When it comes to riding two-wheelers, a helmet is like a secondary skull you wear over your actual one to protect yourself from brain damage or other severe injuries if things don’t go as planned. But this important piece of safety gear doesn’t always look good right off a store shelf. Many riders would want to get themselves a helmet which is unique and carries a personal statement. A good way to achieve that is by painting your helmet. But not all types of paints are suitable for this purpose. So let’s get down to it!
Benefits Of Painting Your Helmet
- Your very own personalized headgear that suits your style and ride.
- Save some money by giving your old helmet a brand new look.
- Show off your creativity!
- Own that one unique piece that nobody owns in the entire world!
- Make money by making custom paint jobs on helmets.
- Expect to get an incredible resale value if you are or manage to get famous.
And many more!
The Helmet Material & Paint Relation
Almost all bike helmets are made of plastics like polycarbonates. Its toughness and rigidity make it ideal for making headgear that can keep your cranium well protected. Similar material is used for making police riot shields. On the other hand all paints are made of pigments dissolved in “solvents”.
Different solvents influence different factors of paints like surface grip, adhesion and their drying process. A “water-based” paint means that the pigments are dissolved in water. Many of these paints use certain petroleum based solvents which can react with the plastics causing the polymer chains to break down causing the material to degenerate and become brittle. This can greatly reduce the toughness of your helmet causing serious safety issues.
Another helmet component that can be damaged by such solvents is the cushioning made of polystyrene. You can easily observe this effect by dipping a piece of polystyrene foam in gasoline. So this brings us to the question, “Which paints should be used to paint this important piece of safety equipment?”.
Choosing The Right Kind Of Paint
There are two different options of paint type you can choose from, These are as follows.
1. Water-Based Acrylic Paints
All water based acrylic paints are safe for painting helmets. These paints do not react with the plastic shell or cushioning of your headgear. Application of this paint can be done easily using brushes or a spray gun. However, acrylic paints usually dry up with a matte finish and can often peel off overtime. This is usually solved by spraying coats of clear enamel over the freshly dried paint job. This increases the life of the paint job and can give a glossy finish (which can always be sanded off for matte).
2. Enamel Paint
Enamel paints are another good option for painting helmets. These can be bought from any hardware store and come in both gloss and matte finish variants. These come in the form of aerosols or liquids. The aerosols can be directly sprayed from the cans and the liquid paint can be applied using brushes or spray guns. These paints can give a beautiful vibrant finish.
However it should be noted that enamel paints contain petroleum based solvents which might not be friendly towards the shell of your helmet. So it is advised to check with your helmet manufacturer if your paint is suitable before painting your helmet. Also make sure that the cushioning inside the helmet is removed (if removable) or properly covered before applying enamel paint.
Benefits Of Using Water Based Paints
The main advantage of using a water based paint is that you don’t have to worry about helmet material damage. All variants are perfectly safe for using on your helmet.These are very easy to obtain and prepare. Although a bit of work is required to seal the paint and to get a desired finish, beautiful results can be obtained with proper application.
Benefits Of Using Enamel Paints
Enamel paints are super easy to work with and don’t need any post processing to get a desired finish. They come in both Gloss and matte variants and require minimum preparation. Due to this spray paint cans are the weapon of choice for many on a project like this. As long as you know that the paint you have is compatible with your helmet material, you are all good to go!
Which One Should You Use?
Considering overall safety issues, water based paints should probably be your best option. Although working with such paints would require a bit more elbow grease than enamel paints, you can rest assured that your helmet is intact.
But if you want to get a top notch finish with minimum mess and effort, then enamel paint is the choice for you. They come in both gloss and matte finishes. There is no need of putting on that extra layer of clear coat to make it permanent. So, if you can obtain the right variant of enamel paint and apply it properly, then go for it! Just make sure you check with the manufacturer first.
A Few (But Important) Things To Keep In Mind
Before you start working on your project, make sure to follow the steps below.
1. Check local laws to ensure if painting helmets is legal.
In certain jurisdictions it might be illegal to paint helmets. So contact the authorities beforehand to avoid getting fined.
2. Choose the right kind of paint.
Make sure the selected paint is suitable for your helmet. Check with your manufacturer upon further confusion.
3. Avoid sanding the old painted surface of your helmet.
Sanding the original paint on the helmet may damage the material. So if you intend to get a good surface for your paint to grip on, sand it lightly after applying at least two primer coats.
4. Thoroughly clean the surface before painting.
Clean the surface of your helmet using regular soap and water to get rid of dirt and grease which may potentially ruin your paint job.
5. Remove the visor and other removable parts and properly cover other parts where you don’t intend on getting paint on.
Surely you wouldn’t want an opaque visor! So it would be wise to remove all the removable parts like visors and straps before applying paint. Make sure to properly cover the cushioning and air vents with masking tape to prevent damage to your helmet.
6. Paint in a well ventilated area wearing proper protection gear.
Paints may contain toxic chemicals which can pose serious health hazards. So make sure you are painting in a well ventilated area and are wearing safety goggles and a mask.
So once you are all set you can get to doing your first helmet paint job right away. Whether you are looking for a unique piece of headgear or just want to give your old helmet a makeover hopefully this article would help you choose the right type of paint for your project.
So stay safe and happy painting!