How To

How to Pinstripe

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Ohio Technical College Shows You How To Stripe Your Ride!

By: Fay Pivoda, Custom Paint and Graphics Instructor, Ohio Technical College

Some experience required, experience mandatory, two years prior experience desired, sound familiar? Many of us have seen experience requirements on job postings time and time again. This can make it more difficult in today’s economy to find work without work experience. But how do individuals get experience if they are not hired for not having any?

Ohio Technical College (OTC) has the solution to this problem and offers the best of both worlds. This 18 month college offers hands-on training for Automotive, Diesel Equipment Collision Repair, Classic Car Restoration, High Performance and Racing, Welding and Powersport equipment training at the PowerSport Institute. “Students learn from experienced instructors and gain the tools, knowledge and experience needed to learn a trait and obtain a great career in this experience demanding economy”, said Pat Downey, director of custom paint and graphics at Ohio Technical College.

One particular skill that OTC offers its students to learn is Pinstriping. Pinstriping has been around for many years, and is a hard trait to learn without someone teaching prospective pinstripers the ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ of the process. At OTC, pinstriping is part of the Custom Paint and Graphics program, in which students spend 2-weeks with a brush in their hand and learn how to pull lines, curves and designs.

Fay Pivoda, instructor for the Custom Paint and Graphics program at OTC said, “Learning how to pinstripe is an art form and is not something that you learn overnight. In order to become a master pinstriper you must practice, practice, practice. Start out trying to do some straight lines and once that is mastered move into simple designs.”

There are several things that he tells the pinstriping students right from the start:
  1. Ask questions
  2. Practice, Practice, Practice
  3. Take one thing at a time
  4. Watch other more experienced pinstripers in action

Key elements that are needed to start practicing are a good pinstriping brush like a Mack Series 10 Sword Striper brush - size 00, 1-shot paint, odorless mineral spirits, brush oil, a palette, practice surface, drill sheets, stir sticks, paper towels and razor blades.

To begin pinstriping you must do a few things first, oil the brush with straight motor oil, and rinse with mineral spirits.

Most often the brush will need trimmed slightly before it’s used and can be done by flattening the oiled bristles of the brush on a firm surface and using a new single edged razor blade to trim off the tips of the longest bristles.

Holding the brush correctly is very important and affects the angle, pressure and ability to roll the brush in the pinstripers hand. Place the brush between the thumb and index finger above the green wrapping called the ferrule. The pinstripers other fingers work as a bridge/guide to maintain a consistent distance on the painting surface/panel.

Take a close look at the brush, there is a flat side and a curved side, the flat side faces left and insures that the “sword” of the bristles is formed properly with the longer bristles at the top and the shorter at the bottom.

Now that the brush is in the correct position it is time to paint. There are a few different brands of striping paints available but for this demonstration a 1-shot brand lettering enamel is used. The paints need to be constantly thinned or reduced for efficient flow from the brush. A 1-shot reducer or turpentine is dispersed from either a small squirt bottle or small open container. Next you need something to pallet the brush and paint, a magazine, phone book or plastic lids work great.

Paletting is a three function process:
  1. Add a drop or two of the reducer into the paint and mix
  2. Thoroughly saturate the brush bristles with reduced paint
  3. Shape the bristle load of reduced paint

Note: Proper palleting is half the battle in pinstriping, approaching the surface with a properly loaded brush makes for a nice line.

To begin pulling lines, hold the loaded brush in the proper position, and begin by pulling lines from the top to bottom or north to south. Try to pull the entire hand/wrist/arm as a single structure without moving them. The brush needs to remain at a constant position to the surface/panel; any variances will be seen in the line.

A fun and easy exercise is to pull two lines next to each other and then try to duplicate the space between them with every next line.

Practice, practice, practice, and more practice is needed, thousands of lines drawn achieve the consistency and muscle memory required to move on to more advanced lines. Other practice strokes include: left to right straight lines, right to left straight lines and all directional curve lines.

A few variables to keep in mind while practicing the lines are as follows:
  1. Paint consistently; this will directly affect your line quality and is something to strive for in pinstiping.
  2. Temperature will alter the amount of reducer needed, hotter days require more reducer.
  3. Speed of brush movement, how fast you pull the brush across your surface will have a direct effect in the line quality.
  4. Pressure applied to the brush, the pressure will help determine the thickness of the line. Very little pressure will result in a thin line while a lot of pressure will result in a much thicker line.

Besides having pinstriping as a part of the Ohio Technical College Custom Painting and Graphics program, the college offers occasional weekend workshops on pinstriping. Call 1.800.322.7000 or visit to register or for more information on these classes.


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