Newly updated in 2017 with more information, products and videos!
Firstly, Don’t panic.
Painting surfboards is easy… writing instructions about it is not as easy, which is why these instructions are a wee bit long. Follow them through and you should have the most amazing board the world has seen! The video below will show you my process, but there are step by step instructions to follow and other cool painting ideas at the end.
Fieldey says: Preparation is key!
Have a good idea… draw it out and keep drawing it until you’re happy with the composition and the look. If you can’t get it to look awesome on paper there’s no hope in hell of doing it on a 6 foot board! I personally think big is better, you want people to spot you from a mile off on the beach, this board needs to look P-I-M-P(ed)!
Housework time: Preparation is the key to a long lasting paint job. If you are using a board that has been surfed already, you have to prepare the surface well so that the paint will stick. If you miss a blob of wax, or do a shoddy sanding job, that will be where the paint will chip and crack off first. If the board is brand new, you can get away with only a quick sanding (see step 4).
Check out the clip below, which shows my preparation process from start to finish, or read through the instructions underneath.
Step 1: If it’s a second-hand or old board you’ll need to remove the wax. Either stick it out in the sun for 10 minutes until the wax softens, or if it’s an overcast or cold day, give it a run-over with a hairdryer then scrape the wax off with a wax-comb or an old bank card.
Step 2: To make sure that the wax is all gone, wipe both sides of the board down with mineral turpentine (or mineral spirits in the US) this will soften any remaining wax and it should wipe straight off.
Step 3: Now, because you’re a perfectionist and you want that paint job to last for ages, you’ll grab some acetone and wipe the board down one last time to get rid of any wax or oily residue from the turps.
Step 4: You now need to sand the side of the board you are painting. You want to give the paint a surface to stick to. Thus, you need to get rid of that glossy finish. Grab yourself some 240 grit sandpaper and do a couple of runs over the board with the sander. I do at least two for good measure, changing to a new piece of paper in between. It should look dull and not shiny any more. Don’t forget to sand the rails if you want to wrap your paint job further round the board. As per the picture, I use an old electric sander, but sanding by hand will work just as well.
Step 5: Last prep thing, I promise. You should mask out any areas you don’t want painted, because believe me, they will be the FIRST to get paint blobbed on them. Use a professional quality low-tack masking tape and cover the rails or reverse of the board.
Housework is done, prepare to get gnarly.
Step 6: Background time. I like to use spray paint for a quick and instant background. Much ink has been spilt debating the various types of spray paint to use, some like car paint, some like acrylic based, some like enamel based. I’m going to save you some time here, because I’ve experimented with most of that stuff, and the brand I like best is Molotow Premium aerosol paints. It dries fast, stays on like a motherbitch and it works for me.
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So spray that background and wait for it to dry and you will be ready for…
The main feature.
Which paints should you use? You could paint your whole board in aerosol paint, but if you have a hankering to paint something a little more detailed or if you don’t have mad can skillz then you might want to consider any of the following:
Posca Pens: These are super popular and a great choice if you’re more comfortable using pens rather than paint brushes.
Molotow One4All inks & paint markers: These are my go-to products, which you can watch me using in the video at the start. You can use the markers in pen form, or apply the refill inks with a brush which is great for covering larger areas and mixing your own colours.
>> Acrylic paints: You can use these on boards you want to surf, but I think they’re better used for boards you intend to hang on the wall as an artwork. My favourite brand is Golden Acrylics, but you can use any Artist Quality acrylic.
WARNING!!! Not all paints work well together – using incompatible aerosols with paint pens and then a clear coat can lead to a paint reaction that will ruin your beautiful artwork! The clear coat or paint could bubble and crack and there’s no way to save it except to start again. My top tips are to 1). Try to use all the same brand together (eg. Molotow aerosol, Molotow One4All markers and Molotow Clear coat). And 2). Test your intended paints AND the clear coat on a scrap piece of plastic and wood before you go nuts on the board! 3). Consider whether you actually want to clear coat the board: if it’s going to hang on a wall or you’re only using spray paint consider leaving it off.
Step 7: Draw up the main part of your design. I use white chalk since it’s easy to remove.
Step 8: Then add in the base colours of your design. In the movie above, I’m using refill inks with a brush so I can cover large areas quickly, but you could just as well use marker pens instead. I’m aiming to get a good coverage of ink and most of the major areas covered. The lighter colours might need 2 or 3 coats of paint to build up a good level of opacity.
Step 9: Flesh out the design by adding your shadows and building up the mid-tones to add depth to the image.
Step 10: Add your highlights to really make things pop – remember that the lightest parts of the image will be the most eye-catching and will appear to be coming forward, and the darker shadows will appear to retreat, so if you want something to really jump out, make it lighter or add highlights.
Step 11: Once I’m happy with the design, I finish it off with a nice big dose of black outlines to bring it all together and make it look cool.
Step 12: Seal the Deal. So, you’ve finished your masterpiece and decided it’s too good for the world to miss out on and you want to seal it and surf on it pronto. Clear coating is generally the point where things can go wildly wrong – the wrong choice of clear coat and paints can react with each other and cause havoc on your sexy paint job. I recommend sticking with an acrylic-based spray clear, I like to use Molotow’s Clear Coat Gloss or, for super heavy use you can use Spraymax 2k Clear which is super durable, but takes extra precautions (you need a really good quality mask as it’s super toxic) to apply since it is essentially car quality 2k in a can. Other people really rate Krylon K01305 Gallery Series Artist which I haven’t used myself. If in doubt, remember to test out your paints and clear coat on a piece of scrap wood or plastic before starting on your board. Check out the video below that I made on clear coating your surfboard.
Now you’re done! That wasn’t so hard was it?
Looking for other easy painting techniques to pimp your plank? Then check these videos out to inspire you:
PS – if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave one below. New tutorials are in the works, so subscribe to this blog or to Fieldey TV on YouTube to stay in touch.
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