Most motorcyclists buy a helmet and don’t fancy the color or design. Such helmets may look unappealing and will likely need a facelift to stand out or match your personality. You could also want to paint your helmet to match your motorcycle’s color.
Nothing beats your personal painting and custom designs. And while it’s easier to pay a professional, painting your helmet yourself is fun. It also helps you design the helmet to your taste.
In this guide, we will discuss the materials needed when painting and give you a step-by-step guide to painting your motorcycle helmet.
Materials and Tools Needed Before Painting
Before you start working on the painting, it is important to have some necessary tools to achieve the desired painting outcome. If you don’t have it
Paint and Clear Coat
Types of Paints Suitable for Helmets
When it comes to painting motorcycle helmets, the type of paint you choose is crucial. There are several paint options available, each with its unique properties and benefits. In this section, we will explore the most suitable types of paint for helmet customization.
Acrylic paint is a popular choice for DIY projects due to its easy application and fast-drying properties. It is water-based and non-toxic, making it a safe option for helmet painting. However, acrylic paint may not be as durable as other types of paint, and it may require a clear coat for added protection.
Urethane paint is a high-quality option for helmet painting due to its durability and resistance to UV rays, chemicals, and abrasion. This paint is often used in automotive painting and can be applied using an airbrush or spray can. Urethane paint is more expensive than acrylic paint, but it is well worth the investment for a long-lasting paint job.
Automotive paint, specifically designed for use on vehicles, is an excellent option for motorcycle helmets. These paints are formulated to withstand harsh conditions and adhere well to various surfaces, including metal and plastic. Automotive paint is available in a wide range of colors and finishes, making it easy to achieve the desired look for your helmet.
Vinyl paint is another viable option for helmet painting. It is specifically designed for use on vinyl surfaces, making it an excellent choice for helmets with a vinyl exterior. Vinyl paint is flexible, durable, and resistant to cracking or peeling. It can be applied with a brush, roller, or spray can, allowing for versatile application methods.
Selecting the Right Clear Coat
Applying a clear coat after painting your helmet is essential for protecting the paint job and ensuring it lasts for years to come. The clear coat serves as a barrier against UV rays, moisture, and other environmental factors that could damage the paint. There are several clear coat options available, but it is essential to choose one that is compatible with the type of paint you have used.
Acrylic Clear Coat
If you have used acrylic paint for your helmet, an acrylic clear coat is the best option. Acrylic clear coats are water-based and easy to apply, making them a popular choice for DIY projects. They offer a glossy finish and can be applied using a brush, roller, or spray can. However, acrylic clear coats may not be as durable as other options so that they may require more frequent reapplication.
Urethane Clear Coat
Urethane clear coats are ideal for use with urethane and automotive paints. They provide a durable, high-gloss finish that is resistant to UV rays, chemicals, and abrasion. Urethane clear coats can be applied using an airbrush or spray can, and they often require a hardener to be mixed in before application. This clear coat option is more expensive than acrylic clear coats but offers superior protection and longevity.
2K Clear Coat
2K clear coats, also known as two-component clear coats, are a popular choice for professional helmet painting. These clear coats consist of a base and a hardener that are mixed together before application. 2K clear coats are highly durable and provide excellent resistance to UV rays, chemicals, and abrasion. They can be applied using an airbrush or spray can, but they require proper ventilation and safety precautions due to their high chemical content.
Sanding is a crucial step in preparing your helmet for painting. It helps to create a smooth surface for paint adhesion and ensures an even, professional-looking finish. Sandpaper is available in various grits, each with a specific purpose in the sanding process.
- Coarse Grit: Coarse grit sandpaper is ideal for removing large amounts of material or smoothing out rough surfaces. It is not recommended for use on motorcycle helmets, as it may cause damage to the helmet’s exterior.
- Medium Grit: Medium grit sandpaper is perfect for removing minor imperfections and creating a smooth surface for paint adhesion. An 80 or 100-grit sandpaper is typically used for the initial sanding of the helmet, as it effectively removes the existing paint or clear coat without causing damage to the helmet’s surface.
