the way around, then sand the edges to round them over a bit. Prime and paint per usual. Simpson 2 Step is the MDO of choice over here—–many of the other mfrs. have let quality control slip. Available in various thicknesses, and good either one side or two.

    The Createx water-based paints work well for airbrushing. For outdoor signs, specify that you want Createx Auto and Sign paint—- they make another type of paint that looks almost the same, but it isn’t outdoor durable.

    Check the Letterhead website—there are answers to most of your questions there. Go to the “search” heading, type in a search word or phrase, and hit “go”.

    Good luck, and have fun.

  • Sparky

    November 16, 2002 at 9:30 pm

    Thanks Rob.

    Wot you done to your pic ??

  • Robert Lambie Robert Lambie

    November 16, 2002 at 9:41 pm

    not sure sparky… i hate pics… but everyone keeps saying the old one looked like i was a rabbit caught in car headlamps… 😆 😉

  • Sparky

    November 16, 2002 at 9:49 pm

    thought somebody said something about a mahl stick ….. 🙂

    You did look a bit shocked in the old one, as if one of your finest “Fastsigners” had just run over 50 sq. mtrs of digital 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Must get a pic of me & send to you for the boards, don’t like being a ghost !

  • Robert Lambie Robert Lambie

    November 16, 2002 at 10:08 pm

    do that sparky… would be great to have another face on the boards mate. thanks. 😉

  • Henry Andrews

    November 16, 2002 at 10:22 pm


    I use 1-shot for all my airbrush work. I work on alluminium and plywood.
    Aluminium gives a better finish as it has a smoother surface, but I prefer ply as it “grips” better due to the grain.

    I have also sprayed directly onto foamex, but I would only recommend this for interior use as adhesion is a problem.

    I finish all work with a coat of 1-shot sign restoring clear which gives a great finish.

    Here’s some examples:

    I thin with white spirits and clean up with cellulose.



  • Robert Lambie Robert Lambie

    November 16, 2002 at 10:34 pm

    paul if all that work is airbrushing then hats off to you mate… bloody excellent stuff… im impressed 😉

  • Henry Andrews

    November 16, 2002 at 10:51 pm

    Thanks Rob

    On these I’ve mixed brush work with airbrush, all the flat colours are brushed in. I don’t use masking, so I do all the airbrushing first and put the backgrounds in with the brush which cleans up the overspray. It’s all large scale, the Bilco character is on a bowling alley wall which is 40′ x 8′.
    I also like to flat paint some of the comic characters this gives them a graphic quality and is a nice contrast to the airbrush.

  • Robert Lambie Robert Lambie

    November 17, 2002 at 10:34 am

    do you do it all free-hand paul?
    what i mean is do you pencil the outlines or do you do it with the air brush…
    do you evevr use things like projectoers to achieve the scaled up work to create the outlines…
    how long would somthing like the bilko take you alone to do?
    sorry for all the questions, just me being nosey…

  • Henry Andrews

    November 17, 2002 at 12:27 pm

    I use a projector, I used to grid everything up, but the projector makes it a lot quicker. The Bilko character would take 3-4 hours. Here’s some more pics….

    This next job is called “BACKACHE”. It was 5 ceiling panels, 16′ x 8″ and 12′ x 8′. 100% Spraywork. The entire job was daone on site, on a stepladder!

  • Robert Lambie Robert Lambie

    November 17, 2002 at 12:40 pm

    excellent stuff mate!

    quote :


    no wonder mate… gives a whole new meaning to the phrase bending over backwards for the customer 😉

    looking at the work i would swear it was digital printing… which can only be a good thing for you…
    i dont know how much yuo would charge but i would imagine its not cheap…
    for the customer though i would think he would save as he would not have material, digid printing & application to pay for… just your paint time and talent… more profit for you in the end… 😉
    another good thing about you doing it would be the walls would not need to be perfectly flat for applying am i eight?

    can i ask how you would set-up the artwork… does somone give it to you or do you make up the design then project it etc…?

    thanks for sharing mate 😉

  • Henry Andrews

    November 17, 2002 at 1:44 pm

    I do maybe three or four of these jobs a year. I do a wide range of other stuff, design for print, signs and a bit of web stuff. Most of the people I do spray jobs for already know my work, so I will generally discuss a theme with them, collect my reference material, get it approved and start the job.

    I have done a few photoshop designs which shows the exact job in detail. This might take an extra day, but it makes it faster on the job, as you are not designing as you go along. I haven’t really decided which method I prefer.

    The bowling alley job for example I made up as I went along and I think it benefits from it.

    As for a flat surface. If its spraywork, it’s not so important, but with brushwork: the flatter the better.

    Here’s a job I am on with at the moment. I scanned the images and did the design on the computer, then put the designs onto a dig photo of the machine.

