Speedway Motors Presents The Art Of Pinstriping – Part 2

As promised, here is the second part of the Speedway Motors feature on the Art of Pinstriping, originally written by Alanna Crawford of Speedway Motors. Part one can be read by clicking here: Speedway Motors Presents The Art Of Pinstriping – Part 1.

Getting Down To Business

After your brushes are ready, it’s time to paint! Speedway Motors sells a variety of different colors of One Shot paint, which is primarily used for pinstriping. Once you’ve got everything ready to go, the process goes a little like this:

Alanna Crawford

Alanna is an only child who likes to have her way. She’s a Jazzercise master, an expert in half-salted popcorn, and knows how to turn eyelashes into an art form. As the Events Master at Speedway Motors, you’re likely to find Alanna in a parking lot, soaking in the rays, while holding a clip board and barking orders. Her blue ’65 Mustang was a gift for college graduation, and gives her something to drive to shows when she’s not working. She enjoys sweatpants, tropical vacations, and she was a huge asset on the Bucket Beauties build team.

Pinstriping is an art – an art that takes a steady hand, a lot of concentration, and one helluva talent. Artists that are accomplished in pinstriping are patient. They’re creative. They’re one-of-a-kind. Lucky for me, I’m the daughter of one of those very skilled individuals. My dad taught himself how to pinstripe over 45 years ago in his parent’s garage. He’s been doing it ever since. His talent has allowed him to set himself apart from other artists and car guys. And, he’s extremely unique – someone that any car guy in our area knows to go to simply because he’s the best there is.

Like any paint, you can mix One Shot to get desired colors that might not be available. However, out of the can it’s too thick. You’ll need to mix with a little bit of turpentine to thin it out a bit. You can ‘polish’ the paint, which basically means mixing the paint with turpentine on a pad of paper. Your goal is to get the paint thin enough to get a good, long line – but also keep it thick enough that it stays opaque. If it’s too thick, it will glop. If it’s too thin, it will run and will show up transparent.

You’ll need to ‘load’ your brush with paint. If you don’t, the brush will stop when you’re pulling it down the side of a car. A properly loaded brush should allow you to get at least halfway down the side with one stroke. Mixing the paint with turpentine as mentioned above not only allows you to thin out the paint, but it also helps to slow down drying time and allows for a long, consistent line.

Posture Up

If you’re choosing to do a long, straight line, make sure your posture is good! You want to be able to pull the line for as long as you can without stopping, so being comfortable in your position is very important. Even if you’re doing an intricate design, you should be relaxed and comfortable. Being too jittery or not positioned correctly can end very badly!

Your line depends on pressure, so make sure it’s consistent. Figure out the desired look early, and stay with that same amount of pressure throughout the design.

Light pressure results in a fine line – more pressure will give you a heavier one. Depending on the width of the line or design, you will need to concentrate on either raising the brush up (and propping it up with your hand) or laying the brush down to be more parallel with the surface. If you’re doing a straight line, follow the body lines of the car if you can. They’re already right there and available, so why not use them? You can easily use the body lines as a reference point while creating your new striped line.


If you’re not good at eyeballing, you can also use a fine line tape to map it out. The tape allows you to make a straight line along the car – just make sure to keep it consistent on both sides! In other words, if you decide to go below the tape line on one side, make sure you don’t go above the tape line on the other side.

If you’re doing a multiple color design, you should let the first color set for at least an hour before starting the next color. One Shot has a slow drying time – about 45 minutes – so letting the first color set would make sure that it’s fully dried before applying more.

Making Mistakes

If you happen to mess up, no worries! Wax and grease remover take the new paint right off if it’s still wet. As long as you’re still in that 45 minute window, feel free to mess up as much as you want! (Or practice your designs first, and then wipe it away!)

When you’re done, make sure to properly clean and store your brushes. You’ve already spent a lot of time grooming them and making sure they’re what you need. You can use lacquer thinner to clean the paint out of the brushes, but, lacquer thinner is also known to dry out the bristles. So once the brush is clean, dip it in lard oil as it will keep the bristles soft. My dad keeps a saturated paper towel in the bottom of his tool box. When he’s done with a brush, he dips it in the lard oil and places it flat on the paper towel. This ensures that the next time he goes to use the brush, the bristles will be nice and soft, and will be straight like he needs them to be.

The Right Mixture

Let’s go back to the part that I said you should mix your paint with turpentine. It makes the paint a good consistency, and helps to create a long, smooth line. You might be asking yourself if any other substances could be used in place of turpentine. The answer: Probably not. Lacquer thinner is too ‘hot’ – or too strong, and acetone ‘flashes’ too quick.

Acetone with pinstriping can be most easily compared to finger nail polish. (A special thanks to my dad for explaining it to me in a real life girl scenario!) You can use a small amount of acetone to thin finger nail polish if it’s goopy, but if you go over it again with more acetone it will end up taking the paint off. It’s the same way with pinstriping. You could use acetone to thin the paint once, but if you go over it again with more acetone (or acetone mixed with paint) it could wrinkle the paint of the pinstripe or the paint of the car.

That brings me to my next point: You need to have a good knowledge of automotive finishes and paints before you take up a hobby in pinstriping. A normal Joe would have no idea that acetone could hurt the paint on a car. A plain Jane wouldn’t know if pinstriping could be clearcoated or sanded. But to answer that question, One Shot paint can be cleared over as long as it’s not sanded. You would need to prepare the base color first (sand, etc.), pinstripe, and then clear. It would also be helpful to know that cars painted in lacquer don’t have the agility, and a pinstripe probably wouldn’t stick.

Long Lasting Impressions

When done correctly, pinstriping can last a long time. Although it varies on the car (the base paint, and how many times it’s waxed and rubbed), stripes and designs can last at least 10 years or more. There are clearcoats/catalysts that are available for One Shot that make it even stronger and more durable than that.

One last thing and then I’ll stop rambling about pinstriping. My dad is a saint and has always had the mindset that it’s “just a car.” He told me that when I was a 15 year old with a learner’s permit and too afraid to drive his ’32 roadster. He also told me that when I was too scared to try pinstriping for the first time. But, it really is just a car, and as I told you before, mess ups are repairable with the help of a little wax and grease remover.

So, with a little direction from my good ole dad, I put my own brush to paint and gave pinstriping a shot. What did I learn? It’s hard. How do I hold the brush? How much pressure should I apply? Is my pressure consistent? Am I following the body lines close enough? I have a lot of crafty talent, just not that talent. I think next time I need a striping project handled, I’ll leave it to the professionals.

About the author

Bobby Kimbrough

Bobby grew up in the heart of Illinois, becoming an avid dirt track race fan which has developed into a life long passion. Taking a break from the Midwest dirt tracks to fight evil doers in the world, he completed a full 21 year career in the Marine Corps.
Read My Articles

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