- Fine Grit: Fine-grit sandpaper, such as 150 or 220 grit, is used for the final sanding before applying paint. It helps to create an ultra-smooth surface and ensures a seamless paint application. Fine-grit sandpaper is also ideal for sanding between paint layers to achieve a professional finish.
- Extra Fine Grit: Extra fine grit sandpaper is typically used for wet sanding between clear coat layers or polishing the final clear coat. It provides a high-gloss, mirror-like finish and should be used with caution to avoid damaging the paint job.
Sanding Blocks or Sponges
Sanding blocks or sponges are essential tools for achieving an even, smooth finish on your helmet. These tools are designed to conform to the helmet’s curves and contours, ensuring a consistent sanding pressure across the entire surface.
- Sanding Blocks: Sanding blocks are rigid and provide a firm, consistent surface for sanding. They are available in various sizes and shapes, making it easy to find one that fits your helmet’s contours. Sanding blocks are ideal for initial sanding and removing existing paint or clear coat.
- Sanding Sponges: Sanding sponges are flexible and can easily adapt to the curves of your helmet. They are available in different grits and can be used for wet or dry sanding. Sanding sponges are perfect for final sanding and achieving a smooth, even surface before painting. They can also be used between paint layers to remove imperfections and ensure a professional finish.
A degreaser is essential for removing grease, oil, and other contaminants from your helmet’s surface before painting. These contaminants can cause paint adhesion issues and result in an uneven or patchy paint job. There are several degreasers available, including automotive degreasers and household cleaning products. When choosing a degreaser, ensure it is safe for use on your helmet’s material and will not damage the surface.
Microfiber cloths are ideal for cleaning your helmet before and during the painting process. They are gentle on the surface and effectively remove dust, dirt, and debris without causing scratches. Always use a clean, lint-free microfiber cloth to ensure a flawless paint job. 
Airbrush or Spray Paint
When it comes to applying paint to your helmet, you have two main options: an airbrush or spray paint. Each method has its advantages and disadvantages, and the choice will depend on your skill level, budget, and desired finish.
- Airbrush: An airbrush is a professional tool that allows for precise paint application and fine detail work. It offers a smooth, even finish and is ideal for creating intricate designs and patterns on your helmet. Airbrushing requires a steady hand and some practice, but the results can be stunning. You will also need an air compressor and other accessories for airbrushing, which can be an investment.
- Spray Paint: Spray paint is a more accessible and budget-friendly option for helmet painting. It is easy to use and can achieve excellent results with proper technique and practice. Spray paint is available in various colors and finishes, making it easy to find the perfect shade for your helmet. However, spray paint may not provide the same level of detail and precision as an airbrush, and it can be challenging to achieve an even finish on curved surfaces.
Painters Tape and Masking Materials
Painters tape and masking materials are essential for protecting areas of your helmet that you do not want to be painted. They allow you to create clean lines and prevent paint from bleeding onto unwanted areas.
- Painters Tape: Painters tape is designed to adhere to surfaces without leaving residue or damaging the existing finish. It is available in various widths, making it easy to mask off small or large areas. Always use a high-quality painters tape to ensure clean lines and easy removal.
- Masking Paper or Plastic: Masking paper or plastic is used in conjunction with painters tape to protect larger areas of your helmet from paint overspray. These materials are lightweight and easy to cut, making them ideal for covering vents, visors, and other components. Choose a masking material that is easy to work with and will not leave residue on your helmet’s surface.
Respirator or Mask
When painting your motorcycle helmet, it is essential to protect yourself from paint fumes and airborne particles. A respirator or mask should be worn throughout the painting process to ensure your safety.
- Respirator: A respirator is a more comprehensive option that filters out paint fumes and particulates. It is recommended for use with more potent paints or clear coats, such as urethane and 2K clear coats. Ensure your respirator is rated for use with the specific paint and clear coat you are using.
