Want to add some personalized design to your paint but don’t feel confident behind an airbrush yet? Donnie Smith at Collision Blast explains how you can safely sand off just a little bit of your clear coat to create a matte finish for subtle ghost flames or other design effects that can simply be buffed and polished off whenever you decide to restore your car’s original gloss.
All it takes is 1/8″ fine line tape, 3/4″ masking tape, and a piece of 3000-grit sandpaper.
1. Wash the Design Area
Before you get started wash the surface that you’re going to use for your design to remove dirt and contaminants from the paint. Don’t wax the area because you’ll be working directly on the clear coat.
2. Outline your Design
Using the 1/8″ tape, create your design making sure to stay away from any edges of the body panel you’re working on. You don’t want to be sanding over any raised body lines or panel edges because it’s much easier to sand off too much of your clear coat. In addition to ghost flames, this same technique can also be used for creating matte logos, wording, icons or any stencil design you can think of.
If you have trouble getting the taped design to look like what you’re envisioning in your mind, there’s a handy kit by 3M that allows you to print a design on a self-adhesive film. Then use a precision knife to cut out your design and create a stencil that you can stick on the car. The 3M Custom Image Kit is also useful if you want to have the exact same design on both sides of your car – just print two copies.
3. Mask the Edges of your Design
Using the larger 3/4″ tape, overlap your fine lines by just a little to mask the outer edges of your design. This will protect the area adjacent to your design from getting accidentally scuffed as you work.
4. Sand the Design
With your 3000-grit sandpaper, use light and even pressure to sand the clear coat and create your design as a matte finish. You can even create gradient or fade effects by sanding certain areas of your design more than others.
5. Unmask the Design
When you’re done peel the tape off, wipe down the area and check out your design! The result should be a ghost or matte finish that sits on top of your glossy finish like etched glass.
Best of all this process is reversible. Since you only sanded a small portion of the clear you can buff and polish off the design at any time and return the area to its former glossy finish.