Painting a Rossi/Simoncelli Ski Helmet

Luckily for me, at the end of last winter I managed to get hold of a Carrera Ski helmet, originally priced at 125 Euro for 10 Euro, because it had no box and was a bit scuffed, so I figured that if I ruined it by doing a rubbish paint job it wouldn’t be the end of the world.

As usual, the difficult part is to come up with a design, in my case I had the idea to do a bit of a mixture of Valentino Rossi and the great Marco Simoncelli who we lost tragically in October 2011.

Step 1

Rossi ski helmetFirst of all I stripped the helmet down completely – apart from the chin straps,   which are  riveted in place – so I wrapped them in masking tape and fixed them up out of harm’s way inside the helmet.   It was a white helmet to start with, but it still needed sanding down.  I used 600 grit wet and dry (400 would be OK).

I always use it wet with a little bit of soap or washing up  detergent……it just makes the whole job easier and it stops the paper from loading up.  Whilst I’m doing this I keep rinsing the paper and helmet in clean water so things don’t clog up too much.   Oh, and don’t forget, take it easy on those edges, or you’ll sand the thing away. When it’s all scuffed up and smooth, let it dry completely.

Step 2

The next stage is to prime the whole thing with white.  Recently I’ve used an acrylic “high build” primer straight from an aerosol tin.    These are readily available in car accessory shops and the like and seem to do a good job. You can of course use any kind of primer and put it through your spray gun…………your choice.

Once I had a couple of coats on and it was completely dry (leave overnight) I started the sanding process again with 600 grit.  This time I tend to use it dry……………and very carefully…………….we need a perfect “eggshell” smooth finish.  Good preparation is everything.  I have tried to cut corners but it ALWAYS ends in disaster.

Step 3

The next thing to do is paint the design. This is of course is up to you where you start, what colours you use and how complex or simple you want it to be. All I can tell you is what I use and how I go about it.

I used mainly an Iwata HP B plus airbrush with a 0.2 mm nozzle. Createx auto air acrylic paints in the main with some colours by Liquitex and Aero Color Schmincke. A pearlescent additive from Com Art was also used to add a bit of sparkle to the colours (not as radical as metallic). Masking is done using Art Tool Ultramask (which is nice “n” stretchy), Ordinary Frisk, and masking tapes from 3M or Tessa of various sizes (don’t use cheap stuff cos’ it will leave deposits of glue behind). Scalpel blades by Swann Morton.

Other things to remember; because you are going to be handling this awkward object quite a bit, keep your hands clean and dry at all times, and each time you add some colour, set the paint with the heat from a hairdryer.

Ski helmet design

For this helmet I started at the back with the “Rossi” design. This involved using a compass to get the circles in the right places and get it all sketched out in pencil. A lot of patience and a bit of skill and I just build up the picture bit by bit. Mask EVERYTHING not being sprayed. Trust me, that little bit of red that you are applying will ALWAYS find its way on to the white bit you’ve just finished! After this section I worked on the red bands and the black with gold “animal print” effect on the sides as a tribute to Marco.

When all the colour is applied, you have to Clear Coat it. If you have any doubts about this (and it’s not easy) take it to a professional paint sprayer and get them to do it. There is NO way to cut corners at this stage!

My knowledge of clear coating is very limited, but it is sufficient for me to get by and make a helmet look good. Here is what I do…………

For this helmet I use a 2 pack lacquer. This is mixed 2 parts lacquer to 1 part hardener and then about 10% of 2 pack thinner. A 2 pack system will give the most resilient results. But please note that different types of Clear Coat and methods of application are available.

For the first coat I only mix about 50 ml in total……..plenty for a helmet this size. I use an Iwata LPH 50 spray gun – ideal for this sort of job, but it would take you a week to spray a car with it! I use this in a garage area at room temperature with reasonably good ventilation. I ALWAYS wear a full face respirator and goggles with protective clothing. This stuff is dangerous……………I wouldn’t want a lung full of this!

Rossi Helmet 01
Rossi Helmet 02
Rossi Helmet 03

The trick is to apply enough to make it look wet without it running. When I’ve finished this first pass, I leave it on a support to start to dry. The “flash” time for what I use is about 20 minutes, so after this time I will repeat the process. The flash time is the time when the top skin of the lacquer is beginning to dry, but it is still wet underneath. This means that subsequent coats stick together. For this helmet I did about 3 passes and left it to“cure” overnight somewhere warm.

The following day, I gave the glossy helmet a quick rub over with 1200 grit wet n dry with water and soap to stop it loading up just to flatten out any little blemishes. Keep away from those edges again!! When it was all dry I gave it 2 or 3 more coats of lacquer and allowed it to dry. After a week or so, you could sand it lightly again with 1200 grit and then polish with Rubbing Compound, T Cut, and then wax. But because it is “just” a ski helmet, I just gave it a rub with T Cut and then spent a couple of hours applying wax to it. After all that, I reassembled it and took it for a slide down a hill.

I hope this gives you some idea on how to do it. This is not the only way, different people use different paints and lacquers. But it DOES require a fair bit of equipment and PLENTY of time and patience to get good results. You will NOT get a good result using tins of aerosol paint from the DIY store.

Hope you like it