- Mask: A mask is a simpler option that provides basic protection against airborne particles. It may not filter out all paint fumes, but it can be sufficient for use with less potent paints like acrylics. Choose a mask with a high filtration rating for the best protection.
Wearing gloves during the painting process is crucial to prevent skin contact with paint and chemicals. Nitrile or latex gloves are ideal, as they offer excellent dexterity and protection. Always use gloves that fit well to ensure optimal control and precision during the painting process.
Preparing the Helmet
Disassembling the Helmet
Before you begin painting your motorcycle helmet, it is essential to disassemble it to protect internal components and ensure a clean, professional finish. The disassembly process will vary depending on your helmet’s make and model, but the following steps are generally applicable to most helmets:
- Remove the visor or face shield by loosening any screws or clips that hold it in place. Some helmets may require the use of a small screwdriver or Allen wrench for this step. Keep all screws and hardware in a safe place for reassembly.
- Detach any external accessories, such as vents, breath guards, or communication devices. These components can often be removed by gently prying them away from the helmet or unscrewing them. Be sure to store these components safely, along with any screws or hardware.
- Remove the helmet’s internal padding and liner. Most liners can be detached by unclipping or unsnapping them from the helmet shell. Some helmets may have a removable cheek pad system, which should also be removed at this stage.
Cleaning the Helmet
Once your helmet has been disassembled, it is crucial to clean it thoroughly before painting. A clean helmet ensures proper paint adhesion and a professional finish. Follow these steps to clean your helmet:
- Use a degreaser (as mentioned in the previous topic) to remove any grease, oil, and other contaminants from your helmet’s surface. Wipe the helmet down thoroughly with a clean, lint-free microfiber cloth, ensuring no residue remains.
- Rinse the helmet with warm water to remove any remaining degreaser and allow it to air dry completely before moving on to the next step.
Sanding the Helmet
Sanding your helmet is essential for creating a smooth surface that ensures proper paint adhesion and a professional finish. Follow these steps to sand your helmet:
- Begin with medium-grit sandpaper, such as 80 or 100 grit, to remove the existing paint or clear coat. Sand the entire surface of the helmet evenly, applying light to moderate pressure. Be cautious not to sand through the helmet’s shell, as this can compromise its integrity.
- Once the existing finish has been removed, switch to fine-grit sandpaper, such as 150 or 220 grit, to smooth out the surface and remove any remaining imperfections. Sand the entire helmet evenly, ensuring a consistent finish.
- Wipe down the helmet with a clean, lint-free microfiber cloth to remove any sanding dust. You can also use a tack cloth to pick up any remaining debris.
Masking Off Areas Not To Be Painted
Before painting your helmet, it is crucial to mask off any areas you do not want to be painted. This includes vents, screws, and any other components that should remain unpainted.
Use painters tape to create clean lines around any areas that should not be painted. Apply the tape carefully, ensuring it adheres securely to the helmet’s surface.
Use masking paper or plastic to cover larger areas, such as vents or the visor opening. Secure the masking material with painters tape, ensuring there are no gaps or openings for paint to seep through.
Designing and Planning
Choosing A Color Scheme
Selecting a color scheme for your helmet is a personal choice and will depend on your preferences and desired look. Consider the following factors when choosing your color scheme:
- Your Motorcycle’s Color: You may want to match your helmet to your motorcycle’s color or choose complementary colors that work well together.
- Visibility: Bright, bold colors can increase your visibility on the road, which can enhance safety. Consider incorporating high-visibility colors into your design, such as neon or reflective colors.
- Personal Style: Your helmet is an opportunity to express your personal style. Choose colors that resonate with you and reflect your personality.
Selecting A Design or Pattern
The design or pattern you choose for your helmet will depend on your personal taste, skill level, and the complexity of the design. Consider the following options when selecting a design or pattern for your helmet:
- Simple Patterns and Graphics: If you are new to helmet painting or prefer a minimalist look, consider simple patterns and graphics. These can include basic shapes, stripes, or geometric patterns. Simple designs are often easier to execute and can still create a striking effect.