    I suppose once you’ve got the artwork, it could easily be printed. I wouldn’t fancy applying it though. Rivets, panels etc. And I don’t know about durability?

  • mick shaw

    November 17, 2002 at 3:05 pm

    Thanks for the reply john,

    I have tried Createx but i cannot seem to get it to do what i want. I find it too thick so i cannot control it as well as inks or automotive paints, it always seems to clog the brush up. Do you thin the Createx down? What pressure do you use?

    I use Iwata brushes, which to me are the dogs ……………, so i know its not the brush thats the problem.

    Thanks once again john,

  • Sparky

    November 17, 2002 at 3:46 pm


    Had exactly the same problem with createx, thin it & it runs everywhere, don’t thin it & it doesn’t want to play !

    I think pressure is the answer, I’ve upped mine to maybe 80psi now & it flows great, the only ones that are a bit awkward sometimes are the iridescent colours, maybe it’s the mettalic particles.

    Dunno m8, I’m only a beginner 🙂


  • Mike Brown

    November 17, 2002 at 7:42 pm

    Paul – the work you’ve shown us is inspirational!

    For me, airbrushing is like sand-blasting – it’s one of those things I’d like to do but just never seem to get around to…but then I suppose everyone has a wish list…

    Like a great many blokes – I love buying tools and equipment. A couple of years back I bought a professional silent compressor and airbush together with other equipment and an extensive range of pure sable brush gear – I remember I paid over £500 for one set of brushes alone! – One day I really must do them the justice of putting them to good use…I only wish I could get to do some hands on with someone who could show me the ropes…there never seems enough bloomin time!

    more please – a lot more!


  • Henry Barker

    November 17, 2002 at 9:50 pm

    Great work Paul, thanks for sharing with us.

    I have used Deka Sign Air and Createx Auto Air but as others have said it clogs and dries very fast, so you spend more time cleaning, and fixing than painting.

    I have been airbrushing recently using Standox basecoat on some of my dimensional signage.

    Would like to share some pics done by an American friend who lives here in Stockholm, he has a great name in custom painting in the hotrod and custom painting business. His name is Ray Hill

    This is the front of an Audi TT, the whole car is painted, the bonnet is HR Giger inspired.

    Here’s a bonneted Scania that was all painted, I don’t have a close up, there maybe one at He is a guy Ray did alot of work for until recently, he specialises in Wreckers (recovery trucks) and buildind promotional show trucks.

    and here

    and here

  • Henry Andrews

    November 17, 2002 at 9:59 pm

    Thanks Mike

    You should get that compressor cranked up. I haven’t seen finer vinyl work than yours, anywhere, so I would think you could be pretty dangerous with an airbrush!

    Regarding paints and vinyls: I use 1-shot enamels so I can’t comment on ink or Createx paints, but from whats been said they sound very good.

    I’ve used 1-shot on vinyl with varing degrees of success. I always scuff with a scotchbrite pad first and if the job is out of reach and out of the sun then it seems OK.

    After coating with clear on a couple of jobs that have been subjected to lots of sun, the vinyl has pulled up over time.

    So for vinyl I think ink or Createx is the best bet.

    I know there is a guy in America called Butch “Superfrog” Anton who specializes in mixing airbrush with vinyl and I think he has either brought out or endorsed a paint. I think it might be called “Frog Juice”, or I might just have had too many late nights. Anyway I will find out, or maybe someone else on the boards knows.

  • Henry Barker

    November 17, 2002 at 10:08 pm

    Frog-Juice is a one component fast drying clearcoat with UV inhibitors, and dries very fast is non yellowing, and I have cleared most of my dimensional signs with it Butch Anton has come out with FJ in colours too but I am not sure of the colours available. His nephew sells it thru Far From Normal in Fargo, they have a website but I don’t have the link here at home.

    One shot sell a similar product 4005 Speed dry Clearcoat, in quart tins or aerosol, and in the UK you can get that from AS Handover.

    Didn’t mean to flood the post with Ray’s pics but he is good and its nice to share and give others inspiration.

    I have more but can save them for another time.

  • Henry Andrews

    November 17, 2002 at 10:25 pm

    Henry – That work on is excellent. The Audi is amazing.
    I don’t mind an old bit of ply or ally, but a 20 grand car? Scary.

    Yes, you’ve reminded me, I used Deka, once, for about ten minutes, couldn’t get on with it. And I’d stupidly bought a lot of colours.

    You’re doing some great stuff over there. I had a look at your website. Fantastic. I love your sans serif with the really narrow counters on the “R”s. Is that hand drawn? It was the one on the post regarding clip-art.
    Apologies in advance for being a type geek.

    Thanks for the pics.

  • Henry Andrews

    November 17, 2002 at 10:32 pm


    Send some more pics!
    You can’t send enough. Is there a website?

