Become a Member: Get Ad-Free Access to 3,000+ Reviews, Guides, & More

Custom Painting Idea Book

Custom Painting - Cars, Trucks, Motorcycles

Review Summary
Reader Rating0 Votes
Buy Now

MBI Publishing (Motorbooks), 2008
Soft Cover. 160 Pages. Color Photos.
ISBN: 978-0-7603-3169-9
Price: $25.95; £16.99; $28.95 CAD

It’s like traveling the 9 circles of Dante’s hell.

Motorcyclists can (and do) go deeper into the nefarious and ever more obscure areas of the sport.

The farkling and customizing and mechanical modifications never end.

But very few get down to the 8th and 9th circles: painting and building.

Or maybe it’s building and painting?

I’ve been messing around with paint jars, cans and spray guns since my age could be written in single digits, but I’m nothing more than a hack.

Every once and a while, I get the urge to try once more, fantasizing that I could indeed be successful at painting a motorcycle and doing a better job than the factory.

Well, I did say it was a fantasy, right?

So along comes the latest motivation for my dream, the “Idea Book”, simply named “Custom Painting”.

The Idea Book is a series published by Motorbooks International, and from what I’ve seen, the books are designed to do exactly what they did to me — motivate and inspire.

Buy Now

Custom Painting (subtitled just as simply “Cars – Trucks – Motorcycles”) is a 50/50 book for me. That is, I’m not sure whether I like it or not. It’s absolutely packed full of photographs of every type of paint style and wild idea you can think of — to a fault.

The problem is that the book probably could have or should have been 500 pages long.

Many of the photos are very tiny; probably about 200 pixels wide, in web page terms, or as small as about 60 mm wide on the pages.

The format of the book is mostly a narrow 50 mm or so column of text on the left, then photos on the right side of the page, stacked either two across or one 130 mm or so with a mix of single and double photos.

There are very few (i.e., none) photos that are larger than approximately 130 mm, although I didn’t go through and measure each one.

To me, this is a limitation — the photos give a general idea of the paint, color and design, and there is a selection of close-ups, but in the end, all the reader can do is get a very general idea of what might be.

The photos are all very nicely composed and exposed, and although they at least give the viewer an idea of the particular paint job or style, they are really too small to give anything but the fleetest of glimpses into what it took to get the results.

I think the book would have been much more successful to have fewer photos but some half- or full-page examples of the best or the most iconic designs.

The author, JoAnn Bortles, is a highly acclaimed custom painter, and I’ve seen some of her work at shows.

The many (hundreds, I estimate) photographs are not all credited, so it’s difficult to know whether they represent her work or others; I assume it’s a mix.

After a brief introduction with a few basic tips on custom painting, the book is divided into 18 unnumbered chapters plus an index.

They cover topics ranging from solid color to flames, graphics to murals. It’s interesting that there is no single chapter devoted to pinstripes, although there are many examples throughout the book.

The mural form of painting is less interesting to me in particular (although there are some remarkable examples illustrated in the book, including an incredible painted mural of Stevie Ray Vaughan that was done on somebody’s chopper fuel tank).

I’m more into pinstripes, flames and especially the “old/new” paint style — that is, painting something to look paradoxically old and ratty with new paint.


So my bottom line with the book Custom Painting is that it’s an interesting portfolio or catalog of hundreds of different ideas and designs, but I didn’t really get much more out of it.

Yes, it’s an “Idea Book”, but only in the very strictest sense of the term. I see some painting designs I’d like to try, but there are very few or no details on how it was actually done or tips on how to do it, and to me, that is a disappointment.

Publication Date: July 2009

wBW “Flaming Helmet” Rating:

Flaming Helmet Book Review Rating System

4=Must Have. 3=Should Have. 2=Take it or leave it. 1=Fugeddaboudit.
Note: For informational use only. All material and photographs are Copyright © webWorld International, LLC since 2000. All rights reserved. See the webBikeWorld® Site Info page. Product specifications, features and details may change or differ from our descriptions. Always check before purchasing. Read the Terms and Conditions!
Buy Now

Owner Comments and Feedback

Please send comments to
Comments are ordered from most recent to oldest.
See details on submitting comments.