- Complex Designs and Artwork: For more advanced painters or those looking for a unique, eye-catching design, consider more complex artwork or patterns. These can include detailed illustrations, airbrushed images, or intricate patterns that require a steady hand and a higher level of skill.
- Custom or Personalized Elements: Your helmet is an opportunity to showcase your individuality. Consider incorporating custom or personalized elements into your design, such as your initials, a favorite quote, or a meaningful symbol.
Sketching or Creating A Digital Mockup
Before painting your helmet, it is helpful to create a sketch or digital mockup of your design. This will help you visualize the final result and can serve as a reference during the painting process. Consider the following steps when creating your sketch or mockup:
- Measure your helmet and note the dimensions, including the size and location of vents, screws, and other components.
- Create a rough sketch or digital mockup of your design, incorporating the helmet’s dimensions and any design elements you wish to include. You can use graph paper, drawing software, or specialized helmet design programs to create your mockup.
- Refine your sketch or mockup, making any necessary adjustments to ensure the design is proportional and fits the helmet’s contours.
Transferring the Design Onto the Helmet
Once you have finalized your design, you will need to transfer it onto your helmet. There are several methods for transferring designs, including:
- Freehand: If you are confident in your artistic abilities, you can draw your design directly onto the helmet using a pencil or fine-tip marker. Be sure to use a light touch to avoid damaging the helmet’s surface.
- Stencils: You can create custom stencils of your design using adhesive vinyl or other stencil materials. Cut out the design, apply the stencil to the helmet, and use it as a guide during the painting process.
- Projector or Tracing: If your design is complex or requires precise placement, consider using a projector or tracing method to transfer the design onto your helmet. Project the design onto the helmet’s surface, and trace the outline with a pencil or fine-tip marker.
Steps of Helmet Painting
Step 1: Applying A Primer
Before applying your base color, it is essential to prime your helmet to ensure proper paint adhesion and a smooth, even finish. Primer also helps to seal the helmet’s surface and prevent any imperfections from showing through the paint. Follow these steps to apply primer to your helmet:
- Choose a primer that is compatible with your selected paint and clear coat. Many manufacturers offer primers specifically designed for use with their paint products.
- Ensure your helmet is clean, sanded, and masked, as described in the previous section. The surface should be free of dust, debris, and grease to ensure proper adhesion.
- Apply the primer evenly to the helmet’s surface, following the manufacturer’s instructions for proper application and drying times. You may need to apply multiple coats of primer to achieve full coverage.
- Once the primer is dry, inspect the helmet for any imperfections or uneven areas. If necessary, lightly sand the primer with fine-grit sandpaper (400 grit or higher) to smooth out any imperfections. Wipe the helmet down with a clean, lint-free cloth to remove any sanding dust.
Step 2: Painting the Base Color
After priming your helmet, you can apply the base color. This will serve as the foundation for your design and any additional layers or details you choose to add. Follow these steps to paint your helmet’s base color:
- Ensure your helmet is clean, primed, and masked, as described in previous sections. The surface should be free of dust, debris, and grease to ensure proper adhesion.
- Mix your paint according to the manufacturer’s instructions, ensuring it is properly thinned and ready for application.
- Apply the base color evenly to the helmet’s surface using an airbrush or spray paint. Be sure to use smooth, even strokes and maintain a consistent distance from the helmet to achieve an even finish. Allow the paint to dry according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Depending on the opacity and coverage of your paint, you may need to apply multiple coats to achieve your desired finish. Be sure to allow each coat to dry fully before applying the next.
Step 3: Adding Details and Layers
Once your base color is dry, you can begin adding details and layers to your design. This can include additional colors, patterns, graphics, or artwork. Follow these steps to add details to your helmet:
- If your design requires precise placement or intricate details, consider transferring your design onto the helmet using the methods described in the previous section. This will serve as a guide during the painting process.
