Archives: Car Painting (Lion)

One of the most interesting classes I took in high school was Auto Body Painting & Refinishing, taught by the awesome Johnny Cimino. Although I did learn how to fix dents, sand bondo and whatever, I spent most of my time airbrushing stuff on my car.

Here’s a collage of all the stuff that I painted on my car (’89 Honda Civic) back in high school. The dragon is kinda janky looking, but I like the other ones. In order: dragon on driver side doors, koi-ish fish on passenger side doors, white tiger on hood, flame/bird/JC design on trunk and “yeen” Chinese character on gas tank.

car from high school

When I went to Singapore for college, my dad had the car repainted back to normal blue and sold the car. In Singapore, it’s really expensive to own a car so I didn’t have a chance to airbrush much, except for this dragon on my apartment wall:

airbrushed dragon

So when I decided to come back to the US after 7 years, one of the things I was excited about was being able to decorate my car.

Northern Chinese Lion Jumps Out Of Car

Here was my canvas (’94 Saturn SC2):

the canvas

And here, the inspiration — my mom had this picture up in her condo and I liked how fierce this Northern-style lion’s mouth/teeth looked.

the inspiration

This was roughly how I planned it to look like in Photoshop:

the plan

And here’s how it ended up:

the result

First step was to wetsand it with some light grit sandpaper and water to take off the shiny clearcoat. After that I drew out the lion using a white color pencil as a guide.


I didn’t have any actual auto paint to start and auto paint can get expensive, especially if you need a bunch of colors (like ~$50 for half pint?), so initially I tried out these little bottles of “auto paint” (similar to this link I guess) to see if I could do it on a budget. Since my car is green, I started out with white.


And then, it rained.


So that was a no-go. I ended up going to City Paints in SF and getting a couple of colors (white, red, green, yellow). Here’s the progress after I restarted it with real paint. Flat yellow and red:


Added shading for the yellow:


Added shading for the red:


Starting the green for the hair:


More hair:


Finished the hair, added the eyeballs and started the background:


For some reason, I didn’t like the background so I wiped off all that paint. I didn’t really like the eyes either, so tried adding some more dimension:


Added some dark stuff to the background, well more like foreground since it was supposed to be like the lion was breaking out of my car:


Still didn’t like the eyes, so photoshopped a couple of options:


Went with the white/blind looking one for the final design:


Lastly, here it is after being clearcoated.


I have a phoenix on the passenger side of my car and a dragon on the hood, but those are still in progress (it’s been a while) so I’ll post those when I get around to finishing those up.

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