  • Henry Andrews

    November 17, 2002 at 10:53 pm

    Here’s the paint site:

  • Robert Lambie Robert Lambie

    November 18, 2002 at 10:15 am

    i use frog juice on my digital prints. but only on the ones for truck curtains.
    because of the flexiface i need somthing that will act with the curtain. truck vinyl doesnt come in clear so frog juice works a treat for protecting the print.
    if i am doing anything else digitaly printed i just cover in clear vinyl. regardless to what the manufacturers say the life is.
    as for the aroesols “coloured frogjuice” they work great also & leave a great shine. holds itself firm to the vinyl and doesnt crack.
    downside is it can be pricey, and with some colours, they need to be built up..
    this is one reason i revert to screen inks in my gun… much cheaper and drys as it hits the vinyl. 😉 down side of that is the finish isnt glossy. 🙁

    is there really a perfect product out there we wont moan about 😮 🙄 😉

  • mick shaw

    November 20, 2002 at 11:28 pm


    Sorry for not getting back sooner but i’ve been bogged down with our lass who’s trying to get into airbrushed body art and temp tattoo’s……..she knicked all my stuff 😥 😥

    Some great work there you’ve done, one day i might be as good.

    You mentioned that you sometimes use ply. What do you use to prepare the board before spraying. Will any sort of primer do or do you use something special (?) (?)

    Thanks once again


  • Pete Witney

    November 21, 2002 at 1:10 am

    Mick,when I’m spraying onto ply I finish the board as I would if I were lettering it,ie 1coat primer,2 coats undercoat,2 coats gloss(all oil based),I find that when you sprayingyou don’t really get a great deal of paint on the job.I use 1 Shot,or plain old dulux,can’t get on with quick drying acrylics or the Dekka Airbruh paints,as someone else said ,you spend more time cleaning out the airbrush.As for varnishing you will find you get areas of gloss and areas of matt were you fade out during spraying so varnishing helps even out the finish,again I use oil based varnishes but they do tend to yellow and I don’t know how they stand up to the tests of time. Paul , fantastic work down there in Bridlington,do you use an airbrush or a small spraygun,we used to use small sprayguns by a co. in Spain ,Victory I think,haven’t found anything like them in this country.Also admired your Gilding on the other site,I get to see a lot of Alan Freemans work up here in Whitby,and would like to come down and see you working sometime,I do alot of surface gilding but not much glass gilding.

  • Henry Andrews

    November 21, 2002 at 9:00 am

    Hi Mick

    Pete’s got it spot on. I do it exactly the same. The important thing is to use oil based, particularly primer.

    Pete, nice to hear from you, I’ve got a job to do in Whitby before Christmas so I’ll give you a shout when I’m over there. I looked at your site, your doing some great work up there.
    I’m also trying to set up an Alan Freeman appreciation page on the web, to make people more aware of his work. If you want to get involved let me know. I never met him myself, but I’ve worked for a couple of his previous customers. I personally think his gold work is the best I’ve seen in the UK.

    I use a cheap regular size spray gun for blocking in and background stuff. I then go in with an aztec airbrush for the details. I have used this airbrush for about 10 years. It is different from other airbrushes in that the needle is only about 1 inch long and fits into an interchangeable nozzle. This can be removed independently for cleaning. I had my first one for about five years, after which it failed. I rang up Daler, as I was in the middle of a job and they replaced it the next day, no charge.

    Mick, I would say for body art that it would be a great choice.

    I have been thinking of changing to a mini spraygun, as this would do both jobs. Iwata do a good one, apparently.

    Here’s a couple of places that you can buy them on the net:

    Iwata spraygun:

    Aztec airbrush:



  • Pete Witney

    November 21, 2002 at 10:44 pm

    Paul, thanks for the info on spray guns ,I’ll have a look at them.If it’s a fixing job in Whitby give me a shout if you need a hand, as long as I don’t have to go up ladders,Mike can tell you about me and ladders.Also my wife insists that I admit to some of the work on the website as being hers,cheers Pete

  • Martin Pearson

    November 21, 2002 at 11:00 pm

    Airbrushed body art Mick ?
    Is that something that is quite popular around your way? What sort of paints would you use for that and how temporary is it ? Is there a site where we could see some of her work as this facinates me.

  • mick shaw

    November 24, 2002 at 9:38 pm

    Pete and Paul

    Thanks for the input, it’s nice to know there are people out there who are prepared to help. All i need to do now is get stuck in. I’ll let you know how i get on.


    I’ve tried to use the Aztec brush but i couldn’t get on with it, it just didn’t feel comfortable in my hand. I couldn’t find a position for the hose to sit which felt comfortable to me……… I think it’s still in the shed gathering dust.

    Thanks once again,

    Mick Shaw.

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