- Apply additional colors or details to your helmet using an airbrush or fine-tip brush, depending on the complexity of your design. Be sure to use smooth, even strokes and maintain a consistent distance from the helmet to achieve an even finish.
- If your design requires multiple layers or colors, be sure to allow each layer to dry fully before applying the next. This will prevent smudging, bleeding, or other imperfections in your design.
- As you add details to your helmet, take breaks to step back and assess your progress. Make any necessary adjustments to your design as you go, ensuring the final result is cohesive and visually appealing.
Step 4: Applying Decals or Stencils
If your design includes decals or stencils, you can apply them once your base color and any additional layers are dry. Follow these steps to apply decals or stencils to your helmet:
- Ensure your helmet’s surface is clean and free of dust, debris, and grease. This will ensure proper adhesion of your decals or stencils.
- Carefully apply your decals or stencils to the helmet, ensuring they are properly aligned and adhere securely to the surface. If necessary, use a squeegee or plastic card to smooth out any bubbles or wrinkles.
- If using stencils, mask off any surrounding areas to prevent overspray or paint bleed. Apply your paint carefully, ensuring the stencil remains securely in place.
- Once your paint is dry, carefully remove your decals or stencils, taking care not to damage the underlying paint. Inspect your design for any imperfections and make any necessary touch-ups.
Step 5: Clear Coating and Finishing Touches
After completing your design and allowing all paint layers to dry, you can apply a clear coat to protect your paint job and provide a glossy, professional finish. Follow these steps to apply a clear coat to your helmet:
- Ensure your helmet is clean and free of dust, debris, and grease. This will ensure proper adhesion of your clear coat.
- Mix your clear coat according to the manufacturer’s instructions, ensuring it is properly thinned and ready for application.
- Apply the clear coat evenly to the helmet’s surface using an airbrush or spray paint. Be sure to use smooth, even strokes and maintain a consistent distance from the helmet to achieve an even finish. Allow the clear coat to dry according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Depending on the desired finish and level of protection, you may need to apply multiple coats of clear coat. Be sure to allow each coat to dry fully before applying the next.
- Once your clear coat is dry, you can apply any finishing touches, such as polishing or buffing the surface to achieve a high-gloss finish.
Reassemble and Caring the Helmet
Reassemble Your Helmet
With your paint job complete, you can now reassemble your helmet. Remember to carefully reattach any components you removed during the disassembly process, such as vents, screws, and padding.
As you reassemble your helmet, ensure that all components are functioning properly. Check that vents open and close smoothly, screws are tightened securely, and padding is correctly positioned.
Before using your newly painted helmet, perform a thorough safety check. This includes inspecting the helmet for any cracks, damage, or signs of compromised integrity resulting from the painting process. Also, ensure that the helmet’s strap and buckle are functioning correctly and the helmet fits snugly on your head.
Caring for Your Helmet’s Painting
To keep your custom-painted helmet looking its best, follow proper cleaning and maintenance procedures. Use a gentle, non-abrasive cleaner and a soft microfiber cloth to clean the helmet’s exterior. Avoid using harsh chemicals, as they may damage the paint or clear coat.
Also, to prevent damage to your helmet’s paint job, it is best to avoid exposing it to excessive heat or direct sunlight for extended periods. Store your helmet in a cool, dry place when not in use. Additionally, avoid placing heavy objects on top of your helmet, as this may cause scratches or other damage.
In addition, to ensure your custom paint job lasts as long as possible, apply a high-quality clear coat and follow proper cleaning and maintenance procedures. Additionally, handle your helmet with care, avoiding impacts or rough handling that may cause scratches or other damage.
In this article, we’ve discussed the importance of personalizing your motorcycle helmet and the benefits of painting it yourself. We’ve also provided a comprehensive guide to help you through the painting process, from selecting materials and preparing your helmet to applying your design and caring for your finished product.
Remember, painting your helmet is an opportunity to express your creativity and make your helmet uniquely yours. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different designs, colors, and techniques to achieve a one-of-a-kind look that reflects your personality and style.