Archive for custom


Posted in AIRBRUSH CLASSES, airbrush-dvds, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 2, 2009 by airbrush dvds


Airbrush Career Choices : T’s or Cars?

The road to deciding which venue to start out in the airbrush world is exceptionally ambiguous via there are a broad range of risks you will take as you compromise the pros and cons in each demographic and sector.

There are things I have learned in my many years of doing this skill that reveal certain trends and patterns which can be useful to the incoming talent abroad. T-shirt airbrushing can yield alot of money because the check average can be anywhere from $7 for a 5 minute design to $33 for a 15 minute stencil design. The collective complaint that I have always heard across the board ( And know from experience) about T-shirt airbrushing is that it is absolutely redundant and draining, via rendering the same ole beach scenes and teddy bears day after day, and at the end of the day the last thing you ever want to see is anything airbrush related.

T-shirt airbrushing takes a very special kind of person to endure the depleting moments in which customers are rebellious, picky, unrealistic, overtly demanding, temperamental, and high maintenance to say the least. Adversely, someone who has spent their life in a factory for 20 years may see this environment as a sitting paradise and the laws of comparative tolerance thus apply.

Standing in one position for 12-13 hours a day can really take a toll on your lower back and the overspray can be eventually lethal hence you are so close to the surface for so many hours ( Thus presupposing you still have adequate ventilation). I must also admit that , it is where probably 95% of all the “Big Names” in the field got started, as did I. Henry Ascencio, Noah, and many other top names in the field all occupied at one time or another a 10×10 space at some tourist trap or festive type of environment.

Getting into T-shirts can be immediately redemptive and allow you to prosper as you are in your learning cycle. You can learn textures, basic color theory, control, and certainly how to deal with demanding clients with diverse needs and meet intense deadlines.

How someone can do T-shirts for more than 2 years is beyond me because I got burnt out quick, but again we are talking about issues of internal desire mired with a certain degree of passion per individual. People will gravitate towards certain mediums for reasons of creativity, diversity, money, scarcity and survival etc however some people will not. Ask any pro out there doing custom work why they left t-shirts and you will hear the same thing over and over: ” I couldnt take it anymore” or ” My back hurts like crazy” etc..etc.

I have also noticed over the years there up are many exquisitly talented people who have been doing T-shirts, many do not even call themselves artists at all, ( Since their using sublimation transfers and stencils ) but they seem to have perfectionistic qualities, good hand-writing ( Which comes in handy for T-shirt lettering ) and great business sense. It has been known that some T-shirt airbrushers gross over $100-$200k per year, so maybe the income keeps them from taking leaps into other fields. Who knows.

On the other side of the fence is custom automotive painting via motorcycles and other hard surfaces. This field is harder to break into but will allow more flexibility for creativity, allow you to work larger, and will fuse the outside world into your abilities in an entirely different way other than the isolated sector of T-shirts. If you do a T-shirt it may last only a year or so, but if you do a car hood you will have a floating advertisement for 10-20 years.

There have been many existential debates on which will make you more money, but again this comes down to talent, passion, and business sense. A well known artist like FITTO could perhaps demand thousands for his paint jobs on motorcycles, sit at home all month in his pajamas with his music playing and not have to report to anyone, however FITTO’s work is only going to scream as far as his compositional skills and his craftsmanship will allow.

An automotive airbrusher’s longevity are typically trade shows, bike and car rallys, online buzz, and certainly different degrees of magazine exposure. When I worked on huge skater boats, 80-90% of the work that was flowing in was from magazine hits and designated sponsors in that particular niche. That is all that is needed sometimes is two have one or two magazines who will run their mouths for you like you were the coming savior, and you will thrive prosperously.

Bottom line……….It’s who wants it the most. You will definitely make a decent living at this skill if you build a solid body of work whether it be 30 initial t-shirt designs or 16 gas tanks….. just BUILD THE BODY OF WORK , do not compromise the integrity, and pick and choose your battles on what you can sacrifice via whats in your soul… or your pocketbook. Hope this helps.


Posted in AIRBRUSH CLASSES, airbrush-dvds, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 1, 2009 by airbrush dvds

Many people struggle to actually find relevent information on the web or in the field on how realistic it is to actually be a full time airbrush artist. I usually tell people that it usually breaks down like this: Out of a class about 10 people ( Which is usually the norm ), I have found that only 5-10% of those students actually apply this medium full time, 40-60% thrive very consistantly part time (And make more money doing this on weekends than they do at their full time jobs, and 30% never ever follow through for many various reasons. I have found that fundamentally the number one reason that people give up in this quest is a lack of passion. The second reason people give up is a lack of confidence in themselves. You can teach people all the tricks and techniques until the cows come home, but if there is no passion in their bellies they will co-exist in a very mediocre world. We all have exquisite talents that are programmed within us at very deep, ethereal levels that we never knew we had. All pessimism aside, let us examine who is doing this full time so that we can do logical deduction and have some sense of direction if we are going to invest the time and money in approaching this skill.

Airbrushing custom graphics on cars etc usually involves having a more diverse plan to be able to keep the dream alive and the revenue coming in. Most custom paint shops have computer programs which create vinyl graphics ( Industrious stickers ) to adhere to cars which will be a stand alone element for graphics, or will be accented by airbrush graphics via the diversity and intensity of the image required. In short, you need to offer other things in your airbrush shop such as gold leafing, pin striping, signs, banners, etc as it seems to be about 70% of the volume. The other 30% is the fun stuff i.e. wizards, radical graphics and realistic fire. Talk to most custom paint shops and you will find this ratio over and over. These custom shops are usually base coat/clear coat shops placated and repackaged with plotters and a custom airbrusher on standby. I have known this through talking to many shop owners.

This supplemental system will usually galvanize, create, and allign you with many opportunities on many substrates thus help you build your skills, textures, color theories and compositions. This is the “street smart” way to go, and will keep milk on the table however you will have to suck it up and sometimes have your soul crushed by people who absolutely KNOW your work is good, but like ( for example) country themes instead of fantasy art.

The other way to go is the “bleeding heart ” route, which is doing something that is totally original. Throw caution to the wind, build a body of work for a year or two, and set a new standard thus opening up the market and let others follow you. This tends to be the riskier way to go indeed, but if you can pull it off then you will accelerate your pace and be well on your way. People who can do this tend to be very artistic and innately talented, but again we have all seen the abstract paintings where someone threw paint behind their back on a white clean canvas and thus will still yield a million dollars ( see: Peter Max lol ). The bottom line is that if you build a body of work, plant seeds, and if the work is done well, the orders will come. Do not ever hold your breath on one market or concept. Try many things. One person who comes to mind is an airbrush artist who has a series called AIRBRUSH MYORCAS, . Simple, quaint, yet original and cutting edge.

My advice is make one of these two decisions: are you going to be a production artist ( Signs, portraits, car graphics etc ) and build your skills, or are you going to set a new standard and ORIGINAL concept? Follow your gut, you might not be disappointed. -David Morton

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Posted in AIRBRUSH CLASSES with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 31, 2009 by airbrush dvds



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!