Motorcycle Paint Jobs - Hot Bike's Painter's Showcase

Painters Across The Country

To get started, we needed some identical gas tanks so that everyone had the exact same canvas to work with. We stopped at Cad Works and discussed with them what we planned to do and what we needed. In no time we had seven identical tanks that needed to be shipped across the country. Cad Works started by using 14-gauge (0.075-inch thick) certified American steel.

The material was placed in a 500-ton double-action hydraulic press, and then formed utilizing a process called "Deep Draw Forming." The Deep Draw Forming process prevents distortion and spring back associated with other forms of stamping methods. Once the part was formed, they were cut to size with Cad Works' six-axis robot. The result is a trimmed part ready to be welded.

Tank stampings were welded together utilizing the tungsten inert gas (TIG) process. The complete gas tank was composed of three sheetmetal pieces: left shell, right shell, and the tunnel section. They also welded in a pop-up gas cap, petcock bung, and sunk-in mounts.

Then each tank was pressure-tested by placing it in a tub of water with the gas tank filled with over 10 PSI of air. This is done to check for air bubbles, which could be a sign that there is a leak.

The tank was held underwater for over 10 minutes. As long as there were no air leaks, and in our case there weren't, the tank was dried and marked "passed."

Here we have a perfect tank to ship out.

As one of the editors of HOT BIKE, I have seen a lot of motorcycles over the years through the lens of a camera. One thing that I have noticed is no matter how much work went into getting a bike in the magazine or to getting it to stand out in a crowd, it was usually the paint job that got it noticed first. A good paint job can grab your eye from across a parking lot or snap your neck trying to get a second look. A builder could have countless hours in custom sheetmetal work, but it's not until the painter uses his or her creative touches that the bike really comes to life. From a stock Harley-Davidson to a top-notch custom one-off bike, it is essentially the paint that sets a bike apart from the rest.

As a raw metal canvas, it is up to the painter to give a motorcycle its own unique character. After all the work is said and done, the painter tends to get only one or two lines in a feature story and most of the credit goes to the builder. With that said, we wanted to give a bit more credit than a line to some of the top painters across the country. We also wanted to give our readers some ideas on what can be done with paint, and to let you know who and where some of these guys and gals are.

To get started with this project, we contacted David at Cad Works in Duarte, California, and asked for a few of his chopper gas tanks so we could send them out to each painter. We were hoping to get back tanks showing the painter's best work and what makes him or her the best at what they do. As soon as the tanks were done and we could ship them out, we already had a full list of painters who wanted to showcase their skills. The good thing was there were plenty of painters who wanted to participate in this; the bad part was we were limited to how many we could feature the first go-around. Hopefully we can showcase a new set of painters in future issues. So if you are a painter and did not make this one, hang in there, because we plan to do this a few more times.

Buck Wild Paint
Buck Wild Paint in Covina, California, has been in business since early 2000 in a 5,500 square foot facility featuring a fully climate-controlled spray booth as well as a full airbrush and graphics department. Every custom job they do is hand-sanded and buffed until it achieves an exceptional shine and finish. When asked about what kind of work the shop can handle, the answer was everything. "You bring it, we can paint it," Buck said. "We look for a challenge with each paint job that comes into the shop. If a guy walks in with at least an idea of what he wants, we will help bring that idea to life on the 'sheetmetal' canvas."

Buck Wild has been painting motorcycles, cars, trucks, bicycles, and sandrails for some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry as well as the custom motorcycle industry. They have finished many paint jobs for high-profile customers, including Dale Ernhardt Jr., Chip Foose, West Coast Customs, MTV's Pimp My Ride, and STREET CHOPPER magazine, but their favorite jobs come from the average Joe. Every day they continue to strive and push the industry and themselves to new heights. "We here at Buck Wild pride ourselves on delivering nothing but the highest quality on every custom paint job we do." With this tank, Buck showed as many different styles as he could, including metalflake, pinstriping, panels, leafing, and airbrushing.

For more information, contact Buck Wild at (626) 859-2006, and to see more samples of his work visit

Crazy Horse Painting
North Carolina
Crazy Horse Painting in Waxhaw, North Carolina, is owned by Joann Bortles, who has been painting for over 28 years. She started in 1979 when she got her hands on an old gas tank to paint. From there, custom paint jobs came easy for this art school grad who attended NYC's Parson's School of Design. Joann may have started out on small motorcycle parts, but she can handle trucks, boats, bikes, and anything she can fit into her spray booth.

"I love painting flames!" Joann said. "I could paint flames all day long and love every minute of it. It might seem like flame painting would get boring, but there are so many different styles of flames and so many color combinations, the flame choices are infinite. It's challenging and exciting to try new techniques and effects. Like this tank, I wanted to do one of my favorite styles of flames: airbrushed flames. I used a teal green as one of the flame colors, and it gave it an edgy, different look. For me, painting flames could never be boring. There's nothing like getting that perfect layout of flames on a part, then standing back after the job is done and knowing the colors and design are working together effectively. For me, it is just as much a work of art as something that hangs on the wall of an art gallery." Joann has also written a few books, like How to Paint Your Motorcycle and How to Custom Paint Your Car. As she puts it, there are still plenty of flame jobs that need to get laid down on people's sheetmetal.

