- Here's a few favorite custom paint style you should know. Collage: Lisa Tate

10 Custom Painting Terms to Learn

Impress your friends and family at car shows, with these terms for custom painting styles and techniques

5w ago

From Rat Rods to Euro Tuners to Bosozoku (Japanese car mods), an eye-catching paint job is a must, and one of the coolest ways for car customizers to show their artistic edge.

For those of us who love the art of custom cars, our hoping someway to make this artistic car-centric trade their job, or who just want to impress our friends at a car show, here are ten terms and/or types of custom car painting to help you customize your car art vocabulary.

The Flying Eyeball

Most often associated with the art of the king of pinstriping, Von Dutch (who also used to paint an eyeball on his forehead), customizer Dean Jeffries said this look inspired to create and trademark the flying eyeball in 1951, even before Von Dutch. Ed “Big Daddy” Roth also had his own form of this design. Whoever you feel the originator is, this googly, bloodshot eye with wings (or sometimes flames), is a still a favorite in the Kustom Kulture world.


Also called flame painting or a flame job. This one should be pretty obvious, and is the inclusion of bright, stylized fire and flames on the sides. No one knows with absolute certainty where these started, but one of the earliest examples of this was in a picture dated 1938. There are different types of flames work including:


A thin, flowing flame design, with that often shows the flame tips overlapping, and...


This is the more common, flame design, with a simpler, “claw like” flames (and one of the favorite designs of the aforementioned Dean Jeffries.


Self-explanatory, and refers to the class of car paints containing metal flakes. A favorite for anyone who loves that extra sheen such as candy apple red.

Tape Stripes

This is a term for pre-cut pin stripes, and designs made of vinyl and heavy adhesive that can be cut, shaped, and placed on a car. This is a good way to add some pinstriping or stencil to your car without actually knowing how to paint.

“Old English” font

A term describing the elaborate, calligraphy style of lettering often seen on lowrider and hot rod designs, not to mention tattoos.

Fish Scales

This overlapping pattern of rounded, shaded repeating designs is seen most often in painting panels on custom cars, but has also been seen in pinstriping.

Lace Stencils

This is a nifty technique used to paint the surface of cars, using large swaths of dressmaker’s lace material as a stencil. The lace is then airbrushed, and when removed forms an elaborate pattern. It works particularly sell on the top surfaces, like the roof, hood or trunk.

Sharpie Art

This one is relatively new, but a is pretty impressive. This is the painstakingly detailed use of felt tip (or Sharpie) markers to create elaborate hand painted one-of-a-kind art.

Memorize and toss about these terms to friends and family, and you’ll be the coolest custom car nerd around, and I'll be using a few in some easy, family friendly car art DIYS over the summer in posts to come.

Until then, flame on!

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