DIY Maker Car Stencils

How to make a decorative car stencil.

As fabulous as the rainbow-painted VW beetle project was, we decided painting an entire vehicle was a little excessive, even for us. Plus I was pretty confident that painting a car with regular acrylic paint was a recipe for disaster, so I decided keeping to a small disaster was the way to go.

How to make a decorative car stencil.

And look, not a disaster at all! And this even though I followed the original, uncorrected instructions, which included no preparation of the surface and called for just any old acrylic paint. (There is a later corrected printing which provides more detail on the paint and surface preparation, but I didn’t have it when I completed the project.) Yes, the paint has developed kind of a weird crackly texture, but it’s stayed on for several months now and doesn’t look half-bad.

Car Stencils, based on The Family Creative Workshop, Volume 1: Acrylics, The Beetle Project

How to make a decorative car stencil.

Of course, it doesn’t exactly look professional, so I wouldn’t try this on decent-looking vehicle. (Fortunately, I had access to a beat-up pickup truck—thanks, Leigh!) I also would highly recommend using an indoor/outdoor spray acrylic enamel instead of the random acrylics we used.

Materials

How to make a decorative car stencil.

The good thing about doing a half-assed painting job is that the only tricky part of this project is getting the stencil cut. I cut mine out of vinyl on my Silhouette, but you could use pre-cut vinyl stencils or even hand cut the vinyl with an X-Acto. See the materials list above to download my templates (for personal use only, please).

How to make a decorative car stencil.

Next step is to clean and dry the surface. I just used some 409 cleaner and a lot of paper towels. When the paper towels stopped coming away black, I figured that was clean. Then press the vinyl onto the surface, making sure to smooth out any bubbles.

How to make a decorative car stencil.

If you were doing a spray paint, you’d also want to tape off around the stencil. Since I was using plain old acrylics, I just used foam spouncers to dab the paint on. This helps prevent paint from leaking underneath the stencil. My five-year-old helped me out with the first coat, then I dabbed on another layer to get even coverage.

How to make a decorative car stencil.

Then just carefully peel the stencil pack and reveal the nice, clean, lovely edges.

How to make a decorative car stencil.

Then let dry, and that’s it! (The revised instructions suggest applying a clear acrylic sealer, which is a good idea that I definitely did not do.)

How to make a decorative car stencil.

For my maker stencils, I did a “make” logo, the hammer and wrench, and a drill icon. I actually like that the slightly rough finish goes with the maker theme.

How to make a decorative car stencil.

Painting is intense work!

How to make a decorative car stencil.

And our crafty pickup truck looks awesome!

How to make painted truck stencils.

Check out the vintage inspiration for this project here: The Family Creative Workshop, Volume 1: Acrylics, The Beetle Project (1974)

Rainbow-Painted VW Beetle

How to paint a rainbow VW bug, 70s style.

This is a hand-painted rainbow Volkswagen beetle. Why? Well, I’ll let the project author answer that question.

How to paint a rainbow VW bug, 70s style.

You will meet a lot of nice people, culled from the extensive grouping of those who stop to talk with someone driving a Volkswagen painted red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet. Those who aren’t already color-blind are sure to experience gentle wonder and bemusement. Short of a lasso, this is the best way to rope in a whole new set of friends.

Actually the entire intro is definitely worth a read—click to embiggen!

How to paint a rainbow VW bug, 70s style.

So obviously with that entirely charming intro, added to the fact that the author is also the editor of The Family Creative Workshop, plus the fact that he seems to have borrowed my father’s beard, I could not love this guy more.

How to paint a rainbow VW bug, 70s style.

So you can imagine my shock when I compared my edition of the book with my friend’s edition, and discovered that this entire project had been re-edited, and my buddy Allen Bragdon lost his designer credit!

How to paint a rainbow VW bug, 70s style.

All of the loopiness was excised from the intro and the bios, and I am absolutely dying to know what kind of editorial discussion lead to this decision. Did they feel that the seriousness of the rainbow beetle project was undercut by the silly philosophizing? Or did they (correctly) decide that there was almost no actual instruction in that project and they needed to make room to supply some more details on what kind of paint to use?

I hope it’s the second more than the first, since the Allen Bragdon version of the project really is seriously lacking in instructional value. For example, he gives no info on how to prepare the car for painting, nor does he suggest using any particular kind of acrylic paint. Perhaps this lead to people just slapping plain old craft acrylics onto their cars, which lead to them writing in to complain how the paint was peeling and bubbling, which presumably lead to the edit to clarify that you really should be using exterior acrylic enamels.

However, I suspect that being self-serious and pedantic is a necessary character trait to produce a comprehensive craft encyclopedia. As a self-serious pedant, I can relate. But we can take a moment to let Allen Bragdon have the last word on his motivations.

But seriously, why would anyone want to paint a Volkswagen red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet? Seriously, there is no good reason—but, for the peripheral reasons noted above, it can be lots of fun. If you happen to be a parent with an old car and are searching for a project that you and your teen-ager can work on together, this is a good one. You may find new rapport and new closeness via a VW painted red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet.

For our version of this project, we decided to keep the maker spirit alive but go slightly smaller scale. Check out our DIY maker car stencils here.

How to paint a rainbow VW bug, 70s style.

source: The Family Creative Workshop, Volume 1: Poured Acrylics (1974)