Finding Your Perfect Painter

Story and photos by JoAnn Bortles

Last month we tackled the concept of choosing a color and design for your bike’s new custom paint job. In Part II we delve into the sometimes-tricky process of finding the best person for the job.

This means doing the research and asking the right questions. Is a particular painter’s style the style of paint job you want? What is their painting process, exactly? Do they carefully explain the options as to how they’ll paint your bike? Do they guarantee their work? How long have they been painting? What kind of paint do they use? If you’re like most folks and not very knowledgeable about paint products, go online and do research. Custom bike message boards are a great source of information.

A painter is different from an airbrush artist. Some artists are also good painters, or they farm work out to a painter. But there is a difference. Don’t just go to the local bodyshop or find the least expensive painter. Ask the local bike shops who they recommend. Do they have any projects in the shop the painter did? Can you see their work in person? Give yourself choices. Go online and do research. Most painters will have Google or Facebook reviews. Has the shop’s work been featured in magazines or won awards? Know your budget and find a shop that can work within it. A good painter will give you design options for your budget.

No painter close by? Go online and Google custom painters. Most important, you want to see examples of their work. You want an experienced painter who can show you many photos of their projects. And not fuzzy photos taken from far away. You want close up, detailed pictures. You also want an online paint shop with experience in shipping custom painted parts. Shipping tanks and fenders isn’t Amazon-easy.

A good painter will carefully guide you through the process. Once you’ve narrowed down your color choices, many long-distance painters will send their clients actual color samples so you can see your color in person. They’ll email renderings of the paint design and use your feedback to refine the drawings until the design is approved by you and perfect for your bike.

Custom painting isn’t always the smoothest process. Work with your painter. You both want the same thing; paint to be proud of. You want to get the best possible job for your motorcycle and your money. Many times, parts need more prep work than originally thought. And glitches do happen. So be prepared if your painter is not telling you what you want to hear. In most cases, your paint job will take longer than planned. Often when painters fall behind, it’s because they’re trying to solve a problem that came up.

When things take longer than expected, call your painter and ask why, making sure the painter knows they can be honest with you about the reason for the delay. Maybe a previous job has complications that caused the painter to run behind schedule. Or a problem came up with your project and the painter has to figure out how to deal with it. This is not bad news. This could mean you have a painter that takes the time to do the job right. Shortcuts are never a good idea. It’s better to let them get it right the first time.

A good paint job is only as good as what’s under the surface. If shortcuts are taken early in the process, it doesn’t matter how smooth and glassy the surface is. Eventually those problems will rise. This is one of the reasons why its good to find an experienced painter. Your paint job is a serious investment and a good quality paint job will last for years. I’ve been painting for over 30 years and have many 20 plus year-old paint jobs out there that still look great.

When searching for your painter, look for examples of their older work that can be seen in person. If you’re working with a long-distance painter, see if they can provide testimonials from long-time clients. Painters with happy clients often form friendships with them. These clients follow them on social media and often post photos of their bikes on the painter’s social media pages. Most painters will provide current photos of their older work.

Next time we’ll discuss getting new parts for your bike painted to match the factory painted parts. And why is it such a hassle? Here’s to having a great custom painting experience!

JoAnn Bortles is an award-winning custom painter and journalist. She’s the owner of Crazy Horse Custom Paint and the author of seven books on motorcycle and automotive painting. For questions please email or call 704-231-9109


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