Skull School
Is there any easy way to do some skull graphics on my '02 Toyota Tundra?
Jim Stensby
via e-mail

Hey Jim,
The easy way to apply skull graphics is with templates or stencils. Many top custom painters use stencils as the basis for their skull graphics, especially when there are large numbers of skulls, such as when they float throughout the length of a stripe.

The key to sharp edges is to only use stencils that are solvent-proof. Paper-based stencils will quickly absorb the solvents, and the edges will get fuzzy. Various custom paint mail-order suppliers offer skull templates and stencils, but one easy place to find a large variety is at www.eastwood.com. The Eastwood Company is well-known for stocking lots of custom painting products, including paints, masking supplies, spray guns, and airbrushes.

Skulls should be applied with an airbrush and thinner-than-normal paint. Most successful skull graphics are subdued. The ghost-like look works well with skulls. Skulls are often shot with a dark color such as black. House of Kolor base black, reduced to a thinner-than-normal consistency, is a popular choice for many custom painters. Silver and white or pearl colors are also good skull choices.

It takes a little trial and error to get the paint thin enough to look ghostly, but not so thin as to run. The paint also needs to be thick enough to cover in one application, because it's very difficult to reposition the stencil in exactly the same spot for a second coat.

Professional painters often use the stencil skulls as their starting point. They use airbrush highlights to add more dimension to the skulls. The opacity of the color applied over the skulls has a large effect on the final results.

Editor's Note: We did a full tech article back in our Sept. '06 issue called "Sick Ceiling" that covered this very subject. Rich Evans and Terry "Kiwi" Stephens from Huntington Beach Body Works threw down some of the baddest skulls we have seen. These guys offer a full line of stencils and a 6-hour instructional DVD showing how to use the stuff properly. Happy painting.

'Bagging an F-150
I don't know if you can help me, but I have an '84 Ford F-150 regular cab longbed two-wheel-drive truck. I want to put it on airbags, and I want to lay frame. I haven't found any kits to do this for my truck. Can you recommend a complete kit to do this? I'm running 20s on the front and 22s on the rear.
Ronald Reichert, Jr.
Egg Harbor, New Jersey

It's too bad they don't have kits for life. We certainly could have used the ones for marriage and child rearing. Finding a kit for almost any imaginable modification is a common issue of many letters we receive. It seems like the term kit has become synonymous with the easy way to do something. Kits are great when they fit your exact application, but unfortunately, one of the first instructions in the "Build a Business Kit" is to go after the broadest markets first. That leaves people with less-mainstream trucks, such as an '84 longbed F-150, fewer options than owners of more popular models, such as late-model GM trucks. We're talking about popularity as it relates to the number of modified trucks.

The above verbiage is a windy way of saying we don't know of any airbag kits for your truck. There aren't many options for lowering '80s Fords in any manner, much less radically slamming them. A big impediment has been Ford's Twin I-beam front suspension. There are custom-built beams available from DJM Suspension, www.djmsuspension.com, (800) 237-6748. DJM's Dream Beams are replacements for the stock beams and should drop your truck about 3 inches./