For more information, contact Crazy Horse Painting at (704) 843-3780, and to see more samples of her work visit

French Kiss Kustoms
French Kiss Kustoms is made up of two brothers, Bob and Brian Bordeaux, and a good friend, Ed Rusch. Together as a shop, they're a couple of metalflake junkies trapped in a flat black world. They are new to the business of custom bike builds and running a shop, which opened just two years ago. The crew has always been in love with the style of bikes from the '60s and '70s. That is why they tried to stay true to that style, even in our painting project. Almost all of their customs have the same characteristics with their own unique flair. If that is the style of paint job for your bike-lots of metalflake and candies-then you may want to check these guys out. Like a good trip to the strip club, just about everything gets covered in glitter (flake) with these guys. Their work has been featured on bikes built by Bling Cycles, Sucker Punch Sallys, and Indian Larry Legacy, to name a few. When asked about the other work they do, the guys responded, "We also build bikes from the ground up, and so far we have three complete builds and all three have been featured in various magazines. So maybe we're on to something, who knows."

For more information, contact French Kiss Kustoms at (386) 215-1875, and to see more samples of their work visit

Liquid IllusionsSaint Louis, Missouri**
Just ask for "Darren" is how this one came to us. After seeing a few of the bikes painted by Liquid Illusions, we started to ask who painted the bikes and were given a number and told to just ask for Darren. When we called and asked, we got Darren and found out that he's been painting things his whole life. As a kid, if he could get his hands on some paint he was painting something-anything. It was not long before all the bicycles in the neighborhood were done up and he moved on to cars and motorcycles.

He started getting a real paycheck from his stepfather as a painter in his body shop. By 1998 he made the transition to painting custom bikes and started Liquid Illusions. However, he still loves to get his hands on other things, like guitars, goalie masks, cars, trucks, and pinstriping jobs. When asked what he was looking forward to in the upcoming year, Darren said, "Every week brings in a new project to the shop and a new creative challenge. A few of the noticeable jobs in the shop right now range from goalie masks, a kid's piggy bank, a full blown custom chopper-can't say whose it is right now-and I'm restoring a pre-Civil War bank safe. So I look forward to it all; just give me something to paint and I'm happy."

For more information, contact Liquid Illusions at (314) 481-4880, and to see more samples of his work visit

DuSold DeSigns Inc.
Lewisville, Texas
Mike DuSold, owner of DuSold DeSigns, has been working in the paint industry for over 19 years, from his dad's body shop to his own custom paint shop. Mike started painting cars and bikes at age 13; not long after that, he found the passion to try custom paint with his dad's friends Harleys and hot rods. He always liked art and drawing as well as bikes and cars, so he knew this was what he wanted to do even back then. Painting everything from walking canes to refrigerators and everything in between, if paint will stick to it, Mike will paint it.

His favorite jobs are the ones with a more personal meaning to the owner. It allows him to get creative with the details and give the whole paint job a meaning. Mike also really enjoys doing new things that haven't been seen or done before. He takes a lot of pride in being able to do all aspects of custom paint himself, like airbrush, striping, leafing, lettering, and so on. Jobs that incorporate those different techniques into one piece are the jobs he looks forward to, and the daily riders he really tries to make noticeable in a crowd. Dusold DeSigns services include custom paint, airbrushing, metal fabrications, LEDs, dent repairs, and touch-ups on just about anything you can bring to the shop.

For more information, contact DuSold DeSigns at (972) 221-1455, and to see more samples of their work visit

Mike Learn Airbrush and Design
Boulder, Colorado
From the flat desert to the Rocky Mountains, Mike Learn has done some traveling for both business and pleasure. Mike Learn Airbrush and Design recently moved from Tempe, Arizona, to Boulder, Colorado, to a much bigger shop to get bigger jobs. At the age of 12, Mike picked up an airbrush to paint model airplanes he built as a hobby. He then began airbrushing T-shirts for fun and a few bucks. As a budding young artist, he was strongly influenced by the talents of Frank Frazetta, Stan Lee, Salvadore Dali, H.R. Giger, and Ed "Big Daddy" Roth. In high school he worked in body shops in the Erie, PA, area where he grew up. He learned about fabrication and prepping and was given the opportunity to paint murals and graphics on his friends' cars, Sportsters, old Triumphs, and other types of abandoned British motorcycles.

Mike came to the realization that his life would find direction through his passions for airbrushing. He moved to Arizona and worked at a small paint and body shop. For the next nine years (with a short stint starting the paint department for Titan Motorcycle Co. of America), Mike worked with Dean Calderwood and helped build his small three-man operation into the business people know today. But after a loss in the family he took a trip to Colorado and found a new 3,600 square foot shop, complete with paint booth. His product line is booming with a total of nine instructional DVDs and dozens of other airbrush items. He is painting bikes, guitars, album covers, and the occasional vehicle, but getting his hands on a custom bike and airbrushing something crazy is what he likes the best.

For more information, contact Mike Learn Airbrush and Design at (303)-828-0370, and to see more samples of his work visit
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Custom Auto Design
Since 1988, when Robert E. Pradke Jr. first opened his shop doors at age 23 in Eastford, Connecticut, he has been honing his skills to try and be the best at what he does. Robert is the founder and sole operator of Custom Auto Design. His work ranges from hand-laid pinstriping to lettering and airbrushing as well as custom artwork and full paint jobs. From start to finish everything goes through his hands. Robert's focus is custom paint and bodywork. He performs all the work from the prep to the finished job. He does hand pinstriping on almost anything, from cars and trucks to motorcycles and helmets, to surfboards. Traditional methods of laying down real sterling silver and gold leaf are used. If paint sticks to it, he'll paint it!

Robert has many influences in the art world, but most can be traced back to the roots of the kustom kulture scene of the '50s and '60s. Men like Ed "Big Daddy" Roth and Von Dutch have left an indelible mark on him and are partly responsible for where he is now as an artist. He is passionate about his work and this passion clearly shines through on each and every piece he produces. With a long list of repeat customers and a longer list of new customers at his door, we plan to see a lot more from Robert E. Pradke.

For more information, contacts Custom Auto Design at (860) 974-3292, and to see more samples of his work visit