The opague projector is one of the main things taken into consideration when pricing your artwork and is also one of the biggest secrets in the field. The opague projector is where the money is actually made via it is a way to project and transfer imagery, thus speeding up the ridiculous amount of time you will spend ( without it ) eating up all of your profits…more on that later. So my syntax or level of reasoning is basically this : If you are known around the world, such as the likes of Mike Lavalle ( Pioneer of the True Fire technique) , then you retain the birthright to charge perhaps $3,000-$10,000 and up for a paint job on a car, motorcycle, truck, boat or whatever.

Knowing how much to charge for airbrush custom work has been one of the great enigmas in the field for many years now as there are so many grey areas that emerge as to why people struggle. I will try and be as concise as possible when breaking down the independent variables to discern proper accord when approaching such an arduous task. The first and foremost rule that one should take in consideration is that you are doing CUSTOM WORK for people. Now lets put some tin foil on our antennas and put that into perspective! CUSTOM WORK means that it is ONE OF A KIND. ONE OF A KIND means that it has IMMENSE AESTHETIC VALUE ( this presupposes you have good craftsmanship, creativity and mass appeal). I have always taught my students that once you have bought a compressor, taken a class, bought an airbrush, a projector, paints, put at least 6 months to a year into good hard practice and started a body of work, then you have the birthright to charge at least $25-$35 per hour for anything you touch. I’ve taught Airbrush a highschool vocational program for three years and need to point out that airbrush is a “Just add water” type of skill, as is cosmetology, welding, auto-collision, etc.etc. Those vocations yield around $20-$40 respectively, so that is where I am deriving my wage compass.

I used to paint a custom boats and the owner would make $30,000 per custom speedboat and have a 2 week turnover per boat, but again Dean is a pioneer in the field, known in many magazines, thus the industry standard in custom boat painting and graphics. I put Loucks and Lavalle in a different category because most people will try and compare their success ( or lack of it ), to icons like these in very early stages of the game. Anyone who has that much PR in the field has definately paid their dues, and it’s not an accident that collectively they are in their mid 30’s or 40’s…it takes time. There are many other variables I have not mentioned, so for the rest of you who are on the rise I would stick to this theory I have created for approaching custom paint ( keep in mind this does not include plotting vinyl graphics at all! ). Here’s my formula:

Lets say someone wants Elvis Presley’s face on their carhood… here’s where it gets sneaky, but you have to be street smart! Again the main thing is the PROJECTOR, so here’s the syntax:

1.) Charge $35 per hour for anything you touch.

2.) Add the amount of hours it would’ve taken you without the projector. This is crucial.

3.) Add the amount for supplys ( If automotive, then include clearcoat in this step).

4.) Add one hour for contingent expenses. ( This always need something odd like blue line tape, special markers, templates etc ).

So the breakdown would be this:

Elvis would take 30 hours to do so $35 per hour x’s 30 hours =( $1050.00 ) + your going to add* 4 hours for the PROJECTOR THE CUSTOMER DID NOT KNOW ABOUT ( Remember this is how long it would’ve taken you to sketch it without the projector / very important! ) 4 hours + $35 per hour =$140.00. So $1050.00+ $140.00 = $1190.00 + Supplys ( Let’s say $100 in supplys ) = $1290.00 + miscellaneous contingent expense ( One more hour of labor to equal contingency/ $35) = Total price of $1325.00.

This is a very reasonable return for anyone in the inception of learning this skill and depending on the INTENSITY OF THE DESIGN ( Which is the main question you have for all clients ), this is a very decent formula to start with, and of course it gets higher and higher as your reputation builds. Keep in mind the main focus is on the opague projector, hence this is where the real money is made. I have been doing this 19 years and have almost NEVER met anyone who is considered a “professional” not use a projector to meet deadlines thus flip and turn artwork at a good pace. In short, your profit is in that projector. Never let anyone tell you that you are cheating by using a projector because Michealangelo used one as did the famous artist Carravagio. More blogging later… good luck!


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