Custom Paint: An Inside Look at Visual FX
Visual FX Does It All
When building a custom truck, nothing creates a more lasting impression than paint. Although we have featured many trucks in 8-Lug with factory paintjobs, the ones that always catch our eye (and often make the cover) are the trucks with owners who have gone that extra mile, personalizing their vehicle with a custom paintjob. Commercial firms have been painting cars and trucks for decades, and there’s no doubt they can get your vehicle all one color. However, show truck owners quite often opt for something considerably more personal. Either way, it’s not a step to be taken lightly, since it can be a costly upgrade. The results, however, are almost always worth the effort.
We sat down with Paul Holman, owner of Visual FX in St. Augustine, Florida, a painter and airbrush artist for the last 23 years. He explained that much of what goes into a custom paintjob has to happen long before the truck heads into the booth. Obviously, panel fit has to be adjusted, rust areas repaired, worn components replaced, custom additions designed and installed, and the sheetmetal primed and smooth. As you’ve heard before, it’s better to spend extra time in the prep phase than try to correct mistakes afterward.
Once the truck is primed and ready, the owner and painter have to decide on more than just the latest shade. Since a complete color change often means painting the engine compartment, doorjambs, and other areas that might show, it’s a significant decision that certainly adds to the price. In addition, two-tone paintjobs, graphics, murals, flake, striping, and scallops will also have an impact on the financial outcome. One of the best ways to ensure the finished paintjob has no surprises is to create a rendering. By explaining the goals and making some final adjustments, an owner can work with a graphic artist to create a fairly accurate picture of the finished truck. The rendering becomes a blueprint for the painter, who can use it to convert dreams into reality. Paul often uses images from the Internet as well as photographs of his past paintjobs to help owners define the direction of their truck.
Regardless of what you’re looking for when it comes to modifying your truck, doing research beforehand is always the smartest move. Read reviews, talk to previous customers, and tour the facilities. When dealing with a full-service shop like Visual FX, it’s reassuring to know it can handle not only custom automotive paint and bodywork, but also classic car restorations, body kit installations, custom sheetmetal, fiberglass, carbon-fiber applications, custom vinyl designs, spray-on bedliners, and collision repairs. If you’d like to see more examples of Paul’s work, check out his website at visualfxpaint.com.
Just for fun, we’ve included a selection of cool trucks featuring unique paint techniques, many of which have been featured in 8-Lug in the past. They can be an additional source of inspiration, showing you how others have used paint to personalize their rides.
Visual FX is well known in St. Augustine, Florida. In addition to great paintjobs, the shop creates full customs and does major restorations. It is also the site of several car shows throughout the year. Paul and Becky Holman work together at Visual FX. Paul handles the artistic side while Becky heads up the admin department, working directly with customers to explain the options and help them formulate the best approach to create their dream rides.
This is Paul’s personal Ford Super Duty. He is quick to point out that the paintjob is not complete until the final cut and buff process. It flattens the paint, eliminating orange peel and removing any microscopic debris. That’s when you achieve that 10-foot-deep shine.
Paul painted this truck 10 years ago, and although it still looks amazing, some fine touch-ups were necessary. Depending on the size and type of blemish, Paul uses either an airbrush or a horsehair brush to correct the problem.
While this owner opted for traditional flames, Paul is also an expert with realistic fire, creating images that look too hot to touch.
This beautiful six-door Ford was painted by another artist, which is somewhat of a problem when it comes to touching up any problems. Paul has to learn the style of the original artist and follow it when he is correcting any problems in the paint.
Paul’s talent extends to more than eight-lug trucks. This is his personal high performance Mustang, a record-setting drag car that boasts one of his more elaborate custom paintjobs.
Cover-quality paintjobs are always a combination of a well-stocked paint locker, a modern spray booth with proper ventilation, and lighting—along with an artist who knows how to wield a gun.
In addition to cars and trucks, Paul is well known among the motorcycle community, creating unique paintjobs that transform factory bikes into show winners.
The father and son team of Barry and Nick Schilling turned to Chad’s Custom Dreams in Saluda, South Carolina, to upgrade their big Ford F-250 with a cool combination of dark blue and bright white, separated with an American flag graphic.
The beautiful ’03 Ford F-350 owned by Jeremy Milrad sports an all-new ’10 front end and an elegant single color paintjob. The rich blue shade, called Neptune Blue, is from a Bentley Continental. It was sprayed by Bobby Bauman of Mad Mods in Florida
Glen Townsend’s lifted Ford F-350 is a good example of upgrading a factory white paintjob with multicolored panels to create an eye-catching combination. Although highly personalized, many areas of the truck, like the engine compartment and doorjambs, can remain the original white.
Jonathan Taylor has always been intrigued with old-school car culture and its Von Dutch-style pinstriping, big whitewalls, and satin paint. Brian Meares sprayed Taylor’s ’92 Chevy 3500 with just the right shade of Hot Rod Black.
Adam Heglar of ARH Designs in Charlotte, North Carolina, updated his ’94 Chevy 3500 with a ’99 Cadillac Escalade front end and designed the unique paintjob, blending House of Kolor Pearl Blue and black with silver and blue flames, using silver leaf to divide the colors. Little Rock Body Shop in Charlotte, North Carolina, did the work.
While DJ Halligan uses his lifted ’11 F-250 for business, it’s the striking graphics that tell the story. Not just a design, the custom wrap represents several important moments in DJ’s life by combining elements from both Hawaiian and Samoan cultures.
Nathan Hawkins from Clermont, Florida, is an avid fan of Ford’s King Ranch package. In addition to the dozens of custom modifications inside and out, his Ford F-450 sports a unique woodgrain finish accomplished by multitalented airbrush artist Rey Fuentes of The Solo Element.
Cary Jones, owner of DV8 Motorsports in Lake Park, Florida, likes to deviate from the norm. His wrapped ’10 Ford F-250 Super Duty is both fun to drive and a great rolling advertisement for the business, proving that distinctive paint treatments can produce more than just trophies at shows.
John and Ruth Sherman from Dunnellon, Florida, turned their ’04 Ford F-250, named Jacked up for a Cause, into a rolling anti-bullying campaign as a result of an incident with their young son. Clearly, trucks can be more than just transportation.
Brinton Roberts, a firefighter from Beaufort, South Carolina, got his first truck, a Ford Ranger, when he was eight! A recent feature in 8-Lug, his highly modified ’99 Ford F-250 was sprayed a custom mix Brinton calls Bud Light Blue. It was the first paintjob done by his good friend William Shouse, and it came out beautifully.